August 27, 2008

Ron Shea: Comment From Pakistan

Dear Guests:

Ron Shea is out of the country. Today, he was able to look in, but only through a dial-up. He asked me to post the following, which I also posted in both threads of his two part series. You may react to the note below in either of the threads or in this. Brother Shea also mentioned that he will participate in the discussion threads upon his return in September.

I am gratified to learn that Zane continues to teach the concept of saving repentance, even if he no longer uses the word in that sense. I am not hung up on words, but the meaning we ascribe to them. And if Zane still teaches a man must renounces all confidence in his dead works to embrace Christ in a saving way, then I have no quarrel with Zane on that level.

I am currently in Pakistan, and have spent yesterday and today going through every verse in Scripture on repentance. (We have a few to go, but are almost done.) Today was dedicated to saving repentance. There were 32 of them. No personal axe to grind. Just taking the most likely interpretation of each verse based on the language and contextual markers. All were over the 50% mark, or I would not have thrown them in that bin. Some were weak, and just barely over 50%, and some were about as clearly dealing with eternal salvation as one could imagine.

I remember one of the free grace arguments is that about 180 times in Scripture, faith is presented as the sole requirement for salvation, and that to refute the free grace position, someone would need to successfully address all of those verses. The same argument is used for unlimited atonement.

Well, the same argument must be considered for saving repentance. 32 verses (ranging from 51% to 99.9%) must be explained in some other fashion.

But, either way, glad to hear that Zane still holds to a clear teaching on the requirement for saving repentance, even if not as related to the word “repent.”


August 21, 2008

Drifting Far Off the Marker, Part 2.

This is a continuation of the series by Ron Shea (Th. M.; J.D.). If this is your first view of the series I invite you to read Part 1 of the series and then return to the second and final installment.

From my seminary days I can still recall Hodges’ vivid illustration in his class on Hebrews . . . “How shall we escape if we neglect . . . if we . . . DRIFT AWAY!” Zane’s imagery was stark. Passing a buoy on the ocean, there is no perception of movement, as on a river. The ocean is a uniform body with no apparent relative motion. But ignore the buoy for 20 minutes, and look back for it, and you find that you have drifted far of your marker. The message was that it can happen to any of us. 

I was so overwhelmed by his imagery; I have always prayed that after running the race, I would not be disqualified.

Little was I to imagine it was my beloved instructor who was drifting, and who, for his own reasons, never looked back over his shoulder to see where the buoy was. And when he was finally told that the buoy was three miles northwest, he no longer saw it as a marker near a parcel of solid ground. It was only a milestone of progress, as Zane advanced in his wobbly way toward some strange new doctrine. It was the Christ of Jackson Pollack and Salvador Dali. The “upper story” Christ described by Francis Schaffer. It was a Jesus that could be filled with emotions or doctrine, or any other baggage one sought to bring to it. An inflatable rubber man. Stuff him with what you will. Make his ears big, or is feet long. Stuff him with hay, or fill him with air. As long as the nametag says “Jesus,” it’s all the same. 

Were this the only error, it would be a tragedy. But suddenly, not only the cross of Christ is miles behind us in the rear view window, so is grace.

To appreciate how this came about, it is important to reconstruct Hodges on the concept of Repentance.

Grace, my friend, is not the SUGGESTION that eternal life be offered freely and received freely. It is the demand. If it is not received freely, it is not grace. The promise is made void. And throughout Scripture, in many different forms, the word "Repent" demands of those who believe in salvation by works . . . who believe in salvation by self righteousness . . . that they must change their mind. They must come to regard their works as incapable of earning, or even contributing to their eternal life. Grace is not the preferred route to justification and eternal life, it is the only way. “For if it is by grace, than is it no more of works.”

Man is not the co-savior of his eternal soul. If Christ, and Christ alone, is not one’s Savior, one has no Savior. Although faith makes an affirmative statement of man’s response, it is repentance that proclaims that faith in Christ, may not be sullied with the prideful addition of man’s works. Salvation is not an amalgamation of Christ plus works. It is through Christ alone. Repentance teaches us that the message of grace is not a suggestion. It is a demand.

