Monday, March 17, 2014

Lordship Salvation for "Dummies"

As a pejorative, inventors of a new doctrine of salvation have titled what is the historical and biblical plan of salvation, "Lordship salvation."  The terminology doesn't sound bad to me, so I own it.  However, all sorts of garbage have been dumped on it to where it must be defined.  One risk is cherry-picked quotes taken out of context.  Lordship salvation isn't hard to defend, just avoiding tortured sound bytes.  The pejorative nature of "Lordship salvation" is that "Lordship" is added to salvation.  I still like the label because it distinguishes from a deficient doctrine of salvation most common today in professing evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

When I evangelize the lost, I often make four points:  (1)  we are all sinners [none of us are good], (2)  we deserve a penalty for sin, (3)  Jesus died for us, and (4) we must believe in Jesus Christ.  That fourth point is most difficult for folks.  In order, the degree of difficulty has been 4, 2, and 1, with 3 being no problem at all --  people accept Jesus died for them.  Almost every religion and every person I ever talk to agrees with number 3.  From the non-Lordship position, that means that almost everyone in America is already saved, because 80 plus (probably 85 plus) percent of the people I talk to agree that Jesus is Savior.  They accept Jesus as Savior.  That would also make me one of the most successful evangelists in the history of mankind, because I've talked to thousands and thousands of people with them agreeing with #3.

We'll park on point 4:  we must believe in Jesus Christ.  And I elaborate that it is faith alone, separate from works.  Wow, that sounds like salvation by faith.  It does, because it is salvation by faith, and, therefore, by grace.  Whatever doctrine someone believes will agree with everything else in the Bible if it is true.  If it's by works, it's not by grace.  If it's by faith, it's by grace.  Faith is not a work.  An interesting aspect to opponents of "Lordship salvation" is their sometimes teaching that faith is a work.  They target "Lorship salvation" for frontloading works -- which it doesn't -- but they themselves then teach salvation by works, because they teach faith itself is a work.  I wag my head over that.

The two major parts to "believe in Jesus Christ" are, first, "believe," and, second, "Jesus Christ."  If "believe" isn't biblical believe and "Jesus Christ" isn't biblical Jesus Christ, then you don't have salvation.  I can believe in Jesus, but if Jesus is a jar of peanut butter, he won't save me.  If Jesus is the spirit brother to Satan or just the archangel Michael, he won't save me.  So I spend time when I'm evangelizing talking about "what believing means" and "who Jesus is."  I say that "a lot of people are confused about what it means to believe in Jesus Christ, so I'm going to explain to you what that means."  Even non-Christians believe this.  They know many professing Christians are not Christian.

It seems that non-Lordship people aren't so concerned about the identity of the Jesus people believe in.  He only needs to be Savior for the proper outcome to their conversation.  Many also exclude "repentance" and if they don't, they often define "repentance" as merely a change of mind.  It's very, very important, they say, that people understand that salvation is free.  Language of "Lord" and "change of direction" or "turning from sin" would make salvation then become by works, according to them.  As a result, the non-Lordship people return from "evangelism" regaling of dozens and dozens saved, very few baptized, and even fewer to none joining.  I don't know if "conversion" is proper language, because it might hint of a different kind of life, which might smack of works.

Is it true that a lot of people say they believe in Jesus Christ, but don't believe in Jesus Christ?  Of course so.  And people are more messed up about that than ever.  The Bible reveals a faith that cannot and will not save (Acts 8, 1 John 2, James 2) as well as "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11).   The doctrine of "faith" and the doctrine of "Jesus" can both be perverted and often are today.  So both those, "believe" and "Jesus Christ," must be explained from scripture.

