Lordship Salvation: Voices from the Past

Zane Hodges claims lordship salvation is propelling the church backward into the dark ages. He makes this allegation:

It may even be said that lordship salvation throws a veil of obscurity over the entire New Testament revelation. In the process, the marvelous truth of justification by faith, apart from works, recedes into shadows not unlike those which darkened the days before the Reformation. What replaces this doctrine is a kind of faith/works synthesis which differs only insignificantly from official Roman Catholic dogma ( AF 19–20).

Elsewhere Hodges writes, “Let it be said clearly: lordship salvation holds a doctrine of saving faith that is in conflict with that of Luther and Calvin and, most importantly, in conflict with God’s Word ” ( AF 209, emphasis in original).

No-lordship teachers often claim that they are the true heirs of the Reformation. Many have echoed the tired charge that lordship salvation “is paving the road back to Rome.” They selectively quote from the great Reformers on the issues of faith and assurance, then make the preposterous suggestion that no-lordship theology is “comfortably aligned with both Calvin and Luther and many of their successors.”

It is extremely difficult to understand how anyone at all familiar with the literature of the Reformation could ever make such a claim. The writings of Luther and Calvin are filled with material that argues explicitly against many of the same errors no-lordship theology has embraced. Nowhere in their writings do we find any support for the idea that someone who is justified can remain unsanctified. That is a topic about which the Reformers had much to say.

Why not let them speak for themselves?

Luther on Justification by Faith

Martin Luther’s discovery of the biblical truth about justification by faith launched the Reformation. Note how Luther contends against the notion that true faith might coexist with an unbroken pattern of unholy living:

True faith, of which we speak, cannot be manufactured by our own thoughts, for it is solely a work of God in us, without any assistance on our part. As Paul says to the Romans, it is God’s gift and grace, obtained by one man, Christ. Therefore, faith is something very powerful, active, restless, effective, which at once renews a person and again regenerates him, and leads him altogether into a new manner and character of life, so that it is impossible not to do good without ceasing.

For just as natural as it is for the tree to produce fruit, so natural is it for faith to produce good works. And just as it is quite unnecessary to command the tree to bear fruit, so there is no command given to the believer, as Paul says [ 1 Thess. 4:9 ], nor is urging necessary for him to do good, for he does it of himself, freely and unconstrained; just as he of himself without command sleeps, eats, drinks, puts on his clothes, hears, speaks, goes and comes.

Whoever has not this faith talks but vainly about faith and works, and does not himself know what he says or whither it tends. He has not received it. He juggles with lies and applies the Scriptures where they speak of faith and works to his own dreams and false thoughts, which is purely a human work, whereas the Scriptures attribute both faith and good works not to ourselves, but to God alone.

Is not this a perverted and blind people? They teach we cannot do a good deed of ourselves, and then in their presumption go to work and arrogate to themselves the highest of all the works of God, namely faith, to manufacture it themselves out of their own perverted thoughts. Wherefore I have said that we should despair of ourselves and pray to God for faith as the apostles did in Luke 17:5. When we have faith, we need nothing more; for it brings with it the Holy Spirit, who then teaches us not only all things, but also establishes us firmly in it, and leads us through death and hell to heaven.

Now observe, we have given these answers, that the Scriptures have such passages concerning works, on account of such dreamers and self-invented faith; not that man should become good by works, but that man should thereby prove and see the difference between false and true faith. For wherever faith is right it does good. If it does no good, it is then certainly a dream and a false idea of faith. So, just as the fruit on the tree does not make the tree good, but nevertheless outwardly proves and testifies that the tree is good, as Christ says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Thus we should also learn to know faith by its fruits.

From this you see, there is a great difference between being good, and to be known as good; or to become good and to prove and show that you are good. Faith makes good, but works prove the faith and goodness to be right. Thus the Scriptures speak plainly, which prevails among the common people, as when a father says unto his son, “Go and be merciful, good and friendly to this or to that poor person.” He does not command him to be merciful, good and friendly, but because he is already good and merciful, he requires that he should also show and prove it outwardly toward the poor by his act, in order that the goodness which he has in himself may also be known to others and be helpful to them.

You should explain all passages of Scripture referring to works, that God thereby desires to let the goodness received in faith express and prove itself, and become a benefit to others, so that false faith may become known and rooted out of the heart. God gives no one His grace that it may remain inactive and accomplish nothing good, but in order that it may bear interest, and by being publicly known and proved externally, draw every one to God, as Christ says: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” ( Matthew 5:16 ). Otherwise it would be but a buried treasure and a hidden light. But what profit is there in either? Yea, goodness does not only thereby become known to others, but we ourselves also become certain that we are honest, as Peter says: “Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure” ( 2 Peter 1:10 ). Where works do not follow, a man cannot know whether his faith is right; yea, he may be certain that his faith is a dream, and not right as it should be. Thus Abraham became certain of his faith, and that he feared God, when he offered up his son. As God by the angel said to Abraham: “Now I know, that is, it is manifest, that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me” ( Genesis 22:12 ).

