[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lordship Salvation + Assurance = Easy Believism

by Matthew
Antonio has done an excellent job in his blog of demonstaring how Calvinistic theology destroys assurance. Indeed many Calvinists no doubt do lack assurance that they are truly saved.

However, there are many who believe in Lordship salvation (holding that personal holiness and perserverance are essential elements of salvation) to varying degrees who have a strong sense of assurance. They may pay lip service to the idea that there is a false faith, but they would never question the reality of their own faith in Christ. In their theological reasonings they may make faith complicated and attack 'mere mental assent', but practically they know when they believe something and when they do not. They know very well that they are eternally secure in Christ, even though they believe that this must inevitably result in perserverance in the faith.

Until last year I favoured a Reformed approach to Sanctification and held to Calvinistic Perserverance. However, I had a strong assurance of my salvation. I knew my faith was real. I knew for certain that Christ had died for my sins and was raised for my justification. This was rightly my confidence.

This of course was a problem in terms of dealing with Biblical warnings and exhortations.

James 2:17
"Even so faith , if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

While I was vaguely aware that there was an alternative interpretation, I assumed that this meant that genuine faith must have works.

Now, I never liked the book of James very much. I felt it was tougth teaching. However, I did not let it bother me. I was absolutely confident that my faith was real. Therefore, logically I must be doing works. As my faith was real, I must obviously be doing sufficent works to demonstrate the reality of my salvation. They might not always be good enougth to satisfy my conscience, but they obvioulsy must be real because God was at work in my life sanctifying me.

I read devotional books by Calvinist writers, in particular 'Holiness' by J.C. Ryle. In this collection of papers, Ryle warned Christians to look at their behavior and to question their salvation. It was challenging stuff, but it did not worry too much. I had absolute confidence that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sin and that I had life in Him. Therefore, I was saved, regardless of the fact that J.C. Ryle's papers made me uncomfortable.

The fact was that so long as I had assurance of being a justified sinner, my Lordship salvation theology actually lead me into the same 'Easy Believism' that Free Grace advocates are accused of.

What challenged my thinking was Ananias and Saphirah. I had always accepted the possiblity that Ananias and Saphirah might have been saved, but I had never given it much thought. However, when I began studying J.N. Darby and other Brethren writers, I was surprised to find that they connected the deaths of this couple to the 'Sin unto death' in 1 John 5:16. I had been troubled before by Arminians using this verse to prove the possiblity of Christians being lost forever. However, the idea that this was physical death made so much more sense.

The idea that Biblical warnings might be to believers instead of false professors completely turned my theology upside down. The doctrine of God's chastening now seemed so much more real. If failure to walk in faithfulness had dreadful consequences, then the denial of Perserverance didd not necessarilly lead to 'Easy Believism' as I had thought. I was now able to see that Lordship salvation either leads one to question his assurance of salvation or else to genuine 'Easy Believism'.

34 Comments:

  • Ha! I get to be the first to comment on one of YOUR posts! The tables are turned!

    OK, so what you are saying is that, if we take the warnings as simply warnings of being cast into hell ... but, we are sure that we are not going to hell ... then we can shrug off the warning, because we think it doesn't apply to us?

    Instead of being challenged to "put on the new man," which is the intended purpose of the warning, we just march on in our un-Christlike attitudes and lazy sprituality/sin, because we have assurance.

    Am I getting your meaning right?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 2:13:00 PM  

  • "However, there are many who believe in Lordship salvation (holding that personal holiness and perserverance are essential elements of salvation) to varying degrees who have a strong sense of assurance. They may pay lip service to the idea that there is a false faith, but they would never question the reality of their own faith in Christ. In their theological reasonings they may make faith complicated and attack 'mere mental assent', but practically they know when they believe something and when they do not. They know very well that they are eternally secure in Christ, even though they believe that this must inevitably result in perserverance in the faith."

    To be sure I understand these you mention here are truly redeemed by virtue of their personal assurance?

    By Blogger Kc, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 2:30:00 PM  

  • Yes, Rose~.

    Kc, nobody is redeemed by personal assurance. I am not sure the meaningfulness of that concept.

    The Bible says that those who believe on the Son have everlasting life. Thus, those who believe can have assurance on that basis.

    Many Calvinists do have assurance on that basis, despite it not fitting in with their theology.

    The combination of a correct attitude of assurance with a Lordship view of salvation potentially leads to a lazy spiritual life and makes the Biblical warnings and exhortations superfluous.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 2:47:00 PM  

  • "Kc, nobody is redeemed by personal assurance. I am not sure the meaningfulness of that concept.
    "


    Thanks Matthew. We're in total agreement.

