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Lordship Salvation, A Biblical Evaluation and Response

The subject of discipleship enters the Lordship Salvation debate through different interpretations of its meaning in relation to salvation. It becomes an important concept because of its significance for both salvation and sanctification. Though often taken for granted, the meaning of discipleship is considered by some elusive or unclear, which has elicited calls for further study. 1  

The purpose of this chapter is to consider the controversy over discipleship in relation to salvation and evaluate the arguments of the Lordship position. After an evaluation of the lexical and biblical arguments the chapter concludes with a proposed biblical understanding of discipleship.

The Issue

Disagreement between the Lordship Salvation and Free Grace positions focuses on what is meant by the terms "disciple" and "follow" in reference to one's relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Adherents to Lordship Salvation generally consider discipleship synonymous with salvation in the sense that to be saved is to be a disciple in every sense of the biblical understanding. 2   As such, the term "disciple" emphasizes the obedience and "costliness" of salvation in contrast to the "cheap grace" 3   purportedly found in "easy believism." Likewise, the term "follow" denotes a commitment to faithfulness and obedience which identifies all true believers. 4  

These claims of Lordship Salvation are stated clearly by their proponents. MacArthur states, "The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience.” 5   Likewise, Merritt asserts,

The fact is, Jesus sought more than a superficial following; he sought disciples. In short, the evangelistic call of Jesus was essentially a call to repentance and radical discipleship. 6  

Stott also writes,

Jesus never concealed the fact that in His religion there was a demand as well as an offer. Indeed, the demand was as total as the offer was free. If He offered mankind His salvation, He demanded their submission. Jesus gave no encouragement whatever to thoughtless applicants for discipleship. 7  

It follows that faith is therefore submissive obedience:

The response of faith always embraces the call of discipleship, the call to show forth the reality of a new life and freedom by following in obedience to Christ. The call to faith and to discipleship are the same and cannot be separated. 8  

A neglect of emphasis on the demands of discipleship is considered a weakness of the Free Grace position and the contemporary church.< 9   The Lordship interest in costly discipleship is a response to the growing number of people who profess to be Christians but who do not live up to their profession. Poe states, "The concern for discipleship did not emerge as a theoretical concept in an academic setting, rather it resulted from the phenomenon of people claiming to be Christians who have no interest in the things of Christ.” 10   This problem can be solved by demanding that sinners pay a price for their salvation, the price of submission and obedience:

In our own presentation of Christ's gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything. 11  

To support their view, appeal is made to the meaning of two New Testament terms, "disciple" (maqhths) and "follow" (akolouqew), and to a number of Bible passages. Both these areas of argument will now be evaluated.

An Evaluation of the Lexical Arguments

Crucial to the argument of the Lordship position is what is encompassed by the term "disciple" and what it means to "follow" Jesus Christ. As will be seen, the Lordship argument does not appeal to the etymology of the words themselves as much as to New Testament usage. The Lordship position will be studied below, along with a brief consideration of the words involved and a study of their biblical usage.

The Meaning of "Disciple"

The word "disciple" translates the noun maqhths, which is found 264 times in only the Gospels and Acts. 12   The noun has the basic meaning of "a pupil, apprentice, adherent.” 13   The verb form, maqhteuw, means "be or become a pupil or disciple,” 14   and occurs only four times in the Gospels and Acts (Matt 13:52; 27:57; 28:19; Acts 14:21).

The term "disciple" has nothing in and of itself that would clearly distinguish between all believers or more committed believers. The concept of "pupil" is somewhat relative and can denote those who learn of salvation or learn of something more than salvation. The Lordship argument cites passages in Acts which seem to equate disciples with Christians (Acts 6:1-2, 7; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 19:10), especially 11:26, "the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” 15   Thus Gentry concludes, "Those who distinguish believers into two groups must arbitrarily decide when maqhths is used of the average believer and when it is used of the superbeliever.” 16  

The meaning of maqhths, however, is not decided arbitrarily when the biblical context is consulted. When this is done, a number of usages emerge. First, it should be noted that the term is never explained or defined for the readers in the Gospels and Acts, which indicates the readers understood its basic meaning in relation to rabbinic or Greek practice. Found in both realms is the same basic idea of a learner or pupil. 17  

The Gospels speak of disciples as followers or learners of various people. The Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28), evidently because Moses gave the law which they followed (John 1:17). The Pharisees also had their own disciples (Matt 22:16; Mark 2:18). In addition, there were disciples of John the Baptist (e.g., Matt 9:14; 11:2; 14:12; Mark 2:18; Luke 11:1; John 3:25). These examples show that the relationship of teacher to pupil is essential to the understanding of discipleship.

In regard to those who follow Christ, "disciple" maintains the basic idea of a learner, but the commitment of the learners to Christ varies. In its most general sense, it is used of the multitudes who follow Christ. In Matt 5:1 (cf. Luke 6:17) "disciples" seems interchangeable with the "multitudes" (oclous). 18   They are committed enough to come from great distances (4:25) and to be taught (5:2), but it is unclear here whether they are saved. Likewise, in John 6 the multitudes are not distinguished from the disciples (John 6:2-3). However, many of these disciples did not actually believe in Christ, and at the first indication of hardship they deserted Him (6:60-66). This shows that the term in its most general sense can be used of unbelievers who followed Christ, but were not really committed to Him in any way.

From within this large group in John 6, a smaller group of people emerges who clearly express faith in Christ as the Messiah (6:67-68; cf. Matt 16:13-20). The term "disciples" is used most frequently (in the Gospels) to speak of the smaller group of twelve chosen by Christ (Matt 10:1; Luke 6:13). However, believers called "disciples" are elsewhere numbered at seventy (in addition to the Twelve; Luke 10:1, 17, 23) indicating that all true believers were considered disciples in that they had learned of Christ and continued to do so.

Later in His ministry, Jesus taught conditions which would further define and develop the meaning of disciple (e.g., Matt 16:24-27/Mark 8:34-38/Luke 9:23-26; Luke 14:26-33). It will be shown later in a discussion of these conditions that they were given primarily to those who were already considered disciples in the various ways described above. 19   The conditions he taught seem to denote a deeper, more intimate relationship between learner and teacher. The nature of the conditions show that the one who is to be a disciple of Christ in the fullest sense must be one who is fully identified with Christ, fully committed to Him, and fully submitted to Him. 20  

This survey of the Gospels shows that a follower of Christ can be committed to Him in various degrees and yet be designated a disciple. Calenburg cites two good examples of the flexibility of the term. First, he cites the example of Joseph of Arimathea, who was called "a disciple of Jesus, but secretly" (John 19:38) and concludes:

It was possible to manifest faith in the Messiahship of Christ and be considered a part of a group of "disciples" and yet not meet the stringent demands of discipleship laid down by Christ (Luke 19:37; John 19:38).

Calenburg also cites as an example that group called "disciples" in John 6:60-66, which definitely included unbelievers. 21   While Gentry makes no mention of this passage, MacArthur does say in a footnote,

It is apparent that not every disciple is necessarily a true Christian (cf. John 6:66). The term disciple is sometimes used in Scripture in a general sense, to describe those who, like Judas, outwardly followed Christ. 22  

However, such an admission is never harmonized with Lordship Salvation's requirements for costly discipleship-salvation, thus it seems a cautious acknowledgment that the meaning of maqhths indeed depends on the context. 23   It can be concluded from a study of the Gospels that overall biblical usage shows the flexibility of the term "disciple."

At this point, it can be admitted that in Acts disciples are assumed Christians and vice versa. 24   It is one of several terms used to refer to Christians and is thus used more technically than in the Gospels. But this use of maqhths should be considered in light of the commission at the end of Christ's ministry in which He commanded His disciples to "make disciples (maqhteuw) of all the nations" (Matt 28:19), for the book of Acts records their obedience to this command. Before discussing the use of maqhths in Acts, a discussion of Matt 28:19 is necessary.

Matthew's commission is used by Lordship Salvation teachers to equate discipleship with salvation. Gentry insists that Matt 28:19 is simply a "fuller account" of the commission in Mark 16:15 ("Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature"): "The preaching of the gospel summarized in Mark is the making of disciples in Matthew.” 25  

Gentry's conclusion has major ramifications for salvation and must be evaluated. It does not appear that the aorist imperative maqhteusate translated "make disciples" should be so quickly equated with Mark's khroxate to euaggelion. As Lenski comments,

The heart of the commission is in the one word maqhte_sate. This imperative, of course, means, "to turn into disciples," and its aorist form conveys the thought that this is actually to be done. The verb itself does not indicate how disciples are to be made, it designates only an activity that will result in disciples. It connotes results not methods and ways (emphasis his). 26  

The circumstances and means by which disciples are made is indicated by three participles: poreuqentes, baptizontes, and didaskontes. Set off from the other participles, the aorist participle of poreuomai can be understood either as "having gone" or "as you go" denoting a presupposed or simultaneous activity. 27   It denotes the "going" activity of those who preach the gospel and parallels Mark's expanded expression poreuqenteskhr?xate to euagelion, "As you go… preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15), which is the preliminary step to disciple making. 28   The first step in making disciples is going out to preach the gospel in order to get them saved. While Mark's commission stops with gospel proclamation, Matthew records Christ's words which have in view more than making converts. Hendriksen agrees: "'make disciples' …is not exactly the same as 'make converts,' though the latter is surely implied.” 29   Sheridan explains the emphasis on discipleship in Matthew from the gospel's purpose:

For Matthew, the comprehensive charge to his followers by Jesus is "to make disciples of all nations." Teaching others to observe what Jesus had taught them is the way to achieve this. In a sense, Matthew's gospel is a manual for discipleship, and we may expect to find in the lengthy discourses to the disciples not just instruction for the twelve limited to their historical mission but essentially what they are to pass on in their efforts to make disciples. 30  

The two participles translated "baptizing" and "teaching," though having some imperatival significance, primarily denote the "how" of maqhteusate. 31   After evangelization, baptism is the first step of obedient discipleship and demonstrates one's salvation. Next, teaching obedience to the commands of Christ comprises the means by which Christians develop as disciples. If Matt 28:19 only expresses the same meaning as Mark 16:15, then it must be concluded that baptism and being taught to obey are required for salvation. Since such a conclusion mixes works into the requirement for salvation, Gentry's understanding of Matt 28:19 cannot be correct (cf. Eph 2:8-9).

In light of the commission in Matt 28:19-20, it is natural that Christians should be called disciples in Acts. Acts is a history of the carrying out of Christ's commission. Since Christ spoke optimally and not minimally when he spoke of making disciples, Acts assumes that converts will also be disciples. Indeed, this is evidenced throughout the book as all believers are baptized and continue in the Apostles' teaching with but rare exceptions. 32   The general historical description of the early believers was that of a new community following the Christian Way with diligence and in one accord (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 5:12-16; 9:31). These characteristics are the marks of a true disciple. 33   Noting this, Calenberg also observes that the stringent conditions of discipleship preached by Christ were not preached by the disciples and thus concludes,

The sermons of Acts seemed to reaffirm the distinction between conversion by faith in Christ and committed discipleship. The general use of the term "disciple" for all believers and the practice of many new converts implied [that] committed discipleship to Christ was the common and expected response to His will as taught by the Apostles. 34  

That the first Christians were committed as disciples is no surprise in light of the hostile Jewish cultural context. For a Jew to become a Christian was ipso facto to bear the cross of Christ's suffering through certain persecution or isolation.

This understanding harmonizes with the absence of the word maqhths in the Epistles. There mimhths ("imitator") 35   appears to replace maqhths as the word that is closest conceptually to disciple. 36   Calenberg's conclusion relates the significance of this to discipleship:

A study of the Epistles revealed that "following Christ" was communicated in the terms and practice of imitating Christ. This imitation was seen to be developmental in nature and involved conscious reproduction of the behavior and attitudes of a worthy person. The factors involved in such imitation were similar to the conditions of discipleship, namely, observation, attachment, motivation, submission to authority and obedience. The result of such imitation of Christ was observed to be the very goal of discipleship—Christlikeness. 37  

Thus, in the New Testament, maqhths appears to begin as a general term in the Gospels denoting various degrees of commitment to Jesus Christ. In Acts it becomes more focused on those who were Christians in general because as a whole they followed in the Apostles' doctrine and thus followed Christ. What it means to follow Christ is examined next.

The Meaning of "Follow"

The verb akolouqew is translated "follow" and occurs over sixty times in the Gospels in reference to following Christ. 38   When used of individuals, it denotes the beginning of discipleship in the sense of a pupil who subordinates himself to a teacher. 39   A parallel thought is expressed by the phrase "come after" (opisw elqei) in relation to Christ. 40   Both expressions signify discipleship, and like the word maqhths in and of themselves they do not distinguish between salvation and something more.

It is clear that the Gospels speak of following Christ in a general sense much the same as was true of maqhths. Large crowds followed Him, 41   but there were also the individuals called to a more intimate relationship of discipleship. 42  

Still, Lordship proponents understand the command or invitation of Christ to "follow Me" as an invitation to salvation. In doing so their argument is not so much lexical as it is from usage. For example, Boice argues from several incidents where Christ said "follow Me" and concludes,

…the command to follow Jesus was not understood by Him to be only a mere physical following or even an invitation to learn more about Him and then see if one wanted to be a permanent disciple or not. Jesus understood it as turning from sin to salvation. 43  

John 10:27-28 in particular will be discussed because it is used by both Boice and MacArthur to argue that "follow Me" signifies obedience which secures salvation. 44   Here Christ said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."