Then abide by the truth, that man is internally, in spirit before God, justified by faith alone without works, but externally and publicly before men and himself, he is justified by works, that he is at heart an honest believer and pious. The one you may call a public or outward justification, the other an inner justification, yet in the sense that the public or external justification is only the fruit, the result and proof of the justification in the heart, that a man does not become just thereby before God, but must previously be just before Him. So you may call the fruit of the tree the public or outward good of the tree, which is only the result and proof of its inner and natural goodness.

This is what James means when he says in his Epistle: “Faith without works is dead” ( 2:26 ). That is, as the works do not follow, it is a sure sign that there is no faith there; but only an empty thought and dream, which they falsely call faith.…

…Inasmuch as works naturally follow faith, as I said, it is not necessary to command them, for it is impossible for faith not to do them without being commanded, in order that we may learn to distinguish the false from the true faith.

Calvin on the Nature of Faith

John Calvin defended himself vigorously against those who would “throw odium” on the doctrine of justification by faith by saying those who teach it “destroy good works, and give encouragement to sin.” He wrote, “We acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected.”4 Calvin debated a Catholic cardinal on this very issue:

If you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ.… Where zeal for integrity and holiness is not vigor, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ Himself; and wherever Christ is not, there is no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.

Calvin attacked the Scholastic movement of the Roman Catholic Church over their definition of faith. The Scholastics taught that there is a kind of “faith” that has no transforming effect on the affections or behavior of those who “believe.” This “faith,” they taught, exists in people who have no desire for holiness and no love for God. Calvin was clearly offended by this suggestion. Listen to his diatribe against this error:

I must refute the nugatory distinction of the Schoolmen as to formed and unformed faith. For they imagine that persons who have no fear of God, and no sense of piety, may believe all that is necessary to be known for salvation; as if the Holy Spirit were not the witness of our adoption by enlightening our hearts unto faith. Still, however, though the whole Scripture is against them, they dogmatically give the name of faith to a persuasion devoid of the fear of God. It is unnecessary to go farther in refuting their definition, than simply to state the nature of faith as declared in the word of God. From this it will clearly appear how unskillfully and absurdly they babble, rather than discourse, on this subject. I have already done this in part, and will afterwards add the remainder in its proper place. At present, I say that nothing can be imagined more absurd than their fiction. They insist that faith is an assent with which any despiser of God may receive what is delivered by Scripture. But we must first see whether any one can by his own strength acquire faith, or whether the Holy Spirit, by means of it, becomes the witness of adoption. Hence it is childish trifling in them to inquire whether the faith formed by the supervening quality of love be the same, or a different and new faith. By talking in this style, they show plainly that they have never thought of the special gift of the Spirit; since one of the first elements of faith is reconciliation implied in man’s drawing near to God. Did they duly ponder the saying of Paul, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness” ( Rom. 10:10 ), they would cease to dream of that frigid quality. There is one consideration which ought at once to put an end to the debate—viz. that assent itself (as I have already observed, and will afterwards more fully illustrate) is more a matter of the heart than the head, of the affection than the intellect.… Assent itself, such at least as the Scripture describes, consists in pious affection. But we are furnished with a still clearer argument. Since faith embraces Christ as he is offered by the Father, and he is offered not only for justification, for forgiveness of sins and peace, but also for sanctification, as the fountain of living waters, it is certain that no man will ever know him aright without at the same time receiving the sanctification of the Spirit; or, to express the matter more plainly, faith consists in the knowledge of Christ; Christ cannot be known without the sanctification of his Spirit: therefore faith cannot possibly be disjoined from pious affection.

…Although, in discoursing of faith, we admit that it has a variety of forms; yet, when our object is to show what knowledge of God the wicked possess, we hold and maintain, in accordance with Scripture, that the pious only have faith.

…Simon Magus is said to have believed, though he soon after gave proof of his unbelief ( Acts 8:13–18 ). In regard to the faith attributed to him, we do not understand with some, that he merely pretended a belief which had no existence in his heart: we rather think that, overcome by the majesty of the Gospel, he yielded some kind of assent, and so far acknowledged Christ to be the author of life and salvation, as willingly to assume his name. In like manner, in the Gospel of Luke, those in whom the seed of the word is choked before it brings forth fruit, or in whom, from having no depth of earth, it soon withereth away, are said to believe for a time. Such, we doubt not, eagerly receive the word with a kind of relish, and have some feeling of its divine power, so as not only to impose upon men by a false semblance of faith, but even to impose upon themselves. They imagine that the reverence which they give to the word is genuine piety, because they have no idea of any impiety but that which consists in open and avowed contempt. But whatever that assent may be, it by no means penetrates to the heart, so as to have a fixed seat there. Although it sometimes seems to have planted its roots, these have no life in them. The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy, that it often deceives itself. Let those who glory in such semblances of faith know that, in this respect, they are not a whit superior to devils.

…Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognise his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never obtain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end.

The Puritans and Reformation Theology

Zane Hodges believes the English Reformers altered and corrupted the doctrine of justification by faith. They did this, he says, by expanding the early Reformers’ definition of faith. He calls Puritan teaching on faith and assurance “a tragic blemish on the history of the Christian church” ( AF 32). Puritan teaching, he says, is the basis of “lordship salvation”: “In the English-speaking world, this radically altered concept of saving faith can with considerable fairness be described as Puritan theology. Lordship salvation, in its best known contemporary form, simply popularizes the Puritanism to which it is heir” ( AF 33).

In a note at that point, Hodges points out that a catalog of quotations I included as an appendix in The Gospel According to Jesus drew heavily from Puritan sources. He repeats his charge that “Puritan theology, especially in the area of faith and assurance, did not at all reflect the doctrine of John Calvin himself and is a distinct departure from Reformation thought” ( AF 208).

But as I have suggested elsewhere (see chapter 10, footnote 6 ) Hodges is making far too much of the difference between Calvin and the Puritans. No group of theologians ever defended justification by faith more doggedly than the English Reformers. As the quotations I have cited above prove, no one was more convinced than Luther and Calvin that genuine faith works.

While Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans might have differed somewhat on how to describe faith and how to obtain assurance, they all agreed that sanctification inevitably follows justification. None of them would have tolerated the notion that true believers might fail to persevere in righteousness, or that genuine faith might lapse into inactivity or permanent unbelief. On this point the proponents of modern no-lordship theology are rather seriously deluded.

J. C. Ryle on Justification and Sanctification

Bishop J. C. Ryle was an English churchman in the Puritan tradition (though he lived in the nineteenth century). He recognized in his day all the incipient trends that have led to no-lordship theology in our time. His landmark 1879 work, Holiness, is his response to those trends. It stands today as an effective answer to the no-lordship error and is in many ways the definitive work on the issue.

Ryle, in harmony with all Puritan and Reformed theology, despised the notion that justification and sanctification could be disjoined or that sanctification might be optional in a true believer’s experience. He saw justification and sanctification as distinct but inseparable. He wrote:

In what, then, are justification and sanctification alike?

a. Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

b. Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

c. Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. God has joined them together, and they cannot be put asunder.

d. Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be a justified person, he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

e. Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit’s grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

Such are the points on which justification and sanctification agree. Let us now reverse the picture, and see wherein they differ.

a. Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

b. The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

c. In justification our own works have no place at all and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful. In sanctification our own works are of vast importance, and God bids us fight and watch and pray and strive and take pains and labour.

d. Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

e. Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

f. Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God’s sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

g. Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

h. Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

I commend these distinctions to the attention of all my readers, and I ask them to ponder them well. I am persuaded that one great cause of the darkness and uncomfortable feelings of many well-meaning people in the matter of religion is their habit of confounding, and not distinguishing, justification and sanctification. It can never be too strongly impressed on our minds that they are two separate things. No doubt they cannot be divided, and every one that is a partaker of either is a partaker of both. But never, never ought they to be confounded, and never ought the distinction between them to be forgotten.

Charles Spurgeon on Holiness

Charles Spurgeon was an English Baptist in the Puritan tradition. No one preached more powerfully than he against the concept of “accepting Christ as Savior” while spurning His lordship. “Verily I say unto you, you cannot have Christ for your Savior unless you also have him as Lord,” Spurgeon said. Pages of material could be adduced from Spurgeon’s preaching to debunk no-lordship teaching.

Spurgeon stands with all the Puritans and Reformers on the question of whether practical sanctification is an essential evidence of justification. Preaching on Matthew 22:11–14 , for example, Spurgeon said,

Holiness is always present in those who are loyal guests of the great King, for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Too many professors pacify themselves with the idea that they possess imputed righteousness, while they are indifferent to the sanctifying work of the Spirit. They refuse to put on the garment of obedience, they reject the white linen which is the righteousness of the saints. They thus reveal their self-will, their enmity to God, and their non-submission to his Son. Such men may talk what they will about justification by faith, and salvation by grace, but they are rebels at heart, they have not on the wedding dress any more than the self-righteous, whom they so eagerly condemn. The fact is, if we wish for the blessings of grace, we must in our hearts submit to the rules of grace without picking and choosing.

