[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)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Makeshift Reply to an Introduction to Lordship Salvation

by Antonio da Rosa

There is a new blog/magazine out there: Pulpit, a John MacArthur entity.

Here is a reply to a post he did on Lordship Salvation

An Introduction to Lordship Salvation, by John MacArthur


I take issue with the pejorative term "easy believism". Other than that, this is a post which discusses Lordship Salvation beliefs with its attending reference to proof-texts. Proof-texting is par for the course in Lordship teaching.

The prooftexting and the stringing together of "therefore"'s based upon a statement and a prooftext is what I read often in Lordship books.

1) Do the verses he gives show that the "gospel" calls people to repentance? in Acts 2:36 Peter says that Jesus is Lord and Christ and that the audience crucified Him, 2:37, the crowd is pricked in the heart believing the message of Peter and therefore asks what shall they do now (that they believe Peter's message). Since they believe that Jesus is the Christ, according to 1 John 5:1, the are born of God. The repentance and baptism Peter requires in view of the audience's culpability in Christ's death. Acts 17:30 and 2 Pet 3:9 talk about repentance in light of Christ's temporal judgment upon the world at the "Day of the Lord". I have a 7 part article on Acts 17:30. Repentance will halt or avert temporal judgment. Acts 20:21 is a summary statement of Paul's complete ministry, not merely evangelism ("How I kept back nothing that was helpful to you").

Repentance is absent from the gospel of John (gospel written for evangelistic purposes (John 20:31), Paul's defense of his gospel in Galatians, and Paul's primary teaching on justification by faith in Romans 3-5.

2) Faith is never seen as a work, as Paul puts it into contradistinction with works (Rom 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.) Saying that faith is a gift of God begs the question. Jesus can say "Where is your faith" to regenerate disciples, and even the Westminster Confession states "By such enormous sins ... they... interrupt the exercise of faith" (V.5).

I find in the bible regenerate people's faith "shipwrecked" (1 Tim 1:18-20). I find Christians going "astray from the truth" (2 Tim 2:17-19), "astray from the faith" (1 Tim 6:20-21), and "wander[ing] from the truth" (James 5:19). I find God's "righteous one" who has the possibility of "shrink[ing] back"" (Heb 10:38-39. There are those in Galatians who lose their faith in Christ for grace and rely upon the flesh and law, who severed themself from Christ (Gal 5:2), fallen from grace (Gal 5:4), and were liable to judgment (Gal 5:10). The Spirit "explicitely says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4:13). You cannot fall away from something that you were not once in. I see Christian's denying the faith and therefore are "worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim 5:8). I see Christian widows who "turned aside to follow Satan" (1 Tim 5:14-15). I see Demas (2 Tim 4:10), Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Tim 1:15), and a number of unnamed people (2 Tim 4:16) abandoning Paul for wordly ambitions. Finally we have Christians who are "in opposition" who are in a "snare of the devil" and are held "captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim 2:24-26).

3) Faith in a person is meaningless if it is not attached to a proposition. When Jesus says that we must believe on Him, He is entreating our faith in His ability to guarantee eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him for it. In John 11:25ff, Jesus says that as the Life He guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him, as the resurrection, He guarantees resurrection to the believer in Him. He then asks Martha, "Do you believe this"? He was asking her if she believed that Jesus guarantees her eternal life and resurrection. Furthermore, another expression of saving faith is believing that Jesus is the Christ (John 11:27; 20:31; 1 John 5:1). Faith in Jesus is faith in specific propositions concerning Him, that, as the Christ, He guarantees eternal life and resurrection to the one who believes in Him for it, the one who takes Him at His word.

When one says that they "trust" someone, that necessarily breaks down to believing propositions. If I say that I trust the babysitter, this is shorthand for saying "I believe that the babysitter will act honorably, appropriately, professionally, and with the best interests of me and my child." When I say that I am trusting Christ, or believing in Christ, this is short hand for saying "I believe that Jesus is the Guarantor of eternal life to me".