While it is agreed that Christ's use of "follow Me" seems to be in a salvation context, some observations must be made. First, these two uses are used descriptively of what the subjects are doing, not imperatively of what Jesus demands that they do for salvation.

Also, these uses are the first strictly metaphorical uses in the New Testament, both occurring within larger metaphors, which must influence their interpretation. John uses metaphors frequently, especially in relation to salvation, as Turner has well noted. 45   John here, as also in 8:12, uses "follow Me" in a metaphorical sense to picture faith in Christ as Savior. The picture, however, more accurately focuses on the natural response of faith which is obedience. Faith itself seems to be indicated by the sheeps' hearing of Christ's voice in John 10:27. But for sheep, the only assurance that they have heard and trust their shepherd's voice is in their following. Given the metaphor, it is hard to picture faith in any other way but in the following of the trusted voice. The metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep inherently lends itself to the activity of following:

…[the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so. A sheep's instinctive fear of strange voices lies of course in the background of this metaphor (see 10:4, 5), so that the decision to follow is after all an act of trust. 46  

The same could be said for John 8:12 where Jesus declares, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." Following the light represents the response of faith in the light. 47  

Thus "follow Me" in these metaphorical contexts is ultimately a metaphor for faith or trust in Christ. 48  

Both Boice and MacArthur have gone too far to claim that "follow Me" in John 10:27 pictures only Christian obedience. This ignores not only the metaphorical use, but also the context. In v 26 Jesus rebukes the Jews, saying, "You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep." The contrast of unbelief with belief is obvious. Also, in v 28 Jesus states that the result of following is "eternal life," the usual result of faith in John.

The Lordship argument that uses John 10:27-28 as proof that the term "follow" signifies an obedient lifestyle that secures salvation actually does little more than show how crucial the context is in understanding the significance of the term. That the term is not always used as a requirement for salvation is clear from John 21:22 where Jesus tells Peter, "You follow Me." Peter was certainly saved at the time, thus the invitation to follow Jesus was an invitation to a continuous post-salvation commitment.

Lordship Salvation's lexical argument and appeal to Scriptural usage are not enough to determine the meaning of the terms "disciple" or "follow Me." This must be determined from a study of its use in other Bible passages.

An Evaluation of Key Bible Passages

The Lordship interpretation of discipleship in relation to salvation summons its strongest argument from a number of passages in the Gospels. First, it appeals to the passages in which Jesus enumerates the conditions for discipleship. Second, it argues from some narrative accounts; chiefly the account of the rich young ruler, but also the accounts of the calling of the first disciples. Jesus' teaching in the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl is also cited by Lordship advocates.

Discipleship as Costly

The teachings of Jesus Christ make it plain that discipleship is costly. The matter to be determined is whether the passages which enumerate the price of discipleship speak of initial salvation or a post-salvation commitment to Jesus Christ. Most conditions of discipleship given by Christ are congregated contextually between His prediction of death and resurrection and His transfiguration (Matt 16:24-27/Mark 8:34-38/Luke 9:23-26). The focus of this section will be largely upon this pericope. Another condition occurs in Matt 10:37 and Luke 14:26 in contexts which repeat some of the conditions of the post-prediction pericope.

Matthew 16:24-27/Mark 8:34-38/Luke 9:23-26

Before the conditions themselves are studied, a consideration of the background will be valuable.  The occasion and audience will help determine the purposes of Jesus' hard sayings about discipleship.

The background

The Lordship interpretation of Jesus' teaching about discipleship assumes an evangelistic occasion. 49   Consideration of the context shows that the occasion of these sayings is significantly linked to the prediction of Christ's passion and resurrection and the rebuke of Peter. Matthew and Mark's account record Peter's rebuke of Christ and Christ's response: "Get thee behind Me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Matt 16:23/Mark 8:33).

Jesus' rebuke is understandable after He predicted His suffering and death. He was demonstrating to the disciples that He "must" (de_) suffer and be killed as part of God's will for the Son of Man (Matt 16:21/Mark 8:31/Luke 9:22). There was, for Christ, a price to be paid in following God's will to completion and His own glorification. Peter's rebuke of Christ essentially denies that God's will requires such a price. Jesus' subsequent rebuke categorizes this perspective as satanic.

The conditions of discipleship then follow contextually 50   as the price which must be paid to follow the will of God to completion and share in Christ's glory. 51   In view of the Lord's imminent death and departure, 52   these conditions enumerate the way by which the will of God can be fully realized. The explanatory gar (Matt 16:27/Mark 8:38) introduces the reason for the conditions: Jesus will soon be glorified. 53  

The audience is also significant. Matthew indicates that Jesus addressed his sayings to none other than the twelve disciples (Matt 16:24). Mark says that Jesus "called the people (oclon) to Him, with His disciples also" (Mark 8:34). The "people" are not specifically identified, but in Mark's use of oclos, when there is enough evidence to determine their disposition, the crowd that follows Jesus is presented as more than curious. They are enthusiastic followers, are teachable, exhibit faith in their midst, and sometimes seem totally sympathetic to Christ as if they were believers. 54   Lane comments on Mark 8:34:

By calling the crowd Jesus indicates that the conditions for following him are relevant for all believers, and not for the disciples alone¼The common address of these sober words to the crowd and the disciples recognizes that there is no essential difference between them when confronted with the sufferings of Christ; both alike have very human thoughts uninformed by the will of God (8:33), and it was imperative for them to know what it means to follow Jesus. 55  

Luke records that Jesus spoke "to them all" (Luke 9:23), the nearest antecedent of which is the Twelve (Luke 9:18), 56   but possibly He spoke to the Twelve and the multitudes. 57   In Luke 12:1 Jesus is described as teaching His disciples "first" (prwton) in the presence of an "innumerable multitude" (ton m?riadwn tou oclou). It therefore seems reasonable to assume that in the Synoptics, when Jesus spoke to the multitudes (who to various degrees were followers), He was first teaching His twelve disciples.

If Jesus addressed primarily his twelve disciples, who were definitely saved (except Judas), 58   and the crowds who were at least sympathetic or at the most contained many followers whose exact commitment to Christ is left undefined, then it is reasonable to assume these sayings should apply primarily to the issues of a deeper relationship with Him and not salvation. It would be pointless for the Synoptic authors (especially Matthew) to focus on the disciples if these were conditions of salvation. 59   One would expect such conditions to be announced when the disciples first met Jesus. A brief examination of each of these conditions will demonstrate whether they apply more appropriately to the Christian life or to salvation.

The conditions

The conditions can and should be best interpreted in light of the preceding prediction of Jesus' suffering and death. The revelation of His passion provided a meaningful setting and illustration for these sayings about the cost of discipleship. As will be seen, many times there is agreement with the basic Lordship Salvation interpretation of the condition itself. The focus of the discussion will be on whether these are conditions for salvation or a deeper commitment of discipleship.

Also, it should be noted that the requirements are for anyone who desires to "come after" Christ. As noted earlier, "come after" (opisw elqein) denotes discipleship. 60   It clearly describes a process not an event; a committed life of following after Jesus rather than coming to Him for salvation. 61   The conditions for those who would "come after" Christ will be considered individually, then collectively.

"Deny himself". This is best interpreted by what the disciples have just heard about Christ's fate. Jesus will deny Himself His own desires and submit to the desire of God for Him—suffering and death. To deny oneself is interpreted contextually as being mindful of the things of God, not the things of man (Matt 16:23/Mark 8:33). In Stott's understanding, "he must repudiate himself and his right to organize his own life.” 62   Gentry explains the significance in relation to salvation: "A person who truly receives Christ as Savior is in effect denying himself and his wants as nothing and Christ as everything.” 63  

While Stott and Gentry understand the essence of the saying, their application of this condition to salvation does not coincide with the real issue in salvation, which is the forgiveness of sin and justification of the sinner. But in harmony with the context, Jesus is not addressing these issues here. He speaks of denying oneself that which would obstruct the fulfillment of God's will in the course of following Him. Apart from passages that deal explicitly with discipleship, and in the passages that deal explicitly with salvation, there is no mention of self-denial, one's "right to organize his own life," or one's "denying himself his wants" as a requirement for salvation. These are necessary for an obedient lifestyle, not the justification which is through faith alone (Rom 4).

"Take up his cross". Stott argues that to take up the cross is to make oneself as a condemned man, apparently in the sense of living for Christ instead of self. 64   Boice sees cross-bearing as "saying yes to something for Jesus' sake." Specifically, Boice declares that cross-bearing involves prayer, Bible study, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, receiving strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, and witnessing. 65   In light of the context, it appears that Jesus is expecting the disciples to suffer hardships in order to do God's will just as He does by submitting to the cross. For He and the disciples, it meant they were as men condemned to die who carry their cross-beams to the place of execution in submission to a higher authority: "His followers must be prepared to die.” 66   If this is applied to unbelievers, then the gospel message is an invitation to be willing to die for Jesus.

Stott's interpretation and Gentry's practical considerations may be correct, but that they refer to a condition of salvation for unbelievers is untenable, for then it would seem that salvation is by suffering, a willingness to die for Christ, or works. Boice's particulars demonstrate the works orientation of such a view. This confuses and contradicts the Scriptures which speak of Jesus Christ who suffered and died so that sinners could be saved. 67   The sinner's suffering has no merit toward justification. The unbeliever has no cross in the sense of self-mortification (contra Stott), for he is already dead in sins (Eph. 2:1-2); nor do unbelievers, by definition, have a cross in the sense of Christian duties (contra Boice). The chief will of God for unbelievers is obedience to the command to repent and believe in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 3:23).

Furthermore, Luke adds the qualifier "daily." This could not refer to salvation because it refers to something that is daily renewable. Stott is right when he declares, "Every day the Christian is to die. Every day he renounces the sovereignty of his own will. Every day he renews his unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ.” 68   But Stott speaks here of "the Christian.” 69   If this characterizes saving faith and is made a condition for salvation, as Lordship proponents insist, one must decide to place faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord through surrender everyday without fail. Such an expectation is not found elsewhere in the Bible and makes both salvation and assurance impossible.

"Follow Me". As discussed earlier, this phrase speaks of discipleship and denotes the pupil/master relationship. Here Jesus invests the term with the significance of following Him by obeying God's will, that is, by self denial and taking up the cross, as Stott agrees. 70   Because following another person is a process, a progression, and requires a lapse of time, 71   this condition cannot speak of entrance into salvation. This would make salvation secured by the imitation of Christ or by adherence to His example, which would be a works salvation. It is best taken as a term that describes a continuously committed lifestyle.

"Loses his life." An explanatory statement (gar) follows the three conditions. Jesus says, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:24; cf. Matt 16:25/Mark 8:35; and Matt 10:39). To lose one's life explains in summary form what it means to deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow Jesus Christ after God's will. The background of Jesus losing His life physically on the cross and thus metaphorically to the will of God has been observed in the previous context (Matt 16:21/Mark 8:31/Luke 9:22). So must those who are to be disciples also lose their lives to the will of God. This will involve the three conditions just mentioned: denial of one's own desires, suffering in obedience, and continuous following of Christ in the will of God.

The denial of one's own desires in order to obey the will of God is amplified by the following rhetorical question with explanatory force (gar): "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt 16:26; cf. Mark 8:36/Luke 9:25). If a man were to not deny himself and not pursue the will of God, but pursue his own selfish and worldly desires, he would lose his soul, or his life.

Here some will point to the phrase "save his life" (thn. . . y?chn autou swsai), the phrase "loses his own soul" (thn . . . y?chn autou zhmiwqh), and the consequence "destroyed or lost" (apolesas h zhmiwqeis, in Luke) in order to invest the passage with soteriological significance. 72   However, the verb "save" (swzw) is not automatically soteriological in meaning. It is probably used here in the general sense of "rescue, preserve from danger,” 73   i.e., saved from a life of self-denial and cross-bearing, 74   for this thought explains (gar) the impact of the previous conditions.

Likewise, "life" (y?ch) does not automatically refer to the eternal soul only. The parallel in Luke 9:25 replaces Matthew and Mark's y?ch with eauton, "himself." The noun y?ch is frequently used in Scripture in the sense of the essential life of man. Contra to other Lordship proponents, Stott recognizes this meaning. Speaking of the word y?ch, he correctly observes,

The word for "life" here means neither our physical existence, nor our soul, but our self. The y?ch is the ego, the human personality which thinks, feels, plans and chooses… the man who commits himself to Christ, therefore, loses himself, not by the absorption of his personality in Christ's personality but by the submission of his will to Christ's will. 75  

Furthermore, unless the context is clearly proved to be soteriological, the verbs apollumi and zhmiow should retain their respective general meanings of "ruin, destroy, lose” 76   and "suffer damage or loss, forfeit, sustain injury.” 77   When Jesus says "whoever loses his life for My sake" the sense is certainly not eternal destruction, for he says this one will then "find it," which is something good. Conversely, it fits well that what one may lose when he tries to save his life (preserve himself from the hardships of self-denial and cross-bearing) is life in the essential qualitative sense, not the eternal soul.

