- Table of Contents
- CHAPTER 1. The Enormity of the Error of Perverting the Gospel
- CHAPTER 2. The Biblical Terms of Salvation vs. Modern Day Misconceptions
- CHAPTER 3. The Lordship of Christ in Salvation
- CHAPTER 4. Regeneration: The Creation of a New Man
- CHAPTER 5. Sanctification: The Growth of the New Man
- CHAPTER 6. We Walk By Faith Not By Sight
- CHAPTER 7. Taking Up Our Cross: An Essential Requirement in Salvation
- CHAPTER 8. What is a Carnal Christian?
- CHAPTER 9. Bear or Burn: The Fruit of Obedience in the Parables of Christ
- CHAPTER 10. Saint or Sinner?
- CHAPTER 11. Righteousness vs. Self-righteousness
- CHAPTER 12. Can a Christian Backslide?
- CHAPTER 13. Love vs Law—Legalism—License
- CHAPTER 14. Sin and the Misinterpretation of Romans 7
- CHAPTER 15. Examine Yourselves as to Whether You Are in the Faith
- APPENDIX 1. Quotes and Confessions in Church History
- APPENDIX 2. Scriptural Evidence for the Necessity of Obedience in Salvation
Clinging to a Counterfeit Cross
by James P. Shelly
The Lordship of Christ in Salvation
Although the counterfeit cross takes on many forms, one of the most insidious errors that has crept into the church is that which allows for a confession of Christ as Savior, while submission to His governing authority as Lord is optional. It is a teaching that allows for one to enter the Kingdom of God while rejecting the rule and reign of the King. In other words, one can become a sheep of the flock of God, 1 Peter 5:2, while refusing to follow the Shepherd. It is a cross that can be embraced without the passions and desires of the flesh being crucified (Gal. 5:24), sin being abhorred (Rom. 12:9), without a life that lives contrary to the "course of this world" (Eph. 2:2). It teaches an imputed righteousness, while considering an imparted, living, active, productive righteousness as something optional and thus lordship, discipleship, and sanctification, although encouraged, are non-compulsory. It is a teaching that is reminiscent of the words of the serpent in the garden in that it has an element of truth mixed with just enough error to destroy its victim—allowing one to remain their own god, rejecting the first and foremost command, "You shall have no other gods but Me" while nevertheless given full assurance that they "will not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). It comprehends God's grace as though forgiveness of sin is its primary objective while deliverance from sin is a secondary issue. It perceives God's love as all the more "compassionate and merciful" in that He allows for such permissiveness that His children can live according to the dictates of their own sinful hearts, remaining in bondage to sin, when in truth, such permissiveness results in nothing but misery, calamity, and hurt, which by any standard of love, is anything but compassionate. In summation, it teaches that one can be a Christian, while living the Christian life as defined by Scripture, is optional. This is so contrary to Scripture that one has to stand back in amazement that such teaching was ever allowed to slither into the Church. The truth is, a faith that rejects the lordship of Christ and a regeneration that does not result in a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit; that does not of necessity result in a progression towards a conformity to the character and likeness of Christ (i.e., sanctification), has never been the accepted doctrine of the Church until relatively recent times. If anyone simply reads the orthodox creeds and confessions scattered throughout Church history they will find this to be so (see Appendix One).
To those who are unaware, the optional lordship/discipleship teaching is widespread within evangelicalism. If anyone would doubt that this is the case, we need look no further than the most popular and widely distributed devotional of our day, "My Utmost for His Highest," by Oswald Chambers, wherein he makes the following statements;
There is nothing easier than getting saved, because it is solely God's sovereign work— "Look to Me, and be saved…" (Isaiah 45:22). Our Lord never requires the same conditions for discipleship that he requires for salvation. We are condemned to salvation through the Cross of Christ. But discipleship has an option with it— "If anyone…" (Luke 14:26). 2/2
The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God's standpoint. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him will rule us. 2/8
Whenever Our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced it with an "IF," never with an emphatic assertion — "You must." Discipleship carries an option with it. 4/24
"If any man come to me and hate not…, he cannot be My disciple," not — he cannot be good and upright, but — he cannot be one over whom Jesus writes the word "Mine." Any one of the relationships Our Lord mentions may be a competitive relationship. I may prefer to belong to my mother, or to my wife, or to myself; then says Jesus, you cannot be My disciple. This does not mean I will not be saved, but it does mean that I cannot be "[entirely] His." 9/4 (words in brackets added for clarification)
Luke 14:26 has nothing to do with salvation or sanctification, but with unconditional identification with Jesus Christ. 9/28
Our Lord never insists upon obedience; He tells us very emphatically what we ought to do, but He never takes means to make us do it. We have to obey Him out of a oneness of spirit. That is why whenever Our Lord talked about discipleship, He prefaced it with an IF — you do not need to unless you like. "If any man will be My disciple, let him deny himself"; let him give up his right to himself to Me. Our Lord is not talking of eternal positions, but of being of value to Himself in this order of things. (italics added in all the above) 11/2 1
Chambers is clearly stating that discipleship, as well as sanctification, are optional in salvation, i.e., optional Lordship, which is a deviation from the historic protestant faith.
The no-Lordship, so-called "free grace" teaching was first popularized by men such as Lewis Sperry Chafer, C.I. Scofield, and many since who have followed after them. It continues to this day through the writings and teachings of men such as Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges, Charles Stanley, and many of the so-called Church leaders of our time. Although it is not the intent here to judge the character or sincerity of these men, Scripture demands that we speak out against error, and if we have the slightest love for the souls of men, it cannot be otherwise. We read in the words of Dr. Charles Stanley,
The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His People is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from his hand.2
Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy.3
Believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation4 (emphasis added).
Charles Ryrie agrees stating, "a believer could come to the place of not believing, yet God will not disown him."5 It is inconceivable, in light of Scripture, how one could teach that a believer who, "for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever" or "those who walk away from the faith" are still in a state of salvation. It is highly doubtful that any such words have ever been uttered in all of Church history. The abysmal fruit of these erroneous teachings is undeniable to anyone with eyes to see, in that since their introduction the professing Church has progressively fallen headlong into licentiousness, the leaven of which has indeed infected the whole lump. Nevertheless, despite the devastating effects upon men's souls and the reprehensible dishonor they bring to God and His Church, they are met with relatively little resistance.
