December 28, 2006

If You Aren’t Lordship, Your Doctrine is not Fundamental

In an installment at Pulpit Magazine John MacArthur identifies his Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel as fundamental doctrine of the faith. See What Doctrines Are Fundamental,? (Part 2) In the foreword from The Gospel According to Jesus, Dr. James Montgomery Boice says, speaking of the opponents of Lordship Salvation:

“...they are mistaken--dreadfully mistaken and they need to be shown their error from Scripture, which is what this book does. They also need to be shown that their view has never been the view of any major Bible teacher or theologian in the church until our own weak times.”

Dr. Boice is not speaking merely of the Easy-Believism proponents. He indicts anyone who does not share Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship interpretation of the gospel. In this article by Dr. MacArthur he identifies his lordship position on the gospel as exclusive truth. The consequence is: If you do not believe in Lordship Salvation’s plan for eternal life, as defined by Dr. MacArthur, then you do not hold to the fundamentals of our faith.

In what is typical fashion, however, Dr. MacArthur’s Lordship position is not fully defined in this article as he believes it. The Lordship position is mixed in with what is otherwise orthodox truth. At face value Roman numeral III above appears sound, but when the terms he uses are defined by him from his other writings the real meaning and subsequent error is exposed.

If I were to take the time there is much that I could discuss about the article. I am, however, going to limit myself to just one subject from the article. That subject is Dr. MacArthur’s reference to “saving faith” as a fundamental.

In Roman numeral III above he identifies “saving faith” as a fundamental. It is important that we be reminded how Dr. MacArthur defines “saving faith.” We will look more closely at this in a moment.

For just a moment I want to refer to this quote in the article above, “Romans 10:9 confirms that the resurrection is a fundamental doctrine, and adds another: the lordship of Christ. ‘If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.’”

The deity and resurrection of Christ are indeed fundamentals. Jesus is the Messiah. The Sonship of Jesus is a fundamental, but ironically Dr. MacArthur once erred gravely on the eternal Sonship of Christ, but later acknowledged his error. In this quote on Romans 10:9 Dr. MacArthur identifies “the lordship of Christ” as “a fundamental doctrine.”

Romans 10:9 is speaking of salvation, therefore, when Dr. MacArthur speaks of the lordship of Christ from the verse he is speaking of what he believes a man’s response must be to the lordship of Christ in order to be born again. This is important because Lordship’s “saving faith” has primarily to do with what they believe must be man’s response to the lordship of Christ to result in salvation.

Just before I quote Dr. MacArthur’s definition of “saving faith” we need to be reminded that in the article above, and in the quotes to follow, he is speaking of the reception of eternal life, not the results of a genuine conversion.

In defining “saving faith,” Dr. MacArthur has written,
“The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience. . . . Forsaking oneself for Christ’s sake is not an optional step of discipleship subsequent to conversion; it is the sine qua non of saving faith.” (The Gospel According to Jesus: [Revised & Expanded Edition], pp. 27, 142.)
The indispensable condition of “saving faith,” according to Dr. MacArthur, is following Christ, “submissive obedience” and “forsaking oneself.” Following is John MacArthur's definition of saving faith from the original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus: “Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms.” (p. 87.)

From the Revised & Expanded Edition, John MacArthur reworked the above statement as follows,
“Saving faith does not recoil from the demand to forsake sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Those who find his terms unacceptable cannot come at all.” (p. 95.)
Again from his original edition, MacArthur writes,
“Thus in a sense we pay the ultimate price for salvation when our sinful self is nailed to a cross. . . . It is an exchange of all that we are for all that Christ is. And it denotes implicit obedience, full surrender to the lordship of Christ. Nothing less can qualify as saving faith.” (p. 140.)
To reiterate, Dr. MacArthur is defining the terms or conditions for the reception of eternal life. When he speaks of “saving faith” he is defining what he believes is required for the reception of eternal life. He believes salvation is conditioned upon “wholehearted commitment, unconditional surrender, a commitment to leave sin."

Dr. MacArthur states salvation (the gift of eternal life) is based on, “A full exchange of self for the Savior.” These are the terms he uses to define the Lordship interpretation of “saving faith.”

Lordship Salvation requires much more than a faith that is depending on Jesus Christ to save from sin, death and Hell. The Lordship position does not depend solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Lordship Salvation, according to John MacArthur requires an “exchange” of what man must offer Christ by way of commitments to obedience, surrender, and following, to receive His free gift of salvation.

To define “saving faith” as though receiving the free gift of God requires a lost man to make upfront commitments in “exchange” for salvation is a departure from the fundamentals of our faith!