The two biggest ways that both "believe" and "Jesus Christ" are perverted or corrupted today are related to one other.   The gospel is corrupted when "believe" does not include repentance and "Jesus Christ" does not include Him as Lord.  Jesus is the way to the Father (John 14:6).  You can't get there going your way, and your way happens to be idolatrous until then (see Rom 1).  Jesus said that if you did not repent, you would perish (Luke 13:3,5).  He said if you believe, you won't perish (John 3:16), so part of what it means to believe is to repent.

Why don't people turn to Jesus' way?  Because they don't believe in Him.  When you believe He is Lord, you start to follow Him.  You come after Him, as Jesus put it (Luke 9:23).  You seek Him, as Isaiah 55:6-7 puts it.  Before someone repents, he's going down the broad road that leads to destruction, but when He repents (and believes), he's now going down the narrow road that leads to life eternal.  Jesus' call to go down the narrow road was to "enter ye in at the strait gate" (Matthew 7:13-14).   All of this is defining repentant faith, which is not a work (Philip 1:29).

We are saved by God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are saved by believing in Jesus Christ.  2 John 1:9-11 (cf. 1 John 2:22-24) teach that you cannot be wrong on the identity of Jesus Christ and be saved.  It's a doctrinal test of faith.  The identity of Jesus Christ more than any one point in the New Testament is His Lordship.  I have mentioned in some of my comments that this is a major part of the New Testament.  The New Testament starts with a genealogy to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, the King who will sit on the throne forever (2 Sam 7:16ff).  Some were looking for that King, even as you see the testimonies of Zacharias, Elizabeth, Simon, Anna, Joseph, Mary, and the magi.  Of course, they too needed to believe He was a suffering Messiah (Luke 24, Isaiah 52-53), but to start, He was the Messiah.  He was the King, which means that they needed to give in to His demands.

Paul talks about Jesus being confessed as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).   He includes before that a quote of Deuteronomy 30:11-14, which is part of the covenant of Deuteronomy 30.  Israel could be blessed through obedience and cursed through disobedience.  The blessing of the covenant is found through the seed -- this is the new covenant.  We couldn't keep the law without Jesus Christ.  Our faith in Jesus Christ is relinquishing our life to Jesus as Lord, which is believing that He is the Messiah, that is, the King.  Or as Peter put in Acts 5 in His sermon there, both Prince and Savior.   In Acts 2, he was warning them that day that the resurrected one would come back as Lord, which was a warning to them to turn to Him, to repent.

God's people are a covenant people.  They became this people, His people, by entering into a covenant.  The ground for the New Covenant is faith.  The covenant is made between someone and someone else.  One side is the LORD, and the other side is a vassal.  The faith inextricably intertwines with Who Jesus is.   According to the covenant, Jesus is God and Lord and Savior and the vassal, provided for by the death and shed blood of Christ, recognizes His authority and acquiesces to Him.  Paul said he was an able minister of the New Covenant (2 Cor 3:6).  Of course, God does all the saving. Deuteronomy 30, a covenant passage, is quoted in the context of Romans 10.  This agreement is akin to that agreement made between the mount of blessing and the mount of cursing.  It is not a work that saves, but there is an agreement that involves the whole person, his intellect, emotion, and will, in belief in Jesus Christ.

These non-Lordship say that turning to the Lord is a work, making salvation not by grace.  Repentance is not a work.  God grants repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).  That is "unto life," not "after life."  Sinners don't get eternal life and then repent.  They repent unto eternal life.  That repentance is granted unto them -- it is not a work (the usual fare here in comments is to ignore this).

The true plan, Lordship salvation, is not complicated, except explained by those who oppose it.  When I talk to unbelievers, they can understand it in 30-60 minutes from start to finish if they are apt to listen.  They also know that Lordship is the truth.  Many times, these are people who in the past have had the kind of experience that non-Lordship advocates are urging people to have.

