Posts Tagged ‘Lordship salvation

28
Mar
18

The Real Issue in Gospel Preaching

 

 

One of the great problems with modern “evangelism” is that it attempts to deal with the wrong issue. The question with which most evangelistic conversations seem to begin is “Do you want to go to heaven when you die?” Then, the “mark” is told that Jesus died for everyone without exception, and if they will just believe that he died for them, they can go to heaven when they die.  Aside from the fact that no apostolic preacher ever made such statements in early New Testament evangelism, there are several fatal flaws in this approach.

 

The first problem is that it ignores the sinner’s ignorance of the nature and character of God. This is one reason the “drive by” approach to evangelism is faulty.  True evangelism cannot take place in a theological vacuum. To assure sinners that God loves them when they have no concept of that God’s character and attributes will be a futile exercise. When they learn who God is and what he demands, they may not wish to be with him in heaven for one minute, much less for eternity.

 

Additionally, it ignores the true nature of the sinner’s condition in sin and rebellion against God. I recently heard an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor explain what he called the gospel. When he spoke about the universality of sin, he said this, “You have to know that you are a sinner because you have done bad things like everyone else.”  Such statements glaze over the true problem. The psalmist understood and stated the true problem when he wrote, “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works” (Psalms 14:1). The remedy God’s redemptive work accomplishes reaches beyond the sinner’s abominable works to the sinner’s corrupt nature.  Since all the unregenerate sinner’s actions result from his corrupt nature, it is not merely that he has done wrong things but that everything he has done has been displeasing to God since all his actions have sprung from the heart of a corrupt rebel. The Scriptures tell us the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord and the plowing of the wicked is sin.  God’s redemptive plan intends to remedy not only the sinner’s guilt but his corruption.

 

Paul understood very clearly the commission Jesus had given him.  This is what he said Jesus had sent him to do. Jesus sent him to the Jews and Gentiles “to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified through faith in me [Christ]  ( See Acts 26:16-20). Does this not indicate that unless sinners are turned from darkness to light, there will be no forgiveness of sins and no spiritual inheritance?

 

Please understand this does not mean sinners must quit all their sins before Jesus will accept them. What it means is that they must understand they are so corrupt that they will never be able to break the bonds of sin’s dominion by their own efforts. If they are to be saved from their bondage and corruption, only Christ can save them. They must bring their sins to Jesus that he might break those bonds. It is the promise that they will be fully pardoned and justified when they turn to God, that gives them confidence to approach him.

 

There is not the slightest hint in the New Testament Scriptures that it is God’s purpose to exonerate sinners of their guilt but leave them in the  state of sinful corruption out of which those sins have flowed.

 

If you are interested in reading in greater detail about this issue, I would urge you to read my book, “Authentic Evangelism and Its Counterfeit.”  It is available at http://www.amazon.com/author/randyseiver.

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24
Mar
18

The Nature of God’s Saving Work

God’s ultimate purpose in the work of salvation as in the works of creation and providence is the manifestation of his own glory but the end of his work of salvation itself  is the restoration of what Adam lost when he sinned in the garden. The reason the apostle Paul was so excited about preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles was that he knew the gospel was God’s prescription for dealing with the problems of the sinful human condition that the fall had caused.
God’s method of putting sinners right with himself is the only one that can adequately deal with the sinner’s deep need. Paul tells us that God’s redemptive work is necessary because God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress his truth in unrighteousness.
When he speaks about God’s wrath, we are not to understand him to be talking about God losing control in a fit of rage but about God’s settled indignation against sin and sinners. It is the only reaction an infinitely holy God can have toward sin and sinners.
There are two basic problems that sin has caused and that God has purposed the gospel to correct. The first is that sinners are ungodly and the second is that sinners are unrighteous. Ungodliness concerns a wrong relationship with God, a failure to obey the first great commandment, and unrighteousness concerns a wrong relationship with other people, a failure to obey the second great commandment. Every problem we encounter in our relationship with other people is a direct reflection of our failure to love God as we ought. Though it is not true that all our human relationship issues will automatically be remedied if we love God as we ought, it is true that we have no basis for repairing human relationships until we are rightly related to God and love him as he has commanded.
It is also important that we notice that the gospel is not only about pardon or even primarily about pardon. Justification is a means to an end. People who sense their guilt do not approach God in worship. People who feel their guilt do not love God. This is why justification must occur at the beginning of a person’s spiritual life and not at the end. God does not declare sinners righteous after a lifetime of learning to obey him, love him and worship him. We would never love him, worship him and obey him as long as we continued under a burden of guilt. The writer of the Book of Hebrews made this point quite well when based his exhortation to come with confidence before the throne of grace on the great truth that we have a Great Priest who has passed through the visible heavens and now appears as intercessor for his believing people in the very presence of God.
Not only is it true that God’s saving work is intended to remedy the breach between both God and our fellow man, but it is also intended to remedy two great problems that sin has caused. Much of modern day evangelism has concentrated exclusively on one of those problems alone. The message is usually couched in terms of God forgiving us so we can go to heaven when we die but says very little about remedying our corruption and restoring our fellowship with God so that we can glorify him, be thankful to him, and worship him supremely.
In Romans chapter one, verses twenty-one through twenty-three, Paul has outlined the problems God intends to correct through his saving work. Although they knew God as he has revealed himself in the creation around them, they did not glorify him as God and they were not thankful to him. Because their foolish hearts were darkened, they opted to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. It is God’s intention in redeeming sinners to restore our ability to reflect his glorious attributes and worship him out of profound gratitude.
We must not forget that in Jesus’ parable about the lost son, the Father received him back into his fellowship both safe and sound (Luke 15:27). A message that concentrates only on the sinner’s safety if a half gospel. August Toplady expressed this idea well when he wrote, “Let the water and the blood/From your wounded side which flowed/Be of sin the double cure/Save from wrath and make me pure.”
J. C. Ryle wrote,
He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn. Whether he knows it or not, he is dishonoring our blessed Lord, and making Him only a half Savior. The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people’s souls require; not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins by his atoning death, but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their “righteousness” but their “sanctification.” (I Cor. 1:30).
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).