In another context, Spurgeon said,

Christ Jesus did not come in order that you might continue in sin and escape the penalty of it; he did not come to prevent the disease being mortal, but to take the disease itself away. Many people think that when we preach salvation, we mean salvation from going to hell. We do not mean [only] that, but we mean a great deal more; we preach salvation from sin; we say that Christ is able to save a man; and we mean by that that he is able to save him from sin and to make him holy; to make him a new man. No person has any right to say, “I am saved,” while he continues in sin as he did before. How can you be saved from sin while you are living in it? A man that is drowning cannot say he is saved from the water while he is sinking in it; a man that is frost-bitten cannot say, with any truth, that he is saved from the cold while he is stiffened in the wintry blast. No, man, Christ did not come to save thee in thy sins, but to save thee from thy sins; not to make the disease so that it should not kill thee, but to let it remain in itself mortal, and, nevertheless, to remove it from thee, and thee from it. Christ Jesus came then to heal us from the plague of sin, to touch us with his hand and say, “I will, be thou clean.”

Spurgeon attacked an incipient variety of no-lordship doctrine in an 1872 sermon:

There are some who seem willing to accept Christ as Saviour who will not receive him as Lord. They will not often state the case quite as plainly as that; but, as actions speak more plainly than words, that is what their conduct practically says. How sad it is that some talk about their faith in Christ, yet their faith is not proved by their works! Some even speak as if they understood what we mean by the covenant of grace; yet, alas! there is no good evidence of grace in their lives, but very clear proof of sin (not grace) abounding. I cannot conceive it possible for anyone truly to receive Christ as Saviour and yet not to receive him as Lord. One of the first instincts of a redeemed soul is to fall at the feet of the Saviour, and gratefully and adoringly to cry, “Blessed Master, bought with thy precious blood, I own that I am thine,—thine only, thine wholly, thine for ever. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ; the new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself—body, soul, and spirit, to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service. Speaking for myself, I can truthfully say that, the moment I knew that Christ was my Saviour, I was ready to say to him,—

I am thine, and thine alone,

This I gladly, fully own;

And, in all my works and ways,

Only now would seek thy praise.

Help me to confess thy name,

Bear with joy thy cross and shame,

Only seek to follow thee,

Though reproach my portion be.

It is not possible for us to accept Christ as our Saviour unless he also becomes our King, for a very large part of salvation consists in our being saved from sin’s dominion over us, and the only way in which we can be delivered from the mastery of Satan is by becoming subject to the mastery of Christ.… If it were possible for sin to be forgiven, and yet for the sinner to live just as he lived before, he would not really be saved.

American Evangelicalism and No-lordship Theology

I stated in chapter 2 my conviction that the contemporary no-lordship movement is a chiefly American phenomenon. Yet I would also add that no-lordship theology is a radical departure from historic fundamentalist and evangelical belief in America. American Protestant belief has its roots, of course, in the English Puritan movement. The great evangelical awakenings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Methodist movement, and the rise of revivalism at the beginning of this century all featured Christ’s lordship at the heart of the gospel they proclaimed. Jonathan Edwards, perhaps the greatest theological mind America has ever produced, wrote,

As to that question, Whether closing with Christ in his kingly office be of the essence of justifying faith? I would say: 1. That accepting Christ in his kingly office, is doubtless the proper condition of having an interest in Christ’s kingly office, and so the condition of that salvation which he bestows in the execution of that office; as much as accepting the forgiveness of sins, is the proper condition of the forgiveness of sin. Christ, in his kingly office, bestows salvation; and therefore, accepting him in his kingly office, by a disposition to sell all and suffer all in duty to Christ, and giving proper respect and honor to him, is the condition of salvation. This is manifest by Heb 5:9 “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.”

Of course the strong Reformed tradition of Princeton Seminary, which produced Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen, featured a clear lordship message. Hodge wrote,

That good works are the certain effects of faith is included in the doctrine that we are sanctified by faith. For it is impossible that there should be inward holiness, love, spirituality, brotherly kindness, and zeal, without an external manifestation of these graces in the whole outward life. Faith, therefore, without works, is dead. We are saved by faith. But salvation includes deliverance from sin. If, therefore, our faith does not deliver us from sin, it does not save us. Antinomianism involves a contradiction in terms.

Only one strand of American evangelicalism has embraced and propagated no-lordship theology, and that is the branch of dispensationalism I described in Appendix 2.

D. L. Moody on Repentance

D. L. Moody, evangelist and founder of Moody Bible Institute, featured a clear call to repentance in his preaching:

There is a good deal of trouble among people about what repentance really is. If you ask people what it is, they will tell you “It is feeling sorry.” If you ask a man if he repents, he will tell you: “Oh, yes; I generally feel sorry for my sins.” That is not repentance. It is something more than feeling sorry. Repentance is turning right about, and forsaking sin. I wanted to speak Sunday about that verse in Isaiah, which says: “Let the guilty forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” That is what it is. If a man don’t turn from his sin, he won’t be accepted of God; and if righteousness don’t produce a turning about—a turning from bad to good—it isn’t true righteousness.