To maintain their position, anti-Lordship advocates must make a passage such as Luke 9:23-25 into a "discipleship" passage and not a salvation passage.  According to them, Jesus is instructing already saved people how to be better Christians, rather than teaching what salvation is.  That idea just doesn't work -- here's the text:

23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

This is so obviously salvation that anti-Lordships force into some "decision" subsequent to salvation.  To "come after" Jesus, a man must deny himself.  This is an aorist imperative, which calls for a specific, definite choice -- do this now, at once, once for all and in one quick action (in contrast to present imperative which commands a habitual action).  It is akin to the "poor in spirit" in Matthew 5:3 and Paul counting all things as loss and as dung in Philippians 3:8-9.  Jesus elaborates in v. 24.  To save your life (psuche, soul), you must lose it.  It's obvious from v. 25 that Jesus is talking about salvation.  It wouldn't be worth it if you gained the whole world, but lost yourself, your soul that v. 24 talks about.  Being cast away is akin to going to Hell forever.

The anti-Lordship teachers turn this Luke 9 text into a discipleship passage to preserve the idea that no one gives up anything to be saved, since it doesn't cost anything to be saved.  [Hint:  You're giving up nothing to be saved, because your life is altogether vanity until you're saved.  Are Lordship advocates saying there is something more to you than either nothing or loss before your salvation?]  To them, a potential convert doesn't need to lose his life, deny himself, or any of that to be saved.  He only denies himself and loses his life to be dedicated, to reach a higher plane of spiritual existence after his salvation.  How does he get "dedicated"?  This is where revivalist second-blessing teaching comes in.  He's got to sacrifice, really mean it, suffer for it, fast for it, or let go and let God.

The anti-Lordship proponents must turn the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46) into dedication, greater dedication, or discipleship.  Since the man is trading something in, all that he had, for the pearl, the pearl can't be salvation.  Trading everything in would mean that salvation isn't free, that it costs us something.  When Paul traded everything in, according to Philippians 3, he said it was dung and loss that he traded for gain.  He traded in his false religion for knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection.

In the parables of Jesus in Matthew 13, a man trades in everything to buy a field, which is the kingdom.  He trades everything for the kingdom.  Then a man trades in everything for a pearl of great price, which again is the kingdom.  This is the same teaching as "no man can serve two Masters."  You have to choose your Master.  When you know the value of the kingdom, you would trade whatever is necessary to get it.  In Luke 9, that is to trade your self, your soul.

I've talked to several Hindus in my evangelism.  I've found that they almost always are willing to accept Jesus.  They will gladly add Jesus to the shelf with all their other idols.  According to the anti-Lordship men, does the Hindu have to give up His idols to turn to Jesus Christ alone?  No, because that would be works.  For it to be a free gift, the Hindu just accepts Jesus as Savior.  These Keswick men have wreaked havoc all over India with that plan, proclaiming all their salvation decisions.  At some point in the future, the Hindu man will perhaps become dedicated and then Jesus will be Lord.  At that time, Jesus might be alone in the man's worship.

In Lordship salvation, belief includes repentance.  Repentance includes self-denial.  Repentance means turning from idols to serve the living and true God.  Belief is more than just intellectual and emotional, but also volitional.  In Lordship salvation, someone believes in Jesus Christ, and sacrosanct to a belief in Jesus Christ is that Jesus is God, Lord, and Savior.  All sin is against Lordship.  If someone turns from sin, that means he wants to do what the Lord says.  That means that He wants the righteousness, which is in Christ alone.

The problem is sin. Sin sends to Hell.  Sin is against Lordship.  The Lord says something and man doesn't do it or He says not to do something and man does do it.  As far as I can gather, the anti-Lordship say that a man accepts Jesus as Savior and no thoughts about sin need to be a part of that.  God is saving him from hell, where he's going because he isn't saved.  Why does he need to be saved?  Because he isn't.   He doesn't even have to know that sin is what is sending Him to Hell.  He just has to want to be saved and believe that Jesus is Savior.  If he thinks that sin is sending him to Hell, he might think about wanting not to sin later and frontload works and ruin the plan of salvation.  That mixes works with grace for all that I can gather.  I'm just going to say it:  it's crazy.