    By Blogger Kc, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 3:21:00 PM  

  • Matthew,

    Excellent post! I think you make very valid points! I enjoy your writing, honesty, and theology!

    PEACE,
    NATE

    By Blogger Nate, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 4:58:00 PM  

  • Hi Matthew,
    Good piece! I did not know that about J.C. Ryle.

    Have you considered that there may be Calvinists who do not hold to the Lordship Salvation position (defined as being completely obedient in every area of life to Christ’s authority to prove salvation)? There may be some Calvinists who, in fact, spurn that notion ;-) yet still accept others (i.e. all those in Christ regardless of their persuasion) as fellow believers as well. What do you think?

    Brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Wednesday, February 22, 2006 5:24:00 PM  

  • John, yes, there are many that would come into that category.

    Kc, that is good.

    Nate, thanks.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:34:00 AM  

  • ???? Who do we trust in?

    Certainly He is Lord. Where does His Lordship place my faith?

    Col 1:19 For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all the fulness dwell;
    Col 1:20 and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens.
    Col 1:21 And you, being in time past alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works,
    Col 1:22 yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreproveable before him:
    Col 1:23 if so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven; whereof I Paul was made a minister.

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 4:54:00 AM  

  • Ambiance, did I write anything in this post that implied that I deny the divinity of our Lord?

    Here is a suggestion for you, why not try to understand people before you attempt to refute them?

    I have never read anything in your comments to suggest that you have made any effort to understand our positions whatsoever.

    Maybe you have and I am missing it. Please show me that I am wrong about this.

    As for the term Lordship salvation, it certainly is misleading. It should not be understood by the term that Free Grace believers deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives. On the contrary, we seek to submit all that we do to Christ and to bring Him glory and honour.

    Our theology of rewards and punishments should demonstrate that there are blessings in submitting to the Lordship of Christ and consequences for refusal to do so.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 6:16:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    Yes, I can agree that there are blessings in Christ's Lordship.

    I can't however understand a "heaven" that is not perfect in peace and His blessings.

    Your either blessed or your not.

    If "not"..how is it heaven?

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 6:43:00 AM  

  • Hi Df

    In studying James 2, it is important to note that the emphasis is on a profession of faith. "Though a man say he hath faith"

    There is a big difference between saying that you have faith and actually possessing faith. And if we are going to prove that we have faith, works must be shown: "I will show thee my faith by my works" If a person cannot show any works, then it is reasonable to question whether he really has faith.

    Can A Saved Person Deny Christ?

    "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-33).

    "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us: If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tim. 2:12-13).

    The teaching of Hodges and Dillow insists that a regenerate person can deny Christ, deny the faith, deny the gospel, deny
    Christianity, deny any saving relationship to Christ, and yet still be saved. The Bible does not teach this.
    We Have to back our believes with the Word of God. Or we biuld our foundation on sinking sand.

    I'm trying to see what you are saying DF..

    Your Friend and Brother
    Doug

    By Blogger forgiven, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 7:22:00 AM  

  • Ambiance, thankyou for asking a reasonable question.

    Christians do not experience the earthly blessings that were promised to the Israelites. There are different kinds of blessings.

    All glorified believers will experience perfect peace for eternity in the heavenly city.

    There may be some anguish at the judgment seat of Christ and at His coming, but this anguish will not be eternal.

    However, there are rewards and privileges that will be given to some and denied to others. The consciousness of being denied such blessings will be a disappointment to those to whom they denied, even though by grace they experience the blessing of dwelling eternally with Christ.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 7:23:00 AM  

  • Doug, have you read Antonio's posts on James 2?

    Antonio's posts can give you a far better answer than I can on this subject.

    I will say a few things. The epistle of James is addressed to believers, men who had genuine saving faith. If faith inevitably involves works, then this message to believers would have been superfluous. James would have done better to simply tell his readers to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

    No, the fact that this warning is given show s that it is possible to have genuine faith, but not do any works. There is nothing in the context of James to suggest that this is a 'false faith' that lacks works.

    If faith must necessarilly involve works, then in practical terms, there is no difference between being saved by faith or saved by works. Either way, I would have to do works to ensure my salvation. This robs the force from Justification.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 7:31:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    God respects the work of men?
    What about the parable of the penny? It is God's grace that also brings about works. sorry...I just can not grasp it.

