By Justin Edwards
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. - Mark 1:15
Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church was recently featured on the Bible Prophecy Blog with his article titled, What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation? He provided 5 arguments for why lordship salvation is wrong, and as I informed you in the introductory article, What Is Wrong with NON-Lordship Salvation? - Part 1, I will be addressing each of his flawed arguments in a series to be sure to cover all of Dr. Woods' errors in a thorough manner. My aim is to provide clear evidence from Scripture for why "lordship salvation" is nothing short of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, to clear up confusion for those perplexed by Dr. Woods' article, to give clarity of the lordship salvation doctrine for those who have been deceived by teachings such as that provided by Dr. Woods, and to edify the Body of Christ and encourage the brethren to boldly proclaim the unadulterated biblical Gospel. I pray this endeavor will honor and bring glory to my God and King, for whom I owe my life as a humble servant because of His love and sovereign grace (Romans 12:1).
Part 2 - Saving Faith
Dr. Woods' position truly hinges on his first argument, and likewise crumbles under it. Because he and many others like him in the evangelical church hold to a low view of God, which is to say that man holds greater sovereignty over himself than the Omnipotent Creator, it is difficult for them to comprehend God's work in our salvation. Moreover, Dr. Woods inherently charges those who believe in the unadulterated Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as preaching another gospel with such statements as,
Lordship Salvation changes the very heart of the Gospel, which only requires a child-like faith.
My challenge to Dr. Woods and every person reading this article who agrees with his assertion of lordship salvation - are you prepared to declare men and women who adhere to "lordship salvation" as heretics? After all, if lordship salvation "changes the very heart of the Gospel", would that not be another gospel? Would this other gospel not be accursed according to Galatians 1:8-9? Are you prepared to mark godly men such as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd-Jones, George Whitefield, John Bunyan, A.W. Pink, B.B. Warfield, John Knox and the Puritans, J.C. Ryle, Leonard Ravenhill, Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, Ray Comfort, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Ray Comfort, Paul Washer and many other stalwarts of the faith as heretics? Because I tell you, these men believe in none other than the Lordship of Christ and our surrender to Him at salvation. Or perhaps you were a bit irresponsible with your words, Dr. Woods? If you truly believe these men, who represent historical Christian orthodoxy, are preaching a message that is contrary to the heart of the Gospel, do you stand by these implications? Why or why not?
Dr. Woods continues in his first argument:
There are probably somewhere between 150 to 200 New Testament passages which singularly condition a lost person’s salvation upon belief alone in Christ (John 3:16; 6:28-29; Acts 16:31; Rom 1:16, etc...). Belief is a synonym for faith or confidence or trust in God’s provision. The moment a lost person exercises trust in Christ is the moment he is saved.
So the devils are then saved, Dr. Woods? If all saving faith requires is to believe, then what of these devils who believe there is one God and tremble (James 2:19)? Clearly, it is more than just intellectual assent to a list of facts of who Christ is and what He has done. After all, faith without works is dead (James 2:20). Therefore, it is the type of belief one has that results in saving faith, and it is not of ourselves lest we should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Dr. Woods continues,
Why has God made salvation so simple? God has designed salvation as a free gift (Rom 4:4). If there were some human action to be performed beyond belief then salvation becomes something that we do rather than what God does. Such a human insertion reduces salvation’s free gift status by making it something we earn. In other words, under the Lordship Salvation model, surrender or commitment becomes a work that one does to earn salvation despite the fact that the Scripture is clear that salvation is not by works (Eph 2:8-9; Isa 64:6). Also, God has specifically designed salvation so that the principle of human boasting is eliminated (Rom 3:27; 4:2). Yet, if the unsaved could do anything to merit salvation beyond simple belief, such as commit or surrender, then he has contributed to the salvation process and thus has something to boast over. God cannot allow this to happen given His aversion to pride of any sort.
Dr. Woods has it backwards in terms of working and boasting. Because a position such as Dr. Woods' reduces belief to a human work, it is no wonder there is an attempt to reduce faith to simple intellectual belief. By adding any type of commitment or repentance to this type of belief, from their perspective, it adds works to salvation. And I would agree with them if salvation was indeed left up to man's own choosing or natural ability to choose God in faith.
But, as we were completely spiritually dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1) and blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), it is only by the absolute sovereign grace of God who shines His light in us, thus breaking the power of darkness and lifting the veil from our blinded eyes (2 Corinthians 4:6), that we are enabled to believe with conviction. God must perform open-heart surgery on us that we would love Him with all of our mind, soul, heart, and strength (Deuteronomy 30:6) , and when He does, we will come to the cross! (John 6:37, 17:2) Our salvation, therefore, is wrought out of the will of God, not man (John 1:13, Romans 9:16), because He is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5) and wills to bring glory to Himself through His perfect plan of redemption (Ephesians 1:3-14).
The simplest definition of saving faith is:
It is authored by God (Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 1:6). It is solely His work (Philippians 2:13). Saving faith is meek (Matthew 5:5, Matthew 11:29). Saving faith obeys (Hebrews 5:9, 1 John 5:2). Saving faith bears fruit (Luke 3:8, 8:15). Saving faith loves God and people (Matthew 22:36-40).
