By Justin Edwards
Chosen vessels of mercy, notwithstanding their backslidings, are brought back; but ah! remember that nine out of ten of those who backslide never were God’s people. - Charles Spurgeon
In this series addressing the erroneous arguments in Dr. Andy Woods' article against lordship salvation titled, What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation?, I have attempted to biblically counter each of Dr. Woods' points with regards to saving faith, repentance, carnal Christianity, and sanctification. In each of these articles, it has been shown that Dr. Woods has a flawed view in these respective areas and significant misunderstanding as to what lordship salvation actually is. The reason for this, of course, is primarily because Dr. Woods adheres to a low view of God's glory in our salvation, which causes him to attribute any type of repentance or committing one's life to Christ as works-based effort to achieve salvation. With a biblical view of salvation, one understands that eternal life begins and is completed with God, and it is His work, not ours, that causes us to be born again and subsequently progress into holy living, without which no one will see God (Hebrews 12:14).
The common theme throughout the articles in this series (as is the common them throughout Scripture) has been the view of the glorious sovereignty of God in our salvation. God's sovereignty is so critical in understanding the doctrine of salvation (soteriology) that if one fails to grasp its fundamental truths, then the rest of their understanding of salvation will crumble or not make any sense. The doctrine of biblical assurance of salvation is no exception to this and will be the final argument addressed in Dr. Woods' article.
Part 6 - Biblical Assurance of Salvation
Dr. Woods opens his fifth and final argument with the following:
Fifth, Lordship Salvation destroys the believer's assurance of salvation.
On the contrary, NON-lordship salvation gives false converts false assurance of salvation whereas lordship salvation exhorts one to examine himself in the mirror of God's Word:
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. - 2 Corinthians 13:5
Whereas NON-lordship salvation condemns any such self-examination because it assures potential false converts that as long as they were once sincere when they "asked Jesus into their heart" they are saved, Scripture tells us in Jeremiah 17:9,
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
The truth of the matter is, biblical assurance of salvation cannot be destroyed when one entrusts himself to the promises of God by engaging these promises in the objective truth of God's Holy Word. Too often, men and women depend on their feelings and subjective experiences to give them assurance of salvation, and what's worse, they have easy-believist pastors of the false modern evangelical gospel potentially leading them down the path of destruction instead of encouraging them to examine themselves in the Scripture.
Dr. Woods continues,
Lordship advocates never precisely define what kind of commitment to Christ is necessary in order to become a Christian.
I find this to be an interesting false premise as I never have a hard time telling people what kind of commitment is necessary to become a Christian. Jesus was pretty clear in this regard when He said,
whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. - Luke 14:33
Salvation costs us everything, Dr. Woods. Whatever has been revealed to us is what we must forsake. If there is anything for which the cost has been counted and we are not willing to lay it at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we do not want a Savior any more than we want a Lord. Let's use a practicing homosexual as an example.
Joe is a practicing homosexual and has just been exposed to Dr. Woods' gospel message, which according to his article, might be something like this:
Jesus loves you and wants to forgive you of your sins. All you have to do is ask Him to forgive you and trust Him to be your Savior. If you ask Jesus to come into your heart, He will!
So Joe prays a prayer to ask Jesus into his heart, then Dr. Woods might say something like this,
If you just said that prayer and are sincere in believing in Christ as your Savior, then you're saved and I welcome you to the family of God!
Now Joe, being that he knows nothing of repentance, the holiness of God, the judgment of God, and the power of God in our salvation to change the hearts of men, continues to practice homosexuality. When Joe said the "sinner's prayer", he was not broken over his sin and certainly did not repent of it, yet believes himself to be saved because he believes in Jesus to have forgiven him of his sins. Years later, Joe, still an unrepentant homosexual, runs into Dr. Woods and expresses doubts that he is saved. Dr. Woods might tell Joe he remembers him coming to the alter a few years back and as long as Joe was sincere in believing in Christ, he is saved. If given the chance, Dr. Woods might also tell Joe that he needs to submit to the second part of God's plan for his life and commit his life to Jesus as a disciple. In the end, Joe continued as an unrepentant homosexual and never turned from his sin, but because he "changed his mind about God and Jesus", Joe will die a homosexual saint.