    Mat 20:9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a shilling.
    Mat 20:10 And when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received every man a shilling.
    Mat 20:11 And when they received it, they murmured against the householder,
    Mat 20:12 saying, These last have spent but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
    Mat 20:13 But he answered and said to one of them, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a shilling?
    Mat 20:14 Take up that which is thine, and go thy way; it is my will to give unto this last, even as unto thee.
    Mat 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? or is thine eye evil, because I am good?
    Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last.

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 8:03:00 AM  

  • Thanks DF

    By Blogger forgiven, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 8:05:00 AM  

  • Ambiance, it is important to distinguish between faithful service and salvation.

    As regards salvation, there is nothing you can do to atone for your sins. God will not overlook your iniquity because of any works that you do, but He will accept you only through Christ and His saving work.

    However, God is sovereign and may reward whom He pleases. To demand rewards for free as part of the package of grace is arrogance.

    The Scriptures are clear that there are rewards to be earned.

    Matthew 6:20
    'But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break in and steal'

    If one does not work, one will not receive any treasures.

    In Luke 19, we have the parable of the talents. The one who worked more faithfully received a greater reward. The one who was unfaithful received nothing.

    2 Cor 5:10
    'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.'

    Our works are taken into account at the judgment seat of Christ, not as regards salvation, but as regards status and rewards in the Kingdom.

    The position of ruling with Christ is likewise conditional upon works-

    Revelation 3:21
    'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.'

    As regards the passage you cited in Matthew 20, I am not going to do your homework for you. Take another look at it, bearing the clear Scriptural teaching about rewards and see
    if you can come up with another interpretation of it.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 8:58:00 AM  

  • Matthew...???
    How in the world is one going to have Christ in His heart and be unfaithful?

    It makes no sense to me at all!

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 12:47:00 PM  

  • Let me put it another way...

    Would I ever be unfaithful to my husband? Never! Never! Never!

    Why? Because he and I are one and I love him.

    That does not mean I might not make mistakes in our relationship..but mistakes and blantant unfaithfulness are not the same.

    Our relationship with Christ should be like a loving marriage. We would never cheat on our spouse.

    By Blogger ambiance-five, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 1:00:00 PM  

  • Ambiance, can you prove to me from Scripture that your distinction between 'mistakes' and 'unfaithfulness' is valid?

    And by waht criteria do you distinguish the two?

    So bad language might be a mistake. What about using pornography? Is that a mistake or unfaifulness?

    What about fornication or adultery? Is that a mistake or unfaithfulnesss? Perhaps you would never be unfaithful to your husband, but there are Christian men and women who do fall into that sin.

    What about financial scandals? Are they msitakes or unfaithfulness?

    Do you see where I am going?

    Can you help me out here?

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 1:04:00 PM  

  • Matthew, I have been trying to say this since I started my blog but it was always elusive to me.

    Thank you for stating it so very lucidly :)


    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:04:00 PM  

  • I love this part:

    I was absolutely confident that my faith was real. Therefore, logically I must be doing works. As my faith was real, I must obviously be doing sufficent works to demonstrate the reality of my salvation. They might not always be good enougth to satisfy my conscience, but they obvioulsy must be real because God was at work in my life sanctifying me.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:05:00 PM  

  • I'm going to send this to my pastor :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:06:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the encouragement, Jodie.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:32:00 PM  

  • Ambiance,

    In regards to unfaithfulness/faithfulness and your analogy, it flounders. In other words even if you were "unfaithful" to your husband in the sense that I believe you're speaking, you would still be married, right?

    Not advocating this, but, just pointing out the conclusion of your logic.

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:59:00 PM  

  • Matthew, great post.

    I never really understood the book of James. This past July, we had a Bible conference with a Pastor from Idaho and his preaching was truly excellent. On the last night, my brother and I approached and asked him multiple questions. Kinda like putting him on the hot seat.

    We asked him about the book of James. This is what he had to say. He believes that this is something he would not necesseraly preach (unless it's his own sheep), and especially not use during witnessing to people. But since we asked, he answered.

    I have a feeling you may not agree since this is more of a pre-tribulation point of view, but it would be interesting to hear what you have to say.

    He naturally believes in Dispensations and that God deals with different people in different times. Just like now, the church age is under Grace, he believes that during the Tribulation time, te "remaining" saints will not be under Grace. Just like the book of Romans applies to the gentiles (salvation by grace), the book of James will apply to them, therefore, faith + works....

    Now for Ambiance, I don't know if this helps or not, but I have used this illustration (though I don't liek illustrations, I like verses) with some of the teenagers and co-workers I work with. Grace is a GIFT. If my mother gives me a gift, it is mine, if I put it in my closet and not use it, too bad for me...I will have consequences for noth using somehting great (i.e. crowns in heaven, etc.) nevertheless it is mine, it is MY GIFT.

