I had never heard of the term lordship salvation until a couple months ago, when a blogger wrote a post disagreeing with Way of the Master Radio. Todd and Ray, the hosts, told a caller struggling with pornography that even though he believed in Jesus they couldn’t guarantee he was saved. They said that one of the signs of being a Christian is hating sin and growing in holiness. The blogger was frustrated with Way of the Master supporting the idea of lordship salvation. He remarked that the hosts totally mishandled the caller; his view is that all who say they believe in Jesus are guaranteed a spot in heaven.
Those who dislike lordship salvation say that all that is required to become a Christian is to make some sort of profession of faith in Jesus, without submitting to Jesus as Lord or turning from sin. They agree that repentance is required for salvation, but redefine repentance as a change of mind about who Jesus is. Technically, if someone professes a belief in Jesus at one point in his or her life, that person can go on to become an atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or murderer and still end up in heaven.
Those who agree with lordship salvation say that repentance is defined as turning from sin. Repentance is a gift from God (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25), and isn’t something you do to earn salvation. If a guy is sorry for having an affair on his wife, and apologizes and commits to never doing it again (repents), would anyone say that he earned her forgiveness?
Those who have repented will produce the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8), and will prove their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20), because they are changed on the inside by God (2 Corinthians 5:17), and are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18), rather than sin. If someone says he or she is a Christian, but later becomes an atheist, he or she doesn’t lose salvation. Rather, the individual was never really saved.
The book of 1 John provides several tests to tell whether someone is a Christian. Among the indicators of true believers are love for brothers (1 John 3:14) and obedience to God’s commandments (1 John 2:3-4). In other words, while Christians certainly sin and even have significant struggles with it from time to time, they don’t live a lifestyle of sin.
This discussion isn’t just an interesting debate. This is very important. The Bible commands us to examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). What standard do we examine ourselves with? What are the ramifications if we’re not in the faith?
When we share our faith, our job isn’t to make getting saved more of a one-step process, or to get as many people saved as possible. (Jesus made it clear in several instances that following Him would cost us something.) Our job is to tell the truth contained in the Bible, and to not give people a false sense of security about their eternity.
Phil Johnson of the Pyromaniac Blog preached an interesting sermon on this topic. To listen, right click on it, click on “Save Target As,” save it, and then open it with your audio player.