25
Feb
13

The Real Issue in “Lordship Preaching”

I have recently had the unfortunate experience of spending time reading articles at expreacherman.com. Every time I visit that blog I feel like weeping. There are at least two factors that contribute to my sadness. The first is that so many have misunderstood what the gospel is all about. The second is that those who believe in “Lordship salvation” have apparently done such a poor job of communicating our position. Communicating our view in such a way that we are not interpreted as teaching a works based salvation can be difficult. In an effort to guard the gospel from abuse, could we be guilty of failing to preach the doctrine of free justification in Christ as freely as we should?

The apostle Paul’s proclamation of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, exposed him to the false charge of “antinomianism.” I believe if we are faithful to the gospel, we will also be exposed to that charge. In fact, if we are not exposed to that Charge, we can not have been proclaiming God’s good news freely enough. I believe Paul’s answer to that charge gives us the key to understanding and proclaiming clearly the real issues involved in the gospel.

The real issue is not whether we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, or by adding a commitment to follow Christ, good works, etc., to the work of Christ as the ground of our justification. No one, at least no one from the Calvinist’s camp, believes that the basis of our justification is other than the finished work of Christ. On that issue, we all appear to agree.

The issue is what we mean by being “saved.” Paul explains that believers cannot continue in sin because we have died to its reigning power. The gospel is not merely about forgiving grace but about liberating grace. Jesus died not merely to release us from our guilt because of sin, but to liberate us from our sins. Jesus’ death not only cancels our guilt, it also renders sin’s tyrannical reign over us inoperative. A person who wishes to be released from his guilt, but resolves to continue in his hostility toward God does not wish to be saved. Look at the way Peter described the purpose of Jesus’ death, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25). Jesus’ purpose in dying is clearly stated, “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” It does not matter how much we may insist that our sins have been forgiven, if we have not been returned to the Shepherd, we have never been “saved.” Being returned to the Shepherd is what salvation is all about.

God doesn’t save us because we promise to get rid of our sins and follow Jesus. God saves us when we bring our sins to Jesus and confess that we are helpless to break the fetters that have bound us. If he does not break our fetters, we are doomed to a life of bondage in sin. No one who rightly comes to Jesus for salvation would say, “I want to be forgiven, but I love my sins too much to leave them.” The issue in salvation is not heaven or hell; the issue in salvation is sin and righteousness. The purpose of Jesus’ death was not merely to take us to heaven when we die. His purpose was to restore God’s holy image in us.

“Lordship” preachers must guard against giving the impression that we must add something to Jesus’ finished work as the ground of our justification. Those who oppose “Lordship Salvation” need to give up the “straw man” argument that Lordship preachers teach some ground of justification before God other than the finished work of Christ.

18
Jan
13

What Calvinists Believe about ¨Progressive Justification.¨

For the sake of context, I want to tell you just a bit about my religious upbringing. I grew up in an INDEPENDENT, Fundamental, Baptist home. As I was growing up, my heroes were men such as Jack Hyles and John R. Rice. I had memorized well the Romans Road and the Sinner’s prayer. Once a sinner had “prayed to receive Jesus,” I knew how to give him assurance of his salvation, based on his decision. I would tell him/her they were secure for eternity no matter what they did and that if they ever doubted their salvation they were “calling God a liar,” since he had said, “Whoever has the Son has life.” Surely, they had the Son since they had just invited him into their hearts. I never considered the possibility that their decision may not have been faith at all.