The paradox Jesus used has great meaning. What He appears to be saying is essentially this: "Whoever desires to preserve himself from the hardships of God's will of self-denial and cross-bearing will really only forfeit the essential quality of the life he is trying to preserve. On the other hand, whoever forfeits himself to God's will of self-denial and hardships will discover a greater essential quality of the life he intended to forfeit." This interpretation would therefore not describe initial salvation, but a higher quality of experience with God in this life, with implications for the eschatological life, as the next section will show.

"Whoever is ashamed of Me.” Mark and Luke state a negative condition that if anyone is ashamed of Christ and His words, Christ will also be ashamed of that person at His coming (Mark 8:38/Luke 9:26). Matt 16:27 does not mention shame, but can be correlated with Matt 10:32-33 78   where the condition is stated in terms of confessing and denying Christ, 79   and is claimed to be a condition of salvation. 80  

The idea of being ashamed of Christ or denying Christ is clarified in some contexts more than others. In Luke the saying follows a warning about one who positions himself with the world for the sake of gain (Luke 9:25). The following v 26 is explanatory (gar) of the eschatological consequences which face those who desire the world. The same could be said of Mark 8:38, with the exception that Jesus adds the helpful phrase "in this adulterous and sinful generation." The shame therefore seems to imply a denial of one's identification with Christ in the face of the pressure to live for and identify with the world. The gar appears to connect v 38 with v 35 expanding the idea of one's relation to this world and its consequences. Perhaps the greatest clarification comes from the parallel thought of Matt 10:32-33 where the context is developed more fully. There Jesus is giving the Twelve instructions before sending them out to preach the gospel (Matt 10:5ff.). He warns of rejection and persecution (Matt 10:16-25) and encourages them not to fear (Matt 10:26-31). Verses 32-33 are also followed by similar warnings about rejection (Matt 10:34-36). In vvs 32-33 Jesus is both encouraging and warning in the face of the fear of persecution. He wants the disciples to know that anyone who identifies with Christ will be rewarded, while anyone who shrinks from this will be denied by Christ before the Father. Matthew's context seems a close parallel to that which is signified by Mark's phrase "in this adulterous and sinful generation" (Mark 8:38).

The consequence facing someone who is ashamed of or denies Christ is more enigmatic. Do Christ's reciprocal shame and denial of that person at His coming denote a denial of salvation? In correlating Matt 10:32-33 with 16:27, it is clear that the issue is some kind of recompense for one's works. Matthew takes care to state that at His coming, Christ "will reward (apodwsei) each according to his works" (16:27). That Jesus makes works the basis of the recompense implies salvation is not the issue (Eph. 2:8-9). Also, the verb apodidwmi carries the idea of "recompense" with no inherent sense of whether it is good or bad, so it could speak of positive reward or negative judgment 81   In Mark and Luke a negative recompense is suggested: It is the shame Christ will have for those who were too ashamed to identify with Christ. The effect of Christ's shame is not specified, but one could surmise that for a redeemed and now fully enlightened believer, this would at least produce regret. In the parallel passage Matt 10:32-33, the idea of recompense is good (v. 32) or bad (v. 33) accordingly. 82   Christ's confession (or lack of it) in heaven would not relate to final judgment, but to an acknowledgment (or lack of it) before the Father of the disciples' unity or fellowship with Christ 83   which is recompensed in an unspecified but appropriate way.

Collectively, all the conditions studied thus far in this section are summarized by Lordship advocates as demands for submission to Christ as Lord for salvation. Stott summarizes them under the concept of following Christ:

Thus, in order to follow Christ, we have to deny ourselves, to crucify ourselves, to lose ourselves. The full inexorable demand of Jesus Christ is now laid bare. He does not call us to a sloppy half-heartedness, but to a vigorous, absolute commitment. He invites us to make Him our Lord. 84  

Likewise, MacArthur concludes,

Faith is not an experiment, but a lifelong commitment. It means taking up the cross daily, giving all for Christ each day with no reservations, no uncertainty, no hesitation. It means nothing is knowingly held back, nothing purposely shielded from His lordship, nothing stubbornly kept from His control. 85  

Plainly, the conditions understood by Lordship advocates are absolute, all or nothing. 86   In essence, there is little disagreement with the interpretations of the demands themselves, only with the application of them to salvation instead of the Christian life.

Lordship Salvation teachers object to the characterization of their position as works oriented. Some define the conditions as only attitudinal changes, as indicated by Gentry:

This is not to say that in order to be a Christian one has to perform certain prerequisite, meritorious works. It simply asserts that to follow Christ for eternal life meant having a real attitude of self-denial in looking in trust and hope from self to Christ as Lord. 87  

Likewise, MacArthur says, "[Christ] wants disciples willing to forsake everything. This calls for total self-denial—to the point of willingly dying for His sake" (emphasis his). 88   Thus, they hold that Jesus was teaching that to be saved, one must only be willing to do these things. But this does not seem to be a supportable conclusion, nor does it evade the charge of salvation by merit for the following reasons: 1) Jesus did not say that one must only be willing; 2) It is poor theology to demand from unbelieving sinners a decision that assumes an understanding of the full significance of Christ's sacrifice, especially at this point in the Gospel narratives before His death (Would Jesus ask a sinner to be willing to die for Him?); 3) This would practically preclude anyone from being saved unless he understood the meanings of these phrases—meanings which can best be appreciated in light of salvation, not in prospect of it; 4) If one must be willing to do these things for salvation, then salvation is just as conditional and meritorious as if they were actual works, which negates the concept of grace (Rom 4:4); 5) The subjectivity of willingness makes salvation elusive, as Zuck notes,

Willingness to do something is not the same thing as actually doing it, and it does not answer the question, "How much commitment is necessary?" If lordship proponents do not mean a person must surrender everything to be saved, then why do they say all must be surrendered? 89  

Jesus' teaching on discipleship took place well into His ministry and was addressed primarily to His disciples as a further revelation of the kind of commitment He desired of His saved followers. He explained these conditions against the background of His own commitment that would lead to His death in order to invest them with the fullest significance.

Matthew 10:37/Luke 14:26

In another setting, Matthew and Luke add another condition to those already considered. In Matthew's account, Jesus says the one who "loves" (from filw) family more than Him are "not worthy" of Him. In Luke, Jesus says no one can be His disciple who does not "hate" (from misw) his family and his own life. This condition is troublesome for many whether it speaks of salvation or a deeper commitment.

Jesus was probably using a Semitic figure of speech as Beare asserts,

This is the more Semitic manner of speaking—Luke's words are the literal translation of an Aramaic original; but the verb "hate" does not carry its full sense. It means no more than "love less", and Matthew has turned this into the positive—not that they must love the immediate family less than Jesus, but they must love Him more. Loyalty to the Master must override even the closest family ties. 90  

The meaning is that Jesus must be the object of one's supreme love and devotion if one is to be His disciple. In Matthew, the saying is in the context of a warning about those who would reject the disciples' message about Christ. 91   Jesus indicates that because of the Gospel message family members will be divided over Christ (10:34-35) making a person's enemies those of his own household (10:36). In such a situation, a person who is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah will have his ongoing loyalty tested by those in the family who disagree. This would present a great temptation to choose family ties and harmony over one's identity with Christ.

Therefore, MacArthur rightly interprets the meaning of the idiom itself, "We must be unquestionably loyal to Him.” 92   However, this interpretation does not harmonize with salvation, for one learns love and loyalty on the basis of what Jesus has done in redemption and forgiveness. Salvation is brought to men by God apart from their love and loyalty to God (Rom 5:6-8; 1 John 4:10). Even thus softened (as a Semitic figure of speech), such a devoted love for God over blood relationships is an extraordinary demand for sinners who have had no experience of Christ's redeeming love. Just as family love grows stronger with time and sharing, so also must one's love for Christ.

Furthermore, it does not seem to speak of salvation because Matthew records that any loyalty before Christ makes or shows one to be "not worthy" (ouk . . . axios) of Christ (Matt 10:37). The statement about "unworthiness" seems to imply the converse, that one can be "worthy" of Christ. The unsaved are unworthy of Christ and His salvation because they are sinners, not because of one particular sin (i.e., loyalty to family before Christ). Conversely, no amount of loyalty to God or any other form of good deed makes a sinner worthy of Christ's righteousness. It is hard to see how Lordship advocates can avoid the suggestion of salvation by merit. Boice does not try to reconcile his interpretation with righteousness by grace through faith alone, but says, "When [Jesus] said, 'Anyone who fails to do so-and-so is not worthy of Me,' He probably meant precisely what He says in Luke 14:26, namely, 'He cannot be my disciple,' which means, 'He cannot be saved.'” 93   Salvation is never a reward for one's worthiness, for all men are unworthy of God's righteousness. One can only be worthy for rewards.

Like the previous demands, this demand cannot speak of salvation. It is truth which brings believers into deeper commitment to Jesus as Lord through their loyalty.

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus gave this invitation after the nation rejected Him and His message which was preached in the gospel by the twelve apostles (Matt 10:5ff.; 11:20ff.):

Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

To Lordship Salvation teachers, this is exclusively an invitation to discipleship-salvation. Both Stott and MacArthur claim that this is Christ's summary gospel presentation. 94   Both focus on the metaphor of the "yoke," which they claim signifies servitude and submission, and the imperative "learn" (maqhth) which indicates discipleship. 95  

There is disagreement over what the "labor and heavy laden" refers to. Boice sees this as "a sense of sin's burden and the need of a Savior.” 96   Stott, however, claims it is easily understood as the yoke of the Law of Moses, 97   while MacArthur finds both ideas. 98   It is probably best to agree with Carson and Maher that what is burdensome is submission to the Pharisaical interpretations of the law, not the law itself or a sense of sin from it. 99  

The significance of the yoke Christ offers is important to the Lordship interpretation. MacArthur teaches that the yoke denotes submission, discipleship, and obedience which are necessary for salvation:

The call to surrender to the lordship of Jesus is part and parcel of His invitation to salvation. Those unwilling to take on His yoke cannot enter into the saving rest He offers...It is a yoke that also implies obedience. Thus Jesus' own invitation to sinners to "take My yoke upon you" argues against the notion that one can take Jesus as Savior but not Lord. He does not bid people come to Him if they are unwilling to receive His yoke and be in submission to Him. True salvation occurs when a sinner in desperation turns from his sin to Christ with a willingness to have Him take control. 100  

Likewise, Boice defines the yoke as submission, work, and companionship (with others in Christ's school) and also makes this necessary for salvation:

If a person has taken Christ's yoke, which he does when he believes on Christ (there is no separating the two), he will work for Christ. Conversely, if he does not work for Christ, he clearly has not taken on Christ's yoke and has not believed on Him or come to know Him savingly. 101  

It is difficult to see how laboring under a yoke of servitude can evade the concept of works salvation. MacArthur and Boice appear sensitive to this and in their discussions affirm that they are not teaching salvation by works. 102   Stott merely dismisses the charge with this unclear statement:

Thus, taking upon us His yoke and His cross are involved in receiving His rest. The former do not of course merit the latter as a reward. God forbid! But the one is impossible without the other (emphasis his). 103  

Still, all believe that assumption of the yoke of obedience, work, and submission is a necessary correlative of faith and therefore a necessary condition of salvation: "there is no separating the two.” 104  

Jesus' promise of an "easy" load and a "light" burden does not seem to harmonize with the Lordship teaching of strenuous discipleship-salvation. MacArthur sees the easiness as a comparison to the oppressive demands of the Pharisees and Scribes. 105   Boice contrasts the easy yoke with "living a life of sin.” 106   Either way, Jesus' words do not reconcile with Lordship demands for costly grace and its stringent requirements for discipleship-salvation.

The passage must be considered in light of its context. Jesus speaks these words after recognizing rejection from the various cities of Israel (Matt 11:20-24). Yet He acknowledges the Father's design that some in the nation would understand the Father's revelation in Christ (11:25-27). The invitation to the nation and individuals in the nation follows (11:28-30). This precedes the episode of the Sabbath controversy and the blatant rejection of Christ by the nation in chapter 12.

The nation under the Pharisees forms a background for Jesus' saying. The Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28). Moses gave the law, so those who submitted themselves to Moses also submitted themselves to the law. The Pharisees had their own disciples in a specific sense (Mark 2:18), but the nation as a whole, being under the law and the Pharisees' interpretations of the law, were also disciples of the Pharisees (and Moses) in a general sense. Jesus is calling to Himself those under the oppressive legalism of the Pharisees (cf. Matt 23:4). He is showing them a way to find "rest," and offering them a different discipleship which is His own. 107  

It seems salvation does appear in Matt 11:28-30, but it can be distinguished from discipleship. In v 28, "come" is Jesus' familiar invitation to salvation, 108   and "rest" refers to the inner peace that accompanies the assurance of salvation unavailable under the Pharisaical system of righteousness. 109   Then the invitation of v 29 is to follow Christ in a deeper master/pupil relationship. The imperative form of airw used here is also used in the condition for discipleship "take up his cross" (Matt 16:24/Mark 8:34/ Luke 9:23). Furthermore, "yoke" was a common Jewish metaphor for discipline or obligation< 110   and thus refers to submission to His teaching and authority as opposed to that of the Pharisees. 111   In addition, to "learn" (from manqanw) from Christ is a clear term for discipleship activity 112   explaining here how one submits to Christ's yoke. 113   But salvation and discipleship can be distinguished: "Come" is separated from "take . . . and learn" in the text in a logical progression (one must come to Christ before one can take something from Him) which shows the sequence of salvation before the submission to discipleship.