And now we come to the great circular logic of Zane Hodges, former heir apparent of the Free Grace mantel . . . “John doesn’t teach repentance to be saved, and John is sufficient for salvation, therefore, repentance is not needed for salvation.” Hmmmmm? Does that depend, perhaps . . . on your definition of “repent?”

Hodges has come to believe, against the full body of Greek literature, that repentance is turning from one’s sins. There are nuances where honest theologians can disagree. This is not one of them. The belief that repentance somehow takes sin as its automatic object is indefensible from Greek. It is bluntly contradicted by a mass of secular literature as well as Scriptural usage.

Because Hodges has retained his commitment against Lordship Salvation, the only way he is able to teach a Reformed definition of repentance (a turning from sin) while preserving grace is to claim that “repentance” is never presented as a requirement for salvation in the New Testament.

However, an impartial estimate would identify 36 separate occasions in which repentance is presented as a requirement, or cause of eternal salvation. Matthew 3:2; Matthew 3:8; 3:11; 9:13, 11:20; 11:21; 21:19; 21:32; Mark 1:4, 1:15; 2:17; 6:12; Luke 3:3; 3:8; 5:32; 10:13; 11:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7; 16:30; 24:7; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20 (2x); Romans 2:4; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 3:9. These passages are identified with no theological agenda other than the most likely meaning suggested (or demanded) by the context.

For Hodges position to be sustainable, he must be able to demonstrate by the preponderance of the evidence that NONE of these passages are directed to the question of eternal salvation. Five verses would require exegetical gymnastics. Thirty six requires an exegetical contortionist. And it clearly requires an agenda . . . reaching the conclusion, and then hammering the Scriptures to fit that conclusion.

The argument that John never speaks of “repentance” is akin to the argument that the rapture is not a biblical doctrine because the word “rapture” is not in the Bible. That is indeed true. But the question is more accurately “is the doctrine of the rapture taught in the Bible?” I have found, in my experience with the one-verse Willies of this world, that this question does not cut any ice. So now, I simply ask, “well how would you translate ‘deharpadzo’?” (“deharpadzo” in 1 Thess. 4:17 is translated “caught up” but could equally be translated “rapture.” They mean the same thing.)

The word “Jesus” has been lofted into the existentialists’ upper story where it has been reduced to whatever meaningless appellation the subjective observer would ascribe to it. In quite the opposite fashion, the word repentance has been hammered into a preconceived mold and nailed in place. It is no longer the concepts that matter, but hollow words devoid of content.

The repentance of Zane Hodges is essentially the same meaning as used in Reformed circles . . . repentance is a turning from sin. Hodges escapes from any taint of Lordship Salvation by claiming that the word “repent” is never used as a requirement for salvation, a dubious claim at best.

But more to the point, grace is not a suggestion that man may accept eternal life as a gift. Grace is the only way that man can be saved.

The synchertists must repent of dead works. They must renounce salvation through religion, ritualism, sacerdotalism, morality, and personal reformation. They must renounce all of these good and worthy things has having any contribution in their salvation. They must accept the gift as a gift. 

Adding Jesus to a long list of things one must do or be to attain eternal life is NOT the saving faith. And there is a word in Scripture that is frequently used to demand that faith in Christ is not saving faith unless it is faith in Christ Alone. And that word is REPENT.

In the 20th century, Free Grace theologians have systematically identified doctrines incompatible with the doctrine of Grace, salvation by water baptism, salvation by morality, salvation by religion, etc. The motivation of these many works was one thing and one thing only: To preserve the doctrine of grace from the pollution of man's self righteousness.

But what would Hodges now say to one who trusted in Christ plus baptism? Who trusted that, together with Jesus, the fact that they had been a virgin until their wedding night was the basis on which they had gained God’s acceptance. The person who believes their sins are washes away in sacerdotal acts of penance, nine first-Fridays, etc. What answer does Hodges have for such men? They are no longer required to repent of these works, because that is not the meaning of repentance in Hodges new system.

