The Lordship Salvation Issue

The Lordship Salvation Issue is surely one of those many topics where the less I say the better. Nevertheless, I do want to say something (with some sense of trepidation).

Most of my friends are non-Lordship Salvation. Many are far more informed than I am. In many ways I’m over my head, and would rather avoid division – if for nothing else to avoid embarrassing myself. So in the few discussions I’ve had, I’ve tended not to say much.

Let every person do their own study and come to their own conclusion.

I once posted a Cripplegate article in a group and was promptly informed it wasn’t representative of the LS teaching. It shouldn’t be surprising that there are nuances and differences among proponents of the camps. A non-LS fellow chimed in that LS is an even more dangerous doctrine than pretribulationism! I found that remark astonishing. Why am I not seeing this?

My two main references (I have others) on the LS issue are MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus and Freely By His Grace edited by Hixson, Whitmire and Zuck. The latter is 600 pages. It would be accurate to say that I haven’t plumbed it all, and likely never will.

That said I do have some concerns re the non-LS groups. First is the following statement by one of the FBHG contributors:

The label of easy-believism can come across as pejorative; it implies that those who reject the Reformed notion of saving faith have somehow compromised the gospel and opened the gates of heaven to anyone for any reason. Of course this is not at all the case. Opponents of the Reformed notion of saving faith simply contend that the Bible conditions eternal salvation solely on simple faith alone, and to express that faith in Jesus is to be convinced that He has given eternal life to the one who simply believes in Him for it. No act of obedience, preceding or following faith in Jesus Christ, such as a promise to obey, repentance of sin, pledge of obedience or surrendering to the Lordship of Christ, may be added to, or considered part of, faith as a condition for receiving eternal life. (Emphasis mine, Page 159)

I’ve also been pointed to Dr. Charles Bing’s works. Bing has an article in FBHG. As I’m slowly digesting what he writes, some statements (at least in my opinion) aren’t helpful. For example he states that Lordship Salvation arises from the Amillennial-Reformed tendency to blur theological lines between law, grace, the church, Israel, the kingdom etc, etc. That’s quite a lot of asserting to parse through.

For a balanced Reformed approach to matters touching this, read Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ. Ferguson discusses the errors of both Antinomianism and Legalism.

At one point Bing contrasts LS with Roman Catholicism where the latter teaches that faith plus works obtains salvation. He then claims LS just frames it differently: Faith that works obtains salvation. That is a misrepresentation of just about everything I’ve read from the LS camp. No doubt one will find some problem LS statements here and there. But this is not the usual LS position I’m familiar with.

Elsewhere Bing addresses the LS appeal to James 2:19. He responds by noting that it fails because, while the demons have a head knowledge of God, they do not change their evil ways. Have I missed something again? How do we reconcile this response with the statements underlined above?

Now some of the non-LS people may be saying that at the point of salvation, where only faith is applied initially, there is no repentance of sin required. However, I’ve seen other non-LS statements which take this position further into the Christian walk.

I fail to see how anyone can arrive at the point of coming to Christ, and understanding the need to place faith in Him because of sin, without the need for repentance. Martyn Lloyd Jones has written that, “conviction of sin is an essential preliminary to a true experience of salvation” (Spiritual Depression, page 32).

I agree with Paul Washer:

There is something of a logical progression in the salvation of men. They must know that they are lost before they can be saved. However, they must know that they are sinners before they realize that they are truly lost. And finally, they must understand that God is holy before they can fully comprehend the grievous nature of their sin!

To make the slightest suggestion that we are justified by our own works or that we have added something to the work of Christ on our behalf should repulse us. (The Gospel’s Power and Message, Pages 88, 157)

To summarize how I see the Lordship Salvation issue:

Salvation is not based on any visibly measurable amount of works after placing faith in Christ. There isn’t a works-quota (see the John Barnett link below). Sinners come to the Lord freely without any need to make themselves good enough first. However, any conviction of sin leading to salvation must imply repentance.

Finally the Apostle John wrote:

And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:3)

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:6-10)


Further resources:

GotQuestions – What is lordship salvation?

Dr. John Barnett – What is Lordship Salvation? Note: Barnett’s account of the Dallas incident somewhat differs to that found in MacArthur’s book. But it essentially raises the same concern.

What is Justification?

Alf Cengia bio

Alf Cengia has a keen interest in politics (especially the Middle East), is a collector of books and dabbles in weight training. He is stepfather to Michelle, Sammy’s chief walker and his wife’s favorite coffee maker. He blogs at Zeteo316 and Thoughts on Eschatology.

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There are 3 Comments

TylerR's picture


When I became a pastor where I minister, I found a copy of Zane Hodges Absolutely Free! in the church library. The last pastor trended towards a free grace position, and didn't like to speak of repentance. I read the book, then tore it to pieces and threw it away. Absolutely Free! indeed. More like Absolute Trash.

There was once a time when these discussions interested me keenly, during and shortly after Seminary. I just find them tiresome, now. I have a Reformed soteriology. I'm just not interested in raking over these issues with Christian who disagree anymore. I am upfront and honest when prospective members who ask the question. The same with the KJVO issue. Here is a literal transcript of how I handled this the last time it was asked:

  • LADY: Do you believe in Lordship Salvation?
  • ME: Yes. But, tell me what you think Lordship Salvation is so I'm sure we're talking about the same thing!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

  • LADY: Do you believe in Lordship Salvation?
  • ME: Yes. But, tell me what you think Lordship Salvation is so I'm sure we're talking about the same thing!

Exactly. Too many labels, too little time.

IMHO, the LS issue is just another example among many about the reality that salvation, while clearer than other doctrines, is still a mystery to our feeble human minds. We know we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren; the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God; we will know them by their fruit. . . 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

TylerR's picture


Yes, excellent article from Central. Thanks for sharing. I often struggle to define what I am:

  • I'm not a fundamentalist (well, I actually am, but some groups have [I believe] so sullied the label that it's not worth using any longer).
  • I'm such a weak dispensationalist (according to some) that I don't use that label
  • Baptist is a good label, but not descriptive enough
  • Reformed Baptist is pretty close, but I'm not wholly Reformed - more just in my soteriology and sanctification
  • Regular Baptist is perhaps the best label for me, even though that takes some explanation, too

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

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