The contrast in Matt 11:28-30 is with the laborious yoke of legalism which the Scribes and Pharisees imposed upon the people. Their legalistic system neither provided the rest of righteousness nor the enablement to live an obedient and righteous life. Christ provides both the righteousness of justification and the example and enablement to live righteously. 114   Thus this passage is both an invitation to faith in Christ for salvation and to submission to Christ for discipleship as a desired response to salvation. Like the other passages considered in this section, this passage reserves the idea of "cost" for a deeper commitment of discipleship, not salvation.

Discipleship in Gospel Narratives

A couple of narrative accounts in the Gospels are used to support the Lordship claim that discipleship as submission is required for salvation. A major passage used by many Lordship proponents is the account of the rich young ruler. Sometimes the account of the calling of the first disciples is also used. The narratives about Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are sometimes used to argue that a discipleship commitment is required for salvation, but these were discussed in chapter three.

The rich young ruler, Matthew 19:16-21/
Mark 10:17-22/Luke 18:18-23

This story overlaps the previous discussions of faith, repentance, and Lordship, and is so used to support these respective Lordship arguments. However, the story is most often connected with Christ's demands for discipleship, thus discussion has been reserved for this chapter.

Many Lordship advocates point to the rich young ruler account to support Lordship Salvation. 115   Usually, the emphasis lies on the price demanded for salvation, a price the ruler was unwilling to pay.

If we could condense the truth of this entire passage into a single statement, it would be Luke 14:33: "So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions"...

...since he was unwilling to forsake all, he could not be a disciple of Christ. Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything. 116  

Lordship writers often emphasize from the story other issues such as submission to Christ's lordship 117   or repentance from specific sins. 118  

The encounter with the rich young ruler occurred near the end of Jesus' ministry as He entered Judea for the last time. The ruler addresses Jesus as "Good Teacher" and follows with the question "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matt 19:16). 119  

The ruler's question indicates his belief that eternal life could be obtained or merited by doing some good deed. 120   He was also assuming that he was capable of doing something good enough to merit eternal life, which implies he believed he was intrinsically good enough. In addition, his question shows that though he attributed significant authority to Jesus as "Good Teacher," his conception of Him certainly fell short of the reality of who Christ was.

The Lordship understanding that the focus of the ruler's question concerned the acquisition of eternal life, or salvation, should not be challenged. To "inherit eternal life" (zwhn aiwnion klhronomhsw; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18) was a Jewish idiom denoting the possession of God's promises, specifically as fulfilled in the kingdom of God. This included eternal life and salvation. 121   Thus Matthew's account phrases the issue as expressed by the ruler, "that I may have eternal life" (19:16). Also in Matthew, Jesus restated the ruler's concern: "if you want to enter into life" (19:17). The other synoptists also record that Jesus later explained to the disciples that it is difficult for a rich man to "enter" the kingdom of God (19:23-24). Finally, the disciples framed the question as "Who then can be saved?" (19:25). Such language most clearly indicates a soteriological purpose to the ruler's question.

Next, it is important to understand what Jesus makes the central issue by His responses. First, He responds to the ruler's characterization of Himself as "good." Jesus declares that only God deserves the description of "good" in order to confront the ruler with two truths. The first truth is that Jesus Himself cannot be good in the absolute sense unless He is God. The ruler had a deficient view of who Jesus was. The second truth is that God is the standard of what is absolutely good. The ruler also had a defective view of himself, for he thought that in his natural state he could "do" something good enough to merit salvation. Essentially, Jesus is asking two questions: "Do you know Me?" and "Do you know yourself?” 122   The rich man did not answer, which indicates he did not understand the implications of the way he addressed Christ.

Jesus further amplifies the man's defective view of himself by raising the issue of keeping the commandments. Jesus lists the specific commandments (Matt 19:18-19) to show the ruler that in order to have eternal life in the kingdom one must be as good as the law demands. The ruler's affirmation that he has kept these shows not that he is lying, but that he lacks both a sense of God's perfect standard and the realization that he has failed to reach that standard, for surely he had at least been untruthful, disobedient to his parents, or lacking in love in the past.

Jesus does not deny the man's self-righteous claim to have kept the whole law. He proceeds without directly answering the man's question about what he must "do." The answer to that question is that one can "do" nothing, in the sense of a meritorious deed, to obtain eternal life except believe in what Christ has done. 123   But the ruler was not ready for the message of faith because he did not see his need.

While in agreement that the ruler needed to be shown his need of salvation, and needed to realize his sinfulness, interpretations of the passage diverge with Jesus' next pronouncement. To the man's claim that he had kept the commandments, Jesus demands that he sell everything and donate the proceeds to the poor. Jesus' intended meaning is the focus of much debate. The Lordship Salvation interpretation sees this as a test of obedience and a condition for salvation: "This is a test of obedience. Jesus was saying, 'Unless I am the number-one priority in your life, there's no salvation for you.'” 124   Often, the test is softened to mean that the ruler must only be willing to do this. 125   However, Jesus said nothing of only willingness. 126   If willingness was the issue, the ruler could just as easily have justified this in his favor, as he had the other commandments, and maintained his self-righteousness. His response of sorrow also indicates his belief in the literalness and strictness of Jesus' demand.

It is best to interpret Jesus' demand as a continuation of the discussion focused on the keeping of the law. Here Jesus is amplifying by application the fullest meaning of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 127   Put into such a personal application, the ruler finally sees his moral failure to measure up to the law. It is also apparent that his attitude is not conducive to trust in Christ for eternal life. He evidently is trusting in his elevated position in life and his riches. In Mark's account, there is good textual evidence for Jesus' assertion that it is hard "for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:24, KJV, NKJV). 128   Thus, the issue clarified by Jesus is the object of one's trust, 129   which in turn focuses on the attitude behind one's trust. To trust in riches is to have pride in self. To trust in Christ is to humbly admit one's need and receive His provision for that need.

Contextually, this fits smoothly with the preceding account of the children brought to Jesus in all three Synoptics. To "receive the kingdom of God as a little child" is to receive it by simple faith (trust) born of humility. 130   This theme is amplified further by Luke, who follows the rich young ruler account with the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector which also illustrates the necessity of a humble faith. 131   Thus the "one thing" lacking is the humble attitude expressed by faith in Christ.

Though Lordship advocates use this passage to teach a hard or costly salvation, it is soon apparent this does not adequately interpret the text. If salvation is said to be "hard" only for those who are rich (Matt 19:23), most people are excluded. Indeed, trust can be particularly difficult for the rich, as Lawrence writes,

Why is it so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? Simply because it is all but impossible for him to assume an attitude of trust and dependence in anyone but himself and/or his riches. If he has earned the money, his confidence in himself and his ability to take care of himself; it he has inherited it, his confidence is in his money which has always taken care of him. In either case, it is extremely difficult for him to stop trusting his wealth and become dependent on Christ. 132  

On the other hand, some hold that Jesus was teaching that salvation was hard for the rich and therefore more difficult for everyone else. 133   This is based on the Jewish perception that wealth indicated divine blessing not spiritual liability, 134   thus the disciples in astonishment ask, "Who then can be saved?" (19:25). Either way, Jesus is not teaching a "hard" salvation, but more accurately an impossible one, at least from the human perspective, for He says, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (19:26). Jesus was teaching that salvation is beyond all human endeavor for all people; only by God's miraculous grace is salvation possible at all. This grace is realized only through faith, thus the only possible difficulty for sinners is in the humility of faith for those with or without riches, not giving up of riches by any man.

Lordship advocates are correct that the invitation Jesus issues in the words "go, sell what you have and give to the poor" and "come, and follow Me" (19:21) is an invitation to discipleship, but it can be shown that this is not the same as an invitation to salvation. Jesus is raising the demands of discipleship in order to show the man his need for salvation. He does this by assuming, for the sake of argument, that the ruler has indeed kept the commandments as he professed. He is using the ruler's sense of need that prompted the question "What do I still lack?" (19:20) to reveal his real need of salvation. By inviting the ruler to make the sacrifice necessary for discipleship and thus receive rewards in heaven, 135   Jesus will force the man to examine his heart. The refusal of the man to make the sacrifice for discipleship reveals a heart that had never really loved his neighbor so as to merit even eternal life, were that possible. The unique words of Matt 19:21, "If you want to be perfect (teleios), 136   go, sell…", respond to the ruler's sense of need and imply that his obedience to the law was actually imperfect. 137   Thus Jesus demolished the man's false illusion of self-righteousness. He is not only showing the ruler his unrighteousness, but He is showing him that there are greater riches available to those who have first responded in faith to Christ's provision of righteousness. By inviting him to the greater commitment of discipleship, Jesus brought the man to see that his riches kept him not only from discipleship, but from keeping the law perfectly so that he could "merit" eternal life. For the first time in the exchange, the ruler sees his own moral failure and so retreats sorrowfully.

Jesus' answer to Peter's question about rewards for leaving all to follow Jesus (19:27) is also assumed by Boice to teach that eternal life is conditioned upon giving up everything to follow Jesus. 138   When Jesus answered Peter, He indicated there would be the reward of judging the twelve tribes in the messianic kingdom (19:28), 139   the reward of a hundred-fold return of family and real estate in this age (19:29), 140   and what seems to be a reward: "inherit eternal life" (19:29). 141   But Peter's question does not spring from the discussion of eternal life or salvation. 142   Rather, it reflects back to Jesus' promise of "treasure in heaven" for the ruler if he would sell all he owned and give the proceeds to the poor (19:21). 143   It was argued above that Jesus' promise referred to rewards for the sacrifice demanded of discipleship, not salvation. Here, Jesus promises rewards in the future age and in this age, yet to all is guaranteed the presupposed benefit of salvation. This makes Christ's use of the term "inherit everlasting life" consistent with the rich young ruler's usage (Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18). The possession of eternal life is assumed of all who will accrue rewards in the present life and in the age to come. 144   It is given to all regardless of the degree of sacrifice. 145  

Thus, the account of the rich young ruler does not teach that to be saved the ruler must meet the demands of discipleship, surrender to Christ's lordship in the area of covetousness and love for others, or repent of particular sins. The issue of riches was raised to show that the ruler had not fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law and that he was really trusting in the merit of his wealth and position. By using the demands of discipleship Jesus exposed the man's real heart attitude, which confronted him with his need of salvation in a pre-evangelistic purpose. The forsaking of one's possessions, or the willingness to do so is never made a condition of salvation in other evangelistic encounters in the New Testament. 146   One also wonders who in the Lordship position can truthfully claim the fulfillment of this stringent requirement.

The calling of the first disciples:
Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11

Another occasion used (though sparingly) to argue for discipleship-salvation is that of Christ's calls to the first disciples. Boice refers to Matt 4:18-22, which he parallels with Mark 1:14-20 and Luke 5:1-11. 147   Merritt focuses only on Luke 5:1-11, but infers a parallelism with the other two accounts. 148  

Boice uses these calls to argue that

...discipleship is not a supposed second step in Christianity, as if one first becomes a believer in Jesus and then, if he chooses, a disciple. From the beginning, discipleship is involved in what it means to be a Christian.

He finds that the command to follow Christ is the most basic explanation of what it means to be a disciple, and this command is found in the Synoptists' accounts of the calling of the early disciples. 149   Merritt begins with the thesis "the evangelistic call of Jesus was essentially a call to repentance and radical discipleship." He adds, "the call of Christ to discipleship is a multi-faceted call which demands a singular commitment of faith and obedience." Part of that obedience is shown from Luke 5:1-11 to be the evangelistic task. His inevitable conclusion from the passage follows his reasoning:

To be a disciple one must follow Jesus. But to follow Jesus, one will become a fisher of men. Therefore, "if you are not fishing, you are not following!" The call to discipleship is indeed a call to evangelism. 150  

There is no dispute that in these passages Jesus is calling men to a further commitment of discipleship. The command "Follow Me" and the promise that they will be "fishers of men" and "catch men" correctly denote the obedience and submission essential to the fuller meaning of discipleship. However, both Boice and Merritt assume that these passages are parallel accounts of the Lord's first encounter with Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, and John, and therefore apply to salvation.