Moody stated,

We do not walk in the same way as before we were converted. A man or a woman who professes Christianity and yet goes on in the same old way has not been born again. When we are born again, we are born in a new way; and Christ is that new way himself. We give up our old way, and take his. The old way leads to death, the new way to life everlasting. In the old way, Satan leads us; in the new way the Son of God leads us. We are led by Him, not into bondage and darkness, but into the way of peace and joy.

R. A. Torrey on Lordship

R. A. Torrey, first president of Moody Bible Institute, instructed students on leading people to Christ:

Show them Jesus as Lord.

It is not enough to know Jesus as a Saviour, we must know Him as Lord also. A good verse for this purpose is Acts 2:36 :

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

When the inquirer has read the verse, ask him what God hath made Jesus, and hold him to it until he replies, “Both Lord and Christ.” Then say to him, “Are you willing to accept Him as your Divine Lord, the one to whom you will surrender your heart, your every thought, and word, and act?”

Another good verse for this purpose is Rom. 10:9 :

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

When the inquirer has read the verse, ask him what we are to confess Jesus as. He should reply, “Lord.” If he does not so reply, ask him other questions until he does answer in this way. Then ask him, “Do you really believe that Jesus is Lord, that He is Lord of all, that He is rightfully the absolute Lord and Master of your life and person?” Perhaps it will be well to use Acts 10:36 as throwing additional light upon this point:

“The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: ( he is Lord of all ).”

James M. Gray on Salvation

James M. Gray, second president of Moody Bible Institute, wrote,

The design of the atonement is stated in the words: “ That we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, ” a two-fold design, as we see. The thought of God was not only punitive but remedial. He gave His Son not only to take away our guilt but to change our lives.…

The moment we receive Christ by faith, we do also receive the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, regenerating us, creating within us a clean heart and renewing within us a right spirit, so that we become “dead to sins” not only in the judicial or imputed sense … but in the actual and experimental sense as well. That is not to say that sin becomes eradicated from our hearts and no longer dwells even latently within us ( 1 John 1:8 ); but that its power over us is broken. We do really come to hate the sins we used to love and to love the holiness we used to hate.

…Christ died not merely that we should be dead to sins judicially and experimentally but that we might “ live unto righteousness. ” As our substitute and representative He both died and rose again.

Now Paul tells us also in the sixth chapter of Romans already quoted that if we are united with Christ in the likeness of His death, we are also in the likeness of His resurrection. If we died with Him we also live with Him.

This is not merely that we shall live with Him by and by in a physical state of resurrection glory, but that we live with Him now in a spiritual state of resurrection glory. The death He died He died unto sin once, but the life He liveth, He liveth unto God. He liveth it unto God now. Even so we are to reckon ourselves not only to be dead indeed unto sin as we have already considered, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus ( 6:11 ), alive now.

Nor is it only in an imputed sense that this is true; but, as in the other half of this declaration, in an experimental sense as well. As we have just seen, the Holy Spirit within the regenerated man, not only enables him to hate sin but to love holiness and follow after it. No longer yields he his “members (as) servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity,” but as “servants to righteousness unto holiness.” He crucifies the flesh with its affections and lust. He not only puts off all these: “Anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of his mouth”; but he puts on, as the elect of God, “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, and above all these, love, which is the bond of perfection.”

It is thus that “ by His stripes we are healed. ” Perfectly healed. God having begun the good work in us perfects it until the day of Jesus Christ ( Philippians 1:6 ). The man who receives Christ as his Saviour, and confesses Him as his Lord, need not fear as to whether he shall be “able to hold out.”

W. H. Griffith Thomas on Surrender

W. H. Griffith Thomas, co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote,

God says “Here I am” to man, and then man welcomes this and responds with “Here am I” to God.