    The Lord made salvation very simple. It is not God's will to have anyone thrown into hel. Hell was created for the devil and his angels,but our sins and the devil will take us there. God has the cure. GRACE.

    In Christ,
    Sarah

    By Blogger Redeemed, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 4:24:00 PM  

  • Hi matt. Very good post. I hope i understood it right. I think i get stuck sometimes between the assurance of salvation and the genuine "easy believism" if i understood them both correctly.
    I don't want to be one of those christians that say they are a christian but look just like and live just like an unbeliever. There are alot of those in this country. I have recently noticed this more.
    So i have a very hard time with looking at my sin as being "okay" because i am forgiven and get up and move on. No matter how much I am told to just ask for forgivness and repent i still feel the need to punish myself. I know its ridiculous. Why do I do that? What do u think that means really?

    By Blogger Dorothy, at Thursday, February 23, 2006 4:52:00 PM  

  • Dorothy, God's grace is not always easy to accept.

    You do not need to punish yourself. Just confess your sin.

    If God needs to chasten you, He will. Punishing yourself will do no good.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, February 24, 2006 12:37:00 AM  

  • Sarah, thanks for visiting.

    No, I do not agree with that.

    James was written to Jewish believers in the early Church. It was relevant to them then and there.

    Most Dispensationalists rightly hold that the Tribulation is part of the dispensation of Grace. It is principle of the Bible that God never restores a fallen dispensation. The dispensation of Law cannot be restored.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, February 24, 2006 12:40:00 AM  

  • Bobby, thanks for visiting.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, February 24, 2006 12:40:00 AM  

  • Very interesting, thanks Matthew.

    By Blogger Redeemed, at Friday, February 24, 2006 6:07:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    a very interesting thesis. I have often toyed around with these ideas. In many respects i believe that you are absolutely right.

    Traditionalists understand that one must persevere until the end to be saved. They all really beleive that they are elect, but would be quick to question someone else if they are.

    Many of them practically disregard their own perseverance theology when it comes to themselves, yet apply it heavily to their "brethren". It doesn't sink in that their doctrine teaches that any one of them "could be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet" (John MacArthur).

    If ever the term "carnal assurance" could be used of anyone, it would be the Traditionalist, in whose doctrine necessitates taking his assurance from his works.

    I disagree with you Matthew, and you Casey in this one point:

    We are INDEED redeemed through personal assurance, for assurance is of the ESSENCE of saving faith. If you have faith you must NECESSARILY be absolutely assured, at that moment, of your eternal life.

    Faith = assurance! (Heb 11:1).

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 10:39:00 AM  

  • Antonio I'm not sure if Matthew was aware of the implications in my previous question and it may well be that he would agree with you here. I didn't intend to trap him with that question and would certainly understand if he wanted to expound on his opinion. I will post my understanding of this soon and sincerly hope you will destroy it as I have great respect for you and your understanding. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at Sunday, February 26, 2006 6:57:00 AM  

  • Matthew:

    You said: "The position of ruling with Christ is likewise conditional upon works-

    Revelation 3:21
    'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.'"


    Could it be that this is referring to believers now? Consider this passage:

    Ephesians 2:4-7
    4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

    And as far as assurance goes, maybe it's not so much the idea of visible works that gives us the confidence of our faith in Christ as much as it is His Spirit that dwells in us warring with our flesh.

    Consider this passage:

    Romans 8: 10 - 16
    10If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

    Could this be where assurance comes from? His Spirit testifying with my spirit that I am a child of God?

    In Christ,
    Ten Cent

    By Blogger nothingnothingnothing, at Monday, February 27, 2006 12:34:00 PM  

  • Ten Cent, yes, the Holy Spirit gives us assurance. However, this sense of assurance may be lost through falling into sin.

    Yes, indeed we are seated in heavenly places. However, I sure dont have any power over the nations, except by prayer.

    As Revelation concerns the establishment of God's government over the nations, I think that verse must clearly be understood in a future sense.

    To apply that verse to the present is to violate the context within that book of prophecy.

    Antonio, I do agree agree with you.

    I found Kc's question rather confusing as he admits.

    Yes, having assuranceis a part of receiving eternal life. However, I do not believe that God witholds eternal life because a person is uncertain that it might not be lost. That would make salvation dependant on our logical consistency.

    What is essential is the belief that one is receiving the gift of eternal life as a present posession.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, February 27, 2006 2:08:00 PM  

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