And so we ask again: If someone believes in Jesus, but also believes other things are necessary for eternal salvation, what must he do? In historic Free Grace circles, the “promise is made void,” (Romans 4:14, “grace is no more grace” (Romans 11:6-7), and “Christ is become of none effect unto you who would be justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.” (Gal. 5:1-4)

If Hodges makes an affirmative demand that such person renounce faith in their works, Hodges is teaching repentance whether or not he uses the word.

However, if Hodges no affirmative demand on such a person other than “to believe on Jesus” (a fact which the example has already stipulated), than grace is no longer the only way, but the preferred way of salvation.

And the man who would have been the elder statesman of the free-grace movement no longer sees the defense of Grace as critical, but only preferable. He is become a post-modernist deconstructionist movements of the 20th century. An heir to the linguistic absurdities of Witgenstein, who wrote many books and used many words to prove that words are too ambiguous to mean anything.

In my Gospel Booklet I have listed four elements as essentials to a saving profession of faith in Christ. They are:
1) The Deity of Christ,
2) The atoning work of Christ,
3) The Resurrection of Christ, and
4) The offer of salvation EXCLUSIVELY through grace

None are left standing in the gospel of Zane Hodges. It is as if, after a life time of defending these doctrines, he forgot why he had mounted his steed for battle. After many years, he jousted with windmills with great skill and aplomb, but when called to defend his King, he was last seen on his mount 100 miles North West of the castle, riding after some imaginary grail.

Professor Hodges, If someone is trusting in Christ plus works do they need to repent of their works?”
Hodges: “It is not by Faith plus repentance, it is faith alone.”

“Well, Professor Hodges, what is repentance?” 

Hodges: “Why it’s turning from your wicked ways!”

Do you start to see you are arguing in a circle? And you will never make a whit of progress. But do you also see that if a man need no longer repent of his dead works to be saved, then the head of the Free Grace movement is no longer teaching grace! With Hodges you can come as you are! Ten Commandments, circumcision, nine consecutive first Fridays, etc. As long as you have Jesus, the rest is OK. 

Is this a defense of grace? Is this a defense of faith alone? It is universalism. It is existentialism. It is deconstructionism. Jesus is whatever you want Him to be. And faith can be in Jesus and anything else you chose to believe in.



Their view is not another flavor. Their view is not an alternative interpretation. Hodges and the GES are not in mild error between the division of labors of elders and deacons. They have abandoned the faith by clever arguments. And they are heretics. Stand Firm my friends! 

In 1957, Alec Guinness and William Holden starred in The Bridge on the River Kwai, winner of 7 academy awards. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guiness) became so obsessed with demonstrating the dignity and virtue of a British Soldier that he not only cooperated in building a bridge for the Japanese, a strategic bridge that would transport military supplies, but, upon learning that his fellow prisoners of war had booby trapped the bridge to blow when the first train went over it, labored with his Japanese captors to uncover the electrical lines connected to the charging caps.

As the Japanese train began to cross the bridge, a moment of clarity came across Guinness. He realize in trying to demonstrate the character and integrity of the British Soldier, he had lost sight of the greater goal, to prevail in war over our enemies. In an act of redemption, Guinness falls on the detonating charger, blowing up the bridge as he is shot to death by the Japanese prison guards who trusted him.

Each of us has the capacity to lose sight of the big picture and, incrementally get turned around in the fog of battle until we are in fact serving the enemy. This is why Paul commanded is to “walk circumspectly, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Let us pray for the restoration of our brothers. Let us pray that self righteousness never becomes part of the controversy. This would erect a barrier that would abase their personal dignity and prevent their return. And let us pray that we are never caught in the deception of the wicked one, turned about in the confusion of battle until we find our labors advancing the cause of the enemy.

Ron Shea

August 17, 2008

Drifting Far Off The Marker, Part 1

Dear Guests: 

A blog visitor, who has gone by the handle of “Elijah,” occasionally posts at my and other blogs. *Recently Elijah posted a comment under my article Is “REDEFINED” Free Grace Theology- Free Grace Theology?

