13
Sep
13

ARE “LORDSHIP SALVATION” AND WORKS SALVATION THE SAME?

I was reading a blog this morning from a Reformed guy who wrote about the Reformers having recovered the truth of free justification before God based solely on the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness. One of the comments was as follows:

I would argue that many Reformed tend to be legalistic (I’d exclude people like Michael Horton whom I learned much from) and the Lordship Salvation debate reveals that. For example, the great JI Packer wrote,”In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything.”

John MacArthur (who’s pretty Reformed) wrote that “Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything.”

Then there followed several banal comments that betrayed a total misunderstanding of the biblical gospel. Allow me to make a few comments of my own.

1. There is nothing “legalistic” about stating that salvation is for those “who are willing to forsake everything” or that “free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything.” If there were, we would have to label Jesus as a legalist. He said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:23). Many who read this verse draw a false distinction between being a believer and being a disciple, but no such distinction exists in the Bible. If a person does not want to follow Jesus and learn from him, he doesn’t want to be a Christian. There is nothing legalistic about that; it is simply descriptive of what it means to be converted and be a Christian. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. . .” (John 10:27).

2. The issue of what happens subsequent to conversion has nothing to do with the basis of justification before God. No one who believes the biblical gospel thinks a person’s justification is based on his subsequently changed life. Was Paul teaching justification by works when he preached “. . . that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” ( Acts 26:20)? No, he simply understood that justifying faith will be obedient faith.

3. Any message that misses the element of salvation from sin, not merely salvation from the penalty of sin, is not the good news of free justification before God. When, in The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Christian fled the city of destruction and made his way to the wicket gate, he did so not merely to escape the destruction that was to fall on the city, but to be free from the sin burden on his back. People who flee to Jesus for salvation are people who are sin weary and feel heavy laden. Their God-given desire is not merely to be freed from guilt, but to be freed from sin.

4. God does not forgive sinners because we believe the gospel and give up all that we have. He forgives us because Jesus has stood in our place and paid our dept. That is the BASIS of justification, repentant faith is merely the channel through which we receive God’s free gift.

5. If it is the sinner who, out of his sinful nature, produces such repentance and faith, then salvation is indeed based on works. This is why the issue of the origin of faith and repentance is so important. If we believe these acts are the product of the sinner’s will, even if aided by some sort of non-discriminating prevenient grace, and that these acts are the distinguishing factor between the justified and the condemned, we indeed believe in works salvation. In truth, these acts are the sinner’s response to God’s saving grace in the hearts of dead men and women in applying to them the salvation Jesus has already accomplished for them.

6. Failure to understand these truths is a failure to understand the biblical nature of faith and conversion. Faith is more than mental assent to a list of propositions. It is more than the repetition of a canned prayer. Conversion is not walking an aisle, signing a card, or punching in a code on your iPhone. Conversion is turning to God from idols, to serve the living God. Faith that does not produce obedience is not true and justifying faith. Such faith and the obedience it produces is never the basis of justification. It is, nevertheless, the kind of faith through which alone God justifies.

7. We need to return to the issues set forth in Apostolic preaching. Jesus did not merely die to free us from guilt; he died to free us from our wickedness. “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26).

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3 Responses to “ARE “LORDSHIP SALVATION” AND WORKS SALVATION THE SAME?”


  1. September 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    People tend to not be able to handle tension. Our thinking has been flattened out and we like simple extremes; the gray area frightens most folk because they have lost the ability to think. Saved by grace alone, but not by grace that is alone, to do good works prepared before hand.

    • September 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Sadly, my brother, you are exactly right. People in today’s church are sadly in need of solid expository preaching, but most have not been taught to listen to such preaching and so despise it. A friend of mine once told me, “If you make people think they are thinking, they will love you, but if you make them think, they will hate you.” Most every truth in Scripture must be held in tension with every other truth.

  2. September 19, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Good and nuance explanation of “Lordship” salvation.


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