The words imply Surrender. When the believer says “Here am I” to God, he places himself at God’s disposal. This whole-hearted response is the natural outcome of the reception of God’s revelation to the soul. We can see this truth on every page of the New Testament. God comes to the soul, enters the heart and life, and then man yields himself entirely to God as belonging to Him. “Ye are not your own, ye are bought.” This is the meaning of St. Paul’s great word translated “yield” in Rom. 6:13 , 19 , and “present” in ch. 12:1 . In the latter passage the Apostle bases his exhortation on the “mercies of God,” on the revelation of God saying “Here I am” to man, and after urging his readers to “present” their bodies as a sacrifice to God he speaks of this surrender as their “logical service,” the rational, logical, necessary outcome of their acceptance of “the mercies of God.” The Gospel does not come to the soul simply for personal enjoyment, it comes to awaken in it a sense of its true life and marvelous possibilities. Consequently, when God says to the believer, “I am thine,” the believer responds, “I am Thine” ( Psalm 119:94 ), “I am the Lord’s” ( Isa. 44:5 ). This was one part of the purpose of our Lord’s redemption work, “that He might be Lord” and now, “we are the Lord’s” ( Rom. 14:8 and 9 ). This whole-hearted response should be made from the first moment of acceptance in and of Christ. “Christ is all” to us from the outset; and we should be “all to Him.” There should be no hiatus, no gap, no interval, between the acceptance of Christ as Saviour and the surrender to Him as Lord. His full title is “Jesus Christ our Lord”; and the full extent of its meaning (though of course not its full depth) is intended to be realised from our very first experience of His saving presence and power.…

This initial act of surrender, however, is but the beginning of a life of surrender. The act must develop into an attitude. This has been recognised by God’s true children in all ages as their “bounden duty and service.”

H. A. Ironside on Assurance

Dr. H. A. Ironside, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, wrote,

Perhaps some one may ask, “But does it make no difference to God what I am myself? May I live on in my sins and still be saved?” No, assuredly not! But this brings in another line of truth. The moment one believes the gospel, he is born again and receives a new life and nature—a nature that hates sin and loves holiness. If you have come to Jesus and trusted Him, do you not realize the truth of this? Do you not now hate and detest the wicked things that once gave you a certain degree of delight? Do you not find within yourself a new craving for goodness, a longing after holiness, and a thirst for righteousness? All this is the evidence of a new nature. And as you walk with God you will find that daily the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit will give you practical deliverance from the dominion of sin.

Regarding 1 John 3:9 , Ironside wrote,

See how the two families, the unregenerated and the regenerated, are here depicted. Unsaved men practice sin. Whatever fine things there may be in their characters, as judged by the world’s standards, they delight in having their own way. This is the essence of sin. “Sin is lawlessness.” All careful scholars agree that this is a more correct translation than “Sin is the transgression of the law.” We are told that “until the law sin was in the world,” and although sin was not imputed as transgression because no written standard had yet been given, nevertheless sin manifested itself as self-will, or lawlessness, and was seen everywhere among fallen mankind. Lawlessness is the refusal of a person to submit his will to Another, even to God Himself, who has the right to claim his full obedience. In this the children of the devil show plainly the family to which they belong.

But with the believer it is otherwise. Turning to Christ he is born from above, as we have seen, and thus possesses a new nature. This new nature abominates sin, and henceforth dominates his desires and his thinking. Sin becomes detestable. He loathes himself for the follies and iniquities of his past, and he yearns after holiness. Energized by the Holy Spirit, his life-trend is changed. He practices righteousness. Though ofttimes conscious of failure, the whole trend of his life is altered. The will of God is his joy and delight. And as he learns more and more the preciousness of abiding in Christ, he grows in grace and in knowledge, and realizes that divine power is given him to walk in the path of obedience. His new nature finds joy in surrendering to Jesus as Lord, and so sin ceases to be characteristic of his life and character.

A. W. Tozer on Following Christ

A. W. Tozer wrote much on the lordship issue. He began to see the dangers of a no-lordship gospel nearly half a century ago, and he sounded many warning blasts to the church. Here are a few excerpts:

Allowing the expression “Accept Christ” to stand as an honest effort to say in short what could not be so well said any other way, let us see what we mean or should mean when we use it.

To accept Christ is to form an attachment to the Person of our Lord Jesus altogether unique in human experience. The attachment is intellectual, volitional and emotional. The believer is intellectually convinced that Jesus is both Lord and Christ; he has set his will to follow Him at any cost and soon his heart is enjoying the exquisite sweetness of His fellowship.

This attachment is all-inclusive in that it joyfully accepts Christ for all that He is. There is no craven division of offices whereby we may acknowledge His Saviourhood today and withhold decision on His Lordship till tomorrow. The true believer owns Christ as his All in All without reservation. He also includes all of himself, leaving no part of his being unaffected by the revolutionary transaction.

Further, his attachment to Christ is all-exclusive. The Lord becomes to him not one of several rival interests, but the one exclusive attraction forever. He orbits around Christ as the earth around the sun, held in thrall by the magnetism of His love, drawing all his life and light and warmth from Him. In this happy state he is given other interests, it is true, but these are all determined by his relation to his Lord.

That we accept Christ in this all-inclusive, all-exclusive way is a divine imperative. Here faith makes its leap into God through the Person and work of Christ, but it never divides the work from the Person. It never tries to believe on the blood apart from Christ Himself, or the cross or the “finished work.” It believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole Christ without modification or reservation, and thus it receives and enjoys all that He did in His work of redemption, all that He is now doing in heaven for His own and all that He does in and through them.