I asked “Elijah” if he would consider expanding that thread comment into an article that I could post as a series of lead articles at In Defense of the Gospel. I also asked him if he would be willing to sign off using his real identity, to which he agreed. Our “Elijah” is Ron Shea (Th. M; J.D.) of Clear Gospel Campaign.

Some guests may remember the Summer of 2007 when Bob Wilkin of the Grace Evangelical Society (GES) was calling for an open, public debate on the GES’s Crossless gospel. In September 2007 Ron Shea accepted the challenge and publicly offered to meet Bob for the debate at any venue of Wilkins’s choosing. In a strange twist, within 72 hours, Wilkin suddenly lost his appetite for a debate on the Gospel. (You can read the report of those events at Open Challenge) LINK

“Elijah” opened his thread comment to my “REDEFINED Free Grace theology article with, “Amen, Amen, and Amen.” What follows is his revised and expanded version of his thread comment that followed.

Estimates holds anywhere from 2% to 6% of Germany were Nazis. It is an insult to a German to call them Nazis, as it is to blame whites for slavery, when the abolition movement was largely a white movement. 

Most of the major cults of the world, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science, and etc. came out of America. Does that mean that they are one of the many forms of American Protestantism? They are cults! I will not sully the German people with the barbarianism of a few. I will not saddle white people with the sins of slavery, nor American Protestants with being another branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

Unless it can be shown that there is something in German nationalism that inexorably leads to Nazism, it is wrong to allege that Nazism is “one of many branches” of German nationalism. Unless it can be shown that white people are inherently racist against black people, it is an insult to place American slavery on the shoulders of the entire white race.

Unless it can be shown that American Protestantism leads inexorably to heresy, it is an insult to Protestantism to allege that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a branch of American Protestantism. A cult is a cult, and an “ism” is an “ism.” When they abandon their moorings, they have no right to claim that they are an ambassador of their hometown unless it can be demonstrated that the path they have tread was a paved road leading out of their hometown. When the path leads through rivers and streams, over fences, under barbed wire, and swinging from branch to branch without ever touching the ground, their claim as citizens of their hometown is dubious. Their claim to ambassadorship is absurd.

More to the point, unless there can be shown to be some thread within that theology or culture that inexorably leads down the path that the Grace Evangelical Society has taken, it is not only wrong, it is an insult, and it is an ad-hominem argument to lump all free-grace people in with the neo-existentialism of the Hodges-Wilkin model. The fact is, the Crossless gospel of Wilkin and Hodges is nothing more than the theological voice of the “empty Jesus” of the “seeker friendly” and “emerging church” movements. 

The GES is not a BRANCH of the Free Grace movement any more than those who taught license were a branch of Paul’s Free Grace movement.

 Moreover, as long as we are on the subject, let’s question whether Zane Hodges can be seriously consider Free Grace any longer. Before you laugh, or assume I am only being incendiary, consider this: The Free Grace movement was born as it progressively defended the doctrine of grace against one work after another. 

In 1923 in The Expositor, Greek Grammarian Julius Mantey proposed a “causal” nuance of the preposition “eis” as a good interpretation for Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized EIS (because of) the forgiveness of sins.” Whether Mantey was right, wrong, or sort-of right, the motivation for advancing this argument was a defense of the doctrine of GRACE. Quite simply, “if it be of works, then it is no more grace.” (Romans 11:6-7)

 Within a quarter century, Mantey’s understanding of the Greek proposition “eis” boiled over into a series of debates in the Journal of Biblical Literature with Ralph Marcus, professor of Classical Greek at University of Chicago, and editor of the Loeb Classical Library. Marcus may have gotten the better of Mantey in the day, but this was largely owing to the terms of the debate into which Mantey was suckered, which were virtually indefensible.

The Church of Christ ambled on its wobbly way, proclaiming water baptism a requisite for eternal salvation, and the Pentecostals raised their confused voices denouncing the Eternal Security of the believer. The questions of “Lordship” and “perseverance” had been on the back burner between Baptists and Presbyterians for a long time, and may have well stayed there if denominational lines hadn’t begun to fall, making the church a true market place for ideas. 

