"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

QT: S. Lewis Johnson on Lordship Salvation

Back when Dr. John Macarthur's The Gospel according to Jesus was released, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson was asked to write an article on Lordship salvation for Christianity Today. Since the topic of Lordship salvation is being discussed over at Pulpit Magazine, and Phil Johnson is providing a history of his involvement in the debate, I thought providing Dr. S. Lewis Johnson's closing points from the Christianity Today article ("How Faith Works") might be helpful.

Mercy and Lordship

I will conclude with some observations that follow from the definitions and terms discussed above and bear on the claims of Lordship Salvation—the view that one cannot receive Christ simply as Savior, but must also give him total control of one’s life, and if this is not done, one is not saved.

First of all, it is true that one must confess the lordship of Christ to be saved. Only a sovereign God can save sinners, and the calling on the Lord for mercy is an implicit recognition of his lordship and of his right of control over us.

Second, such confession must be genuine, not mere profession without reality. John MacArthur handles this point ably.

Third, the preeminent term by which salvation is received is faith, or belief (I regard repentance as a necessary part of faith). Understood properly, this is not easy believism; in fact, such faith can only be given by God (Eph. 2:8–9; 1 Cor. 12:3). It was Jesus himself who said to Jairus, “Only believe, and she shall be well” (Luke 8:50). The Gospel of John was written to induce faith, and its demand is for faith alone (John 20:30–31).

Fourth, as we have seen from the Confession, the realization of Christ’s lordship in growing obedience and submission to his will is the work of sanctification, not justification. The two great teachings must not be confounded, or the peril of mixing things that differ threatens us.

Fifth, as is clear from the Confession’s words regarding saving faith and sanctification, Christians may for a time live in carnality, but only for a time, since divine discipline, which may become severe enough to necessitate physical death, is applied by God (1 Cor. 5:5; 11:29–30). The term the carnal Christian, therefore, is not a category of a Christian acceptable to God, nor does it represent a permanent status in the Christian life.

Sixth, to insist on a complete submission to God’s will as necessary for salvation is unsupported by not only the Gospel of John, but also the Book of Acts. Prof. Everett F. Harrison has claimed, “A faithful reading of the entire book of Acts fails to reveal a single passage where people are pressed to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their personal Lord [he seems to mean personal Lord in the sense of complete submission to his will] in order to be saved.” The insistence is contrary to the experience of many well-known Christians who relate more easily with the progressive sanctification experience set out in the Confession.

Seventh, it is sounder and simpler to keep to Paul’s invitation as delivered to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31, nasb). If we keep in mind that the Lord Jesus is he who has offered himself as a propitiatory substitutionary sacrifice for sinners, and if we remember that saving faith comprehends knowledge, assent, and trust, and if we see that the new life and standing given in justification must issue in a new submission to God’s will, then we shall have our gospel thinking in order.

It is discouraging to preach the gospel and see so little convincingly genuine and long-lasting fruit. The glory of the gospel of grace and a limited response do not seem compatible, but the solution is not to be found in inducing shallow professions that do not last by the questionable methods of “decisional evangelism,” or by introducing sterner demands that have problematic biblical support. Let us remember that our sovereign God alone saves souls, and he can be trusted with that work. Let us do our work of preaching his saving Word. Lewis Sperry Chafer used to exhort his students (all men in those days), “Men, preach an accurate gospel.” That’s still good counsel. Then the results may be left safely with the Lord.


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