December 27, 2006

A Question Left Unanswered

Dear Friends:

Many here likely remember the long series of debates I had with Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine in late 2006. Twice I posted the question below to Nathan. Nathan is the personal assistant to Dr. John MacArthur. He never did reply to my question.

Nathan wrote this,

But Lordship (Salvation) sees repentance as more than just a change in dependence. It is also a change of allegiance.”
In reply I cited the following passage of Scripture and asked a follow-up question.
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” (Jn. 12:42-43).
The Bible says they were not open about, and would not confess a “change of allegiance.”

Did they biblically repent; were they believers?

Would any Lordship Salvation advocates care to deal with this question?


December 18, 2006

Surf the Blog Archives

I think most folks who visit a blog probably don’t spend much time surfing the month-by-month archives to see what articles might be there. I have a made a point to surf other site's archives and I have found some real treasures this way.

Just after its release In Defense of the Gospel generated a great deal of attention and debate across a broad spectrum of evangelical Christianity. Because of all the activity I posted quite a few articles that appear in my October and November archives.

Because many of the articles are archived they don’t readily appear on this page. Unfortunately visitors who don’t search the archives could miss something that might have been very beneficial to him/her.

I want to encourage everyone to click on the archives and look for an article that may be of interest to you. Following are samples titles of what you will find in the October and November archives. As always feel free to post a comment in any of threads that follow.

Did the Apostles Preach Lordship Salvation?

The Rich Young Ruler

Lordship Salvation's “Barter” System

The Relationship Between God’s Grace & Lordship Legalism

MacArthur’s Costly Salvation

MacArthur’s Discipleship Gospel

There Is No Straw Man

What Was Missed in the Discussion?

Opening Statement for the Pulpit Magazine Review

Lordship’s Out of Order Salvation

Important Contribution at Sharper Iron

Did Dr. MacArthur MisState His Position?

Merry Christmas,


December 13, 2006

An Open-Ended Commitment

Dear Guests:

John MacArthur wrote,

“Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 87.)
MacArthur requires something of the sinner that the Bible does not.

Lordship Salvation says that decisions for full surrender and discipleship are required to be born again. I know of men who will tell sinners they must be willing to give up everything displeasing to God in order to be saved. What is the point of trying to get a lost person to make that kind of promise? He might as well be told to take the Nazarite vow or fulfill the Law of Moses and be saved. Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote, at the point of a salvation decision, the sinner does “not know what things those are, nor does the personal worker seeking to point them to Jesus know."

Dr. Charles Ryrie wrote:
“The issue is, How can my sins be forgiven? . . . Through faith I receive Him and His forgiveness. Then the sin problem is solved, and I can be fully assured of going to heaven. I do not need to believe in Christ’s second coming in order to be saved. . . . But I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death. I do not need to settle issues that belong to Christian living in order to be saved.” (So Great Salvation, p. 40.)
Lordship Salvation requires a lost man to make a decision that he has little or no idea as to what it is going to entail. The Lordship advocate does not expect him to know all that the commitment will require of him, but they expect him to make the commitment without which he, in their minds, cannot be saved.
“There are in the Bible several clear examples of believers (about whose right relationship to God there can be no question) who were, nevertheless, not completely or continually committed to the Lord. Such examples would seem to settle the issue clearly by indicating that faith alone is the requirement for eternal life. This is not to say that dedication of life is not expected of believers, but it is to say that it is not one of the conditions for salvation.” (Charles Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, p. 170.)


December 5, 2006

The Thread Worth Reading

To All:

I have intended to post a new article but I have been quite involved in the thread below. The discussion has been primarily revolving around the discipleship passages: cross bearing, self-denial, and following.

It has been very worthwhile because it will help many of you to read for yourself some of what Lordship advocates believe, how they state their case, and this will especially help you in being able to detect Lordship Salvation for yourself when it is being presented in not so obvious terms.

In the article below about Phil at Pyro I have been in a discussion with several Lordship advocates, among them Jerry Morningstar. I had some interaction with Jerry at Pulpit Magazine and Pyromaniacs, but he has come to my site to get more involved in the discussion.

Before Jerry entered the discussion Paul E was involved in the salvation/discipleship debate. Unfortunately Paul was unwilling to answer even the most basic questions about his beliefs in regard to the discipleship passages. Paul tried to make the discussion a one-way street. When I pressed Paul to interact on an even playing field he disappeared. This is not uncommon among Lordship advocates. Many Lordship advocates will refuse to answer questions that get to the heart of the Lordship debate because they do not want to be pinned down on what they actually believe.

The same thing happened with Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine. He refused to discuss any issue other than repentance. He did not want to discuss discipleship passages, or any other chapter of my book.