In the 70’s, the Lordship Salvation question took center stage. Florida Bible College (FBC) was at the forefront in defense of the doctrine of grace, with Richard Seymour’s work “All About Repentance” becoming a seminal defense of the doctrine of grace. Though not uniformly “Free Grace,” but with several able thinkers fully in the free-grace camp, Dallas Theological Seminary stood far off, lobbing shells in to protect the storming advances of the FBC boys. Charles Ryrie joined his voice with Seymour, proclaiming that no promise or commitment was required for eternal life.

The questions of water baptism, eternal security, and Lordship Salvation were well under control in the Free Grace camp. And most significantly, the terms of the debate had been framed. Even though not every Free Grace believer might agree on an interpretation of a particular verse, they uniformly agreed that neither water baptism nor “repentance from sin” were necessary for salvation, nor did one need to live up to some arbitrary standard of holiness to “stay saved.” The terms of the debate were clear. And the significance of each of these doctrines was appreciated in the Free Grace movement.

The question of assurance was a much more sticky wicket. Many Baptists professed to believe in eternal security rather than perseverance, proclaiming “It’s not we who persevere, but God who preserves.” But when confronted with problem verses like James 2, some would adopt a perseverance view, not even realizing that they had denied the doctrine of assurance.

There had been some historic voices calling in the wilderness who grasped the subtlety of this question, such as C.H. McIntosh and Morrow. But the Free Grace community at large had never fully grasped that perseverance and assurance were mutually exclusive. Nor had the free-grace movement at large grasped that ultimately, to embrace the doctrine of perseverance was to embrace justification by works through a rubber glove filled with holes.

Zane Hodges, standing on the shoulders of Morrow, C.H. McIntosh, and other greats, found the torch handed to him as the heir apparent of the Free Grace mantle. The fourth (and seemingly only major battle remaining) was his (Zane Hodges) to articulate. More than anyone else, Hodges was able to articulate why perseverance was a denial of the doctrine of grace, and to provide rational and coherent answers to some vexing questions raised in Scripture. Today, Hodges would unquestionably be the elder statesman of the movement, had he not apostatized.

Please continue with Part Two of Drifting Far Off The Marker.

August 14, 2008

New Book on the Doctrine of Salvation

On August 14 I spoke to Brother Rick Whitmire, Vice President of Administration at the Free Grace Seminary. We have been in close communication with one another for well over a year on issues related to Lordship Salvation and the Grace Evangelical Society’s “Crossless” gospel.

About six months ago Brother Whitmire informed me that a new book was in production. This book would be a comprehensive treatise on the doctrine of soteriology. This afternoon I am pleased to share the announcement of this book’s near completion. The title is Free Grace Theology: A Primer on Traditional Dispensational Soteriology

What follows is the announcement at is appears at the Free Grace Seminary web site.

The Free Grace Seminary is in the process of publishing a historic book on Free Grace Theology. The work is the combined effort of more than ten scholars and represents leading edge scholarship on various issues related to salvation. For the first time ever in one volume all of the critical issues related to the doctrine of salvation will be examined and explained from a free grace perspective in one book. The book, Free Grace Theology: A Primer on Traditional Dispensational Soteriology, is in the final editing stages and should be out within the next few months. Here is a sneak peak at some of the chapters in the book:

What Is Free Grace? by Dr. Mike Halsey

What Is the Gospel? by Dr. J. B. Hixson

Faith, Saving Faith and Non-Saving Faith by Dr. Fred Chay

Repentance by Dr. Richard Seymour

The Distinction Between Salvation and Discipleship by Dr. Fred Lybrand

Rewards and the Bema Judgment by Greg Sapaugh

Evangelism and Free Grace Theology by Dr. Larry Moyer

Sin and Free Grace Theology by Dr. Mike Stallard

What Is Lordship Salvation? by Dr. Charlie Bing

Assurance and Eternal Security by Dr. Dave Anderson

Please join with us in praying for the success and widespread distribution of this helpful work. Above all else, pray that it helps to advance the gospel of God’s grace to a lost and dying world.