Some at times have asked me, "If I didn't receive Jesus as Lord when I got saved, am I saved?"  I don't like just to answer, "Yes."  I think someone could be saved because he wasn't denying Jesus as Lord when he believed on or received Jesus Christ.  He believed in Jesus Christ.  He didn't believe in Him as Lord, but the person knew He was Lord and he wasn't denying that.  He didn't want to be in rebellion any more against Jesus.

I'm sure I'll still have to answer many other comments about what I've presented above.  What I wrote is just the tip of the iceberg.  To do Lordship salvation justice, I would like to go page by page through the New Testament to show how it teaches it all over.  There are proof texts for Lordship salvation, but the best proof is that this is the salvation of the entire New Testament.


Bobby Mitchell said...

Some may call that "Lordship salvation." Some may call it "frontloading works." Some may call it...

All I know is that the Lord saved me 28 years ago when I was almost 12, I've been reading through the Bible over and over since then, and I've been preaching the Scriptures since I was 15, and what you've written in this post is EXACTLY what I see in the Scriptures, and what I've been preaching from the Scriptures all these years. I JUST CALL IT BIBLICAL SALVATION IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

That is the simply the message of the Scriptures. It is the SALVATION MESSAGE.

Key to all of this is what you wrote about concerning making sure that people know Who Jesus is. If they don't know Who He is then they cannot believe on Him.

I'm thankful to God that I grew up knowing Who Jesus was all along. But, many do not today. They have the so-called Jesus of the American culture, the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, the... or just their own invention of their imagination that they have formed from answering questions like "what would Jesus do?" I'm glad you are hammering away at this.

Jesus is Lord!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Pastor Mitchell. Do you think folks in churches like ours are afraid to discuss this issue or "come down on a side"? The two sides are very distinct. I would call the other side, the side distinct from what I'm presenting, dangerous. I know men need time to grow, but I wonder how many even know what side they come down on.

Doulos said...

Just one of the "dummies" here following along. I do better at Bird Bible discussions, but I'm hanging on and sitting in the virtual amen corner.

The common person in the pew discusses it much or well because we have rarely heard it taught. Salvation is tacked on to sermons and is preached at surface level. Now that I have read these recent posts, this bothers me more than ever.

I think you are on to something that pastors don't even know what side they come down on or know the importance of knowing. We have the "accept Jesus" and the "let Jesus in your heart" easy speak along with the failure to clearly articulate who this Jesus is. The likely end result of that...

Kent Brandenburg said...

Absolutely correct, Doulos. That is so right. In so many cases, this is not talked about.

Anonymous said...


It's not necessary to post this unless you want others to have it. But here is a quote I came across the other night on the blood of Chirst by J. Vernon McGee. I found it in Vol. II, p. 160, of his three volume commentary on Revelation

1. "'The blood of the Lamb.' There is a wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb. Don't you forget that. Let us not minimize that. The many references to the blood of the Lamb necessitate its being on display in heaven. This is not a crude conception; rather, the crudity is in our sins which made it necessary for Him to shed His blood. If you and I get any victory, it will be because He shed His blood for us."

I didn't realize he held to the preserved blood view. Wow! Very interesting.

horace said...

I must say, Pastor Brandenburg, you are the most Calvinistic (without actually being one) of the Independent Baptists I've seen online.

Don Johnson said...

Well, Kent, I don't think that what you are presenting here is Lordship Salvation. I don't think it is the same as what Lordship advocates teach at all, and what you are describing is what most fundamentalists teach - at least all the ones I've ever heard.

What you are describing isn't easy-believism and it isn't Lordship either.

I also think that you are somewhat lumping various "non-Lordship" views together, thus implying that they are the same.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...


I hope you're right. Thanks for coming by again.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I hope you're right. Thanks for coming by again.

Kent Brandenburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.