There is much evidence that this was not Jesus' first encounter with the disciples. Foremost is the conflicting record of John 1:35-42 where Jesus first meets Andrew (who later finds Peter) and another disciple. 151   The setting in John is not Galilee (1:43) as with the Synoptic accounts (cf. Matt 4:12, 18, 23; Mark 1:14, 16, 21; Luke 4:44; 5:1), but beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing (1:28). Neither is there any indication of a seaside setting or mention of fishing for men. Also, Peter is found and brought to Jesus (1:41-42) rather than already present (Matt 4:29-30; Mark 1:16; Luke 5:3-4). Furthermore, the response of Andrew in John's account demonstrates faith in Christ: 1) He followed John the Baptist (1:35) and evidently believed John's witness to Christ (1:36-37); 2) He followed after Christ (1:37, 39-40); 3) He believed Jesus was the Messiah (1:41); and 4) This faith was confirmed at the Cana wedding (John 2:11). Thus the Synoptic accounts imply the facts of John's account 152   and indicate that the Synoptic calls were not to salvation. "John tells us of the conversion of these disciples, whereas Mark (as also Matthew and Luke) deals with their call to service…" (emphasis his). 153  

If, as it seems, John's account precedes chronologically that of the Synoptists', and saving faith was evidenced in John, then the synoptic accounts are indeed calls to a more intimate relationship with Christ, not salvation. Furthermore, Luke's account (Luke 5:1-11) is probably best separated from Matthew and Mark's so that Peter's act of repentance and submission to Christ's lordship is subsequent not only to his salvation, but also to his initial call to discipleship. In comparing Luke to Matthew and Mark, it should be noted that there are obvious similarities such as the seaside setting and the response to Christ's call. Lenski, however, notes the greater differences in his comment on Matthew's account:

This scene is entirely different from the one described in Luke 5:1, 2. No multitude is here pressing upon Jesus, he is alone. He is walking along not standing. The fishermen are in the boat, busy throwing out their casting net, and have not disembarked to wash their nets. Already these differences show that Matthew does not want to record the same incident as Luke. 154  

Plummer recognizes similarities, but also keeps Luke's account distinct from Matthew's and Mark's:

Against these similarities however, we have to set the differences, chief among which is the miraculous draught of fishes which Mt. and Mk. omit. Could Peter have failed to include this in his narrative? And would Mk. have omitted it, if the Petrine tradition had contained it? It is easier to believe that some of the disciples were called more than once, and that their abandonment of their original mode of life was gradual: so that Mk. and Mt. may relate one occasion and Lk. another. Even after the Resurrection Peter speaks quite naturally of "going a fishing" (Jn. xxi. 3), as if it was still at least an occasional pursuit." 155  

This evidence indicates that the discipleship relationship between Christ and those called His disciples grew more intimate in stages. 156   Jesus' lessons were progressive: "It was one thing to call the four apostles, it was quite another thing to demonstrate to them the power of the gospel they were to handle as fishers of men." 157  

There is no clear evidence that the calls of Christ to the first disciples in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, were calls to salvation. The call was, after all, to become fishers of men. There is no mention of eternal salvation.

Discipleship in the Parables

Though not done extensively, appeal is sometimes made to two parables of Christ to support and illustrate the Lordship understanding of discipleship-salvation. Here two key parables used to support the concept of a costly salvation will be discussed. The parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl in Matt 13:44-46 should be considered together since they are used to teach the same truth by the Lordship Salvation position and are also presented in the closest proximity by the Lord Jesus Christ.

MacArthur combines his discussion of these parables in one chapter and his point is the same for both:

Both parables make the point that a sinner who understands the priceless riches of the kingdom will gladly yield everything else he cherishes in order to obtain it. The corresponding truth is also clear by implication: those who cling to their earthly treasures forfeit the far greater wealth of the kingdom. 158  

This augments his belief that salvation is costly to the unbeliever:

Wise investors will not usually put all their money into a single investment. But that is exactly what both of the men in these parables did. The first man sold everything and bought one field, and the second man sold everything and bought one pearl. But they had counted the cost, and they knew that what they bought was worthy of the ultimate investment. Again, that is a perfect picture of saving faith. Someone who truly believes in Christ does not hedge bets. Knowing the cost of discipleship, the true believer signs up and gives everything for Christ. 159  

MacArthur's interpretation assumes that these two parables concern "the incomparable worth of the kingdom of heaven and the sacrificial commitment required of everyone who would enter." 160   However, problems with this view begin with a consideration of the argument and context of chapter 13.  This chapter contains the parabolic teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ after His rejection by the nation of Israel in chapters 11 and 12. 161   The stated purpose for the use of all these parables is to hide truth from unbelievers and reveal truth to believers (13:11-17). The subject of the parables themselves is "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (12:11). 162   The recurring formula "The kingdom of heaven is like" (@omoia estin; vv. 31, 33, 44, 45, 47) indicates the kingdom is being described in its characteristics by the main point of the whole parable. 163  

If one interprets the two parables as illustrations of the value of the kingdom and the cost required, then the explanation of Jesus in 13:11-17 is disregarded in two respects. First, Jesus indicated the parables were intended for those who had believed, not those who remain in unbelief. According to MacArthur, Jesus would be teaching the requirement for salvation to those who were already saved instead of the unsaved who needed to hear it. Second, by calling these parables the "mysteries" of the kingdom, Jesus indicated He was revealing truth hidden up to that point. Assuming MacArthur's interpretation, Jesus had already taught that salvation was costly (as MacArthur claims He had), 164   thus there was nothing "mysterious" about these two parables. MacArthur suggests Christ is only illustrating His previous teaching, 165   but Jesus clearly indicates this is new revelation.

In spite of MacArthur's criticism of the view that the treasure in the first parable is Israel and the pearl in the second is the church, there is much to commend it. He opposes comparing the field in v 44 with the field in v 38 (both agros), which is said to be the world. He appeals to the parable of the soils where he says, "the field…represents a cultivated heart," but the word for "soil" or "ground" in that parable is ghn not agros. It would be more reasonable to interpret agros in v 44 by the nearest use of agros (v. 38) rather that a different word used elsewhere.

Furthermore, MacArthur never explains why the treasure is hidden again, but this translates well into the view that Israel has been set aside for a time in the interregnum by dispersement among the nations of the world (Rom 9-11). Thus, as Toussaint declares, "The mystery revealed in this parable is the putting aside of Israel's kingdom program for a time." 166   Assuming MacArthur's interpretation, it would make no sense to hide the good news of salvation, the gospel, Christ, or the kingdom. In addition, Israel was indeed called God's "special treasure" in the Old Testament (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 14:2; Ps. 135:4) before Christ redeemed them with His blood.

In the parable of the pearl, there is evidence that the church is in view. The church is God's treasure from among the Gentiles (cf. Acts 15:14), as Pentecost observes,

...Christ reveals that God will get a treasure not only from among the nation Israel but from the Gentiles as well. This is inferred from the fact that a pearl comes out of the sea. Frequently in Scripture the sea represents Gentile nations. Once again we see that a treasure from among the Gentiles becomes God's by purchase. 167  

Unlike the treasure (Israel), the pearl (the church) was never hidden. Again, Toussaint relates the parable to the mysteries of the kingdom: "The mystery of the kingdom is the formation of a new body which also would inherit the kingdom (Eph 3:3-6)." 168  

The imagery of Christ searching or discovering the valuables in the parables is not at odds with His own pronouncement that He came to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Moreover, both Israel and the church were purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. 169   An unsaved person has nothing to sell which could purchase salvation. MacArthur points to Philippians 3:7-8, but giving up that which pertains to self-righteousness, as Paul did, is quite different from giving up (or being willing to give up) all earthly interests including physical possessions, which MacArthur includes in the cost of salvation. 170   Furthermore, in the case of the treasure, the world is purchased, and by inclusion, the treasure. This finds no parallel to salvation, for if salvation is the treasure, what is the world?. Therefore, these two parables cannot teach that salvation is costly, an interpretation that Pink, a Lordship proponent, calls "positively awful," "a travesty," and "a blasphemy." 171  

The biblical evidence does not appear to support the Lordship Salvation argument that the requirements of discipleship are also the requirements for salvation. A distinction between the two concepts best harmonizes the biblical passages considered above.

A Biblical Understanding of Discipleship

In view of the evidence presented thus far it is now necessary to attempt a biblically balanced understanding of discipleship in relation to salvation.

Discipleship as Distinguished from Salvation

The biblical presentation of salvation and discipleship contains areas of congruence as well as divergence. In the most general sense of following or learning from another, anyone who came to Jesus and sat under His teaching could be classified a disciple whether or not that person actually believed in Him (John 6:60-64). Judas was, after all, considered one of the disciples though it was known He was an unbeliever. But this is a minority use in the Scriptures.

Likewise, those who believe in Jesus could also be considered disciples in the sense that they have come to Him to learn of salvation and are followers of His "way" of salvation (Acts 9:2). Thus believers in the book of Acts are called disciples. This is done in the context of a newly formed community which followed the Christian teaching. It could also express the assumption that all the believers were committed and growing in their faith. This use should be understood in light of Jesus' commission to "make disciples of all nations." He spoke in such a way as to express the optimal commitment desired, not the minimal, for only such a commitment could realize the fulfillment of His commission at all.

Yet it should be recognized that in the Gospels particularly, Jesus taught about discipleship as growth into a deeper commitment to Him as Lord of one's Life. This seems to include the preponderance of His teachings about discipleship. In a passage already discussed (John 8:30-31), 172   Jesus gives those who had "believed in Him" (aorist tense) a condition of deeper fellowship with Him. He declared that "If (Ean plus the subjunctive, a third class condition) you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed (alhqws maqhtai)." To abide in Christ's word (meinhte en toi loigoi toi emoi) is a condition of more intimate union with Christ; it is to be a "disciple indeed." Schnackenburg comments,

Only remaining in the word of Jesus' leads to true discipleship. This phrase was coined in the Johannine word theology, and means that the believer must move completely into the sphere of influence and action of Christ's word and let himself be led to that deeper union with Christ which menein denotes (cf. 14:21, 23-24; 15:4-10). 173  

The qualifier alhqws indicates a distinction between those who are saved and considered disciples in a general sense and those who abide with Christ through His Word in a deeper sense. On alhqws maqhtai mou este Bernard writes, "This is the highest rank among Christians, sc. those who have reached the stage of discipleship." 174   This harmonizes with the interpretation of John 15:1-8 suggested earlier: Abiding in Christ is a condition of fruitfulness in a believer's subsequent relation to Christ, not salvation. 175  

The relationship between salvation and discipleship is very close in Scripture and includes some apparent overlap of the two concepts, but the distinctives are even more pronounced. It will not do to simply equate the demands of discipleship with the call to salvation. Bock criticizes MacArthur's approach with these observations:

...there is a distinction between a disciple and a believer. In fact in Scripture there are false disciples, bad disciples, and good disciples. The latter two categories include believers...

So discipleship is part of a person's response in faith to the gospel. But total discipleship is not part of the call to salvation because serious discipleship is realized in detail and engaged in after the entry into faith. In other words the discipleship of a believer is a process that is part of the Christian journey. The ongoing nature of discipling is why efforts by MacArthur and others to quantify it at the front end of the journey fail. Realizing what discipleship means can deepen and become clearer as one walks with God. So it can be viewed and discussed as a separate part of the Christian life, since it follows saving faith and since it is saving faith that really makes it possible through the provision of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. In sum, discipleship, at least in this more serious sense, is a part of salvation from the start, yet it can be viewed as a journey one engages in throughout his spiritual life. Thus this issue is more complex than MacArthur suggests, though some of his remarks about moving away from perfectionism indicate he is aware of the problem (emphasis his). 176  

The differences between simple salvation and committed discipleship are too compelling to be ignored: salvation is a free gift, but intimate discipleship is costly; salvation relates primarily to Christ as Savior, but discipleship relates primarily to Christ as Lord; salvation involves the will of God in redemption and reconciliation, discipleship involves the whole will of God; salvation's sole condition is "believe," but discipleship's conditions are abide, obey, love, deny oneself, take up the cross, follow, lose one's life, "hate" one's family, etc.; salvation is a new birth, but discipleship is a lifetime of growth; salvation depends on Christ's cross for all men, but discipleship depends on a believer carrying his cross for Christ; salvation is a response to Christ's death and resurrection, but discipleship is a response to Christ's life; salvation determines eternal destiny, but discipleship determines eternal and temporal rewards; salvation is obtained by faith, but discipleship is obtained by works.

There is also evidence that the experience of discipleship varied among believers in the Gospels. Though obviously saved, some never followed Christ in the fullest sense of leaving their homes and families (e.g., Mary, Martha, Lazarus). In addition to the secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38), the Jewish rulers mentioned in John 12:42 believed in Christ, but did not confess Him publicly. 177   All these are examples of believers yet to meet the conditions of full discipleship. Jesus appears to have accepted these various degrees of discipleship. He rebuked the Twelve's exclusivistic attitude toward a man casting out demons in Jesus' name, but who was not following Christ as they were (Matt 10:42/Mark 9:38-41/Luke 9:49-50). Though he was not following "with" (met_, Luke 9:49) the disciples, Jesus implies that the man was a disciple, who nonetheless, will be rewarded someday (Matt 10:42). His teaching on this occasion is unsettlingly inclusive: "For he that is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:38-41). In addition, Jesus was selective about whom He personally invited to follow Him and challenged or warned volunteers (Luke 9:57-62). Again, this is quite different from His open invitations to salvation.

It is disturbing to take the conclusions of the Lordship position to their inevitable end. If the deeper relationship of discipleship is not distinguished from salvation, then many or most professing evangelicals are lost. Hull speaks of "disciples indeed" when he writes,

If disciples are born not made, while these characteristics would take time to develop, they would develop 100 percent of the time in the truly regenerate. Therefore, every single Christian would be a healthy, reproducing believer. If people did not reflect the disciple's profile, then they would not be Christians.

If disciples are born and not made, non-Christians dominate the evangelical church. A generous estimate would find no more than 25 percent of evangelicals meeting Christ's standard for a disciple. As stated earlier, only 7 percent have been trained in evangelism, and only 2 percent have introduced another to Christ. By Christ's definition, disciples reproduce themselves through evangelism. If one takes the "disciples are born and not made" theology and joins it to the definition of a disciple given by Jesus and then adds the objective facts concerning today's evangelical church, the results are alarming. At least 75 percent of evangelicals are not Christians, because they just don't measure up to Christ's standards of what it means to be a disciple. 178  

Lordship Salvation teaching appears to have imposed a standard most professing Christians cannot meet.

