June 4, 2007

From the Archives: Is Lordship Salvation an “Exchange?”

The following originally posted in November 2006. It was under the heading, Update on a Key Issue.

As I read through this article I felt the content was important enough to pull it forward and republish it. In this article you are going to read several quotes from the writing of Dr. John MacArthur. These are among the most disconcerting statements he has made in regard to what he believes the Lordship gospel is, and demands for the reception of salvation.

During my debates with Nathan Busentiz (Dr. MacArthur's personal assistant) at Pulpit Magazine he tried to diffuse the implications of Dr. MacArthur describing salvation as an "exchange."

Here is that previous article:

I have been reflecting on, and want to return to a part of the discussion I had with Nathan Busenitz at Pulpit Magazine.

In reply to one of my concerns with Dr. MacArthur's stated position, Nathan wrote,

“When John MacArthur speaks of an ‘exchange’ he is not saying that I offer God my obedience and he, in return, offers me His salvation. That is works salvation. It is a false gospel.”
Now I read this quote from The Gospel According to Jesus:
“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.)
An objective, unbiased reading can lead to just one conclusion: Dr. MacArthur demands a promise of life long obedience in “exchange” for salvation. This is man being told he must “offer” what he will do or become in “exchange” for salvation. This is “works salvation.”

The Bible presents a much better, and a much different view of salvation than creating demands for an upfront commitment to life long obedience for the reception of eternal life.


Following is the original note I posted at Pulpit Magazine


You wrote,
“When John MacArthur speaks of an “exchange” he is not saying that I offer God my obedience and he, in return, offers me His salvation. That is works salvation. It is a false gospel.”
“The full title of John MacArthur’s original book is What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, Follow Me? The Gospel According to Jesus. The title alone should raise concern even before one opens the cover. The point made in the title is that John MacArthur and those who advocate Lordship Salvation believe the Lord’s words 'Follow Me' are a necessary component of the gospel and must be acted upon for salvation.” (In Defense of the Gospel, pp. 37-38.)
What Dr. MacArthur does is demand from a sinner the upfront, or as Pastor Mike Harding noted, “frontloading faith” (with) promises of surrender, self-denial, commitment to follow, to be willing to die for Jesus’ sake, in “exchange” for salvation.
“That is the kind of response the Lord Jesus called for: wholehearted commitment. A desire for him at any cost. Unconditional surrender. A full exchange of self for the Savior. It is the only response that will open the gates of the kingdom. Seen through the eyes of this world, it is as high a price as anyone can pay. But from a kingdom perspective, it is really no sacrifice at all.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], 148.)
“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.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 140.)
“Let me say again unequivocally that Jesus’ summons to deny self and follow him was an invitation to salvation, not . . . a second step of faith following salvation. . . . Those who are not willing to lose their lives for Christ are not worthy of Him. . . . He wants disciples willing to forsake everything. This calls for full-scale self-denial–even willingness to die for His sake if necessary.” (The Gospel According to Jesus [Revised & Expanded Edition], pp. 221, 226.)
In one of the clearest expressions of portraying discipleship as though it is the key to salvation Dr. MacArthur wrote,
“Anyone who wants to come after Jesus into the Kingdom of God, anyone who wants to be a Christian, has to face three commands: 1) deny himself, 2) take up his cross daily, and 3) follow him.” (Hard to Believe: The High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus, p. 6)
These conditional elements of Dr. MacArthur’s gospel are inconsistent with your assertion that a sinner must come to God “empty and broken.” If a sinner is told he must come to God with a commitment to perform, and/or live up to the kind of behavior and acts of a born again disciple, which is what Dr. MacArthur's Lordship interpretation of the gospel demands, he has come with an offer of works.

There is no straw man! There is no way around it, no way to paint it in a different light. Dr. MacArthur says it plainly: without the frontloaded promise of “good works,” there is no “exchange” for salvation. This is a works based message. Lordship Salvation is a false non-saving interpretation of the Gospel!



  1. I can see what you are saying about the front-load promise of good works. How does repentance differ from that?

  2. Hi Chris:

    Thanks for the visit. It is near midnight, so I have to get back to you here with more another time.

    For now I’ll take a quick stab at your note. I’m not sure I follow your question, but repentance can no more include any frontloading a promise of good works and be biblical than faith and a commitment to works can.

    When repentance is defined by its precise biblical meaning, “change of mind” that excludes any resolve to turn from committing sin and/or a resolve to start obeying.

    Repentance, therefore, cannot be frontloaded with commitment to obedient Christian living because that is not repentance unto salvation.

    Once born again the new believer should have a desire to perform the God ordained “good works,” (Eph. 2:10).

    Well, that is quick, probably not my most articulate expression, but that will have to do for now.

    Thanks again,


  3. John MacArthur teaches that salvation is a "Great Exchange". He taught in a message he preached entitled, "The Impossibility of Salvation" this...

    "When you come to Christ, you leave it all behind, all the priorities are changed and you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and you want Christ to such a degree that you would let go of anything and everything. But like Job who was restored with far more than he ever lost, Jesus says, 'If you've left that, you will receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.'

    This is the great exchange. You get the pearl of great price. You get the treasure hidden in the field. All you have to do is sell all the cheap stuff you have in this life."

    He mistakes the great exchange as an exchange of our life for eternal life. First off, we have no life before salvation; we were spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Secondly, God offers eternal life as a gift, not an exchange (Romans 6:23). This is the problem with much of Lordship Salvation. Lordship Salvation presents salvation as if it were in a box with wrapping paper and a bow on it, making it look like a gift; however, Lordship Salvation turns it into some purchase, exchange, or reward to someone who has done good or promises to do good or is doing good. No, salvation is not this way according to the Scriptures. Romans 5:18 reads, "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." The Bible speaks of salvation as a FREE GIFT. It's not only said to be a gift, but a free gift. Yet, to the Lordship Salvationist, it's the only gift that costs us everything. If salvation costs me a dime, it is no longer a gift because I must pay for it. There are big words like repentance that people often are confused about, but, gift??? Come on!

    Here is the source I got John MacArthur's message from:


  4. SoG:

    Thanks for the documentation in your comment above. I have long noted that LS as JMac defines it is an "exchange," a barter system. LS is a promise for a promise salvation that is a false non-saving message.

    Is Lordship Salvation a "Barter" System?

    Thanks again,


  5. SoG:

    BTW, I may take your comment above and post it as a main page article.


  6. Yeah, and the great exchange has nothing to do with us giving our all or surrendering to His Lordship or loving Him, it's a judicial act of God and God alone. What the great exchange really is, is an exchange of our guilt being put upon the Lord Jesus and His righteousness being put to our account. So, then, when God sees us, He know longer sees us as sinners, but that's because our sins have been taken away by Jesus Christ blood on the cross.

  7. I also find it interesting that on his site at http://www.gty.org that he has, "Unleashing God's Truth one verse at a time." It really should be said, "Twisting God's Truth one verse at a time." That's all he's doing. He not only teaches Lordship Salvation, but also denies the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ saying it has no value and that it is synonymous with His death. I think he says salvation is by grace and not by works just to get people listening.