Last week I took some time to interact with Kent Brandenburg around
an article he wrote, at his What is Truth blog, in support of
the Lordship Salvation (LS) interpretation of the gospel. Kent has continued his
discussion of LS with a new article. Kent makes various claims that are virtually
universal among advocates of Lordship Salvation. I would like to address some
of his claims here. Kent opened
his new article with this,
As a pejorative, inventors of a new doctrine of salvation have titled what is the historical and biblical plan of salvation, “Lordship salvation.” The terminology doesn't sound bad to me, so I own it. However, all sorts of garbage have been dumped on it to where it must be defined. One risk is cherry-picked quotes taken out of context. Lordship salvation isn’t hard to defend, just avoiding tortured sound bytes. (LS for Dummies, bold added)Men who reject the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel have documented scores upon scores of quotes from various LS advocates. The most prominent and prolific of these is Dr. John MacArthur. Dr. MacArthur’s core themes of LS run like a thread through all of his works on the gospel. When MacArthur speaks on LS, he is speaking in the context of the gospel, what he believes to be the requirements for a lost man to be born again, justified. We can know what teachers of Lordship Salvation believe, preach and defend by reading and/or hearing how they define their position in their own words. In the following article Brother George Zeller answers the question, What are the “Lordship Salvation Requirements” for Salvation?
- Submit yourself to God
- Resist the devil.
- Draw nigh to God.
- Cleanse your hands.
- Purify your hearts.
- Be afflicted and mourn.
- Humble yourselves.
Turn from your sins (FW, p. 74).
Surrender heart, mind and will to Christ (FW, p. 194).
I have learned that this last quotation (page 93 in Hard to Believe) was not written by MacArthur, but erroneously made its way into the text by way of an editor. I’ve been told that subsequent editions of the book have corrected this. However, I do not find this quote to be out of harmony with MacArthur’s Lordship position. If self denial, full surrender, loving Christ more than anyone else, forsaking all possessions are all requirements of salvation, then why can’t obedience be added as well?
2. As you consider this list of Lordship requirements, it is obvious that MacArthur and others like him believe that the terms of discipleship are the same as requirements for salvation. To them “What must I do to be saved?” and “What must I do to be a disciple?” are identical questions. See our paper, A Contrast and Comparison Between Discipleship and Salvation. The only requirement for salvation is faith in the Person, Work and Word of God’s only Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. The requirements for discipleship are many and are essential for the believer’s sanctification. Lordship Sanctification is biblical; Lordship salvation is not!
3. One example of a discipleship requirement is loving Christ more than your own family members, and being unquestionably loyal to Him even above your own loved ones (GATJ, pages 200-201, HTB, p. 134). In other words, Christ should be the supreme object of my love. I should love Him more than family members, more than my own possessions, even more than my own life. This discipleship requirement is merely a re-statement of the greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). Thus, Lordship salvation men are essentially telling us that the greatest commandment is a requirement for salvation, and since the greatest commandment sums up the 10 Commandments (Matt. 22:40), then this means that salvation is obtained by keeping the Law. And yet we know that none of us have kept the law perfectly, and none of us have loved God supremely. The greatest commandment (along with the other laws which it summarizes) condemns every one of us to hell! If loving God supremely is a salvation requirement, then all of us are doomed! We have all failed to do this. How thankful I am that Christ Jesus came into the world to save guilty lawbreakers! See 1 Timothy 1:15.
4. Lordship men actually soften the requirements of discipleship, something which our Lord never did. In many of MacArthur’s requirements we read phrases like this: be willing to forsake everything, have an eagerness to obey, be willing to sacrifice everything, be willing to hate your father and mother, etc. But the Lord said, “If you hate not father and mother....you cannot be my disciple.” He didn’t merely speak of a willingness to do it, but He spoke of actually doing it. “Whosoever he is of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). The Lord did not just speak of a willingness to forsake all possessions, but He spoke of actually doing it. So MacArthur is actually softening the requirements of discipleship. Believers do not measure up to the full demands of discipleship (even the Lord’s original twelve disciples lacked faith and full commitment on numerous occasions). The good news is that every believer completely measures up to the full demands of God's righteousness in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). God has fully provided the righteousness which we could never attain to on our own.
5. On page 9 (HTB) MacArthur states that the requirement for eternal life is to be willing to give up all your earthly possessions if the Lord should ask this. This means that the requirement for eternal life varies for different individuals. For some individuals, the requirement for eternal life would include being willing to give up all earthly possessions if the Lord should ask this. But if the Lord has not required this of other individuals, then they are exempt from this salvation requirement. According to this teaching, the requirement for eternal life varies depending upon what the Lord has asked each person to do. If this teaching is correct, then we would conclude that there is not just one plan of salvation but there is a unique and special plan of salvation specially designed for each individual. This would make personal evangelism very challenging because we would never be sure just which plan of salvation is required for the person we are witnessing to.
6. Fulfilling all the Lordship requirements is complicated indeed. According to MacArthur, salvation is not easy (GATJ, p. 182) and it is very Hard to Believe (the title of his book). How would a person under Lordship teaching ever gain assurance of salvation? Could he be sure that he has loved the Lord supremely? Has he given up all his possessions if the Lord has required him to do so, and how does he really know whether the Lord wants him to do this? Has he measured up to all the demands of discipleship? Is his level of commitment sufficient to satisfy the Lord? Has he surrendered enough? Is he sure that he has surrendered all or are there some things he is holding back? Are there areas of his life where he has not denied self? Has he “turned from sin” in every area of his life or is he still harboring some sin somewhere? If he were to examine his life based on all the requirements listed in this paper, how would he measure up? Would this self-examination lead him to full assurance of salvation? Remember, the more we look at SELF the more discouraged we will be. How wonderful it is to rest on the all-sufficient, finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. May our only boast be in the crucified One (1 Cor. 1:29 31)! “Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling!”
Lordship Salvation Requirements
Middletown Bible Church
349 East Street
Middletown, CT 06457