Dr. J. B. Hixson
Executive Director

Free Grace Alliance

Following is one line from the announcement about the new book.
For the first time ever in one volume all of the critical issues related to the doctrine of salvation will be examined and explained from a free grace perspective in one book.
I am noting, “all of the critical issues.” The concern I am going to share is not necessarily a personal one and I am hopeful it is a non-concern. If this book, that is advertised as examining and explaining “all of the critical issues related to the doctrine of salvation,” does not clearly explain and examine the Grace Evangelical Society’s Crossless gospel then, in my opinion, it does not fulfill its stated objective.

The subject of Lordship Salvation is clearly defined as a prime objective for treatment in the book. I am grateful for this and look forward to reading that chapter, as I am all of the chapters.

The GES gospel is, however, conspicuous by its absence from the table of contents. I trust and am hopeful that this does not indicate the GES “Crossless” interpretation of the Gospel has largely been given a pass in this new book.


August 10, 2008

Lordship’s “Turn from Sin” FOR Salvation

There has been an on-going pattern among Lordship Salvation (LS) apologists demonstrating that they do not recognize or understand John MacArthur’s teaching on the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel. This time the mistake is on MacArthur’s view of repentance. The LS apologist wrote,

John MacArthur never says that to be born again a person must be ‘willing to turn from sin’.”
This misunderstanding necessitates opening this discussion to properly highlight the issue.

The Grace to You website posts an article by Dr. MacArthur, which is touted by LS apologists as his (MacArthur’s) definitive statement on Lordship Salvation. The article begins with a paragraph that defines how John MacArthur views a lost man must be born again. The statement is written by MacArthur and it is discussing the Gospel, the plan of salvation, the Lordship Salvation interpretation of how a lost man receives the “offer (gift) of eternal life,” how he is justified, born again.
The gospel that Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer. Jesus' message liberated people from the bondage of their sin while it confronted and condemned hypocrisy. It was an offer of eternal life and forgiveness for repentant sinners, but at the same time it was a rebuke to outwardly religious people whose lives were devoid of true righteousness. It put sinners on notice that they must turn from sin and embrace God's righteousness. Our Lord's words about eternal life were invariably accompanied by warnings to those who might be tempted to take salvation lightly. He taught that the cost of following Him is high, that the way is narrow and few find it. He said many who call him Lord will be forbidden from entering the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 7:13-23).” (An Introduction to Lordship Salvation by Dr. John MacArthur)
In my Can God-Given Faith be Defective article that I posted at another discussion board I included a link to an important article on Lordship Salvation by Pastor George Zeller. Some who are sympathetic to LS post comments that reveal an on-going lack of understanding of the LS message that they seek to defend. Ironically some of these admit they have not read any of John MacArthur’s major books on LS. To help all readers understand where LS takes some of its most serious doctrinal missteps I will again link to Zeller’s article, John MacArthur’s Position on the Lordship of Christ.

In that article, by Pastor Zeller, you will read additional documentation of MacArthur’s view that repentance for salvation requires a lost man to “turn from sin.” Here is that portion.
Dr. MacArthur tends to confuse repentance with the fruits of repentance, and to confuse faith with that which faith ought to produce. He confuses saving faith (which takes place in a moment of time--Rom. 13:11; Eph. 1:13) with discipleship (which is a lifelong process). As Miles Stanford has said, “Lordship salvation is not the childlike faith of John 3:16. It rightly insists upon repentance but wrongly includes a change of behavior IN ORDER TO BE SAVED. No one questions that there must be a sincere change of mind, a turning from oneself to the Saviour, but Lordship advocates attempt to make behavior and fruit essential ingredients of, rather than evidence of, saving faith.” (Miles Stanford, in his review of The Gospel According to Jesus).