Discipleship as Related to the Freeness of the Gospel

Lordship proponents have no reservations about calling salvation costly. They speak of "costly grace" as opposed to "cheap grace." If the Bible teaches that a sinner is saved by grace, then it is a grace that must cost him something. Yet, Lordship proponents maintain militantly that salvation is not of works, but a free gift. It is difficult for many of the Free Grace persuasion to understand how these claims do not teach a works salvation, or at the least, how they are not theological double talk.

It is common to find Lordship Salvation teachers speaking of the "costly yet free" aspects of their gospel in terms of a paradox. MacArthur writes,

Eternal life is indeed a free gift (Rom 6:23). Salvation cannot be earned with good deeds or purchased with money. It has already been bought by Christ, who paid the ransom with his blood. But that does not mean there is no cost in terms of salvation's impact on the sinner's life. This paradox may be difficult but it is nevertheless true: salvation is both free and costly. 179  

It is not perfectly clear what MacArthur means by "cost in terms of salvation's impact on the sinner's life." Here he seems to be saying that the effect ("impact") of salvation after it is received exacts a price of obedience, surrender, etc., from the one who was saved. If this is the case, then the reception of the gift of salvation should still be spoken of as free; it is only subsequent sanctification that is costly. This does not present a paradox at all.

However, the sum of MacArthur's teaching up to this point makes it clear that the reception of salvation is costly. 180   If salvation could somehow be free but costly, then this might be called a paradox. However, it would also strain the legitimate use of the term "paradox." Butcher comments on MacArthur's use of the term in relation to a free and costly salvation:

...a paradox, correctly defined, is a statement that may seem unbelievable or absurd but may be actually true in fact. Thus in this situation, to be a true paradox the term "gift" must be able to involve the concept of "necessary cost" to the receiver. This is, however, a logical (as well as theological, cf. Rom 11:6) impossibility. Just as "up" cannot equal "down," or it is no longer "up," as soon as a gift necessitates a price from the receiver, the gift is no longer a gift. It has become a possession purchased by the receiver.

Applied to the question at hand, to say that the gift of eternal life involves necessary cost to the unbeliever is not to state a paradox but a logical absurdity. It is a statement that has no possibility of being true if language is to retain meaning and ability to communicate. Truly, Christ calls the believer to a life of costly discipleship after receiving the gift of salvation. But to imply that the price of commitment is demanded as part of receiving the gift is to portray a gospel of nonsense (emphasis his). 181  

Thus under the label of "paradox," the Lordship position attempts to maintain theological orthodoxy (justification by faith alone) while demanding a price from the sinner (costly grace). But Butcher is correct; Rom 11:6 makes works and grace mutually exclusive, as does Rom 4:5: "Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt" (cf. Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5-7). It may cost to be or continue as a Christian, but not to become a Christian. To cite biblical examples where the gospel is presented without cost would be superfluous.

The only sense in which salvation is costly is in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the supreme price, his life, for the sinner's redemption. Unfortunately, this is not the focus of Lordship teaching, which finds cost in the human conditions for salvation. But to the sinner, salvation is absolutely free. If it were costly to him in any sense, then it could no longer be of grace and Christianity would take its place alongside the rest of the world's religions.

Discipleship as a Christian Duty

Discipleship, when used by Jesus to denote the fullest commitment to Him, is the activity of Christians, not sinners. There are a number of biblical reasons for this.

First, sinners are incapable of making the mature decisions of complete surrender, willingness to obey, or submission to God's will for the totality of their lives and for all the days of their lives. This is an unreasonable expectation from those dead in sin (Eph. 2:1-3) whose understanding is veiled by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

Second, the Bible teaches that commitment and obedience come in retrospective response to grace, not in prospective anticipation of it. Many verses appeal for commitment on the basis of grace already received (e.g., Rom12:1; Eph. 4:1; Col. 2:6). The teaching of Titus 2:11-12 is especially relevant for it explicitly relates grace to the believer's sanctification:

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.

The result of the appearance of salvation by grace is expressed by the participle paide_ousa from paideuw, "to bring up, instruct, train, educate." 182   The circumstantial character of this participle indicates that the teaching about godly living was coincidental with the appearance of grace. Thus the grace received in salvation is the basis of further Christian commitment, not vice versa. It is also significant that Paul uses a verb to express the idea of training that is different from the idea usually related to discipleship expressed by maqhteuw. This verb of choice is rooted in the Greek idea of training a child (paidion). 183   Grace, when received, takes an immature person and trains him toward godliness. It is somewhat surprising that Poe, after arguing a Lordship Salvation view of discipleship-salvation, asserts that free grace is the basis for discipleship:

Discipleship will not improve by making the demands of Christianity more vigorous in the presentation of the gospel. Rather, discipleship will grow increasingly more prevalent as we give more attention to the gracious benefits of Christ in the gospel. Christ alone supplies sufficient motive to follow Christ. The love, joy, and peace of the relationship with Christ creates the compulsion to follow. 184  

The New Testament admonitions to commit one's life to godly principles on the basis of grace received would seem superfluous if such a commitment was understood and made before salvation. Thus the commitment of discipleship (in the sense of a deeper relationship with Christ) is expected of Christians only.

Discipleship as Related to the Reality of Sin in Believers

No one of the Lordship position seems to deny the reality of sin in the life of those who believe or those who are disciples. However, Lordship Salvation adherents do teach that no "true" believer/disciple will continue in sin. MacArthur writes,

The mark of a true disciple is not that he never sins, but when he does sin he inevitably returns to the Lord to receive forgiveness and cleansing. Unlike a false disciple, the true disciple will never turn away completely. 185  

According to their view, to believe (or become a disciple) means to enter the Christian life with a full commitment to submit to Christ and obey Him. However, this seems to leave little room for the biblical teaching that Christians can be babes in Christ who are less than submissive and obedient. Paul's words to the Corinthian believers indicate such was the case in the Corinthian church:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

In this passage there is a definite contrast made between those who are "spiritual" and those who are "carnal." Paul's description of these Corinthians as babes appears to hinge on their chronological age in Christ as well as their fleshly behavior. 186   Verse 3 explains (introduced by an explanatory gar) that they are unable to take solid food because they are still carnal, as evidenced by their "envy, strife, and divisions." The words for "carnal" Paul uses are sarkinos (UBS, v. 1) and sarkikos (twice in v. 3, once in v. 4). While the former may simply refer to their humanness (consisting of flesh, made of flesh), the latter surely denotes the moral idea of "belonging to the realm of the flesh in so far as it is weak, sinful, and transitory." 187   These Christians were continuing in sin. 188  

In response, Lordship proponents could argue that the Corinthians later repented and returned to a spiritual walk with God (2 Cor. 7:8-11), thus showing final perseverance. But this would ignore the fact that some of the Corinthian Christians had already died in their carnal condition. In Paul's rebuke of their neglectful observance of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34), he mentions that the result of their abuse was "many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30). The term "sleep" (koimaw) is a euphemism Paul used to describe death for Christians. 189   These Christians did not return to the Lord as Lordship advocates teach they should have, but apparently they were disciplined by death because they would not return to the Lord.

If Lordship Salvation is correct, the carnal Corinthian believers of 1 Corinthians 3 had broken their discipleship-salvation commitment. But neither Lordship Salvation nor the Scriptures posit how soon after one believes/commits he may break the commitment, or to what degree. 190   This makes the Lordship view of salvation subject to arbitrary standards to define conduct necessary for those who would be accepted as truly saved. It does not deal satisfactorily with the reality of sin in the believer's life and the process of growth and maturity. 191  


The meaning of "disciple" is more fluid than many on both sides of the Lordship controversy may wish to admit. This makes a definitive study difficult and absolute statements suspect. However, several things can be concluded with some degree of certainty.

The lexical and contextual evidence showed that in relation to Christ, the word "disciple" could be used to refer to unsaved followers, believing followers, and fully committed followers. A synonym, "follow," did not speak of an invitation to salvation except when used as a metaphor for "believe" in two metaphorical contexts (John 8:12; 10:27).

Likewise, the biblical evidence failed to support the idea that the call to discipleship was a call to salvation. The hard conditions set forth by Jesus were for those who would follow Him in a life of obedience to the Father's will. The account of the rich young ruler, often used to support Lordship Salvation, shows only that Jesus was trying to convince the man of his unrighteousness and need of salvation and was thus pre-evangelistic. The early calls of the disciples show that discipleship is a progressive experience in which believers are continually challenged to become more fully disciples of Christ.

Though "disciple" may be used to describe any follower of Jesus Christ, even curious unbelievers, the preponderance of its uses by Christ refer to those accepting the challenge to follow Him in a deeper commitment of obedience, self-denial, and submission. Committed discipleship is always costly and must be properly distinguished from salvation, which is always free. The concept of discipleship-salvation with its commitment to faithfulness does not adequately face the reality of sin in the lives of believers. The grace that brings salvation is the motivation that leads the believer to pay the cost of discipleship and live a godly life.


1  Kent, "Review Article," GTJ 10:75; C. Peter Wagner, "What Is Making Disciples?" Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) 9 (Fall 1973): 285; Schnackenburg, Moral Teaching, 53; J. Dwight Pentecost, Design for Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 11.

2  E.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 29-30, 196-98; Boice, Discipleship, 13-23; Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:76. This view will sometimes be referred to as discipleship-salvation in this study.

3  Bonhoeffer's term "cheap grace" is frequently used by Lordship advocates in the discussion of the meaning of discipleship. He described it thus: "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate." The opposite of "cheap grace" is, of course, "costly grace." Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 47.

4  E.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 196-97, 202; Boice, Discipleship, 16-23.

5  MacArthur, The Gospel, 21. See also pp. 29-31, 198.

6  James G. Merritt, "Evangelism and the Call of Christ" in Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century: The Critical Issues, ed. Thomas S. Rainer, 145-52 (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1989), 145.

7  Stott, Basic Christianity, 109.

8  Wallis, "Many to Belief," Soj, 21.

9  See Dallas Willard, "Discipleship: For Super-Christians Only?" CT 24 (October 10, 1980): 24-25, 27.

10  Harry L. Poe, "Evangelism and Discipleship," in Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Thom S. Rainer, 133-44 (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1989), 136.

11  Packer, Evangelism, 73.

12  Dietrich Müller, s.v. "maqhths," in NIDNTT 1 (1967): 486.

13  BAGD, s.v. " maqhths," 486-87.

14  BAGD, s.v. "maqhteuw," 486, the intransitive meaning.

15  Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:70; MacArthur, The Gospel, 196; Price, Real Christians, 54.

16  Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:70. His term "superbeliever" disguises the real issue, which is whether some Christians are more committed than others. Certainly, all would agree that there are varying degrees of commitment among Christians. Why then must the issue of discipleship be framed by the possibility of two clearly defined groups?

17  K. H. Rengstorf, s.v. "maqhths," in TDNT 4 (1967): 415-41; Richard D. Calenberg, "The New Testament Doctrine of Discipleship" (Th.D. diss., Grace Theological Seminary, 1981), 20-40.

18  Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 66.

19  See the discussion of oclos later in the chapter.

20  See the discussion of these conditions later in the chapter.

21  Calenburg, "Discipleship," 67-77.

22  MacArthur, The Gospel, 196, n. 2.

23  Kent, who holds a Lordship understanding of discipleship, nevertheless acknowledges the use of maqhths in John 6:66 and concludes, "Thus the term itself merely means 'a follower.' The nature of that discipleship must be derived from the larger context." It is thus inconsistent when, without appeal to uses in context, he states, "Those who have separated discipleship from salvation have not done us any service." Kent, "Review Article," GTJ 10:75.

24  So Everett F. Harrison, s.v. "Disciple," Baker's Dictionary of Theology, 166.

25  Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:70. See also, Boice, Discipleship, 159-169; Kent, "Review Article," GTJ 10:75.

26  Lenski, Matthew, 1172.

27  So Robert D. Culver, "What Is the Church's Commission?: Some Exegetical Issues in Matthew 28:16-20," BSac 125 (July-September 1968): 243-53; Carson, "Matthew," EBC, 8:595.

28  So Wagner, "Making Disciples," EMQ 9:286-87.

29  William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), 999.

30  Mark Sheridan, "Disciples and Discipleship in Matthew and Luke," Biblical Theology Bulletin (BTB) 3 (October 1973): 240-41. See also Michael J. Wilkins, The Concept of Disciple in Matthew's Gospel (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1988), 221-22; Wolfgang Trilling, Das Wahre Israel: Studien zur Theologie des Matthäus-Evangeliums, 3d. auflage (München: Kösel-Verlag, 1964), 21ff. Trilling begins his Matthean theology with this passage and its emphasis on discipleship.

31  Culver, "Matthew 28:16-20," BSac 125:244-53; Barclay M. Newman and Philip C. Stine, A Translator's Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988), 913-14; Pierre Bonnard, L'Évangile selon Saint Matthieu, CNT (Neuchatel, Switzerland: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1963), 419.

