The False Gospel of Lordship Salvation

(This was derived from a post I made on Facebook)

Today, I feel the need to take a stand against the false gospel of Lordship Salvation, because not many believers are taking a stand against it (and not many of them are familiar with it either). The Gospel of our salvation is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ), and forgiveness of sins and eternal life are promised to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus based on what he did for us (John 3:16, Romans 4:5, Acts 16:31). Apostle Paul warned, in Galatians 1:9, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Lordship Salvation is not only a false, works-based gospel, but it is perhaps the most subtly pervasive heresy in Christian circles today. Its adherents say they believe in salvation by grace, but they ignorantly deny the grace they profess to believe in. What Lordship Salvation essentially teaches is that believing/trusting in Jesus as Savior is not enough (they would call this “easy believism,” “cheap grace,” “mental assent,” “fire insurance,” etc.), but that one must also make an upfront commitment to cease from all known sin and adhere to the terms of discipleship in order to be saved. They’ll often define the Gospel in contemporary terms like “turn from your sins and surrender your life to Christ,” “commit your life to Christ,” “give your life to Christ,” “count the cost,” “make Jesus the Lord of your life,” etc.

First off, we don’t “make” Jesus Lord. He IS Lord (Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:11). He is the only begotten, virgin-born, sinless Son of God, God manifested in human flesh, who has come to take away our sins by his own blood (John 1:29). Secondly, if I have to turn from my sins, surrender my life, become a disciple, and do this and do that in order to be saved, that takes the focus off of Christ and his finished work, and puts it on ME and MY works. We are told, in 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.” Just to provoke some further thought, Harry Ironside once had this to say (implicitly) about Lordship Salvation in his tract, Another Gospel, which is my view on the matter exactly:

“When anyone comes promising salvation to those “who make full surrender” of all that they have to God, and who “pay the price of full salvation” he is preaching another gospel, for the price was paid on Calvary’s cross and the work that saves is finished. It was Christ Jesus who made the full surrender when He yielded His life on Calvary that saves us, not our surrender in any way to Him.”

Now, lest anyone accuse me of denying the necessity of repentance for salvation, I do no such thing. Repentance IS necessary for salvation (Luke 13:3-5), but the problem is that many professing Christians (namely the Lordship Salvationists) misdefine repentance as “turning from sin.” There are several problems with this definition. First off, sin is defined in 1 John 3:4 as “the transgression of the law.” God’s law. Therefore, to tell someone to turn from their sins to be saved is to tell them to keep the law in order to be saved, and the Bible says we are not saved by works of the law (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16). The law also demands PERFECT obedience (Matthew 5:48), anyone who would keep one part of the law for their salvation is a debtor to the entire law (Galatians 5:3). If someone keeps the whole law and offends in one point, he is guilty of all of it (James 2:10), and those who fail to keep the law are cursed (Galatians 3:10). Furthermore, it is the law (NOT grace) that arouses sin (Romans 7:5, 1 Corinthians 15:56), so this would set up any Lordship Salvation convert (who is told to “turn from sin” for salvation) up for failure.

If you read the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14, the Pharisee thought he kept the law as he proudly thanked God that he was not like other (sinful) men and boasted about how he fasted twice a week and gave tithes of all that he possessed, but he was NOT saved. That man was an example of the false, self-righteous repentance that many professing Christians who believe in Lordship Salvation have today. The publican knew he was a wretch, that he was unworthy of God, and was too ashamed to even look up at Heaven, but desired mercy as he beat upon his breast and cried out in faith, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” That man was saved. His testimony is an example of what true salvific repentance is. Repentance unto salvation is not a turning from sin, but a changing of the mind (the original Greek word for repentance is “metanoia,” meta=change, noia=mind). The change of mind necessary for your salvation is a recognition of your condition as a sinner, unable to earn your way to Heaven, and in need of a Savior so that you will trust alone in THE Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ. The blood he shed on Calvary’s cross is the ONLY thing that can blot out our sins (1 John 1:7, Hebrews 9:22), not our works (Titus 3:5).