Saving faith is trusting that Jesus is both God and Lord (John 20:28), who alone has the power to forgive sins (Luke 5:24, John 8:58), has also the power to save us from our sins (Romans 5:10) and destroy the dominion of sin over us (Romans 6:5-11; 1 John 3:8). So yes, I agree with Dr. Woods that the moment a person exercises trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, he is saved because he is justified, sanctified, and washed by the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:11, 1 John 1:7). But this is not mere intellectual assent to a list of facts, it is a faith that actually trusts that God can do what He promises to do - that is, to save us from His own wrath and to save us from the bondage of our sin.
In closing his first argument, Dr. Woods tells us,
Lordship Salvation perverts this divine order by making salvation something we do for God rather than something He does for us. It is Christ who saves us rather than our surrender or commitment to Him.
No, Dr. Woods, your misconception about lordship salvation perverts this divine work of God. And about God doing something for us - everyone single person reading this article and every single person who has ever carried oxygen in their lungs deserves the just punishment of eternal hell (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We have all broken God's Law, therefore none of us are righteous (Romans 3:10). The Sovereign Lord would still be good and would still be just if He saved none of us and we all perished in hell for our iniquities. However, before the foundation of the world, He chose to redeem a people for Himself through His own Son because of His great mercy (1 Peter 1:2, 20-21). So it is completely and absolutely, from start to finish, something He does for us. He chose a people for Himself, He purchased them with His blood, and He reconciled them through the Spirit - despite our wickedness and to the praise of His own glory.
The reason why faith commits, surrenders, and obeys is because faith is a gift and a work of God in us. He changes our heart and our attitude, which gives us the desire to submit to His will and enables us to comply. The childlike faith Dr. Woods mentioned is precisely what we must have in order to receive the gift of eternal life (Matthew 18:3). A child's faith is humble and submits to authority. In humility, they are able to be taught and obey the commands of authority. Likewise, without this humble submission to the authority of Christ, no one will see the Kingdom of God.
The following excerpt is from Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, who delivered this divine message on June 13th, 1862 titled, Faith and Repentance Inseperable (transcript). This must-listen sermon can be downloaded at Sermonaudio. Here, Spurgeon warns of a type of belief that does not save (paragraphs created for easier reading):
Faith means trust in Christ. Now, I must again remark that some have preached this trust in Christ so well and so fully, that I can admire their faithfulness and bless God for them; yet there is a difficulty and a danger; it may be that in preaching simple trust in Christ as being the way of salvation, that they omit to remind the sinner that no faith can be genuine but such as is perfectly consistent with repentance for past sin; for my text seems to me to put it thus: no repentance is true but that which consorts with faith; no faith is true but that which is linked with a hearty and sincere repentance on account of past sin.
So then, dear friends, those people who have a faith which allows them to think lightly of past sin, have the faith of devils, and not the faith of God's elect. Those who say, "Oh, as for the past, that is nothing; Jesus Christ has washed all that away"; and can talk about all the crimes of their youth, and the iniquitous of their riper years, as if they were mere trifles, and never think of shedding a tear; never feel their souls ready to burst because they should have been such great offenders—such men who can trifle with the past, and even fight their battles o'er again when their passions are too cold for new rebellions—I say that such who think sin a trifle and have never sorrowed on account of it, may know that their faith is not genuine.
Such men as have a faith which allows them to live carelessly in the present who say, "Well, I am saved by a simple faith"; and then sit on the ale-bench with the drunkard, or stand at the bar with the spirit-drinker, or go into worldly company and enjoy the carnal pleasures and the lusts of the flesh, such men are liars; they have not the faith which will save the soul. They have a deceitful hypocrisy; they have not the faith which will bring them to heaven.
And then, there be some other people who have a faith which leads them to no hatred of sin. They do not look upon sin in others with any kind of shame. It is true they would not do as others do, but then they can laugh at what others commit. They take pleasure in the vices of others; laugh at their profane jests, and smile at their loose speeches. They do not flee from sin as from a serpent, nor detest it as the murderer of their best friend.
No, they dally with it; they make excuses for it; they commit in private what in public they condemn. They call grave offences slight faults and little defalcations; and in business they wink at departures from uprightness, and consider them to be mere matters of trade; the fact being that they have a faith which will sit down arm-in-arm with sin, and eat and drink at the same table with unrighteousness. Oh! if any of you have such a faith as this, I pray God to turn it out bag and baggage. It is of no good to you; the sooner you are cleaned out of it the better for you, for when this sandy foundation shall all be washed away, perhaps you may then begin to build upon the rock.
My dear friends, I would be very faithful with your souls, and would lay the lancet at each man's heart. What is your repentance? Have you a repentance that leads you to look out of self to Christ, and to Christ only? On the other hand, have you that faith which leads you to true repentance; to hate the very thought of sin; so that the dearest idol you have known, whatever it may be, you desire to tear from its throne that you may worship Christ, and Christ only? Be assured of this, that nothing short of this will be of any use to you at the last.
A repentance and a faith of any other sort may do to please you now, as children are pleased with fancies; but when you get on a death-bed, and see the reality of things, you will be compelled to say that they are a falsehood and a refuge of lies. You will find that you have been daubed with untempered mortar; that you have said, "Peace, peace," to yourselves, when there was no peace. Again, I say, in the words of Christ, "Repent and believe the gospel." Trust Christ to save you, and lament that you need to be saved, and mourn because this need of yours has put the Saviour to open shame, to frightful sufferings, and to a terrible death.
And that will lead us well into Part 3, which addresses Dr. Woods' argument against the necessity for repentance, biblical repentance that is.