Blasphemous! Can you see the obvious error in this false gospel? I used the sin of homosexuality because it is often seen by the evangelical church as a "worst-type sin". But the same verses that condemn homosexuality, are the same verses that condemn drunkenness, adultery, fornication, idolatry, thieves, liars, revilers and more (1 Corinthians 6:8-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5-6). It is for this reason that one cannot remain in their sin and abide in Christ (1 John 3:6). When God justifies us, He also washes us and cleanses us from these sinful lifestyles (1 Corinthians 6:11) so that this will be true:
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. - 1 John 3:9
To be clear, this verse is not saying Christians do not sin. The Apostle John is referring to living in a habitual pattern of practical righteousness rather than living in a habitual pattern of sin. The Christian walk, therefore, is a lifestyle of repentance where one is continuously repenting (out of godly remorse) as they are progressively sanctified (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10) and directionally conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 12:2). This is why John says the following in 1 John 3:10,
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.
And as if it could not be any more clear:
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. - 1 John 3:7-8a
Even though these Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the Christian does not and cannot habitually practice a lifestyle of sin, there are many in the easy-believist camp who might say all Christians habitually sin because we are sinful creatures. They twist the Scripture to fit their agenda or misunderstanding of salvation and sanctification, or perhaps to justify the grip that sin has on their own lives, yet we see in the Word of God that sin no longer has dominion over the believer (Romans 6:14) and Christ came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8). What's more, those who have been set free by the Truth have been freed from the bondage of sin (John 8:34-36; Romans 6:17-18) to where it no longer controls us (Romans 8:1-2; Galatians 5:16-26). Therefore, an assurance of our salvation is whether or not we are controlled by sin to obey it or controlled by the Spirit of God to obey Him (Romans 6:22).
Dr. Woods asks,
How much surrender is required?
That's also an easy question to answer, Dr. woods. Total and absolute surrender is required. When Christ purchased us with His precious blood, we became His exclusively (1 Corinthians 6:20). This means our money, our time, our possessions, our family, our bodies and our very life are now His. He owns us. We may not realize at the time of our salvation just how much He owns us, but He owns us nonetheless. The evidence that one is born again, therefore, is the willingness to continue to surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Luke 9:23). This total and absolute surrender is simply devotion and unwavering allegiance to Christ the King. It's as simple as giving up control of one's life and submitting to the will of God in as much as one knows what that means at the time of salvation. As God conforms us to Himself, we will increasingly understand what it means to surrender to His will, and as He destroys our idols one by one, we will all the more surrender to His Lordship.
Dr. Woods also asks,
How long is this surrender to last?
Another easy question to answer. Surrender is to last forever, Dr. Woods. The evidence of this can be found in Scriptures that tell us we must abide, finish the race, persevere, and live in the Spirit such as 1 John 2:24, Colossians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Hebrews 12:1-2 and Romans 8:12-14. These, of course, are only possible by the hand of God who will allow nothing in all of creation to snatch His children out of His hand (Romans 8:38-39; John 10:27-29). Every Christian, then, abides, finishes the race, perseveres, and walks in the Spirit as a pattern of life.
Dr. Woods, again, has another easy question to be answered:
How much fruit must this surrender produce?
Jesus tells us this fruit will be a hundredfold, sixty, or thirty (Matthew 13:23). How much is this? I don't know exactly, but the point is there is fruit indeed. By this we know there is no such thing as a continuously fruitless Christian.
Dr. Woods asserts,
Because these questions are never precisely answered, the believer spends the rest of his Christian life wondering if he truly made enough of a commitment to become a Christian.
It seems I have answered these questions, Dr. Woods. In any case, the Christian does not spend the rest of his life wondering if he has committed enough to become a Christian. The false convert, on the other hand, may never have biblical assurance of his salvation if he does not examine himself in the Scriptures to know whether he has the Spirit to testify with his spirit that he is a child of God (Romans 8:15-17). Yet, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6) and diligently seek God (Hebrews 11:6) through the Word of God do not have to worry about whether or not they are saved. This is because their hunger and thirst for the things of God through the application of the Living Word will manifest the fruit that gives evidence of one's salvation.
On "backsliding, Dr. Woods points out,
Because of the believer's potential for “backsliding,” the Christian can never really know until his dying day if he is a committed Christian.
It is important to define terms here. If by "backsliding" Dr. Woods means one can remain "backslidden", then no, there is no such thing as a backslidden Christian. Such a person needs to be born again. But if by "backsliding" Dr. Woods means one can fall into sin and be restored unto fellowship with God by the discipline of the Father through the Holy Spirit, then yes, Christians can "backslide". Lordship salvation does not teach otherwise.