To accept Christ is to know the meaning of the words “as he is, so are we in this world” ( I John 4:17 ). We accept His friends as our friends, His enemies as our enemies, His ways as our ways, His rejection as our rejection, His cross as our cross, His life as our life and His future as our future.

If this is what we mean when we advise the seeker to accept Christ we had better explain it to him. He may get into deep spiritual trouble unless we do.

Tozer wrote, “The Christian is saved from his past sins. With these he simply has nothing more to do; they are among the things to be forgotten as the night is forgotten at the dawning of the day.”

This essay hits several themes that Tozer emphasized again and again:

We are under constant temptation these days to substitute another Christ for the Christ of the New Testament. The whole drift of modern religion is toward such a substitution.

To avoid this we must hold steadfastly to the concept of Christ as set forth so clearly and plainly in the Scriptures of truth. Though an angel from heaven should preach anything less than the Christ of the apostles let him be forthrightly and fearlessly rejected.

The mighty, revolutionary message of the Early Church was that a man named Jesus who had been crucified was now raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”…

Salvation comes not by “accepting the finished work” or “deciding for Christ.” It comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as His own and paid it, took our sins and died under them and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ, and nothing less will do.

But something less is among us, nevertheless, and we do well to identify it so that we may repudiate it. That something is a poetic fiction, a product of the romantic imagination and maudlin religious fancy. It is a Jesus, gentle, dreamy, shy, sweet, almost effeminate, and marvelously adaptable to whatever society He may find Himself in. He is cooed over by women disappointed in love, patronized by pro tem celebrities and recommended by psychiatrists as a model of a well-integrated personality. He is used as a means to almost any carnal end, but He is never acknowledged as Lord. These quasi Christians follow a quasi Christ. They want His help but not His interference. They will flatter Him but never obey Him.

Tozer called no-lordship teaching a “discredited doctrine” that divides Christ. He described the teaching he opposed:

It goes like this: Christ is both Saviour and Lord. A sinner may be saved by accepting Him as Saviour without yielding to Him as Lord. The practical outworking of this doctrine is that the evangelist presents and the seeker accepts a divided Christ.…

Now, it seems odd that none of these teachers ever noticed that the only true object of saving faith is none other than Christ Himself; not the “saviourhood” of Christ nor the “lordship” of Christ, but Christ Himself. God does not offer salvation to the one who will believe on one of the offices of Christ, nor is an office of Christ ever presented as an object of faith. Neither are we exhorted to believe on the atonement, nor on the cross, nor on the priesthood of the Saviour. All of these are embodied in the person of Christ, but they are never separated nor is one ever isolated from the rest. Much less are we permitted to accept one of Christ’s offices and reject another. The notion that we are so permitted is a modern day heresy, I repeat, and like every heresy it has had evil consequences among Christians. No heresy is ever entertained with impunity. We pay in practical failure for our theoretical errors.

It is altogether doubtful whether any man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention to obey Him. Christ’s saviourhood is forever united to His lordship. Look at the Scriptures: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved … for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” ( Rom. 10:9–13 ). There the Lord is the object of faith for salvation. And when the Philippian jailer asked the way to be saved, Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” ( Acts 16:31 ). He did not tell him to believe on the Saviour with the thought that he could later take up the matter of His lordship and settle it at his own convenience. To Paul there could be no division of offices. Christ must be Lord or He will not be Saviour.

This penetrating analysis on faith shows how deeply Tozer had thought about the dangers of no-lordship doctrine:

For a number of years my heart has been troubled over the doctrine of faith as it is received and taught among evangelical Christians everywhere. Great emphasis is laid upon faith in orthodox circles, and that is good; but still I am troubled. Specifically, my fear is that the modern conception of faith is not the Biblical one; that when the teachers of our day use the word they do not mean what Bible writers meant when they used it.

The causes of my uneasiness are these:

1.      The lack of spiritual fruit in the lives of so many who claim to have faith.

2.      The rarity of a radical change in the conduct and general outlook of persons professing their new faith in Christ as their personal Saviour.

3.      The failure of our teachers to define or even describe the thing to which the word faith is supposed to refer.

4.      The heartbreaking failure of multitudes of seekers, be they ever so earnest, to make anything out of the doctrine or to receive any satisfying experience through it.

5.      The real danger that a doctrine that is parroted so widely and received so uncritically by so many is false as understood by them.

6.      I have seen faith put forward as a substitute for obedience, an escape from reality, a refuge from the necessity of hard thinking, a hiding place for weak character. I have known people to miscall by the name of faith high animal spirits, natural optimism, emotional thrills and nervous tics.