Another example of the optional discipleship teaching is by Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship. He makes the following statements about discipleship:
Let's look first at the statements of Jesus concerning what is required in order for us to become His disciples. But let me make this doubly clear: These statements are not Jesus' requirements for salvation.6
The requirements of discipleship are different than the requirements of salvation. To be a Christian, you need to believe in Him whom God has sent, and then you will receive eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is a gift. To be a disciple is to take up the cross daily and follow Him, making His will your will. It is a commitment. As you are learning, every disciple is a Christian but not every Christian is a disciple.7 [all italics added]
Laurie says that, "every disciple is a Christian but not every Christian is a disciple." However, when we look to Scripture we find the opposite to be true. Judas was a disciple of Christ and yet was not a Christian (Matt. 26:14). When Jesus spoke in John 6:53-56 about eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood it then follows in v. 66, "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." They were "disciples" but they were not genuine Christians (v. 64). John Gill writes;
Some of the multitude of the disciples, who followed Christ, heard him, and professed to believe in him, and were baptized in his name, but were not true disciples, only nominal ones...they turned their backs on him; and as the words may be literally read, "returned to the things that were behind"; to the world, and to their old companions, to Satan and their own hearts lusts; like the dog to its vomit, and the swine to its wallowing in the mire...never more attended on his ministry, or had any intimacy and fellowship with him: and so it commonly is with apostates from the profession of Christ; they seldom or ever return, or are recovered; it is difficult, if not impossible, which is sometimes the case, to renew them again to repentance.8
We see then that Laurie's statement "every disciple is a Christian" is simply not true to Scripture. Likewise, we find no instances in Scripture that would substantiate the claim that, "not every Christian is a disciple." It states in Acts 11:26, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." In other words, prior to this all believers were called disciples. The Pulpit Commentary states;
Hitherto they had been called among themselves disciples, and brethren, and saints, and, by the Jews, men "of the Way" (Acts 9:2), or "Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5), but now they received the name of Christians, as followers of Christ, from the outside world, and accepted it themselves (Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). From the Latin form of the word Christians, i.e. followers of Christ (like Herodians, followers of Herod; Marians, Pompeians, partisans of Marius and Pompey, etc.; Conybeare and Howson, vol. 1:130; Lewin, vol. 1:97), the designation must have been invented by the Gentiles, either by the Roman court or camp at Antioch, or by the Greek population, influenced as they were by Roman forms of speech current amongst them (compare the Greece-Oriental Nestorians, Arians, etc.). We may be sure that Christians, i.e. followers of Messiah, is not a name likely to have been given by Jews. There is no evidence either of its having been given in derision.9
We find then that the name Christian, as termed in the first century, was used to describe those who were followers or disciples of Christ. As mentioned previously, the condition of hating one's own life to become a disciple in Luke 14:26, is also the condition for receiving eternal life in John 12:25. It says in Acts 14:21, "And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples..." This passage is not stating that they made many disciples in contrast to others that remained uncommitted Christians, but that all who believed the gospel were made disciples of Christ. What was Christ's commission but to, "Go therefore and make disciples...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19, 20). Here again we come to understand that the sole aim of the gospel, as authorized by Christ, is to produce an obedient people, teaching them to live righteously before God. A disciple by definition is "a learner/follower." How could we possibly learn to observe all things that He commands us without a commitment to learn what He commands us? And what would be the purpose of learning what He commands without first having a pre-established commitment to obey what He commands? A gospel without discipleship would be self-contradictory and would undermine its own objective. It is a "different gospel" (Gal. 1:6) than that commissioned by Christ and therefore a false gospel.
In contrast to these non-lordship teachers, the most eminent and gifted of men in the exposition of Scripture throughout the centuries, who have held to the truth with the utmost fervor, have consistently opposed any such perversions of the Gospel. As an example, Spurgeon, in the later part of the 1800's states;
It is a shameful thing for a man to profess discipleship and yet refuse to learn his Lord's will upon certain points, or even dare to decline obedience when that will is known. How can a man be a disciple of Christ when he openly lives in disobedience to Him? If the professed convert distinctly and deliberately declares that he knows his Lord's will but does not mean to attend to it, you are not to pamper his presumption, but it is your duty to assure him that he is not saved. Has not the Lord said, "He that taketh not up his cross, and cometh after Me, cannot be My disciple?" Mistakes as to what the Lord's will maybe are to be tenderly corrected, but anything like willful disobedience is fatal; to tolerate it would be treason to Him that sent us. Jesus must be received as King as well as Priest; and where there is any hesitancy about this, the foundation of godliness is not yet laid….Do not be in a hurry to count these supposed converts; do not take them into the church too soon; do not be too proud of their enthusiasm if it is not accompanied with some degree of softening and tenderness to show that the Holy Spirit has really been at work within them… Do not number your fishes before they are broiled; nor count your converts before you have tested and tried them.10
In a sermon he preached in 1872 he stated;
There are some who seem willing to accept Christ as Savior who will not receive Him as Lord. They will not often state the case quite as plainly as that [because apparently no one at the time would dare make such a claim], 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 to truly receive Christ as Savior 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 Savior and gratefully and adoringly to cry, 'Blessed Master, bought with Your precious blood, I acknowledge that I am Yours—Yours only, Yours wholly, Yours forever! Lord, what will You have me to do?'...It is not possible for us to accept Christ as our Savior 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.11 (emphasis added)
In another sermon he preached,
Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified....Professor! Is sin subdued in you? If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.12
These opposing views of the Gospel message are a far more serious and vital issue than most seem to realize. Curtis I. Crenshaw, a lordship advocate, writes,
I'm afraid many will be in hell who thought they had embraced Jesus but were only comfortable with a false faith. Just as Legalism or earning one's justification is not the Gospel and we rightly classify those who preach such as heretics (Gal. 1:8, 9), so also license or dead faith is not the Gospel (James 2:14ff; 1 John 2:3, 4). We emphasize again that this doctrine of optional holiness in the Christian life is rank heresy, promoting a faith that has no works, and is as much a departure from the Gospel as the doctrine of justification by our works.13
On the other side of the debate, Charles Ryrie says of the issue,
The importance of this question cannot be overestimated in relation to both salvation and sanctification. The message of faith only, and faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is false and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel. 14
Ryrie rightly understands the seriousness of the issue, however, his statement is misleading. It has been well established in the debate that both views hold to the belief that it is faith alone that saves the soul. The Lordship view is not one of faith plus commitment of life, but rather the view that saving faith is of such character as cannot be otherwise than committed. In other words, the faith that receives and responds in obedience to the saving words of Christ, will likewise naturally receive and respond to every word that He spoke (Acts 3:22). Again, what does Christ say,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.
Here, Christ states that the Gospel whenever and wherever it is preached is to make, not coverts, but disciples; One who learns and observes all of Christ's commandments. That is to say, the Gospel, the grace that brings salvation is to be preached to all men, teaching them that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, that they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. When God says in Mark 9:7, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" and in Acts 3:22, "For Moses truly said to the fathers, the Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you." He is saying in essence, "Believe in My beloved Son. Learn and respond with a commitment to obey everything He teaches you." This is the beginning of sanctification. It is not the end of our struggles against sin, but the beginning. It is the beginning of an abhorrence of sin and a love for righteousness, and although the Christian may fall grievously while on the path of righteousness, his commitment to obedience remains. When the believer struggles with overcoming a particular sin in his or her life, it does not then follow that Christ is not at that time Lord of his life, or that area of his life, as Ryrie and others teach, but rather the sole reason one struggles with sin is because Christ is Lord of his life. It is the one who has no struggles with sin that has not yet come under the lordship of Christ. The Lordship of Christ over one's life is not measured by the extent to which perfection has been obtained, but rather by the extent to which holiness is being pursued and by the progression of its attainment. In other words, whether or not Christ is Lord of one's life is evidenced in that he is "purifying himself" according to the standard set forth in God's Word, not the extent whereto he has already obtained to purification. Thus it is that faith is always evidenced in Scripture by a life that characteristically responds obediently to God's words; Hebrews 11ff. Those under the Lordship of Christ are consistently obedient, however, it does not then follow that they are perfectly obedient. The commitment to Christ within the covenant of grace allows for confession of sin within that commitment. Therefore, the Apostle John states that the Christian is one who confesses his sin (1 John 1:9), but states as well that it is impossible that he would walk in the way of sin (1 John 3:9). Christ is not the Lord of the sinless, but of those who confess their sin, with their "mind set" and "walk" ever being that of obedience. So then, to say that one can be a Christian while rejecting the word of God as the standard by which he conducts his life, refusing obedience to Christ's teachings, is contrary to the entire work of Christ in salvation and a mockery of the gift of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all who are His.
Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20). He says in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep." We read in 1 Peter 2:25, "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." The Church is the "flock of God," 1 Peter 5:2, and every member a sheep under the guidance and tutelage of the Chief Shepherd. What does Scripture teach as the role of the Shepherd in relationship to the sheep? In 1 Kings 22:17 we read, "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, 'These have no master...'" We read in Matthew 2:6, speaking of Christ, "For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel,'" and in Ezekiel 37:24, "David My servant [Christ] shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them." In other words, they will receive the gospel which makes disciples or sheep that follow the great Shepherd, and they shall be taught to observe all things which the King has commanded that they might do them. This is the gospel of Christ! These verses make it clear that the Shepherd is "master," "Ruler," and "King" over the sheep. Those who profess to be Christian's who do not follow Christ as His disciples, taking Christ as their Master, Ruler, and King, are not legitimate members of His flock and have no right to claim, "The Lord is My Shepherd" (Ps. 23:1). Those who teach otherwise are aptly described in Scripture as wolves in sheep's clothing who lead the sheep astray. "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray" (Jer. 50:6). God says in Ezekiel 34:11, 12,
For thus says the Lord God: 'Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day'"
It is indeed a cloudy and dark day when so-called shepherds are the ones responsible for leading the sheep astray. Paul warns the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-31;
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Here, once again, we find Paul weeping over the false teachings coming against the gospel. He says "among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things." Is it not a perverse thing to teach that one can become a sheep of the flock of God while refusing to follow the Shepherd of the flock? Teaching them that the Shepherd is so "loving" that He rescues His lost sheep only to allow them the choice of leading themselves, leaving them as easy prey for the wolves? Is it not demonstrably obvious that this would be contrary to the very nature and character of a Shepherd? A Shepherd sent for the sole purpose of finding His straying sheep? They are called lost sheep because they are no longer following after their Shepherd. To tell the lost sheep that it is not required of them to return to the leading, guidance, and rule of the shepherd is equivalent to telling them they can be found while remaining lost. What could be more perverse and deceptive than this? When sheep go astray they are not at risk of losing their rewards but their life's. "All you beasts of the field, come to devour, all you beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind, They are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber...and they are shepherds who cannot understand" (Isa. 56:9,10). It should be clear to anyone with ears to hear that these false teachings are contrary to the simple words of Christ, "My sheep [all those who believe in Him] hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27) (words in brackets added). They are My diciples.
Paul writes in Titus 2:11-15,
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. (emphasis added).
Here, Paul gives us the gospel in capsulated form; forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and glorification. He says the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared...teaching us. What does grace teach us according to this passage? That we can be forgiven without turning from our sins? That grace and good works are opposed to one another? That Christ lived a righteous life in our stead so living righteously ourselves is not required? That coming under His lordship, as His disciple, is unnecessary? That sanctification is optional? No! The grace that brings salvation teaches us [disciples] to deny or renounce ungodliness and worldly lusts [repentance], to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age [sanctification], looking for the blessed hope [glorification], being zealous for good works. A grace that excludes any one of these is not the grace of Scripture. Therefore, lordship, discipleship, and sanctification are, of necessity, inherent in the gift of salvation, that it might make certain the attainment of its intended purpose and goal. If grace teaches us, it is presupposed that one must become a learner/follower to learn and do what it teaches. If grace gives us the choice of refusing to come under the lordship of Christ, the principal teacher of grace, it would be self-contradictory, self-defeating, and wholly ineffectual in accomplishing its stated aim. Therefore, a grace that "teaches us" without necessarily becoming a disciple, would be equivalent to a College Professor that teaches us without necessarily becoming his student. In other words, it is nonsensical.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 that, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." Jesus is not teaching here that serving a master is optional but that it is not possible to genuinely serve two. We must either choose to serve God with an unreserved commitment to Him as our only Master or, as the passage assumes, we are already committed to serving an opposing master such as mammon, self, and sin. Our love and loyalty will be with one or the other. If we choose Christ as our Master our service to God will be done in the spirit of love, seeking to be loyal and faithful to Him, while despising our prior master, "the old man" with his former conduct and deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:21-23); the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). On the other hand, if mammon, self, and sin is our master, then any service to God will be nothing more than filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), a forced legalistic obedience which will ultimately result in disloyalty and disdain toward God. We cannot be loyal and loving servants of both Christ and sin, for no one can serve two masters. We find an example of this among the unbelieving Jews who professed to be subjects of the kingdom of God but refused to take Christ as their ruling Master and King. It is written in Luke 19:14, "But his citizens hated him [Christ], and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us.'" Why did they hate Him? Because as loyal servants of their own sinful lusts, with an unwillingness to forsake their master, they necessarily despised Christ. It says in v. 27, "But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me." We have no scriptural basis whatsoever to suppose that a professing Christian who does likewise will not suffer the same fate. "For there is no partiality with God" (Rom. 2:11). Those who refuse to come under His reign are not simply "carnal Christians," as some would suggest, but enemies of the risen Christ. They will not simply lose rewards in the Kingdom, but be brought before Christ and condemned. The promise of salvation is everlasting life in the kingdom of God; that place where Christ has perfect rule and reign over all its inhabitants. Those who want to be saved that they might enter that Kingdom, while at the same time contemplating in their hearts, "We will not have this man to reign over us" directly contradict themselves. That is to say, "I seek to go to that place where Christ reigns and where sin has no place, but while I remain on earth I want to be my own king, ruling my own life, serving sin as my master." In other words, "I want to be in the Kingdom but I despise the reigning King and refuse to serve Him." Such a one reveals that he does not so abhor his sin that he is seeking to be set free from it, longing for the refuge of that place wherein perfect righteousness dwells, but rather he is simply seeking to escape the punishment of sin while remaining enslaved to it. He would prefer a heaven without God if he had the choice. It negates the purpose for which Christ died in that He might set us free from the rule and dominion of sin (John 8:36, Rom. 6:22). "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" (1 John 3:8). If we reject the Lordship of Christ, we remain under the dominion of sin and the condemnation of the law (Rom. 6:14). In other words, to say we desire salvation while rejecting His Lordship is a contradiction in terms. Those who take Him as Lord in this life, will have Him as Lord in the life to come, but those who reject His lordship in this life, He will reject in the life to come. Again, Christ said it so plainly that it cannot be missed, "Bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before Me."
The sin of idolatry is not limited to the worship of carved images, but it is to serve someone, or something, other than the God revealed in Scripture. If we serve any Master other than God, through Christ, we reject and violate the first and foremost command, "You shall have no other gods but Me," and we are told in Rev. 21:8 and 22:15, that all idolaters will experience the second death. There are those of whom the Apostle Paul speaks whose god is their belly (Phil. 3:19). Colossians 3:5 states that serving the flesh by way of fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, is idolatry. According to Scripture then, to teach that Christ can be received as Savior while refusing to come under His lordship, "allowing self to continue to occupy the throne of one's heart," is a teaching that is offering "idolatry" as a valid option in the Christian life. It is to tempt the soul to go after other gods; an error which carries with it exceedingly terrible consequences. God says in the Old Testament,
If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods'...you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people (Deut. 13:6-9).