Furthermore, there is a lack of unified agreement on their end. Because Lordship advocates have to keep redefining and clarifying what they believe you find some of them in contradiction to one another.

Look at MacArthur for example. He has written four major works on Lordship Salvation. The latter three were an attempt to clarify the original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus (1988). As I have shown, however, the disturbing statements in his original edition run like a thread through each of his books. His editors revise and rephrase, but the same impact and meanings are there. I give examples of this in my book.

Pastor Mike Harding, who is a Lordship advocate, repeatedly told Nathan Busenitz that MacArthur needs to clarify and explain himself because some of his (MacArthur’s) writing gives the wrong impression. Pastor Harding also wrote this to Nathan, “Some of Dr. Macs wording in Hard to Believe can unduly cause a true believer to be very uncertain of his justification. In my opinion the editors need to do a better job.” (Nov. 3, 2006, Pulpit Magazine: Lou & Lordship, (Part 5).

Because MacArthur keeps trying to redefine his position, and so many have been lead to a Lordship position because of MacArthur’s books, they are left confused and at times contradict him. Just as I showed how Phil Johnson (senior editor of MacArthur’s books) contradicts MacArthur, you will see more of the same in the thread that follows.

In any event, Jerry is interacting, but I want to point a few things out for you to look for.

Read through the exchanges that begin with Paul E well into the thread. You are going to see more evidence of how the Lordship advocates confuse and blur the lines of biblical distinction between salvation and discipleship.

You are going to see how (especially Paul E) Jerry either will not or cannot answer questions on whether or not the call for cross bearing, self-denial and following are evangelistic appeals directed to the lost for salvation. They will redirect the question to a discussion of faith or they will steer the discussion away from salvation and back to the results of salvation, which is an area I have little or no disagreement with Lordship advocates over. This is very common among Lordship advocates.

Watch for references to the regeneration before faith position. Watch for this comment, “Where genuine faith [supernatural God imparted faith] occurs - there will be a desire to follow."

Lordship advocates believe faith is the result of regeneration, meaning faith can only come from a man who has already been born again. Regeneration before faith is an extra-biblical, extreme position, which is a key component in the Lordship position. Understanding this is a key to understanding how Lordship advocates can make demands from a lost man that are impossible for him to make or keep and still claim they are not teaching a works based message. See my November article Lordship’s (Out of Order) Salvation article for more on this.

You will note how thin a tight rope they try to walk to maintain a message of salvation by grace through faith, but at the same time cling to the Lordship demand for an upfront commitment to the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again disciple for the reception of eternal life. Even here they cloud their meaning by using phrases like, “intentionality toward obedience,” “heart attitude to obey.”

You are going to see the false dilemma. That is when the two alternatives are presented, but not all the possibilities have been explored. This fallacy presents itself in the current debate. Those who advocate the lordship salvation position see only the Mental Assent or “Easy-Believism” position as an alternative. You are going to see this in Jerry’s comments.

Look for the quotes by Ryle. These are as revealing and extreme as you will read anywhere on the Lordship interpretation of the gospel.

You will see how I quote MacArthur again for Jerry to show the extremes of Lordship Salvation and ask Jerry to comment on the disturbing statements by MacArthur.

When you read the Lordship advocates you must read carefully and with discernment. They place the errors of Lordship Salvation alongside orthodoxy, which makes the error difficult to detect. I can read an entire chapter from one of MacArthur’s books and nearly all of it will be sound. However, you can almost always find some interjection of the works based Lordship message, but it is carefully and with subtlety inserted.

Finally, to you lurkers: I know many are hesitant to enter a public comment because you have seen at other sites how some of the Lordship advocates can be rough and harsh.

You have a safe place here! I treat people on both side of the debate with respect. I will not allow any bullying to go on at my site.

If you want to make a comment, but not in the public thread, feel free to e-mail me.

God bless you,


December 1, 2006

The Rich Young Ruler, Mark 10:17-22

When the rich young ruler approached Christ, he asked, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” That “good thing” is works.