7.      Plain horse sense ought to tell us that anything that makes no change in the man who professes it makes no difference to God either, and it is an easily observable fact that for countless numbers of persons the change from no-faith to faith makes no actual difference in the life.…

Any professed faith in Christ as personal Saviour that does not bring the life under plenary obedience to Christ as lord is inadequate and must betray its victim at the last.

The man that believes will obey; failure to obey is convincing proof that there is not true faith present. To attempt the impossible God must give faith or there will be none, and He gives faith to the obedient heart, only. Where real repentance is, there is obedience; for repentance is not only sorrow for past failures and sins, it is a determination to begin now to do the will of God as He reveals it to us.

Arthur Pink on No-lordship Evangelism

Arthur W. Pink was a largely self-taught classic Reformed theologian. He wrote and distributed short studies on theological and biblical topics through a monthly magazine, Studies in the Scriptures. His understanding of Scripture and ability to express himself in writing are legendary.

Pink often wrote with an acid pen, however, and he reserved some of his harshest criticism for those whom he saw corrupting the gospel message with easy-believism. It is fair to say that he held no-lordship doctrine in utter contempt. “The evangelism of the day is not only superficial to the last degree, but it is radically defective, ” Pink wrote.

As early as the 1930s, decades before the lordship debate became a familiar issue, Pink clearly saw major problems with emerging no-lordship doctrine:

Saving faith consists of the complete surrender of my whole being and life to the claims of God upon me: “But first gave their own selves to the Lord” ( 2 Cor. 8:5 ).

It is the unreserved acceptance of Christ as my absolute Lord, bowing to His will and receiving His yoke. Possibly someone may object, Then why are Christians exhorted as they are in Romans 12:1 ? We answer, All such exhortations are simply a calling on them to continue as they began: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” ( Col. 2:6 ). Yes, mark it well that Christ is “received” as Lord. Oh, how far, far below the New Testament standard is this modern way of begging sinners to receive Christ as their own personal “Saviour.” If the reader will consult his concordance, he will find that in every passage where the two titles are found together it is always “Lord and Saviour, and never vice versa: see Luke 1:46 , 47 ; 2 Peter 1:11 ; 2:20 ; 3:18.

He decried the disaster he saw happening as no-lordship evangelism grew more and more popular:

The terrible thing is that so many preachers today, under the pretence of magnifying the grace of God, have represented Christ as the Minister of sin; as One who has, through His atoning sacrifice, procured an indulgence for men to continue gratifying their fleshly and worldly lusts. Provided a man professes to believe in the virgin birth and vicarious death of Christ and claims to be resting upon Him alone for salvation, he may pass for a real Christian almost anywhere today, even though his daily life may be no different from that of the moral worldling who makes no profession at all. The Devil is chloroforming thousands into hell by this very delusion. The Lord Jesus asks, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” ( Luke 6:46 ); and insists, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” ( Matt. 7:21 ).

Pink gave this advice on how to deal with the purveyors of the doctrine he saw corrupting the church:

It is the bounden duty of every Christian to have no dealings with the “evangelistic” monstrosity of the day: to withhold all moral and financial support of the same, to attend none of their meetings, to circulate none of their tracts. Those preachers who tell sinners they may be saved without forsaking their idols, without repenting, without-surrendering to the Lordship of Christ are as erroneous and dangerous as others who insist that salvation is by works and that Heaven must be earned by our own efforts.

Startling words. But Pink felt the seriousness of the no-lordship error called for the strongest possible warning. One wonders what his reaction would have been if he had seen the radical no-lordship doctrine that has emerged in recent years.

Summary

No-lordship soteriology departs from the mainstream of evangelical orthodoxy. The fact remains that prior to this century and the rise of Chafer-Scofield dispensationalism, no prominent theologians or pastors ever embraced the tenets of no-lordship doctrine.

The church as a whole needs to study this issue very carefully. None of us enjoys controversy, but the issues we are dealing with here are more important than mere matters of preference. It is the gospel that is at stake. We must get the message right. It is no mere academic question. These are the very issues many great men of God in the past have given their lives for.

We cannot continue to compromise and tolerate and sweep the error under the rug. That kind of response to the controversy has only contributed to the decline of the biblical gospel. It has decimated the church of our generation:

Today’s “Christianity” is in a state of disarray and decay, and the condition is deteriorating year by year. The truth of God’s Word has been watered down and compromised to reach a common denominator that will appeal to and accommodate the largest number of participants. The result is a hybrid Christianity which is essentially man-centered, materialistic and worldly, and shamefully dishonouring to the Lord Jesus Christ. This shameful degeneracy is due in large part to the erroneous gospel that is presented by many today around the world.

Let us search the Scriptures, ask the hard questions, and come to accord on the gospel.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). The gospel according to the Apostles: the role of works in the life of faith. Nashville, TN: Word Pub.

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