32  Exceptions would be Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), Simon the sorcerer (8:13ff.), and the Ephesian sorcerers (19:10-19). Yet the accounts of Simon and the Ephesians lead one to believe that they will probably continue in the Apostles' teaching.

33  Compare the continuation in the Word in Acts 2:42 with John 8:31, the display of love in Acts 2:42 and 4:32 with John 13:34-35, and the detachment from that which is worldly gain in Acts 2:45 and 4:32-35 with Luke 9:24-25.

34  Calenberg, "Discipleship," 238-39. See also 197-200.

35  BAGD, s.v. "mimhths," 524. The verb mimomai has the meanings "imitate, emulate, follow" (ibid., s.v. "mimomai," 523).

36  So W. Michaelis, s.v "mimomai," TDNT 4 (1967): 673; Hans Dieter Betz, Nachfolge und Nachahmung Jesu Christi in Neuen Testament (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1967), 137-89; Hans Joachim Schoeps, "Von der imitatio dei zur Nachfolge Christi," in Aus Frühchristlicher Zeit: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1950), 286-301.

37  Calenburg, "Discipleship," 239.

38  Christian Blendinger, s.v. "akolouqew," in NIDNTT 1 (1975): 481-82; Gerhard Kittel, s.v. "akolouqew," in TDNT 1 (1964): 213-14.

39  Blendinger, s.v. "akolouqew," NIDNTT, 1:482.

40  The expression opisw elqein, "come after," as used in passages like Matt 16:24 and Luke 9:23 signifies the same as "follow" in relation to Christ; that is, a life of surrendered discipleship. See Johannes Schneider, "ercomai," in TDNT 2 (1964): 66; Wolfgang Bauder, s.v. "opisw," in NIDNTT 1 (1975): 492-93.

41  E.g., Matt 4:25; 8:1; 12:15; 21:9; Mark 10:32.

42  E.g., Matt 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; Mark 2:14; 8:34; Luke 5:27; 9:23.

43  Boice, Discipleship, 17.

44  Boice, Discipleship, 166-67; MacArthur, The Gospel, 178.

45  George Allen Turner, "Soteriology in the Gospel of John," JETS 19 (Fall 1976): 272-73. Turner notes that John sometimes uses other synonyms for faith which denote action or doing. Cf. "come" (John 5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37); "enter" (10:9); "eat" (6:51-58;); "drink" (4:14; 6:53-56; 7:37); "accept" (1:12; 5:43).

46  Hodges, Gospel Under Siege, 44-45.

47  Blendinger, s.v. "akolouqew," NIDNTT 1:483.

48  So Bultmann, John, 343-44. Bultmann contrasts the metaphorical use of "follow," equivalent to "believe" in these two passages, with its meaning of discipleship in other passages in John. See also Ernst Haenchen, John 2, transl. Robert W. Funk, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 26, on the soteriological significance of "follow" in 8:12.

49  E.g., see MacArthur, The Gospel, 30.

50  Matthew denotes the continuity with Tote, "then" (Matt 16:24). So Lenski, Matthew, 642.

51  See Ridderbos, "Matthew," transl. Ray Togtman, The Bible Student's Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 312.

52  That the transfiguration occurs immediately after these pronouncements about discipleship in all three accounts reinforces the idea of the completion of God's will which brings glorification. Jesus' glorification looks forward to His consummate glory in the kingdom, achieved by His costly obedience.

53  So Plummer, Matthew, 236.

54  Sometimes oclos is used by Mark with little clue as to the crowd's spiritual orientation other than that they show great enthusiasm for Jesus (3:20; 7:14, 17; 9:14, 25; 10:46; 12:41). A number of uses show a crowd that at least has a good disposition towards Him (6:33, 45) or contains those with faith to believe in Jesus for healings (2:5 [cf. v. 5]; 3:9 [cf. v. 10]; 5:21, 24, 27; 7:33 [cf. v. 32]; 9:17). In 8:1-2 there is more than curiosity, because the crowd went without food for three days. The crowd is shown as teachable (2:13; 4:1; 6:34; 10:1; 12:37 [cf. v. 35]) and sometimes assumes the customary sitting position of pupils before their master (3:32; 8:6). Moreover, there are some uses in which the crowd is presented as in total sympathy with Christ. In 3:34 Jesus calls the multitude sitting at His feet "My mother and My brothers" who are those that do His will (3:35). In 6:34 they are pictured as sheep over whom Jesus assumes the role of Shepherd. In 11:18 and 12:12 the crowd is so supportive of Jesus that the Jewish leadership fears to harm Him. Finally, 12:37 pictures a crowd being taught in the temple (v. 35) who seem to acknowledge Jesus' messianic claim. Of the thirty-eight uses of oclos by Mark, only four are negative towards Christ. These come after Jesus' arrest and describe the crowd on the side of the Jewish leaders who were against Jesus (14:43; 15:8, 11, 15).

55  William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 306-7.

56  The parallel conditions of Matthew 10 are stated to the Twelve (Matt 10:5), while a different pericope, Luke 14:26ff., is addressed to the "great multitudes" who "went with Him" (Luke 14:25).

57  Plummer remarks, "The pantas represents Mk.'s ton oclon s?n tois maqntais. The necessity of self-denial and self-sacrifice was made known to all, although for the present the supreme example of the necessity was a mystery revealed gradually to a very few" (Plummer, Luke, 248). The portrayal of the multitudes in general in Luke is very similar to Mark's although a few times Luke shows Christ's antagonists associated with the term oclos (cf. 3:7 [but see v. 10] ; 5:29; 11:14-15; 12:54-56). Interestingly, Luke sometimes shows that there was a large number (oclos) of "disciples" (6:17; 7:11).

58  John 2:11 confirms that the early disciples had believed in Christ. More contextually relevant, the vicarious confession of Peter, which precedes the pericope under consideration, indicates the disciples' faith in Jesus as the messianic Savior and the divine Son of God (Matt 16:16/Mark 8:29/Luke 9:20).

59  One might argue that it is equally pointless to declare the conditions of discipleship to those already called disciples. However, this ignores the progression of revelation which accompanied and characterized Jesus' ministry. Jesus consistently challenged His followers to a greater commitment to the will of God regardless of their present status (cf. John 21:22). The disciple was always becoming more fully a disciple.

60  See p. 127, n. 40.

61  In contrast, note how ercomai with pros, "come to [Jesus] is used for salvation in John (6:35, 37, 44, 45, 65; 7:37; 5:40 [negatively]).

62  Stott, "Yes," Eternity 10:18.

63  Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:174.

64  Stott, "Yes," Eternity 10:18.

65  Boice, Discipleship, 40.

66  Lane, Mark, 307-8. Green concludes that for the disciples "to take up one's cross" publicly demonstrated submission to the authority against which one had previously rebelled. But this may read too much into the saying, for Jesus would shortly and literally take up His cross, yet He never rebelled against His Father's authority, and His cross-bearing is the basis for this saying in the context. See Michael P. Green, "The Meaning of Cross-bearing," BSac 140 (April-June 1983): 117-33.

67  Cf. Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:23; Rom 5:6-10; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 13:12; 1 Pet. 1: 18-19; 3:18.

68  Stott, Basic Christianity, 114. See also, Boice, Discipleship, 42; MacArthur, The Gospel, 202.

69  This is inconsistent with his application of this passage to unbelievers and confusing in the context of his discussion about salvation. See Stott, Basic Christianity, 114, and "Yes," Eternity 10:18.

70  Stott, Basic Christianity, 114. Also, Marshall, Luke, 374.

71  The present tense of akolouqew signifies habitual and permanent action. Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), 182.

72  Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:75; Boice, Discipleship, 38; MacArthur, The Gospel, 201-2.

73  So Lenski, Matthew, 645.

74  So M. F. Sadler, The Gospel According to Mark (London: George Bell and Sons, 1899), 175; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark's Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964), 350.

75  Stott, Basic Christianity, 114. See also the NIV translation "self" in Luke 9:25

76  BAGD, s.v. "apollumi," 94-95. A majority of uses in the New Testament are clearly not soteriological

77  BAGD, s.v. "zhmiow," 339. Uses outside of these discipleship passages never speak of eternal destruction. One eschatological use refers to a believer who "suffers loss" yet is "saved" eternally (1 Cor. 3:15).

78  As Stott suggests. Stott, Basic Christianity, 117.

79  Matthew’s use of arneomai, “deny” basically conveys little different meaning from Mark and Luke’s use of epaiscuomai, “be ashamed.” See Marshall, Luke, 377.

80  Stott, Basic Christianity, 117; Boice, Discipleship, 117; MacArthur, The Gospel, 198-200.

81  BAGD, s.v. "apodidwmi," 89-90. For clear examples of a good reward, see Matt 6:4, 6, 18.

82  Recompense, and not salvation specifically, seems to be the context for Matthew's mention of confessing Christ in 10:32-33. As discussed, the context warns of persecution and rejection (Matt 10:16-31; 34-36). In such persecution, those who shrink from confessing Christ will be denied the reward of Christ confessing them before the Father in heaven (10:32-33). Furthermore, the issue of one's worthiness (10:37-39) implies the idea of merit which implies either reward or lack of reward. Jesus then spoke of rewards for those not ashamed of identifying with Him and His disciples (10:40-42; cf. 5:11-12). In vv 41 and 42 Jesus uses the word misqos, which in the majority of its New Testament usages, denotes a positive "wage" or "reward" (BAGD, s.v. "misqos," 525).

83  For this idea see Robertson, WPNT, 1:83; A. B. Bruce, "Synoptic Gospels," EGT, 1:167.

84  Stott, Basic Christianity, 114.

85  MacArthur, The Gospel, 202.

86  It is difficult to reconcile MacArthur's statement that these conditions are "not absolute in the sense that it disallows temporary failures like Peter" (ibid.) with his intentionally absolutist choice of language in the preceding quote.

87  Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:74-75.

88  MacArthur, The Gospel, 201.

89  Roy B. Zuck, "Cheap Grace?," Kindred Spirit (KS) 13 (Summer 1989): 6-7.

90  Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1981), 250. See also, C. F. Evans, Saint Luke (London: SCM Press, 1990), 577; Arndt, Luke, 344; Carson, "Matthew," EBC, 8:257.

91  See the preceding discussion on p. 136.

92  MacArthur, The Gospel, 201. Stott and Boice have similar interpretations (Stott, "Yes," Eternity 10:18; Boice, Discipleship, 117).

93  Boice, Discipleship, 117.

94  Stott, "Yes," Eternity 10:17; MacArthur, The Gospel, 108.

95  Stott, "Yes," Eternity 10:18; MacArthur, The Gospel, 111-13.

96  Boice, Discipleship, 27.

97  Stott, "Jesus Is Lord," Tenth, 6-7.

98  MacArthur, The Gospel, 111.

99  Carson, "Matthew," EBC, 8:278; Michael Maher, "'Take My yoke upon you' (Matt XI. 29)," New Testament Studies 22 (October 1975): 97-103.

100  MacArthur, The Gospel, 112-13.

101  Boice, Discipleship, 31-32.

102  MacArthur, The Gospel, 113; Boice, Discipleship, 32.

103  Stott, "Yes," Eternity 10:18.

104  Boice, Discipleship, 32.

105  MacArthur, The Gospel, 113.

106  Boice, Discipleship, 34.

107  See Pentecost, Discipleship, 23-25.

108  Hendriksen, Matthew, 503. Cf. John 5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37. See Turner, "Soteriology in John," JETS 19:272-73.

109  Ridderbos, Matthew, 227; Hendriksen, Matthew, 504.

110  Plummer, Matthew, 171; E. López Fernández, "El yugo de Jesús (Mt 11,28-30). Historia y sentido de una metáfora," Studium Ovetense 11 (1983): 65-118.

111  Allen, Matthew, 124; Plummer, Matthew, 169-70; Hendriksen, Matthew, 504; Pentecost, Discipleship, 25-29.

112  Müller, s.v. "maqhths," NIDNTT, 1:486.

113  Pentecost, Discipleship, 28. His paraphrase helps one see the idea of submission: "let me teach you. . . .\

114  So Plummer, Matthew, 170.

115  E.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 77ff.; Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:61, 75; ten Pas, Lordship, 5; Enlow, "Eternal Life," AW, 4; Paul Fromer, "The Real Issue in Evangelism," His 18 (June 1958): 5; Kent, "Review Article," GTJ 10:71; Wallis, "Many to Belief," Soj, 21-22; Poe, "Evangelism and Discipleship," Evangelism, 138. Chantry structures his whole Lordship presentation around the rich young ruler in his book, Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?. Carson criticizes Chantry for trying to solve modern problems in evangelism with this text alone when there is no explanation of why this pericope is selected over others. This author agrees that this story is too often chosen as the exemplary gospel presentation when there is no justification given for doing so. See Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 110-11.

116  MacArthur, The Gospel, 78.

117  E.g., Fromer, "The Real Issue," His 18:5; Kent, "Review Article," GTJ 10:71; Enlow, "Eternal Life," AW, 4; Price, Real Christians, 44. Beisner is very clear: "One of the most diabolical teachings in history is that Jesus can be Savior without being Lord. That He is not willing to save those not committed to His lordship is clear from his response to the rich young man, who sought only eternal life, but was met with a demand for obedience" (E. Calvin Beisner, "The Idol of Mammon," DJ 7 (July 1, 1987): 10.