God says to those of His people, with your own hands you must kill your own brother, your own son or daughter, your own wife, your best friend, if any one of them would entice you away from an unwavering commitment and allegiance to Me. In other words, God takes extremely serious the allegiance that He demands for the good of His people. This allegiance is not abrogated in the New Testament. Christ demands this same loyalty;
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:37, 38).
Although we are not called in this day to put to death one who would lead us astray, surely this does not diminish the seriousness of any teaching which allows for idolatry among his people, whether it be in the worship and service of a god on the throne of a false religious system, or serving the flesh (Col. 3:5); the god of self on the throne of our own heart. It is a teaching that has a form of godliness but denies its power. Scripture does not tell us to agree to disagree with those who would teach such, but rather to turn away from such people (2 Tim. 3:5).
We are exhorted in Hebrews 13:17,
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.
Is it reasonable to suppose that we are to submit to and obey earthly spiritual leaders who look out for our souls, and yet think it optional to submit to and obey Christ our heavenly leader; the head of the Church; the Chief Shepherd and Overseer of our souls? Moreover, would the writer have any reason to expect that his readers would heed his exhortation to submit to their earthly leaders without assuming that they were already in obedient submission to their heavenly leader? If not, surely he would have first exhorted them to do so before given them any further instruction. To expect any exhortation in Scripture to be effective without presupposing a prior commitment to the Lordship of Christ is nonsensical. Therefore, we would have to conclude, according to a no-lordship theology, that the teachings of Scripture are not for all Christians but only for an elite group who have taken Christ as their Lord. In other words, other than passages such as John 3:16, the remainder of Scripture is not relevant for those who have only received Christ as Savior and becomes applicable only when taking the optional step of coming under His lordship. As bizarre as it seems, this is what naturally follows from such a teaching.
It is written in Ephesians 5:22, 23,
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything (emphasis added).
In the Greek, the phrase "is subject to" is hupotasso [hoop-ot-as'-so] meaning to subject one's self, obey, to submit to one's control, to yield to one's admonition or advice, to obey, be subject,15 a voluntary attitude of giving in. It is already assumed in this passage that the Christian is in submission to the authority of the Lord in that it states just as the church is [hupotasso] subject to Christ. Moreover, if an earthly wife is to submit to her husband how much more so is it required of the Lamb's wife (Rev. 21:9) to submit to Christ. Paul writes in Romans 7:4, "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." Again, if wives are to submit to their own husbands, then surely it necessarily follows that it is required of the one married to Him who was raised from the dead to be committed, submitted, and faithful to Him. To preach a gospel that leaves out of its message any mention of commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness to Christ, claiming these have nothing to do with one's salvation, can be likened to a minister performing a wedding ceremony that leaves out of his message any mention of commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness to one's spouse, claiming these have nothing to do with entering into a marriage relationship. The one is no less absurd than the other. In a traditional wedding vow the bride promises to "love, cherish and obey" her husband. How profane and insulting to our blessed Lord to imagine that our relationship to Him, which is likened to a marriage, would result in any less of a commitment.
Paul says in v. 22 that, Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. In other words, Christ is both Lord and Savior of the Church and the one cannot be severed from the other. We read in 1 Corinthians 11:3, "The head of every man is Christ." One would think that this statement, as simple as it is clear, would end any controversy over the necessity of Christ's Lordship. Paul says Christ is the head, i.e., the Lord, Master, Chief, ruling authority, of every Christian man (or women) within the body of Christ without exception. A gospel that allows for the individual members of the body the option of refusing to come under the direction and governing authority of the head is contrary to nature itself. Can a member of the body, a leg, an arm, etc., survive without being in subjection to the head? Obviously, when a body, including all its several members, is severed from its head, it is dead. Is it not therefore irrational and contrary to the wisdom of God to suppose that His message of salvation, which results in becoming members of the body of Christ, would exclude any obligation to come under the authority and direction of the head? If the lordship of Christ is optional, the possibility necessarily follows that every Christian could refuse His lordship with the result being that of a headless, and therefore lifeless, body. Would this not make a mockery of the gospel of Christ?
Those who divide His Saviorship from His Lordship place a stumbling block in the way of that which is essential to the saving of the soul. Even as it was with adulterous Israel, which was the cause of God divorcing them (Jer. 3:8), those who are not in a faithful and committed relationship with Christ will suffer the same fate. Moreover, when a woman is contemplating marriage, seeking counsel, is it wise to only speak of the joys of marriage while failing to inform her of the commitment, difficulties, and sacrifices required in marriage for fear that she might decide against it? No, it would do her a grave disservice to allow her to enter into a marriage without first informing her of the expected requirements of such a commitment. Likewise, should we not present the Gospel in its fullness, with its promises, joys, commitments, difficulties, sacrifices, etc., withholding nothing for fear that one might reject it because they think it too difficult, restrictive, or narrow? Did Christ not warn His hearers to first sit down and count the cost before becoming one of His followers (Lk. 14:25-32). When Christ spoke such words as, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn. 6:54), He had little concern that His hearers might misunderstand or be offended, thinking the requirements unpalatable or too stringent. He preached the truths of the Gospel despite the fact that He knew the response of many would be, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" (Jn. 6:60). Why did He not just present to them the simple message of "believe in Me"? The answer is, He did. He expected of His hearers to believe in Him by accepting as authoritative and binding, not some of His words, but every word that would come forth from His mouth no matter how difficult, confusing, or hard they might initially perceive them to be. Those who truly believe in Christ and Whom He claims to be—the Son of the living God—will have a predisposed disposition to believe and obediently respond to every word He speaks, including those words of which they do not fully understand or are yet ignorant of. A disciple who is not intent on learning and doing what His Master teaches is a contradiction in terms. Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (Jn. 8:31) and, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him" (Jn 12:48). To believe in Christ is to receive and abide in His words—all of His words—without picking and choosing. Faith in Christ is not a single act but a life lived with a steadfast resolve to be faithful to the Person of Christ in all He is, says, did, and will do.
Peter tells his readers, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him" (1 Peter 2:13) If we are told here to submit to earthly kings as those in authority, is it not self-evident that submission to the King of kings and Lord of lords is to be taken for granted? Peter continues in v. 18, "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh." If servants are commanded to be submissive to their earthly masters, even the harsh, how much more so is submission required when coming into a relationship with our heavenly Master, who is kind, gentle, and loving? How impotent would Peter's exhortation be if his hearers were under the impression that submission to their heavenly Master was optional? The truth is, they would not even be capable of doing the latter without first having done the former. The same would be true of Paul's exhortation as he writes in Ephesians 6:5-9,
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (NASB).
Would Paul be telling his hearers to be obedient to their earthly masters, according to the flesh, if it were not already established that they were committed to obeying their heavenly Master, according to the Spirit? For he addresses them with the assumption that they were already slaves of Christ, and as such, were committed to doing the will of God. It is stated again in Titus 2:9, "Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things." Again, an exhortation to obey and please earthly masters without first assuming a commitment to obeying and pleasing their heavenly Master, would not only be ineffectual, but nonsensical. Paul himself says of Christians that they have made it their aim to be well pleasing to Christ (2 Cor. 5:9) and therefore he is confident of their obedience as he states in 2 Thess. 3:4, "We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you."
