GraceNotes - no. 11 by Dr. Charlie Bing

Followers of Lordship Salvation insist that a person is eternally saved not only by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior, but also by committing completely to Him as the Lord or Master of one's life. Thus salvation also depends on repenting from all sins and giving subsequent evidence of changed conduct and good works. Those who do not persevere in good works and faithfulness till the end of life prove that they were never really saved to begin with. Adherents to Lordship Salvation teach that we are saved by "costly grace" which means they interpret the commands for discipleship (e.g., deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Jesus, etc.) as the price that must be paid for eternal life. Here are some key questions for those who hold to Lordship Salvation, asked in love of course!

How do you know when you've really believed? Since your idea of "genuine faith"must be proved by works and obedience, how do you know your faith qualifies as the real thing, since you can always do and obey more? What is it that really saves you anyway, your faith, or Jesus who is the object of your faith? How can your faith be validated by subjective introspection when your feelings and experiences fluctuate? And if the object of your faith, the Lord Jesus Christ, saves you, shouldn't you validate your faith only by whether it rests in Him?

How do you know when you've thoroughly repented? Since you are not conscious of every sin (cf. Lev. 4:2; 5:15), what if some sins are overlooked and not repented of? At what point do you think you've adequately repented: When your attitude changes about the sin? When you resolve to change your conduct? When your conduct actually changes? When you make restitution or ask for forgiveness? Or when you are sure that there will be no repetition of the sin? And if repentance is not just a change of attitude but a turning from sins and a change in conduct, then why does Jesus tell people to "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:8)?

How do you know when you're completely committed to Christ's Lordship? How much commitment is enough to secure your salvation? Is the willingness to commit enough, or must you actually commit everything? And how would you know what everything involves, especially as an unbeliever? Since you believe the commitments required for discipleship are also commitments needed for salvation, and they are ongoing (e.g., deny yourself, take up your cross daily, follow Jesus, abide in God's Word, love Christ supremely, etc.), how do you know when you have fulfilled them?

How can you expect an unbeliever to make spiritual decisions that reflect spiritual maturity and an understanding of God's will? Aren't you getting the cart before the horse? If an unbeliever is dead in sin, how can that unbeliever know and desire what God wants him or her to do and obey? Isn't knowing and obeying God's will the essence of the Christian's life after one believes?

Have you remained completely committed to Christ's lordship? If you haven't, isn't that an indication that you were never fully committed? And wouldn't that mean you were never really saved? Or is it an admission to the reality and power of sin, a reality that would make it impossible for anyone to make the full commitment demanded by your view of salvation?

Which sins disqualify a person as a true believer? Again, is there a list of certain sins that prove one is not saved? What about King David's sins of murder and adultery? Since he was surely saved, do sins have to be worse than his to prove one is unsaved? How much sin is a Christian capable of? Since you undoubtedly agree that Christians do sin, how much is too much before you deny he or she is a true Christian? Where do you draw the line? Why does the Bible instruct church discipline for Christians who sin?

If salvation depends on your perseverance in faithfulness and good works, how can you know for sure you are saved? Though you may be living faithfully now, how do you know what tests or temptations you will face tomorrow? If you can not predict the future, isn't there a chance you could sin and die before you repent? As long as that is possible, how can you say with certainty that you are a true Christian and that you have any assurance of eternal life? How could you honestly give assurance of salvation to anyone who says he or she believes the Gospel?

Where is there room to grow? If your saving faith included obedience, forsaking all sins, a committed life, and a guarantee of faithfulness, what is left to do? Why are there so many ethical demands in the Bible addressed to Christians? Aren't they unnecessary if a godly life is inevitable?

Did the apostle John preach a false Gospel? Since the Gospel of John does not mention repentance, or submission, or commitment to Jesus as Lord as conditions for salvation, but does mention believe as the condition for salvation 98 times, would you call that "easy believism?" Do you think John was ignorant or irresponsible (But I know you believe that is impossible since this is God's inspired Word)? Since his is the only book of the Bible that claims it was written to tell people how to be saved (John 20:31), shouldn't it determine what you believe about the condition for salvation?

And by the way, isn't your "costly grace" a contradiction in terms? If grace is a free gift to you paid for by Jesus Christ, how can it cost you anything? If you do anything or make any commitments to merit God's grace, doesn't that compromise and cancel it (Rom. 4:4; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9)? How then can you receive the grace of salvation by any way other than simple faith?


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GraceNotes is a concise quarterly Bible study on the important issues related to salvation by grace and living by grace. They are designed for downloading (*pdf available) and copying so they can be used in ministry. No permission is required if they are distributed unedited at no charge. You can receive new GraceNotes by subscribing to our free quarterly GraceLife newsletter.

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