MacArthur defines REPENTANCE as turning from your sins (Faith Works, p. 74). He also teaches that true repentance “inevitably results in a change of behavior” (Faith Works, p. 75). But is not TURNING FROM SINS a CHANGE OF BEHAVIOR? Is MacArthur confusing the RESULTS of repentance with REPENTANCE itself? Is not he confusing the FRUITS with the ROOT? MacArthur is more accurate when he says, “true repentance involves a change of heart and purpose” (Faith Works, p. 75). The inner change will produce an outward change.
The writing of Lordship Salvation advocates confirm beyond any doubt that LS is a works based, man-centered message that conditions eternal life on an upfront commitment to change behavior and perform the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) that should be the result of a genuine conversion. Calling on a lost man to “turn from sinFOR SALVATION is to condition salvation on behavior, not believing. Lordship Salvation “corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).


For additional documentation of Lordship Salvation’s “leave (stop committing) sin, and follow Jesus at any cost” to become a Christian message please read, Is Lordship Salvation a “Barter” System?

August 5, 2008

Salvation: What Man Must Do or What Jesus has Done?

My blog partner Kev wrote an article titled, The Power of God to Salvation that appears at his On My Walk blog. He is carrying on much the same Lordship Salvation discussion with Bridget (bp) there as we are here under: Is Lordship Salvation a “Barter” System?

This morning I read a comment by Kevl to Bridget that really gets to the heart of Lordship Salvation’s erroneous interpretation of the Gospel. Kev was addressing a question/comment from Bridget about the state of one of her family member’s spiritual condition.

Following is Kev’s comment for your benefit and blessing followed by some closing thoughts I’d like to share.

Would selling the man a false gospel have helped the situation? Would he be any more of a Christian if he were told he had to work for his salvation? Would he be any more saved if he had been told he had to forsake all or not be saved? 
Is telling him he’s got to be willing to work going to save him now if he is not already saved? Will changing the Gospel help the situation?

Instead of telling him what he must do, why do you tell him he must believe and then tell him about Jesus. Not about what Jesus expects of you - that is MAN CENTERED (telling him what
HE CAN DO to be saved instead of what JESUS DID so he can be saved.)

That’s what the Apostles did. What must I do to be saved? Believe. This is what Jesus did so you can be saved.

Not “this is what you must be willing to do. This is
true faith. This is how you should act... .”

The Apostles didn’t try to force or ensure “true faith” the Apostles spoke the true testimony of Jesus.

This will be harsh but you must hear it. Maybe if people didn’t spend so much time telling your (loved one) how to act like a Christian he wouldn’t have been able to pretend for so long. Maybe someone ought to have been concerned with presenting him something to
trust, instead of something to do.

If someone were preaching faith to him instead of works, maybe he might be able to clearly articulate and
know if he’s trusting or not. Instead of being in a position where he has to prove the quality he might be able to just say “yes” or “no.”
Please note how Kev correctly identified the core of Lordship’s plan of salvation and crux of the doctrinal controversy, which is a message of commitment to behavior expected of a born again Christian to become a born again Christian. Lordship Salvation is a message that conditions the reception of eternal life on the lost man’s upfront commitment to perform the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) expected of the Christian.

Kev’s comment is as powerful and penetrating an exposure of Lordship Salvation’s works based message as any I have read in recent memory. His comment reminds me of D. L. Moody’s encounter with a Mormon missionary, which I related in my book.
It is said that D. L. Moody once rode on a train seated next to a Mormon missionary. They discussed their conflicting views on what they believed to be the gospel. The Mormon explained what his system required man to do to earn the Mormon view of eternal life in Heaven. D. L. Moody, on the other hand, showed the missionary from the Bible that everything had already been done by Jesus Christ, and all man had to do was believe and receive the free gift of God. After a while Moody said, “Sir, I find our differences can be summed up with just two letters: You are depending on what man must ‘do’, the Bible says it has been ‘done.’” The sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s provision for the salvation of mankind.

Is salvation a gift that costs us nothing? Is salvation received by faith alone? Is a commitment to “unconditional surrender,” the resolve to “leave sin” and a “full exchange of self for the Savior” necessary for the reception of eternal life? If we find commitment and surrender are additions to the gospel, then the grace of God is frustrated. (
In Defense of the Gospel, p. 29)
John MacArthur defined this view when he wrote,
“Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.” (The Gospel According to Jesus, p. 78.)