What was the original cause of the fall of man? It was Adam's rebellion against the authority of God to have absolute rule over his life. What was the consequence? Death—the denial of access to the "tree of life" (Gen. 3:24). How is man restored from his fallen state? By repenting of the sin of rebelling against His authority; receiving forgiveness for the sin of rebelling against His authority; being restored to a right relationship with God by once again coming under His authority, and thereby receiving that which was lost—eternal life—restored access to the "tree of Life" (Rev. 22:14). Salvation is the restoring of that which was lost in the fall of Adam through the second Adam which is Christ (1 Cor. 15:22, 45). Therefore, a salvation that does not consist of renouncing self-governance by submitting to God's governance, is again, a contradiction in terms. When God says, "I will be their God and they shall be My people" (2 Cor. 6:16, Heb. 8:10), which includes every Christian, He is speaking of a people who have come under His authority as supreme Master and Lord. Adam Clarke writes;
To be God's people implies that they should give God their whole hearts, serve him with all their light and strength, and have no other object of worship or dependence but himself. Any of these conditions broken, the covenant is rendered null and void, and the other party absolved from his engagement.16
Matthew Henry writes;
They shall be to him a people, to love, honour, observe, and obey him in all things complying with his cautions, conforming to his commands, comporting with his providences, copying out his example, taking complacency in his favour. This those must do and will do who have God for their God; this they are bound to do as their part of the contract; this they shall do, for God will enable them to do it, as an evidence that he is their God and that they are his people, for it is God himself who first founds the relation, and then fills it up with grace suitable and sufficient, and helps them in their measure to fill it up with love and duty so that God engages both for himself and them.17
So it is, the true people of God are, by definition, those who have come under His Lordship. Those who profess to be God's people while rejecting His authority are, in every practical sense, atheists. They may praise God with their lips but if their hearts are far from Him there is no spiritual distinction between them and the fool who says in his heart "There is no God" (Ps. 14:1), and actually places them in a worse state than those who claim no faith at all.
Christ says, Why do you call Me Lord, Lord and do not the things that I say (Luke 6:46). He is saying in essence, "Why do you say you believe in Me by claiming to be My servant, and yet you do not serve Me. A servant obeys his master and therefore your actions contradict your profession." There can be no question, according to this verse, that those who believed in Him were to take Him as their Lord, coming under the authority of His word. Jesus was certainly not addressing those who had decided to "make" Him Lord in contradistinction to those who had only received Him as Savior. Is it not absurd to interpret this passage as if Christ were saying, "Why do you, you who have received Me as Lord, not do the things that I say? I would expect such disobedience from those who have only received Me as Savior, but you have taken the extra step of coming under my Lordship and therefore you should be doing what I say." As foolish as this sounds this would have to be a valid interpretation from a no-Lordship perspective. The truth is, if we confess Christ as Lord (Rom.10:9), and do not practice His teachings, we deny Him as Lord, and therefore deny our faith. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him. (Titus 1:16). William Burkett wrote;
That no sorts of persons are so odious to God, and abominable in his sight, as those who make a profession of his holy name and truth, but walk contrary in their lives to their profession.18
The Pulpit Commentary states,
There is nothing, perhaps, so morally defiling to the soul as religious hypocrisy. The man who with the lip professes to know God, and who in the life denies him, gets deeper stains upon his soul than the agnostic who professes that he knows nothing about him. What millions in our churches every Sunday publicly, at each service, avow with their lip their belief in God, but in their week-day life 'he is not in all their thoughts'! Thus souls get deeply dyed in corruption in Christian churches.19
Arthur W. Pink writes;
There are multitudes who believe in Christ who do not put His precepts into practice....And because they 'believe in Christ' they suppose that all is well with them and that when they die they will go to heaven. Nor are there many now left on earth who are likely to disillusion them. The great majority of the preachers in this apostate age are only adding to the number of the deceived, by telling them that all God requires of them is to believe in the Gospel and receive Christ as their personal Savior. They quote such passages as John 3:16 and Acts 16:31, which contain the word 'believe,' but are guiltily silent on the many verses which insist on repentance, forsaking of sins, denying of self, and which call to obedience.20
Those who reject the Lordship of Christ do so because they love their sin and seek to cling to it rather than Christ. Thus, it reveals that they have not received the blessing for which God sent forth His Son. For God "...sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities" (Acts 3:26). We find in this passage that the repentance of God's grace is not simply a change of mind about who Christ is, as Ryrie and others teach, but it is a turning from our iniquities. The sinner repents of his sin because God first blesses him through the convicting work of the Spirit. It is not that we must first cease from sin in order to be saved, but by His grace, the Spirit reveals to our hearts sin in its true light thus resulting in repentance, "Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations" (Ezek. 36:31). The one who is thus broken by God's Spirit, will not do otherwise than cry out for mercy and deliverance, turning to Christ with a godly sorrow, seeking God's grace in salvation. It is not a worldly sorrow that grieves over the consequence of sin, namely God's wrath, but a godly sorrow that grieves over sin as the cause of such wrath. It is then that the believer enters into sanctification; the process whereby deliverance from the sin he now abhors comes to fruition.
We read in Ps. 119:136, "Rivers of water run down from my eyes because men do not keep Your commandments" These are not the words of a legalist, but a man after God's own heart. If the Psalmist would weep as such over the unbelieving wicked, how much more so should the tears of the Christian flow at the thought of a modern day gospel which allows for a salvation without repentance, discipleship, lordship, obedience, quenching the very essence of the cause and purpose of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Oh how David would weep if he were in the professing Church today. This was the same heaviness of heart which caused Paul to weep when he said,
Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things (Phil. 3:17-19).
Richard P. Belcher in his book "A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy" wrote:
If one were to suggest that the time would come when a group of evangelical Christians would be arguing for a salvation without repentance, without a change of behavior or lifestyle, without a real avowal of the lordship and authority of Christ, without perseverance, without discipleship, and a salvation that does not necessarily result in obedience and works, and with a regeneration that does not necessarily change one's life, most believer's of several decades ago would have felt such would be an absolute impossibility. But believe it or not the hour has come21 (emphasis added).
According to the no-lordship advocates, anyone who would preach a salvation that states that "Christ must be received as Lord to be Savior," which makes a change in one's heart in regards to his iniquities a necessary part of salvation, comes under the curse of preaching a false gospel, the result of which is eternal damnation (Gal. 1:9). If this is true, then it follows that most every acknowledged Christian leader since the reformation up to the turn of the 20th century, along with those who accept their teachings as truth, preached and believed a false gospel. Calvin, Luther, Knox, Spurgeon, Ryle, Whitefield, Bunyan, Edwards, Henry, etc, as well as the Church creeds and confessions, held to a Gospel of repentance (a turning from sin), which brings one under the dominion of His Word as the rule of one's heart and life. All these men held to a salvation by faith alone, but not one held to the view that saving faith could be of such character as could reject the lordship of Christ. In Luther's day "Lordship salvation" was "Christianity." Any thought of receiving Christ as Savior and not Lord would be met with fervent refutation and would be considered repugnant and offensive. Luther's description of faith, as previously expressed, bears this out;
Faith is not that human notion and dream that some hold for faith. Because they see no betterment of life and no good works follow it, and yet they can hear and say much about faith, they fall into error and say, 'Faith is not enough; one must do works in order to be righteous and be saved.' This is the reason that, when they hear the gospel, they fall-to and make for themselves, by their own powers, an idea in their hearts, which says, 'I believe.' This they hold for true faith. But it is a human imagination and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, and so nothing comes of it and no betterment follows it...Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask if there are good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faithless man. He gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works22 (emphasis added).
