The Thessalonian Example and Three Views on Salvation

It is remarkable how much disagreement persists among otherwise likeminded believers regarding how one is saved. Presently there are three basic views (though even more subtle nuances) on how one receives eternal life: (1) the lordship salvation view, (2) what I call ultra-free grace, and (3) the free grace view.

Lordship salvation has been defined and popularized by John MacArthur as synonymous with discipleship. MacArthur says, “Those who teach that obedience and submission are extraneous to saving faith are forced to make a firm but unbiblical distinction between salvation and discipleship. This dichotomy, like that of the carnal/spiritual Christian, sets up two classes of Christians: believers only and true disciples” (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, Revised and Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 35-36). MacArthur appeals to Acts 3:19 and Luke 24:47 for his definition of repentance as “turning from sin” (John MacArthur, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1993), 24.). These comments introduce major components of MacArthur’s lordship view: salvation equals discipleship, there is no such thing as a carnal Christian, repentance is a turning from sin, and consequently, believers inevitably must (and will) bear fruit in order to demonstrate they are saved.

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