In commenting on this passage, John MacArthur writes,

Our Lord gave this young man a test. He had to choose between his possessions and Jesus Christ. He failed the test. No matter what points of doctrine he affirmed, because he was unwilling to turn from what else he loved most, he could not be a disciple of Christ. Salvation is only for those who are willing to give Christ first place in their lives.” (The Gospel According to Jesus: [Revised & Expanded Edition], p. 85.)
That citation from the revised edition of The Gospel According to Jesus is a sanitized revision of what John MacArthur first wrote. In the original edition, John MacArthur states:
Our Lord gave this young man a test. He had to choose between his possessions and Jesus Christ. He failed the test. No matter what he believed, since he was unwilling to forsake all, he could not be a disciple of Christ. Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (p. 78.)
From his book Hard to Believe MacArthur wrote:
And he needed to be willing to submit to the Lord Jesus, even if it meant he had to give up all his earthly possessions. He might not ask, but the requirement for eternal life is the willingness to give it all up if he does.” (p. 9.)
During a Trinity Broadcasting Network interview MacArthur stated:
In fact Jesus said this, “If you come to Me it may cost you your family. But if you’re not willing to hate your family you can’t be My disciple. If you come to Me you might have to give all your possessions away and give them to the poor. If you are not willing to do that you are not worthy to be My disciple.”
For a moment lets say the man confessed his sin of covetousness, asked Jesus to forgive him. He also expressed a willingness to give away all that he had, but Jesus did not ask him to do so on the spot. Is he a saved man? Did he meet the Lordship gospel requirement for eternal life? Assuming he is saved the man begins to follow Jesus and some time later Jesus turns to him and says, “Today, I want you to give all that you have to the poor.” If that man hesitates to obey this command, what does it mean? Is he is in danger of losing his salvation? Was he never saved in the first place? If one concludes he was never saved in the first place then any act of disobedience, in the life of a professing believer, must raise the same question.

When I lived in Florida there was a period time when I was witnessing to a young man who worked at a fast food restaurant. His name was Tom and he was interested in spiritual things. My wife remembers how I would visit Tom late at night, actually in the hours just after midnight, at his restaurant and we would pour over the Bible. I was very clear about his sin, God’s wrath and his need to repent and by faith receive Jesus Christ as his only hope for salvation. After a number of weeks Tom believed the Bible and received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.

He began to take steps of growth that one might expect of a new believer. One day, right out of the blue, he asked me what I thought about his hair. Now Tom had long flowing hair. His hair was not dirty or sloppy, just long and not what you would call a good testimony for Christ. His hair was not an issue as a lost man, his sin and guilt before God was. A few weeks after receiving Christ, during his personal reading of the Bible, he came across this passage.

1 Corinthians 11:14 “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?”
So, for Tom his hair had become an issue. The Lord had pricked Tom’s heart about his hair. Tom felt as though the verse meant for him that he should get a haircut. I told him that if he felt God wanted that for him then he should obey. Tom said he would get his hair cut that week. Tom knew he should get his hair cut, he wanted to get his hair cut, but just could not bring himself to do it. Tom became unwilling to get his haircut: Does this mean he was never saved in the first place, or has he fallen into carnality? I am convinced he had a time of carnality.

A short time later Tom moved to one of the western states. I knew from the first time I met him he would be moving soon, which is why I was urgent about seeing him as often as possible to present the gospel. In my heart I think Tom probably got that hair cut some where along the way. Tom’s hair was not the issue for receiving or keeping eternal life no more than the giving away possessions was for the rich young ruler.

Giving up earthly possessions, or even the willingness to do so does not bring anyone closer to eternal life! Salvation is a free gift! The gift of God is not conditional on haircuts, forsaking possessions, station in life or performing personal acts of charity. The Scriptures are very clear: Man cannot be saved by any personal work of righteousness (
Titus 3:5). Attaching the performance of and/or promise to perform the works of discipleship to faith in Christ corrupts “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3) and will “frustrate the grace of God” (Gal. 2:21). Man is saved through personal faith in Jesus Christ alone!
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
In his quote above John MacArthur says, “no matter what he believed.” Taking that at face value leads one to the conclusion that John MacArthur is suggesting that believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31) is insufficient for salvation. For the Lordship advocate, even if the young man believed that Jesus was the Messiah, believed that Jesus was the Savior, and expressed dependent faith in Christ, that would be insufficient to save him. It is clear that John MacArthur, representing the Lordship position, conditions eternal salvation not on simple belief alone, but also on the lost man’s upfront promise to perform the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of a born again disciple of Christ.

In the case of this rich young ruler, the Lordship advocate would state that his salvation depended on the surrender of his riches. Some might back away from that by saying the man had only to be willing to surrender his riches. Dr. Charles Ryrie wrote:

Is eternal life gained by keeping the commandments, even by keeping them perfectly, if anyone could do that? Paul answered that very question at the conclusion of his synagogue message in Antioch in Pisidia. He said that only through Jesus is everyone who believes justified and that no one could be justified by the Law of Moses (Acts 13:39). . . . So even if the rich young man's claim were true that he had kept the commandments the Lord mentioned, he still could not have gained eternal life, even if he had kept them perfectly.” (So Great Salvation, p. 86.)


This article is an excerpt from the revised and expanded edition of In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, pp. 178-ff.

Related Reading:
Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page