We understand then that the faith established by one of the pillars of Protestantism is a faith of such character as necessitates a life of "good works." It "is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly." This is not a quote taken out of context, as is so often the case in these arguments, but rather the context is within the quote itself. To say that any one of these men held to a "no-lordship theology" is at best unconscionably ignorant, or at worst maliciously deceptive. It is disingenuous to say the least for Zane Hodges to quote Luther and Calvin in his book "Absolutely Free" as if they agreed with his argument. The teaching of Luther and Calvin would be diametrically opposed with Hodges assertions. In reference to Hodges book "The Gospel Under Siege," D. A. Carson wrote,
Perhaps one of the most intriguing and disturbing features of Zane C. Hodges book is that to the best of my knowledge not one significant interpreter of Scripture in the entire history of the church has held to Hodges's interpretation of the passages he treats.23
Hodges quotes Luther in regards to faith as stating;
Faith holds out the hand and the sack and just lets the good be done to it. For as God is the giver who bestows such things in His love, we are the receivers who receive the gift through faith which does nothing. For it is not our doing and cannot be merited by our works. It has already been granted and given. You only need open your mouth, or rather, your heart, and keep still and let yourself be filled.24
In referring to this quote Hodges then says "But lordship theology abandons Reformation thought about the nature of saving faith and thus also abandons biblical thought." The truth is, the lordship view is not at odds with this statement of Luther's at all. It is in full agreement with his previous statement about faith. He simply means that justifying faith is received with an empty hand, without any merit on our part whatsoever. However, what is received in salvation is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit of God in the empty-handed believer's heart. We cannot merit a "circumcised heart" but neither can we refuse the reception of it in our salvation. Those who receive this "new heart" will inevitably be "zealous for good works." In other words, "Faith holds out the hand and the sack and just lets the good be done to it. For as God is the giver who bestows such things in His love, we are the receivers who receive the gift through faith which does nothing. For it is not our doing and cannot be merited by our works." "…and it brings with it the Holy Ghost. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly." Luther understood that there would be confusion on this matter of faith and works when he stated,
It is not an easy matter to teach faith without works, and still to require works. Unless the ministers of Christ are wise in handling the mysteries of God and rightly divide the word, faith and good works may easily be confused. Both the doctrine of faith and the doctrine of good works must be diligently taught, and yet in such a way that both the doctrines stay within their God-given sphere. If we only teach works, as our opponents do, we shall lose the faith. If we only teach faith people will come to think that good works are superfluous.25
It is not by the lordship view of faith, but the no-lordship view of faith, that "people will come to think that good works are superfluous." A.W. Tozer, over a half century ago, wrote,
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...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 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 to 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. 26
We must take heed that the grace we look to for salvation is God's grace and not the grace of men's fallen and inordinate imaginations. For the grace that the natural man conjures up in his naturally sinful mind cannot save us. The genuine grace of God always results in a faith rooted and grounded in love. For, "The Lord your God will circumcise your heart...to love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Deut. 30:6). "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). It produces in the Christian a deep and abiding love; a governing desire to love the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love one's neighbor as one's self. Scripture defines love to Christ, not as something professed, but by a faithful walk of loving obedience to His commandments (John 14:21). The Apostle Paul says, "If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed" (1 Cor. 16:22)." The Apostle James tells us that the crown of life is promised only to those who love Christ (James 1:12). In the minds of many, the necessity of obedience is somehow contrary to grace, however, if this is so, then grace is contrary to love, for love, according to Scripture, always consists of obedience (John 14:21, John 14:23, 1 John 5:2, 3, Deut. 30:6-8). Throughout Scripture those who love God are contrasted with the wicked who despise Him, "The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy" (Ps. 145:20). According to this passage there are only two types of people on the earth; those who love God and those who are wicked; those who obey Him and those who disobey Him. There is no middle ground. Scripture allows only one alternative to love and that is hate. The preservation of the soul is promised to those who love Him, while on the other hand, Scripture assures us that if anyone hates the Lord Jesus Christ they will be condemned. "For everyone practicing evil hates the light" (1 Jn. 3:20), and "He who hates Me [the light of the world] hates My Father also" (John 15:23). However, as we would expect, the false teachers claim otherwise. In the words of Zane Hodges, "The scriptural revelation knows nothing of a doctrine in which Christian love for God is guaranteed by the mere fact that one is a Christian" (p. 131). We are warned of this same error in Jeremiah's day;
Thus says the Lord of hosts, do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The Lord has said, You shall have peace'; And everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.' ...I have not sent these prophets yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings (Jer. 23:16-22) (emphasis added).
These verses are descriptive of much of what we hear from the no-lordship teachers in our day. Here, God admonishes that if anyone would say to you, you who walk according to the dictates of your own heart, "No evil shall come upon you," do not listen to their words for they are the flattering words of men and not the life giving Word of the Spirit. These men speak peace to those who despise God in that they disregard His words and commandments. They speak comforting words to those who continue to walk according to the ways of the world. They fail to warn the people that unless they turn from the evil of their ways, they shall perish in their ways. They speak in the "name of the Lord," while in fact the source of their speech is the counsel of their own hearts. The result of such counsel, as is stated, makes for a "worthless" people. They walk in the futility of empty promises and false hopes. Their worship of God is in vain, as they follow after the doctrines and commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). Matthew Henry writes;
They tell sinners that it shall be well with them though they persist in their sins, Jeremiah 23:17. See here who those are that they encourage—those that despise God, that slight his authority, and have low and mean thoughts of his institutions, and those that walk after the imagination of their own heart, that are worshippers of idols and slaves to their own lusts those that are devoted to their pleasures put contempt upon their God. Yet see how these prophets caressed and flattered them: they should have been still saying, There is no peace to those that go on in their evil ways—Those that despise God shall be lightly esteemed—Woe, and a thousand woes, to them but they still said, You shall have peace no evil shall come upon you. And, which was worst of all, they told them, God has said so, so making him to patronize sin, and to contradict himself. Note, those that are resolved to go on in their evil ways will justly be given up to believe the strong delusions of those who tell them that they shall have peace though they go on....God disowns all that these false prophets said to sooth people up in their sins....They said to sinners, You shall have peace. If they had stood in my counsel, as they pretend...they would have done all they could to turn people from their evil way in general and from all the particular evil of their doings. They would have encouraged and assisted the reformation of manners, would have made this their scope in all their preaching, to part between men and their sins but it appeared that this was a thing they never aimed at, but, on the contrary, to encourage sinners in their sins.27
These verses in Jeremiah expose the distortion of the no-lordship advocates in their claiming that repentance of sin is not to be enjoined with the message of the gospel. We find in these verses that whenever God's word is proclaimed by way of His counsel, those who have ears to hear will be "turned from their evil way and the evil of their doings." To suppose that the gospel would be designed by God to have any lesser effect on sinners in the new covenant in turning them from the evil of their doings, not only directly contradicts these words of Jeremiah, but a myriad of other passages such as Acts 3:26. To turn from the evil way is to turn from idolatry to serve the living God. It is to walk in accordance with the Word of God rather than the counsel of our own sinful hearts.
