With the above important disclaimer, I address a recent revisitation of Cloud to the issue of repentance and so-called Lordship salvation. Cloud wishes to steer men from an idea of Lordship salvation and in so doing, he does harm, because the Bible does teach that. God saves through Lordship salvation alone. Cloud in fact presents only a strawman of Lordship salvation, but he still obfuscates a biblical understanding.
Salvation is about Lordship. There is no non-Lordship salvation. I beg men to stop rejecting Lordship like that is some virtue, and in so doing, confuse people in such a way as to make their converts twice the children of hell they once were. I get that some are ignorant, but by pushing people away from the Lordship of Christ, they still ravage lost souls.
Cloud introduces his revisitation by explaining a cancelled subscription due to an earlier article against Lordship salvation I had read many years ago. For writing against it, a reader criticized him for believing it, perhaps because he had merely debunked a strawman. To disabuse this critic, Cloud further obscures the nature of conversion.
To answer, first Cloud wants readers to know salvation isn't complex or complicated, but easy. Elsewhere, Cloud has written against "easy prayerism." He's against easy prayerism, but he's for easy believism. Why? Believing is easy. For as easy as it is to believe in Jesus Christ, not very many people do it. I might talk to a thousand people with no one participating in this easy thing.
It's actually impossible for anyone to believe. Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Someone asked Him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" Jesus answered, "Strive (agonizomai) to enter in at the narrow gate." One of the great lies of the modern church growth movement is that believing is easy. Cloud gave a pat answer that I heard Jack Hyles give many times to defend easy prayerism.
Cloud also misses the point of "child-like faith." Sure, the Bible is plain enough that even a child can have the knowledge of salvation -- scripture is perspicuous -- but becoming "as a little child" isn't easy. When Jesus said that, he wasn't saying that believing was easy. He said it because very few want to become like a little child. That's why "few there be that find it."
"Easy-believism" is closely connected to "non-Lordship." When I preach the gospel to folks, I often find it is very easy for them to acknowledge that Jesus died for them. Almost no one rejects that truth. They, however, have a very difficult time with Jesus as Lord, because that involves the will. Believing is more than intellectual assent to a group of facts. This is where repentance and "Lordship salvation" dovetail. Those who know what it means to turn to Jesus Christ, don't find that easy to do. They'd rather hang on to their life for themselves. But Jesus said, "whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Second, Cloud contends that he does "not believe that a person must repent of all his or her sins to be saved." That very statement alone is amazing. You don't have to repent of all of your sins to be saved? Alright, so what sin do you get to keep and still be saved? It is often one particular sin that is the issue in repentance. Just like with believing, it's impossible for someone to repent. In other words, it's not easy to repent of all your sins. Acts 11:18 says that God grants repentance unto life. Without God granting repentance, no man could repent.
Within Cloud's second point, someone could become confused. He writes:
Call that ‘Lordship salvation’ if you want to. Repentance is a radical change in attitude toward divine authority, and if a person does not have such a change in attitude he has not repented and he is NOT (capitalization his) saved and he does not have ‘eternal security.’ ... Repentance is largely a change of mind in relation to God Himself, to the role He has in life and in one’s own life in particular. . . . It means to turn around and go in a different direction. It means to lay down your arms and to surrender to God, to stop being at enmity against Him.
These are "Lordship salvation" statements, so I will "call that 'Lordship salvation'" because I "want to." David Cloud, the above is Lordship salvation. I ask you to cling to that position and eschew the man or men who goad you into the errors of this article.
Cloud asserts that "nowhere have I said that repentance means to repent of all your sin or to turn away from all of your sin. That would be a works salvation, which is a false gospel." Jesus said, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." So what are these sinners, Jesus speaks of, repenting from? They are repenting of all their sins -- certainly not just some of their sins. When someone repents and believes, he has a new relationship to sin, one that Paul calls being "dead to sin." He counted his former life as "dung."
Repentance is not akin to "stopping sinning" or "ceasing sinning." The message of repentance isn't "in order to be saved, you must discontinue all sinning." Sure, that's works salvation. We're not saved by trying not to sin. Repentance is, however, an admission that even though we can't stop sinning, by the grace of God we want to. Jesus' sheep hear His voice and follow Him. He doesn't lead them to sin. You can't have Jesus and have your sin both -- no man can serve two Masters.
David Cloud's third point is where the strawman reaches maximum: "We do not support any idea of 'Lordship Salvation' which teaches that an individual must make Jesus Christ absolute Lord of every area of his life before being saved." I know of no one, nor have I read one person, who has taught that "idea" of Lordship salvation. If that is what Lordship salvation were, everyone should oppose it. No one "makes Jesus Christ Lord of anything." He is Lord of everything. But no one I have read would call Cloud's definition, "Lordship salvation." I would be interested in a quotation from any book from anyone who espouses that view. If it does exist, I would suspect it in something like Campbellism or some cult, not in anything evangelical.
Everything proceeding from that point is arguing against something that doesn't exist. I would join Cloud in his rejection of that doctrine. By separating himself from that idea of Lordship, Cloud can join all others who say they reject "Lordship salvation." Them: "I reject Lordship salvation." Cloud: "So do I." Then someone reads an actual, real-life position of "Lordship salvation," and because David Cloud rejects "Lordship salvation," he thinks perhaps he must reject it too, because it's called "Lordship salvation." And what he's actually rejecting is what the Bible teaches about salvation.
In his last paragraph, Cloud says that this definition of "Lordship salvation" is similar to the perfectionism of Pentecostals and Charismatics. Not really. Perfectionism, second blessing theology, says that someone after conversion can reach a state of perfection after a second blessing, a Pentecostal type of experience. Ironically, Jack Hyles would have more likely gone for something like that, except redefining how that sin was defeated through a type of soulwinning power and its results. Hyles believed that some of your sinning could be reversed through the results of your soulwinning, yielding a kind of perfectionism. To connect those types of oddball positions with Lordship salvation is a travesty of the greatest degree.
I don't know if David Cloud has anyone read his work before he publishes it, to check it for errors. It would have been very helpful to him if he could have done that with this one. I would be amazed if he did with either the first or second editions. I call on him to take this one down, rethink what he wrote, and then write something different. I'd be glad to pull down this article as soon as he would his. Hopefully, this "reproof of instruction" will be a "way of life."