I would have fought anyone over the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” What I hadn’t yet realized is that you have to be once saved to be always saved. Faith in Christ is not a mere decision we make and move on. It is a life long commitment to follow him and obey him. It is also a life long commitment to forsake all hope of righteousness based on our following and our obedience.

I have said that to say this–I am not ignorant of this sort of mind-set. I have been there, and had great difficulty working my way out of it. I finally came to grips with the fact that the same Bible that teaches the absolute certainty of the true believer’s final glorification, also teaches the absolute necessity of the believer’s perseverance in faith to the end.

Many of those addressed in the NT Scriptures who were in trouble in their walk, were having difficulties because they were in danger of turning to some ground of hope other than Jesus Christ. Some are trying to make the issue about the necessity for obedience in the Christian life. This is not the issue. There is no question that believers are called on to obey. The issue is whether a person can truly trust Christ fully and depend on some other ground of hope, even to a slight degree, at the same time. Nor is the issue whether believers can merit or maintain their justification in the process of sanctification. It would not only be impossible to do so but absolutely unnecessary to do so. The genuine believer is as justified before God the first moment he believes as he will ever be.

I have been a Calvinists for almost 45 years and have never heard or read another Calvinist who used the term ¨progressive justification¨ except in contrast to our doctrine of justification. For example, A.A. Hodge wrote concerning the points of difference between Protestants and Romanists on the subject of justification, “As to the nature and office of faith. We say that it is the instrument; they the beginning and root of justification. 4th. They say that justification is progressive. 5th. That it may be lost by mortal sin and regained and increased through the sacrament of Penance, and completed in Purgatory.” (Outlines of Theology, p. 511).

I would only require a little thought to understand that Calvinists cannot believe in progressive justification. Consider the following:

1. We believe God justifies the ungodly (See Rom. 4:5). If we could in any way progress beyond the state of being ungodly and became as righteous in God’s sight as he requires for our full justification, we would no longer be candidates for such a declaration.

2. We believe justification before God is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. This is a righteousness that is wholly outside us. We can have no contribution to it. We do nothing to produce it and could do nothing to render it more perfect.

3. The moment we trust God’s promise to save us through Christ redemptive work, God declares us as spotlessly righteous in his sight as is Christ himself.

4. Since we did nothing to merit the justified state in which we now stand as believers, nothing we do now can increase or diminish our right standing before God. Our standing before God has nothing whatsoever to do with our works of obedience either before or after conversion.

We do believe not every professing Christian has been justified. Our works of obedience and the confessed ground of our confidence before God after our initial profession evince the state of our souls before God. The true believer speaks of current confidence in Christ for the justification of his soul, not of some decision he made years ago. A person who truly trusts in Christ is a person who will continue to trust him to the end of his life. Does the true believer have to try to muster up enough faith so that he won’t be lost if he stops believing. No. If God has ever granted him faith, he [God] will continue to produce that faith to the end.

There are certain miscreants who seem intent on spreading their prevarications about Calvinistic beliefs. It matters not how often they are confronted with their lies, they continue to scatter them like handfuls of bad seed. God will reward such enemies of the gospel for their hatred for and distortion of his good news.

15
Aug
12

Continue in your rebellion against God and go to heaven anyway?

OK, I want to acknowledge up front one of my great failings. I continue to be amazed at how ridiculous those who claim to represent our Lord can be. It is as if God has chosen the terminally stupid to confound the wise. One would think that those who have read the Bible at least once would know better. Silly me! One of my fond but as yet unrealized wishes is that someone who disagrees with positions I have taken would at least accurately represent those views I have taken.

Today, I read a list of characteristics that might be true of a person if he believes in Lordship Salvation. I am not sure who wrote it but it was posted by a man who called himself “Expreacherman.” If I am not mistaken, this gentleman knows better now since he died not long ago and has been disabused of his heresy.

I have no doubt that he was trying to emphasize the freeness of justification through the redemptive work of Christ alone. In this, I would agree with him totally. A person’s right standing before God has absolutely nothing to do with his personal obedience. It is based solely on the obedience and righteousness of Christ.

What I don’t agree with is his denial that believers will act differently from unbelievers.

Whoever wrote the article makes stupid statements like “You might be a Lordship Salvationist –IF

✦“You think that loving Jesus is the same thing as believing in Jesus.” No one who believes in “Lordship salvation” confuses faith and love. We do believe that every true believer loves Jesus.

✦“You believe that repenting of or turning from sin is an essential co mponent of being or staying saved.” Are we to believe God brings us to desire freedom from the penalty of our sins but with no desire to be free from those sins themselves?

✦“You believe there are marks of true believers.” What are we to make of statements like, “If you continue in my word, then are you truly my disciples?” And “Hereby we know that we know him, IF we keep his commandments?” The marks of a true believer are that they continue in Jesus’ words and keep his commandments. I guess Jesus and John both believed in Lordship Salvation.