For the Christian, there is no greater joy in all of life than to obey the God we love, likewise no greater sorrow than sin. This is the grace of God. The beauty of God's grace is not in that man can be forgiven and then continue to walk in disobedience, but rather being granted the gift of faith, repentance and forgiveness; receiving a new heart, a new spirit, and the indwelling of God's Spirit, we walk in loving obedience, and yet because it is a gift there is no boasting, but rather God receives all the glory. It is a grace that is high and lifted up to its proper domain, even to the right hand of the Father. It is a noble, praiseworthy, and God honoring grace. It is the only grace that is worthy of the name of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Would we not expect from a perfectly Holy God a grace that results in a Holy people? Would we not expect the grace of a most righteous Father to produce sons of obedience? Would we not expect of His children to walk in the way of righteousness? Would we not expect the members of His household (Eph. 2:19) to love and submit to the head of the house and each another? Would we not expect those born of God to be imitators of their Father? (Eph. 5:1). Undoubtedly such is the case, and therefore these characteristics are granted to all His true children found throughout Scripture; the circumcised in heart; the remnant of the Old Testament and the Christian of the New. Sin causes nothing but misery, destruction, and sorrow. Do we not call even an earthly father who would stand by and allow his child to rebel and do such things as would be harmful to himself and others, unfit and unloving? Is it not God the Father Who says, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly"? (Prov. 13:24). Will God not then discipline His children promptly if they begin to stray from the narrow way? God's love and continuance in sin are as compatible as oil and water. It perverts the very nature of God. When we say God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16), we can say in the same breath, He sent Him to bless you in turning away every one of you from your iniquities (Acts 3:26). A grace that does not turn us from our iniquities renders the words, "God is love" or "Love does no harm to a neighbor" as null and void; For no greater harm can be come to a man than to be left in a state of bondage to his sin. That would be equivalent to saying, "God loves you so much that He hates you." For God to leave us in such a state does not magnify His love and mercy but rather diminishes it. To the contrary, because God is loving and merciful, He sent His Son for the purpose of setting us free from sin and "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (Jn. 8:36).
When we cling to the cross to which Christ hangs, and we hear with spiritual ears the heart piercing words of our Lord, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" we begin to understand the unfathomable love of God and His profound hatred of sin. Those who hear these words with a heart of faith will find it impossible to cling to the cross of Christ and eternal life with one hand, while clinging to sin and the world with the other. No matter how respected and honored the man that teaches such a grace, a grace that says a Christian can continue in his sin, walk according to the flesh, loving the things of this present world, and yet remain a child of God, though he may teach it with the utmost sincerity, is teaching a perverted gospel that cannot save. We can be sincerely wrong about many things, but not about the saving of the soul, for it is an irrevocable and eternal error which the Day of Judgment will reveal in all its horrors.
Charles Spurgeon understood the painstaking battle for truth when he wrote:
Sooner than deny truth, we must forego every...honor, every particle of deserved esteem, every rag of repute...In the battle for the truth, let your personal comfort and reputation go to the winds...My Lord, for Thee I will rejoice to be 'the off scouring of all things,' that I may be found faithful to Thee and to Thy truth, even to the end.28
Although the Church in times past, even as today, fell into gross error by corrupting the gospel, we thank God for such men as have persevered in the faith, in that truth which was established in its purity from the beginning, and has continued to the present time. Such is found in this statement by the highly esteemed Princeton theologian of the 1800's, Professor Charles Hodge. He writes:
There is no logical connection between the neglect of moral duties, and the system which teaches that Christ is a Savior as well from the power as from the penalty of sin; that faith is the act by which the soul receives and rests on Him for sanctification as well as for justification; and that such is the nature of the union with Christ by faith and indwelling of the Spirit, that no one is, or can be partaker of the benefit of His death, who is not also partaker of the power of His life; which holds to the divine authority of Scripture which declares that without holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14) and which the great advocate of salvation by grace, warns all who call themselves Christians: "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9, 10)29 (emphasis added).
He further states:
It is, therefore, to subvert the whole gospel, and to make the death of Christ of none effect, to suppose that redemption and continuance in sin are compatible. The whole design and purpose of the mission and sufferings of the Savior would be frustrated if his people were not made partakers of his holiness; for the glory of God is promoted in them and by them only so far as they are made holy, and the recompense of the Redeemer is his bringing his people into conformity to his own image, that he may be the first-born among many brethren. Every child of God feels that the charm and glory of redemption is deliverance from sin, and conformity to God. This is the crown of righteousness, the prize of the high calling of God, the exaltation and blessedness for which he longs, and suffers, and prays. To tell him that he may be saved without being made holy, is to confound all his ideas of salvation, and to crush all his hopes. The nature of salvation, the character of God, the declarations of his word, the design of redemption, all concur to prove that holiness is absolutely and indispensably necessary, so that whatever we may be, or whatever we may have, if we are not holy, we are not the children of God, nor the heirs of his kingdom.30
Scripture states that "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim. 4:3) To have "itching ears," is to be "desirous of hearing something pleasant."31 These have no ear for the unpleasant rebukes and admonitions of God's Word and so they heap up for themselves teachers according to their own lust and desires being lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (1 Tim. 3:4). They do not have a heart that says, "I must be about My Father's business," but rather seek God's assistance and approval as they go about their own business. They have itching ears wanting to be scratched with smooth and comforting words as they pursue their own fleshly aims and goals. This is the general trend of modern day Christianity and there is no shortage of pastors who are willing to accommodate them in their sin. Ellicott writes;
The thirst for novelties in doctrine, the desire for a teaching which, while offering peace to a troubled conscience, would yet allow the old self-indulgent life to go on as before, would increase....after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers....this expression gives us some insight into the reason which led to this future apostasy of so many, concerning which St. Paul warned Timothy. 'Their own lusts,' which, at all risks, they would gratify, would serve to alienate them from that severe and strictly moral school of Apostolic teaching, in which the sternest morality was bound up with purity of doctrine, to which school St. Paul's pupils—men like Timothy and the presbyters of Ephesus—belonged. These worldly ones to whom St. Paul referred, reluctant to part with the hope Christianity taught, and unwilling to live the life which St. Paul and Timothy insisted upon as necessary to be lived by all those who would share in that glorious hope, sought out for themselves more indulgent teachers, who would flatter and gratify their hearers with novelties in doctrine, and would, at the same time, lay comparatively little stress on the pure and saintly life.32
What would we expect to hear from teachers who would soothe the carnal ear? Would we not hear that, "Our Lord never insists on our obedience" (Oswald Chambers); "Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy" (Charles Stanley). "The requirements of discipleship are different than the requirements of salvation" (Greg Laurie). That nothing is required of you, just repeat the sinner's prayer and you will receive eternal life. Such teachings tickle the carnal ear but the spiritual ear find them repugnant as they dishonor and undermine the love, work, and sacrifice of our beloved Lord and do a momentous disservice to our fellow man. Arthur W. Pink comments on 2 Tim. 4:3, 4:
The "falling away" which characterizes our day was referred to by the apostle...That time has arrived! Church-goers today will not endure "sound doctrine." Those who preach the total depravity of man, who insist upon the imperative necessity of the new birth, who set forth the inflexible righteousness and holiness of God…find it almost impossible to obtain a hearing. Such preachers are regarded as puritanical pessimists, and are not wanted. In these degenerate times, the masses demand that which will soothe them in their sins and amuse them while they journey down the Broad Road. The multitude is affected with "itching ears" which crave novelty and that which is sensational. They have ears which wish to be "tickled," ears which eagerly drink in the songs of professional and unsaved soloists and choristers, ears which are well pleased with the vulgar slang of our modern evangelists.33
