In each of the three editions of Dr. John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus there is a single page that summarizes one of the most egregious errors of the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel.
The page I refer to appears in the original and revised versions (pp. 218 and 252 respectively). In the 20th Anniversary edition, you will turn to page 250 and read,
“One of the most comprehensive invitations to salvation in all the epistles comes in James 4:7-10... The invitation in 4:7-10 is directed at those who are not saved...”This is the passage Dr. MacArthur refers to as an “invitation to salvation.”
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up,” (James 4:7-10).At this point I want to remind my readers that the crux of the Lordship Salvation controversy is with the requirement for salvation, NOT what should be the natural results of a genuine conversion. In this section on the James passage MacArthur is making his application to, “those who are not saved.”
Is the epistle of James, “directed at those who are not saved?” The epistle begins, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy…,” (James 1:1-2). “Brethren” appears approximately 190 times in the New Testament, and when does appear it is used almost exclusively in reference to born again Christians.
Dr. MacArthur views the carnality that James addresses as though it proves these “brethren,” were never saved in the first place. He views them as “sinners…unregenerate…in desperate need of God’s (saving) grace.” MacArthur’s answer to the problem is that they need to be born again. He goes on to delineate what he believes are the ten “imperatives” for the reception of eternal life. The saving message to “sinners,” the “unregenerate,” according to MacArthur is,
“...submit yourself to God (salvation); resist the devil (transferring allegiance); draw near to God (intimacy of relationship); cleanse your hands (repentance); purify your hearts (confession); be miserable, mourn, weep and let your laughter and joy be turned to gloom (sorrow). The final imperative summarizes the mentality of those who are converted: ‘Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord’.”If MacArthur’s statement was shared as instruction to Christians on how they should live wisely as born again disciples of Jesus Christ that would be a fair application of what he wrote. He is, however, stating what he believes are the necessary conditions of saving faith that results in a lost man becoming a Christian.
What we have in this single page (250) of The Gospel According to Jesus is the Lordship’s classic error of failing to distinguish between the doctrines of salvation and discipleship. Lordship Salvation frontloads faith with commitment to the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) one would expect of a mature born again Christian.
Do we find salvation by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9) anywhere in James 4:7-10? No, we do not, because James is addressing “brethren” some of whom behaved as “carnal” Christians.
The example from page 250 of The Gospel According to Jesus typifies and exemplifies the error of Lordship Salvation. The crux of the Lordship controversy is contained in the three paragraphs of that single page. That one page is all one needs to know about John MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation to realize he has changed the terms of the Gospel into a non-saving, man-centered message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates the grace of God.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Gal. 2:21).
Site Publisher Addendum (01/02/14):
This article has been among the top three most read and recommended articles since the inception of this blog in 2006. I brought it back again because we must never forget that Lordship Salvation (LS) is an egregious heretical error on the Gospel of grace. LS must be exposed, refuted and its advocates marked so that they may be avoided (Rom. 16:17-18).
For additional reading on the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel please proceed to any of the following articles.
John MacArthur’s Discipleship Gospel
How Does the Lordship Advocate Define Repentance?
Lordship’s “Turn from Sin” FOR Salvation
Can God Given Faith Be Defective?
Is Lordship Salvation a "Barter" System?
John MacArthur’s Mandatory Performance Guidelines for “Lordship” Salvation
Ominous Signs of Lordship’s Coming Storm
An Example of Lordship’s Man-Centered Message