✦“You think you must desire a relationship with Christ in order to be saved.” No, just give me the goodies and leave me alone. Who wants a relationship with a person who gave himself to be cursed of God for me that I might be blessed for eternity? Is it not difficult to believe a person who could write such stupid stuff could even be a believer?

✦“You believe “faith” and “faithfulness” are the same things.” Who that believes in Lordship Salvation fails to distinguish between faith and faithfulness?”

✦“You believe that assurance of salvation is based on your own faithfulness.” What about John’s statement, “These things have I written to you that you might KNOW that you have everlasting life?” “Hereby do we KNOW that we know him if we keep his commandments?”

I would never suggest that our works have anything to do with meriting God’s favor. Nor would I suggest that believer’s are ever perfect in this life or that our obedience can form any part of the basis of our justification before God. What I do believe is that those whom God has justified, he will also sanctify and glorify. Those for whom Jesus died, also died with him to the reigning power of sin. If a person desires to continue under the dominion of sin, he has never been delivered from the penalty of sin. John Owen wrote, “Any man in whom the death of Christ for sin has not become his death to sin, shall die in his sin.”

One of the patterns I have observed is that these people never seem to answer real questions or address real issues. All they do is make outrageous statements, then run and hide. I would love to discuss the real issues with anyone who has the couarge to forsake their hit and run techinques.

15
Mar
12

Twenty Questions

I am posting the following questions as an attempt to clarify various issues regarding justification and sanctification. I will be posting my answers to these questions in an effort to provoke discussion of these issues. I think the answers should be fairly straightforward, but if you disagree with me, let’s discuss it.

True or False?

1. God’s work in us, as an application of Christ’s work, is as important in forming the basis of the believer’s justification as is Christ’s objective work of redemption.

2. The believer’s performance in the process of sanctification has no effect on his standing in justification.

3. The basis of justification before God is the believer’s faith.

4. In justification, God makes believers righteous in their moral character.

5. Through the righteousness of Christ infused to believers we are able to attain justification.

6. Justification is through faith in Christ alone but sanctification is the work of the believer.

7. Justification is based on faith in Christ and the faithfulness of believers to Christ.

8. Even thought God has declared believers righteous in his sight, they must wait until the final judgment to see if they have been sufficiently faithful to the commands of Christ to be finally declared righteous in his sight.

9. If we teach that Jesus has fulfilled all the conditions of the covenant so that no conditions remain for the believer, believers will continue in sin and dishonor God’s name.

10. Because of the believer’s union with Christ, it is impossible for them to continue to practice sin since they died to the reign of sin when his death was applied to them.

11. Sanctification, like justification is a work of God’s free grace.

12. It is not necessary for believers to be obedient to the Scriptures since nothing can change their righteous standing before God.

13. In sanctification like justification, the believer has no involvement whatsoever.

14. When we say sinners must receive Christ as Lord, we mean sinner’s must change their lives before Jesus will receive them.

15. Ever true believer will persevere in faith and the obedience it produces as long as they live.

Multiple Choice

16. Justification is based on:

a. Faith in Christ

b. Faith in Christ and the faithfulness of believers

c. The obedience of Christ

d. The faithfulness of Christ and the faithfulness of believers to Christ’s commands.

e. The believer’s obedience to God’s commandments enabled by the grace of Christ that flows from his death.

17. Justification is:

a. God’s declaration that sinners are righteous in his sight, is based completely on the objective accomplishments of Christ.

b. a work in which God makes sinners righteous

c. a declaration that those who have faith have, through the enablement God has given them by virtue of Christ’s work, done enough to merit his approval.

18. Sanctification occurs because:

a. God has regenerated believers and this enables them to obey his commands apart from any additional prompting of his Spirit.

b. In union with Christ, believers have died with Christ to the reigning power of sin.

c. The indwelling Spirit works in believers to give them the desire and the ability to do what pleases God.

d. Out of gratitude and the sheer determination of his will, the believer obeys Christ’s commands.

e. The believer experiences a second work of grace in which he receives the Holy Spirit.

f. Two of the above. Which two?

19. Since God has declared believers righteousness in his sight, so that we can never be found guilty in his presence:

a. It doesn’t matter how much we sin

b. We can never displease him as our Father

c. We are motivated to live our lives for him who gave his life for us.

d. No sin we can commit can nullify his declaration.

e. Two of the above. Which two?

20. Sanctification is produced:

a. simply by the determination of the believer to obey the Ten Commandments.

b. by the indwelling Holy Spirit who, as a blessing of the New Covenant, inclines us toward obedience.

c. by realizing that if we are not faithful to the covenant, God will divorce us as his spouse.