Various perversions of the gospel have been fought against since the Churches beginnings and will most likely continue to be fought throughout the church age. If we look back to the time of the reformation we find that it is not inconceivable that deception can be so prevalent that the established institutional church as a whole can be deceived by "another gospel." We can imagine the struggles of Luther as he came against the Church of Rome. In this day it is the false gospel of Antinomianism that has infiltrated our churches. We would not readily perceive those men in the past, those who perverted the gospel, as evil and wicked men. No, they were upstanding men in the eyes of many. Likewise, it was the so-called religious leaders of Jesus time that were keeping men from the salvation of their souls (Matt. 23:13). Would we not be wise then in this day to look not to men, but with the utmost diligence to the Word of God to find out whether or not these things are so? "Let God be true and every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4). Let us not be content with the teachings of so-called "great men of God," but rather let us seek with diligence the great God of men. Taking to heart the warning, "beware of the false teachers who come to you in sheep's clothing." Author W. Pink writes:
Some of the propagators of the salvation without works error during the last century have assumed the garb of the orthodox and thereby obtained a hearing from many who had never listened to them had their real characters been suspected. They have gone to the opposite extreme (of legalism) and preached a 'gospel' as far removed from the Truth as the Romish lie of salvation by works. They teach that while good works from Christians are certainly desirable yet they are not imperative, the absence of them involving merely the loss of certain 'millennial' honors and not the missing of heaven itself. They have interpreted those words of Christ's 'It is finished' in such a way to lull multitudes of souls into a false peace, as though He wrought something at the Cross which renders it needless for sinners to repent, forsake their idols, renounce the world before they can be saved; 'that nothing is required of them but their simple acceptance of Christ by faith'; that once they have 'rested on His finished work'—no matter what their subsequent lives—they are 'eternally secure.' So widely has this fatal doctrine been received, so thoroughly have these 'ravenous wolves' deceived the religious world by their 'sheep's clothing,' that with rare exceptions anyone who now denounces this deadly evil is to call down upon himself the charge of being a 'Legalist' or 'Judaizer.'34
In his book "The Authentic Gospel" Jefferey E. Wilson writes:
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 accommodate the largest number of participants. The result is a hybrid Christianity which is essentially man-centered, materialistic, and worldly, and shamefully dishonoring to the Lord Jesus Christ. This shameful degeneracy is due in large part to the erroneous gospel that is presented by many around the world.35
When the leaven of carnality finds its way within the walls of the visible church, the whole lump becomes more and more like the world with very little distinction. To the spiritually deaf, sound teaching is dull and lifeless. Church growth then can only be accomplished by teaching what the natural man finds satisfying along with worldly enticements and entertainment. "We must have more entertainment, fun, music, and games or they won't come." What the natural man wants to hear is that he can have Christ, salvation, heaven, sin, and the world, and this is what the optional lordship/discipleship message teaches. It is a so-called "free grace" which gives the professing Christian the liberty of being the "salt of the earth," or salt in the Savior's wounds, whichever they prefer. How appalling should this be to those with spiritual ears!?
If there was ever a time to heed the word of God to "be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15), it is the day in which we live. For evil men and impostors have indeed grown worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:13). While some are deceived in ignorance, others are knowingly corrupting the truth and sadly, much of the church remains indifferent to what is being taught as if the consequences were merely temporal. It is as if the Church has forgotten that the eternal kingdom is its only hope and these false teachings will have such a devastating effect on the soul that it is beyond our capacity to comprehend while in this temporal sphere. To simply agree to disagree when it comes to such vital error in the Church, although it appears on the surface to be very loving and pious, is in truth a perverse form of self-love and in the Day of Judgment it will be revealed as such. Spurgeon wrote,
An unholy Church! It is of no use to the world and of no esteem among men...it is an abomination, hell's laughter, heaven's abhorrence...the worst evils which have ever come upon the world have been brought upon her by an unholy Church.36
I enjoyed reading the article.
Just a comment on,Lordship Salvation.
How does a person enter into this Lordship,I did not see in the article other than one having faith/belief in Christ.I am not to crazy about the word salvation as used by Christians. Many are using the word salvation or saved as meaning going to heaven. I believe this word salvation is not used in scripture as a means of entering heaven.
Just my thoughts.Charles
Our duty to God is not burdensome: To love Him who is infinitely lovely, to trust Him who is infinitely reliable, to thank Him who is infinitely giving, to obey Him who is infinitely wise, is not hard .... it is relaxing, fulfilling, freeing, joyful. God gets the glory and we get the joy.
1. Oswald Chambers: "My Utmost for His Highest"
2. Stanley, Charles, Eternal Security Can You Be Sure? (Nashville, TN: Oliver Nelson, 1990)
3. Stanley, Charles, "Eternal Security What Do We Have To Lose?, Tape #6, MI090
4. Stanley, Charles, Eternal Security Can You Be Sure? (Nashville, TN: Oliver Nelson, 1990), pages 79-80
5. Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Moody Publishers; New Edition edition, 1997) p. 141
6. Greg Laurie, The Upside-Down Church, (Tyndale House Publishers; May 1, 1999) p. 112.
7. Greg Laurie, Discipleship, Giving God Your Best, (Harvest House Publishers, January 1993) p. 30-31
8. John Gill's Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, John 6:66, (Baker Book House, 1980)
9. The Pulpit Commentary, Acts 11:26, (Hendrickson Pub, October 1, 1985)
10. Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner (Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 1992), 24-25, 26
11. John MacArthur, Faith Works (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), 245-246
12. Charles Spurgeon, Mornings and Evenings with Spurgeon (New Leaf Publishing Group, 2010), Feb 8 Evening
13. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th. M. "Lordship Salvation:" (Footstool Publications, 1994; Memphis, TN) p. 3
14. Charles Ryie, "Balancing the Christian Life"(Chicago: Moody, 1969) p.170
15. The New American Standard New Testament Greek Lexicon
16. Clarke's Commentary: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Heb. 8:10 (Abingdon Press 1977)
17. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry, Heb. 8:10, (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005)
18. William Burkitt, Expository Notes, with Practical Observations, on the New Testament, Titus 1:16 ; orig published 1923 (Nabu Press, 2013)
19. The Pulpit Commentary, Titus 1:16 (Hendrickson Pub, October 1, 1985)
20. Arthur W. Pink, Sermon On the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker House), p.412
21. Richard P. Belcher, "A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy"
22. Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, J. Theodore Mueller (1954 by Zondervan; Reprinted 1976; Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1976)
23. D. A. Carson, Exegetical Falacies; Grand Rapids, 1984, p. 137
24. Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation; Zondervan (October 1, 1989)
25. Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, Gal. 5:14 (Kregel Classics, May 16, 2006)
26. John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works (Dallas: Word, 1993)
27. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Jer. 23:16-22, (Hendrickson Publishers, 2005)
28. Charles Hadden Spurgeon, Quoting Spurgeon (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p.145
29. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, (Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, reprint 1995) Vol. III, p.241.
30. Charles Hodge "Holy Living"
31. Thayer's Greek Lexicon, (PC Study Bible formatted Electronic Database. Copy-Right © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc.).
32. Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Charles John Ellicott, 2 Tim. 4:3; (Zondervan, 1982)
33. Arthur W. Pink, Sermon On the Mount (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 1950, 53)
34. Arthur W. Pink, "Sermon On the Mount" (Grand Rapids: Baker House), p.342
35. Jefferey E. Wilson, The Authentic Gospel (Banner of Truth; Bklt edition, June 1, 1998)
36. Charles Hadden Spurgeon, Qouting Spurgeon (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p.131