Regarding discipleship, there is no one-time decision to dedicate your life to Christ like there is to believe the Gospel and be saved. Saved men, NOT lost men, are commanded in verses like Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Time and time again throughout the New Testament, the lost man is commanded, in places like Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Discipleship, however, is a LIFELONG process, and you cannot expect an unbeliever to know all the ins and outs of the Christian life before he/she gets saved. Especially when such a person has yet to receive the eternal seal and indwelling of the Holy Spirit that every new convert receives (Ephesians 4:30), and all he/she has previously known in his/her life was sin (Proverbs 20:9). As Charles Ryrie once put it, in his book, Balancing the Christian Life:

“It is an inexcusable error to confront sinners with problems that concern the Christian life and call upon them to make promises regarding them. An unsaved person is never called upon to surrender himself to God. The saving act is in no instance represented as our ‘giving ourselves to God’; it is, on the contrary, taking His Son as our Savior.”

There is no one-time decision, like believing the Gospel, to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. I don’t agree with everything Zane Hodges taught, but I do find a lot of wisdom in this one quote from him in his book, The Hungry Inherit, “Eternal life is free. Discipleship is immeasurably hard. The former is attained by faith alone; the latter by a faith that works.” In the work I have done in the past few months to spread the Gospel, contend for the faith, and stand up for truth about things that affect the Body of Christ, I have come to understand this old saying from Jesus, more clearly than ever, in Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Salvation is a free gift (Romans 3:24, Revelation 22:17, Isaiah 55:1), obtained by faith (John 3:16, Romans 4:5, Ephesians 2:8-9), but there are many risks to take in serving the Lord after salvation. When you take a stand for the Lord, you will surely face opposition. Every day you serve him, you run the risk of being mocked, reviled, insulted, rejected, slandered, bullied, intimidated, assaulted, or perhaps even killed by strangers, peers, acquaintances, friends, family members, or even other people who call themselves Christians or identify by a certain religion. You could also face discrimination in the law and work forces for your faith in Jesus, or even be handed up to the authorities. These things can undoubtedly be trying, painful, and intimidating for any believer in Christ living for the cause of Christ. That’s why Jesus commands those of us who are saved to take up our crosses DAILY and follow him. If you wrongly apply that to salvation, you create a dilemma for the unbeliever who doesn’t even have the Holy Spirit and previously knew nothing but sin. Would we then have to get saved again and again each day? The Bible does not make salvation this complicated. Quoting Middletown Bible Church, in their article Arthur Pink and Saving Faith (which is a reproof of Arthur Pink, who was a Lordship Salvationist):

Salvation Is as Easy
as Going Through a Door (John 10:9)
Salvation Is as Easy
as Opening a Door (Revelation 3:20)
Salvation Is as Easy
as Eating and Drinking (John 6:35,53; 7:37)
Salvation Is as Easy
as Looking (John 3:14-16; Num. 21:4-9)

Saving Faith Is Spoken in Terms of
Simply Receiving (John 1:12)
Saving Faith Is Spoken in Terms of
Simply Coming (John 6:37)

Apostle Paul wrote, in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “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.” I am thankful to have that Bible verse from him, because it is a VERY serious thing to tamper with the simplicity of salvation. Lordship Salvationists do just that when they conflate the call to service with the call to salvation. Hence, Paul’s warning in Galatians 1:8-9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Jesus said we would know false teachers by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-16), and the doctrine of Lordship Salvation bears a LOT of rotten fruit. I’ve seen what it does to people, and experienced it first hand. Lordship Salvation generally produces one of two evils. One of them is prideful and self-righteous Pharisees who look down their noses at anyone who doesn’t live up to their standards, and the other is fearful and battered (lost) sheep who doubt their salvation over fear that they sin too much or are not dedicated enough to Christ.