118  E.g., Chantry, Gospel, 47-56; Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:61; Ernest C. Reisinger, Today's Evangelism: Its Message and Methods (Phillipsburg, NJ: Craig, 1982), 36-37.

119  Matthew's account will be used unless otherwise noted.

120  So Carson, "Matthew," EBC, 8:422; Toussaint, Matthew, 226; Plummer, Luke, 422; Lenski, Matthew, 746-47. For a fuller discussion of the common Jewish belief that eternal life was merited, see William E. Brown, "The New Testament Concept of the Believer's Inheritance" (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984), 34-40.

121  Johannes Eichler, s.v. "klhros," in NIDNTT 2 (1976): 300.

122  The UBS text of Matthew 19:16-17 does not alter this interpretation. It omits the MT's "agaqe" ("Good") after "Didaskale" ("Teacher"). But Jesus' answer in the UBS text, though different from the MT's, still directs the ruler's attention to the standard of perfect goodness in God.

123  See the discussion of John 6:28-29 on pp. 42.

124  MacArthur, "Who then Can Be Saved?," Grace to You (GYou) 2 (Winter 1988): 11.

125  MacArthur, The Gospel, 87.

126  The literalness of Jesus' demand is evident to other Lordship Salvation proponents (Gentry, "The Great Option," BRR 5:61; Enlow, "Eternal Life," AW, 4; ten Pas, Lordship, 5) and commentators. Swete, for example, comments, "The sale and distribution of his property were the necessary preparations in his case for the complete discipleship which admits to the Divine kingdom" (Swete, Mark, 226). See also C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 330; R. Alan Cole, The Gospel According to Mark, TNTC (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 162. Efforts by Cranfield and Cole to make this a unique demand that may not apply to all Christians shows their belief in its literalness and perhaps their discomfort with the theological implications of salvation by sacrifice. But the problem is not avoided whether this demand is for one man or many.

127  This saying is appropriate in that it essentially sums up the law. Cf. Matt 22:39-40; Rom 13:8-10.

128  In support of this reading is the MT. See the discussion in Hodges, Eclipse, 116, n. 7

129  So Godet, Luke, 413.

130  So Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, Harpers New Testament Commentaries (Harper & Brothers, 1960), 199; Hendriksen, Matthew, 688; Lenski, Matthew, 681; Godet, Luke, 205; Arndt, Luke, 382; cf. Matt 18:4.

131  See the discussion on pp. 83-84.

132  Lawrence, "Lordship of Christ," 104.

133  E.g., Godet, Luke, 413.

134  Lane, Mark, 369.

135  That the rewards of discipleship are in view is clearly indicated by Peter's understanding which caused him to ask later, "What shall we have?", and the Lord's answer about rewards in the future and in this life (Matt 19:28-29).

136  The word teleios "denotes the good in all its implications and consequences" (Ridderbos, Matthew, 356).

137  Robert L. Thomas "The Rich Young Man in Matthew," GTJ 3 (1982): 257; MacArthur, The Gospel, 86.

138  Boice, Discipleship, 149-57.

139  See Toussaint, Matthew, 228-29.

140  Mark and Luke make it clear that Jesus referred to the present age. Matthew is taken the same way. Mark is the only one to say explicitly that the hundredfold refers to family and real estate.

141  Mark and Luke use the terms "receive . . . eternal life" (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). Though some defuse the Lordship argument by arguing that "inherit salvation" refers to rewards or the enjoyment of eternal life in the eschaton (E.g. Hodges, Eclipse, 44-45), this writer agrees with Brown that this is simply another term for entering eternal life or salvation itself. See Brown, "The Believer's Inheritance," especially pp. 66-77.

142  As, e.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 145-46.

143  So Lane, Mark, 371; Toussaint, Matthew, 228.

144  For a fuller presentation of this view, see Brown, "The Believer's Inheritance," 74-76.

145  The parable of the laborers in the vineyard which follows (Matt 20:1-16) seems to substantiate the underlying teaching that the gift of eternal life is equally bestowed on all regardless of the degree of sacrifice made.

146  Though MacArthur cites the account of Zacchaeus as an example of someone who sacrificed his riches and was saved, it should be noted that Zacchaeus gave only half of what he owned to the poor and yet was declared saved (Luke 19:8-9; MacArthur, The Gospel, 87). This contradicts the Lordship demand to surrender everything. Moreover, Zacchaeus' sacrifice was not demanded by Christ as a condition of salvation, but was voluntary. His act should be viewed more as a gesture of restitution (cf. Luke 19:8) taken as further evidence of his faith.

147  Boice, Discipleship, 16.

148  Merritt, "Call of Christ," Evangelism, 146, 150, n. 11.

149  Boice, Discipleship, 16.

150  Merritt, "Call of Christ," Evangelism, 145-46.

151  Boice and Merritt do not mention John's account. The unnamed disciple is most likely John, the author. So Godet, John, 321; Ernst Haenchen, John 1, transl. Robert W. Funk, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 158.

152  So Pink, John, 1:62; Godet, John, 1:330; Lenski, Matthew, 169-70; Plummer, Matthew, 48; Hendriksen, Matthew, 245-46; Ridderbos, Matthew, 77; Arndt, Luke, 156.

153  Pink, John, 1:62-63. In agreement are Hans Conzelmann, Jesus, transl. J. Raymond Lord (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973), 35; Ridderbos, Matthew, 77; and James Donaldson, "'Called to Follow': A Twofold Experience of Discipleship in Mark," BTB 5 (February 1975): 69. The subsequent invitation to Philip to "Follow Me" (John 1:43) may have called him to discipleship based upon a previous salvation experience, as Hendriksen notes: "We may probably assume that Andrew and Peter had told their friend and townsman about Jesus" (Hendriksen, John, 1:108; See also John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: John (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 45; and Lenski, John, 161. It is also possible that Jesus simply meant "Accompany Me on this journey" (So Godet, John, 331) in much the same sense as he told the first two disciples "Come and see" (1:39).

154  Lenski, Matthew, 168-69.

155  Plummer, Luke, 147. See also Lenski, Matthew, 168-72, and Luke, 276-77; Arndt, Luke, 155-56; Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, revised ed., TNTC (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 124; Geldenhuys, Luke, 181; Hendriksen, Luke, 279-80.

156  A number of commentators teach a progression in the calls (e.g., Hendriksen, Matthew, 245-47; Geldenhuys, Luke, 181; Arndt, Luke, 156). For excellent presentations of this idea, see Alexander Balmain Bruce, The Training of the Twelve (n.p.: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), 11-12, and Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 48-49. This might also explain Matthew's reaction when he was called to follow Christ (Matt 9:9-13/Mark 2:13-17/Luke 5:27-32). This incident was discussed in the chapter on repentance under the Lordship assumption that it refers to Matthew's salvation (see p. 84). But an argument can be made that Matthew, a man who dealt with the public, surely had heard of Christ and His teaching (cf. Matt 4:24) and had either become a believer prior to Christ's call to discipleship or believed and committed himself to follow Christ on the same occasion based on his acquaintance with Christ. See Plummer, Matthew, 138, and Kenneth S. Wuest, Mark in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 52.

157  Lenski, Luke, 277.

158  MacArthur, The Gospel, 135.

159  Ibid., 141.

160  Ibid., 135.

161  Chapter 11 mentions John the Baptist's rejection by Israel in association with Christ's rejection (11:11-19) and the rejection of Christ's message by the cities where He ministered (11:20-24). Chapter 12 presents the Sabbath healing and controversy that precipitates a conspiracy for Christ's death by the Jewish leaders (12:1-14), Jesus' subsequent withdrawal (12:15-21), the Pharisees' blasphemy (12:22-37), Christ's refusal to give a sign other than "the sign of the prophet Jonah" (12:38-45), and His turn away from those physically related to Him to those related by faith (12:46-50). All these events indicate the final rejection of Christ by Israel, and prepare for the new emphasis in Christ's ministry found in chapter 13.

162  It is this writer's opinion that "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" refers to heretofore unrevealed truth about the present age in light of the postponement of the kingdom of God. Jesus is describing characteristics of this age in which the kingdom is in its spiritual form, a mystery not revealed in the Old Testament. For an expanded presentation of this view, see John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 95-97, and J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 213-14.

163  Jeremias calls this the "introductory dative" and gives it the sense "It is the case with . . . as with." This helps shift the focus from the particulars of the parable to the real point of comparison. Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, transl. S. H. Hooke, 2nd revised ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), 100-2. See also, Lenski, Matthew, 541; Bonnard, Matthieu, 207.

164  MacArthur, The Gospel, 134-36.

165  Ibid., 135.

166  Toussaint, Matthew, 184.

167  Pentecost, Words and Works, 218. Also, see Toussaint, Matthew, 184.

168  Toussaint, Matthew, 184.

169  Cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2 Peter 2:1. MacCorkle has noted that the verb translated "sells" in v. 44 is pwlew in the present tense, while that translated "sold" in v. 46 is pipraskw in the perfect tense. He suggests that this indicates both treasures were bought in one transaction, which would be Christ's death. Douglas B. MacCorkle, "Interpretive Problems of the Gospel of Matthew" (Th.D. diss, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1961), 422-23.

170  MacArthur, The Gospel, 135-36, 139. Again, he disavows that one must literally sell everything before he can be saved, but calls for a "willingness" to do so (pp. 139-40). It is therefore confusing when he speaks shortly thereafter in absolute language: "The true believer signs up and gives everything for Christ" (p. 141). Govett remarks, "It is commonly said, that we are to be ready to give up all for Christ. Very true - but the parable describes it as actually done, and done first in order to acquire the pearl. On these grounds, therefore, this cannot be the true interpretation" (emphasis his). Robert Govett, Govett on the Parables (Miami Springs, FL: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1989), 3-4.

171  Arthur W. Pink, The Prophetic Parables of Matthew 13 (Covington, KY: Kentucky Bible Depot, 1946), 65. Pink agrees with the Israel/church interpretation.

172  See the interpretation on pp. 48-49 which is assumed here.

173  Schnackenburg, John, 2:205.

174  Bernard, John, 2:305. In agreement, Lenski says, "There is a difference between being disciples and being truly disciples . . . . All are disciples of Jesus who in any way believe his word, but those are truly disciples who once for all become fixed in his word. Hence also the 'if'" (Lenski, John, 629).

175  Pp. 36-41.

176  Darrell L. Bock, "A Review of The Gospel According to Jesus," BSac 146 (January-March 1989): 34-35.

177  In agreement that these rulers were truly saved are: Brown, John, 2:487; Morris, John, 605; Bernard, John 2:452; Robertson, WPNT, 5:232. @omws mentoi, as a strong adversative (Morris, John, 605, n. 110) denoting an exception (C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978], 431-32) contrasts these believers with the nation which Isaiah prophesied would not believe (12:37-41). Verse 42 offers hope that individuals within the nation could still be saved. If they were not actually saved, the contrast is muted and made meaningless.

178  Bill Hull, The Disciple Making Pastor (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1988), 55.

179  MacArthur, The Gospel, 140.

180  For example, two pages earlier he states on the parables of the treasure and the pearl, "The basic point of both parables is that the kingdom of heaven is only for those who perceive its immeasurable value and are then willing to sacrifice everything else to acquire it" (ibid., 138). Thus the payment or willingness to pay is before salvation "to acquire it," not the result or "impact."

181  Butcher, "Critique," JOTGES 2:42.

182  BAGD, s.v. "paideuw," 608.

183  Dieter Fürst, s.v. "paideuw," in NIDNTT 3 (1981): 775-79. He comments on Titus 2:11-12: "Here too education is an outworking of grace. . . . what is being said here is that man is justified by grace and led by it into sanctification" (p. 779).

184  Poe, "Evangelism and Discipleship," Evangelism, 143.

185  MacArthur, The Gospel, 104.

186  Hebrews 5:12-14 describes a babe as one who "is unskilled in the word of righteousness" (v. 13) and consequently lacks moral discernment (v. 14). This harmonizes with the definition by morality of a babe in 1 Cor. 3:1-3. Furthermore, it indicates that mature moral discernment is a result of growth after salvation and not something that should be assumed of an unregenerate sinner before salvation, which is what a decision to follow Jesus Christ, submit to Him, surrender all to Him, and deny oneself amounts to.

187  Fee, 1 Corinthians, 124; However, both may denote sinfulness: See BAGD, s.v. "sarkikos" and "sarkinos," 750; Ryrie, Salvation, 61.

188  See Ryrie, Salvation, 61-62. He cites support from those not usually identified with the Free Grace position who nevertheless understand that these are Christians who were sinful or fleshly: J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (London: The MacMillan Company, 1895), 185; Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), 500; John Calvin, Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), 65.

189  BAGD, s.v. "koimaw," 438. Cf. 1 Cor. 7:39; 15:6, 51.

190  The Corinthians were behaving "like mere men" (NKJV) or literally "according to man" (kata anqrwpon; 1 Cor. 3:3). The comparison is obviously to unsaved mankind, not Christians. This shows the possibility of great moral latitude in the behavior for Christians, which is evidenced also by 1 Peter 4:14-16 where Peter indicates a Christian can suffer reproach as a "murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a busybody in other people's matters" (v. 15).

191  More could be said on the reality of sin in the believer, as well as the related issues of perseverance, the possibility of apostasy, and the relationship between security and assurance, but this is beyond the scope of this study. These issues are set forth in the Appendix.