“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.” (
The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith, p. 150.)
Surrender of one’s life in discipleship to the Lordship of Christ should be the natural response of one who has been saved by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the results of salvation must NEVER be made the requirement FOR salvation.

Lordship Salvation is a works based message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ and Lordship Salvation frustrates grace.
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him,” (2 Cor. 11:3-4).

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,” (Gal. 2:21).


August 3, 2008

Is Lordship Salvation a “Barter” System?

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.”
In his 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
In the 20th Anniversary edition of The Gospel According to Jesus the section appears this way,
Saving faith does not recoil from the demand to forsake sin and self and follow Christ at all costs. Those who find His terms unacceptable cannot come at all. He will not barter away His right to be Lord
The message MacArthur conveys is consistent in all three editions of The Gospel According to Jesus. Only in the third edition, however, does the final sentence appear as shown above. The Lord most certainly will not “barter away” His lordship or sovereignty. Neither is eternal salvation something that can be gained through barter, but is Lordship Salvation’s interpretation of how a lost man is born again a barter system? We will see if it is.

In each of the quotes above notice Dr. MacArthur is speaking in terms of coming to Christ. The obvious implication is of a lost man coming to Christ
for salvation. You can read those quotes, apply them to a personal evangelism setting, and you have a lost man being told that he must come to Christ with a promise to “leave (stop committing) sin,” and follow Jesus at any cost to receive the gift of eternal life. These quotes, which appear in all three editions of The Gospel According to Jesus, remove any doubt that MacArthur conditions the reception of eternal life on a definition of “saving faith” that includes an upfront commitment to performance. That theme, which runs like a thread through each of his three major Lordship apologetics, is a works based message that frustrates grace (Gal. 2:21).

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.”

Dr. MacArthur says the reception of salvation is based on an “
exchange.” That is how he defines the way in which a man must come to Christ to be born again. Lordship’s terms for salvation are: “wholehearted commitment, a desire for him at any cost, unconditional surrender,” in “exchange” for the gift of eternal life.

Barter is defined this way:
As to exchange in trade, as one commodity for another.

Therefore, we see “
exchange” and “barter” are essentially interchangeable. Dr. MacArthur says salvation, the reception of eternal life, is an “exchange.” Dr. MacArthur believes if there is no “exchange” there is no salvation. What is the exchange Dr. MacArthur calls for? He says the gospel requires an exchange of “wholehearted commitment, surrender, self-denial, cross bearing, a willingness to die for Jesus’ sake” for the reception of salvation, the free gift of God.

Does the Bible call on the lost to, “pay the ultimate price FOR salvation?” (emphasis added) Is receiving the gift of eternal life based on “an exchange” of “obedience” and “surrender?” Dr. MacArthur’s saving faith not only implies, it demands the “exchange” of a commitment to life long obedience and submission to the Lord, to receive His free gift of salvation. At salvation there only has to be surrender to what the Holy Spirit is convincing and convicting of at the moment. Future issues may not even be on one’s mind.

Lordship Salvation, according to John MacArthur’s definition of saving faith, is a barter system. In my book, and in my on line debates with the advocates of Lordship Salvation, I have documented from Dr. MacArthur’s own books that his interpretation of the Gospel does indeed demand an “
exchange” of “obedience” and “full surrender” for the reception of eternal life. Lordship advocates are, however, quick to cry, “straw man.” The straw man argument is a logical fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.

To set up a straw man or set up a straw-man argument is to create a position that is easy to refute, and then attribute that position to the opponent. The call for upfront promises to stop sinning, for “
obedience” and “full surrender” in “exchange” for salvation is found in Dr. MacArthur’s books, which I have cited. Lordship’s exchange/barter system does not need to be artificially attributed to Dr. MacArthur because it is his position.

There is no misrepresentation, no mischaracterization. There is, therefore, no straw man! Claiming “straw man” does nothing to negate the clear, incontrovertible evidence of Lordship Salvation’s barter system.


For related reading see, Lordship Salvation: “The Great Exchange”