Assuming that Dr. Woods' definition is of the first definition, he sets up another false premise to suggest lordship salvation causes one to never know "until his dying day if he is a committed Christian." (On a side note - "committed Christian" is redundant as all Christians are committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ). This is ludicrous as the born again believer, eg one who has surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, most certainly may have biblical assurance of salvation during the extent of their Christian walk. It is when the born again believer falls into sin that their assurance might be shaken, which is why we are called to make our calling and election sure to see that we are progressing in our sanctification (2 Peter 1:5-11; Philippians 2:12-13). Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the continued exposure to the Word and believers to hold us accountable, we will be brought to repentance and restoration of our assurance. This is all part of the loving discipline of the Father to assist His children to becoming more like Christ. If one never undergoes such discipline, God Himself says they are not His child:
But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. - Hebrews 12:7-11
Lastly, Dr. Woods concludes his argument stating,
Thus, Lordship Salvation steals the joy that accompanies the knowledge that one's eternal destiny is sealed. Far from such a guessing game, Christ gives all believers instantaneous assurance of salvation at the point of justification (John 5:24; 6:47).
The evidence of our salvation does not come from prayers or emotional experiences; rather, the evidence of our salvation comes through God's preservation of our souls as we continue in the faith and can see the progression of the work of grace in our lives (Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:5-9). And why is this case? Because salvation is of the Lord and it is He who is perfecting His work in us through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. If one can see no evidence of grace-bearing fruit in their life, then they have every reason to believe they may not be saved.
Whether one is truly born again or has surrendered to the Lordship of Christ can perhaps most easily be seen in asking this question: have I entered into the yoke of Christ to be taught in the way of righteousness? (Matthew 11:29-30)
This is true rest for our souls. And what is the condition of our finding rest for our souls? To bow in humility and put on the yoke of Christ. To be lowly in heart and meek, which is to say to be submissive to the authority of one's master. Christ, our Master, has called us to a life of obedience, so when one confesses the Savior as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), he is confessing to God that he is willing to obey Him and trust that He will direct our paths.
Submitting to the Lordship of Christ means nothing more and nothing less. Out of love for the Sovereign King and Pierced Savior, we commit our lives to Jesus because this is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). The evidence that we love Christ is whether we obey Him (John 14:15, 23; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6). If one is not willing to obey Christ, then how could they possibly have assurance, much less be saved? Even more so, how can one claim to love authority when they do not obey them or have the desire to learn from them? That is as ridiculous as it is absurd.
Dr. Woods and those of his persuasion are the very cause of the false conversions and continuously carnal Christians who hold faulty fire insurance policies. They base the assurance of one's salvation solely on mere profession and attempt to make the narrow gate as wide as possible. The Word of God is clear, however, that those who are born again and love Christ have departed from wickedness (2 Timothy 2:19) and yield to the command to "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22). The blood-bought believer is committed to righteousness, holiness, and newness of life (Ephesians 4:24; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Romans 6:4). The believer desires to please the Lord in everything (Ephesians 5:10) and constantly seeks to understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:17).
The believer is zealous for good works (Titus 2:14) and has a heart to see lost souls saved (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). The believer loves the brethren (1 John 3:14) and does not forsake fellowship with believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). The believer increasingly manifests the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:8-10) and puts off the old man and the works of darkness (Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-17).
These are just some of the evidences or marks of one who is now a slave to righteousness - a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. These things will become realities in the life of the believer in increasing measure as God perfects His righteousness in the life of the Christian until the day of Redemption (Ephesians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 8:29-30). It is because God has planted His seed in us that we can no longer live according to the flesh and remain lovers of our sin to live in it (1 John 3:9), but rather we will increasingly love the things that God loves (righteousness) and hate the things that God hates (evil). As Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1-4,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
The only alternative to the person described above is found in Philippians 3:19-20,
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.
Believers set their mind on heavenly things as a pattern of life, while nonbelievers set their minds on earthly things as a pattern of life. There is no middle ground, regardless of what Dr. Woods and others might teach.
That brings us to the end of Dr. Woods' arguments against lordship salvation. We have covered saving faith, repentance, carnal Christianity, sanctification, and biblical assurance of salvation. In an effort to tie up loose ends, I will hopefully conclude with Part 7 by the end of the week.
In the mean time, I highly recommend going through the following series from Paul Washer titled, Biblical Assurance of Salvation. It is a 5-part series that will help you understand further the contrast between the born again believer and a mere professor of the faith.
If any man be not sure that he is in Christ, he ought not to be easy one moment until he is so. Dear friend, without the fullest confidence as to your saved condition, you have no right to be at ease, and I pray you may never be so. This is a matter too important to be left undecided. - Charles Spurgeon