I have noticed some NAUSEATING pride in Lordship teachers like Francis Chan, David Platt, John Piper, Todd Friel, and Tim Conway (just to name a few). I’ve heard from grace believing brothers and sisters in the Lord about how they used to live in fear and doubts about their salvation listening to false teachers like John MacArthur (the de facto pope of Lordship Salvation), Paul Washer, Ray Comfort, and others. There was a time in my walk with the Lord (in late 2015 to early 2016) when I myself was influenced by Lordship Salvation, and I was living under heavy amounts of fear, condemnation, despair, and doubts about my salvation. I eventually came away from it, and have done a lot of healing over the past few years as I rest in the grace of God for both the assurance of my salvation and my sanctification, but my battle with Lordship Salvation was so intense that I still carry some baggage to this day. I’m not going to name names, but I’ve also personally known some people who believed in Lordship Salvation and eventually apostatized, becoming full-blown atheists, agnostics, liberals, and sodomites. I’ve even heard stories of people who committed suicide over this doctrine. That should be a HUGE red flag.

To put out a very stern warning, Lordship Salvation teachers who have caused these things will one day have to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ one day and give an answer for all of it. I have no doubt that some of them have trusted in Jesus alone for their salvation at one point and later fell into error (Galatians 1:6-7), but will lose rewards for their service to Christ if they do not repent (1 Corinthians 3:15). From mere speculation though, I believe most Lordship Salvation teachers have NEVER believed the true Gospel and are unsaved Pharisees who trust in their works. For the latter group, it is quite an ironic thing that they like to use Matthew 7:21-23 to incite fear among their followers, when that passage is actually talking about them! If they do not repent and trust Jesus alone for their salvation, they will find themselves among the vast majority of professing Christians in Matthew 7:22 who say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” Then they will hear the same words from Jesus in Matthew 7:23 that they’ve quoted to their own followers, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” and be cast into the same Lake of Fire that they spent their lives scaring their followers about.

For anyone who’s been living in fear under the teachings of Lordship Salvation, or even for readers who’ve never been Christians at all, I want to make a plea with you. You can find your rest in Christ and have full assurance in him if you will simply trust in him (1 John 5:10-13). It is enough to receive him as your Savior if you will simply believe he is who he says he is (the only begotten, virgin-born, sinless Son of God), what he did on Calvary’s cross was done for you, and you trust in him alone to save you based on that. John 3:16 gives the promises of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to “whosoever believeth,” not “whosoever behaveth.” This is what Romans 4:5 means when it says, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” You do not have to try and earn your way to Heaven. As a matter of fact, you can’t. Here’s why.

We have all sinned and broken God’s laws (Romans 3:23, 1 John 3:4, James 2:10). Because sin is so serious, with all the destruction and suffering it causes and the corruption it breeds, there is nothing we can do or stop doing to atone for it (Isaiah 64:6). We die as a curse for our sin (Romans 6:23) and will one day be judged for every word, deed, thought, attitude, and omission (Hebrews 9:27), but here is the good news. God loves us and does not want us to be condemned to the Lake of Fire, because we were made to know and have a relationship with him (John 17:3). That is why he gave his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for us (John 3:16). Jesus came to this earth born of a virgin, lived the perfectly sinless life that we could never live, died and shed his blood on Calvary’s cross to pay for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). If you know you are a sinner in need of a Savior, that is what true repentance really is. Repentance unto salvation is not quitting this sin or that sin (or even being willing to do so), but changing your mind and recognizing your condition as a sinner, unable to earn your way to Heaven, and in need of a Savior, so that you will trust in THE Savior. The Lord Jesus Christ. If you put your faith and trust in Jesus, all your past, present, and future sins will be forgiven, you will be reconciled to God once and for all (NEVER to be lost again – John 10:28-30), and granted eternal life in his Heavenly Kingdom (John 3:36).

To any anxious souls under the bondage of Lordship Salvation, Jesus has beckoned you, in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Published by Ben Vogt

I have trusted Jesus as my Savior back in late March 2013, and it is my mission to proclaim the Gospel of our eternal salvation as defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, so that anyone who reads might also believe and be saved ;o)

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