By Justin Edwards
On March 19th the Bible Prophecy Blog posted an article by Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church refuting the biblical doctrine of "lordship salvation" titled, What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation? I'm very thankful this was posted and praise God for the opportunity to carefully examine critical and essential doctrines of the Christian faith that are under attack by modern evangelicalism. As a result of Dr. Woods' article and by God's grace, I was able to sharpen my understanding of God's work in salvation and hopefully provide you understanding of what this doctrine does and does not teach. The series was broken up into the following 6 previous parts:
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Saving Faith
Part 3 - Repentance
Part 4 - Carnal Christianity
Part 5 - Sanctification
Part 6 - Biblical Assurance of Salvation
Part 7 - Conclusion
|Be diligent in searching the Scriptures|
Even within this theological divide, there are those who profess such biblical truths that faith and repentance are gifts from God, yet this reality does not permeate their subsequent understanding of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). For example, one might claim that faith is a gift from God, but they would deny that God chooses to give faith to those He elected from eternity past, but rather each individual must exercise their faith out of their human ability to do so in order to be saved. These two ideas are diametrically opposed to one another, yet one might resign to say they don't understand how it works out exactly, they just know God's sovereignty and man's free will somehow work together. Sadly, this is theological laziness.
It is one thing to not understand a biblical doctrine and continue seeking God to reveal His divine mysteries to us, it is quite another to incessantly remain ignorant on a doctrine because one is bent on remaining stuck in traditions of men and therefore has no desire to search the Scriptures for themselves. It is then out of this seemingly willful ignorance that one tosses around falsehoods and fallacies about the teaching of lordship salvation proponents. This is why it is imperative that we study to show ourselves approved in order that we might bring glory to God (2 Timothy 2:15) and refrain from falsely accusing the brethren.
With that said, many who supposedly reject what is known as "lordship salvation" simply do not understand what it actually means. They rely on others to tell them what it means rather than study the issue and the biblical doctrines themselves. This is damaging to the proclamation of the Gospel because the message going forth is one that is not complete, such as a gospel defunct of biblical repentance (turning away from a sinful lifestyle to God in faith).
Dr. Woods is one such person from what I have researched through his church's website. As far as I can tell, Dr. Woods is a sincere man who may love the Lord, but he is significantly confused in his theology. Reading through Sugar Land's statement of faith, they have elements of the sovereignty of God and work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify those God justifies. If sanctification is an absolute and direct consequence of justification, then Dr. Woods' positions from his article on saving faith, repentance, carnal Christianity, and assurance conflict with his statement of faith. This type of confusion is rampant in the visible church, which has left many sheep disillusioned and giving perhaps many more nominal christians false assurances of salvation. Especially around the doctrines concerning salvation, the following Scripture from James 3:1 is ever so important:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
This applies to preachers and teachers of the Gospel, and preachers and teachers of false gospels. I do not know the heart of Dr. Woods nor would I assume anything about him, but I would call him to repent from the repentant-less gospel he is preaching, to humbly submit himself to the Lord that he might gain the knowledge of the truth in matters of soteriology, and contend for the faith that was once delivered to him. At the end of the day, the message we preach will be out of the abundance of our hearts, so it is critical we examine what we believe lines up with the Word of God, most especially in matters of salvation, lest we deceive ourselves and deceive those who listen to us. The consequences for not doing so could be damning if we fall outside of orthodoxy into heresy (Galatians 1:8-9).
To close this series out, I'd like to briefly outline what lordship salvation is and what it is not.
What Lordship Salvation Is NOT
1. Lordship salvation does not teach that one must change their behavior before coming to Christ.
2. Lordship salvation does not teach that one must consciously assess every area of one's life and consciously forsake every single sin and idol before coming to Christ.
3. Lordship salvation does not teach that there is no such thing as a Christian living carnally.
4. Lordship salvation was not developed as a response to fight carnal Christianity.
5. Lordship salvation does not teach salvation through justification by faith plus works.
6. Lordship salvation does not steal the joy of salvation or take away assurance of salvation from born again believers.
7. Lordship salvation does not teach that one must be perfectly obedient or is sinless after one is saved.
8. Lordship salvation does not confuse sanctification with justification.
What Lordship Salvation IS
1. Lordship salvation teaches salvation is monergistic (a work of God alone) whereby God is the absolute author and the absolute finisher of our faith for which He may get the glory alone.
2. Lordship salvation teaches that saving faith is more than an mental assent to knowledge about Christ, but rather a trust in the Person of Christ and His work on the cross to not only save us from the wrath to come but also to save us from the bondage of our sin.
3. Lordship salvation teaches that repentance is more than just a change of mind about sin and Christ, but it involves a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of attitude toward sin. The result of genuine repentance rooted in godly sorrow will be a change of behavior. In essence, the faith that saves is a repentant faith where one turns from a sinful lifestyle toward God in faith.
4. Lordship salvation teaches that this repentant faith is a gift from God whereby the Holy Spirit changes the heart of the sinner, thus enabling the person to respond positively to grace through repentance and faith. God actually plants new desires in the heart of the new believer where they will increasingly hate sin and love God.
5. Lordship salvation teaches that love for God will be evidenced by a life of obedience and a lifestyle of repentance.
6. Lordship salvation teaches that because salvation is of the Lord, the regenerated believer will submit to the authority of the Lord and Master of all creation to live a patterned life of habitual obedience.
7. Lordship salvation teaches that the believer will be gradually conformed to the image of Christ in cooperation with the Holy Spirit through sanctification. This sanctification begins at the moment of justification.
8. Lordship salvation teaches there is no distinction between a disciple and a believer. All believers are disciples.
9. Lordship salvation teaches that while a Christian may act in carnal ways, carnality will not be the patterned lifestyle of the believer and such carnality is only temporary. All Christians are disciplined by God and convicted by the Holy Spirit to repent from their sinful behavior.
10. Lordship salvation teaches biblical assurance of salvation by examination of one's life through the objective Word of God, not based on past emotional experiences or prayers.
11. Lordship salvation teaches that believers will continue in the faith as it is God who keeps us. This means the believer will continue to surrender to the Lordship of Christ in increasing measure.
12. Lordship salvation is the historical and biblical doctrine of orthodox Christianity.
Much confusion can be cleared up if one honestly assesses what is being taught by lordship salvation proponents and considers the clear teaching of Scripture on these matters. Some folks are fundamentally ignorant of the truth of this doctrine, while others work as the pawns of Satan to destroy souls by blurring the lines of truth and illusion. A significant reason for why there are so many false converts in American churches today is because of the diluted and polluted message taught from pulpits and the decisional evangelism so rampant today. This has led to a distinctly unbiblical category of "carnal Christians" and will contribute to many professing Christians burning in hell for all eternity under the wrath of a God they did not know.
If you are still struggling with this doctrine or even still deny its truth, please ask yourself:
Have I, myself, surrendered to the Lordship of Christ?
If you have not or do not know the answer to this question, then please, by all means, post a comment below or message me privately. This is no matter to take lightly as it is of utmost important for you to know that Christ is your Lord as much as He is your Savior. After all, Jesus Himself said in John 10:27,
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Do you hear His voice? Does He know you? Do you follow Him? All sheep do, so please be sure you have this assurance by biblical examination of your heart.
If you have questions about any information contained within these articles, please post your comments in the appropriate parts of this series.
May God alone be glorified by these efforts to contend for the faith, and may the Body of Christ be stirred proclaim the unadulterated Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!