4) To go to Romans 6 to prove that man is a changed person AND ACTS that way is a futile effort. The language in Romans 6 is ABSOLUTE language: "died to sin" (6:2); "our old man was crucified with Him" (6:6). It is plain wrong to interpret this information as "experiential" death and crucifixion, for the language is ABSOLUTE. Men sin, last I checked. Therefore he is not absolutely "experientially" dead to sin! That this is "positional" language is abundantly clear from the entreaties that Paul makes to our will to "reckon [ourselves] dead to sin [experientially in light of our positional death]" (6:11), and to "not let sin reign in [our] mortal body" (6:12) and "do not present" our members as instruments of unrighteousness but "present" ourselves "to God" (6:13). Paul says we must give diligence to live as we truly are positionally. He entreats us to reckon ourselves dead to sin, stop presenting our members as intruments of unrighteousness and present ourselves to God. If we don't we will not be sanctified. Sanctification is a co-operation between man and God. If we do not obey Paul's commands here in Romans 6, we will not be sanctified.

5) Sanctification DOES require post-regenerate dedication. Every entreaty of the will given in the Epistles are for our growth in sanctification. The warning passages of Hebrews discuss the dangers of not progressing in sanctification. We do have everything that pertains to life and godliness! But we are required to "add to [our] faith" (2 Pet 1:5) so that we can be sanctified. If a Christian does not add these sanctifying virtues to his faith he is blind, short-sighted and "has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins." (2 Pet 1:9). When we are saved, we are not on auto-pilot! Discipleship takes hard works. If salvation is equated with discipleship, then the same is conditioned on works.

6) Faith + submission is not "faith alone". Christ asks us to merely rely upon His grace, His work on our behalf, His promise. Commitment to Christ as a condition to receive eternal life makes salvation a contract: God's part, imparting eternal life, man's part, submission to God. In reality, faith in Christ is the passive instrument of reception. It is merely the hands receiving God's free gift. Submission on the other hand would be a contractual proviso. Once man is regenerate by receiving the absolutely free gift of eternal life, he is initiated into a brand new relationship with Christ. He is required to obey, persevere, and endure. If he doesn't, he will experience God's temporal chastening and wrath and loss of privelege and honor at Christ's coming. If he does, he will experience a greater intimacy with Christ now and be rewarded in at Christ's judgement seat.

7) None of the "prooftexts" given that a Christian will always or indefectably love Jesus prove that all true Christians will do so. Is it impossible for Christians to get caught up in the things of the world? Are the advocates of Lordship Salvation so pious as to claim that this has never happened to them? John says that when we are enamored by the things of the world that at that moment we are not loving God (1 John 2:15). Can we say that we are "loving" Jesus when we sin? Jesus identifies loving Him with obeying his commandments (John 14:21). At the moments we sin we are not obeying his commandments. Lordship Salvation believes that true Christians can be caught up in episodes of sin. During this time interval, the wayward Christian is not loving Christ.

loving Christ entails having and keeping His commandments
loving Christ is necesary for eternal life
----------
eternal life is contingent on keeping His commandments, IOW, doing works

8) If one is assured that he is saved by inspecting his own works, then he can never have certain assurance of salvation. John says that we can "know" that we have eternal life. Therefore, we must not gain our assurance by inspecting our works.

It is apparant that the Reformed doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints with its corollaries temporary/spurious faith has scattered doubts and stabbed at the faith of many.

John MacArthur has stated in one of his radio programs:

"You may be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet!"

Perseverance theology has grounded assurance of salvation subjectively on self. This has, to a great extent, spawned debilitating doubts in the congregations where teachers proclaim this doctrine.

Calvin does not agree that assurance comes from introspection:

"But if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves... Christ, then is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election." (Institutes III.xxiv.5)

He furthermore states:

"Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected toward us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity" (Institutes III.ii.38)

Jesus states "He who believes in Me has everlasting life". If you believe Jesus then you have everlasting life. It is as simple as that.

8) 1 John 2:19 does not say what this post implies it says.

"The special deceptiveness of the “many antichrists” was that they had once been part of the same fellowship to which the apostles themselves belonged: they went out from us. No other meaning than this one is really suitable in this context. The us which is repeated four times in this verse obviously is in contrast to the “you” of the following verse, which is emphatic in Greek. Here we meet for the first time the “we” – “you” – “us” contrast which we also meet in a similar context in 4:4-6.

It completely distorts the text to treat the us of verse 19 as though it meant simply “us Christians.” The antichrists had most definitely not left the church or churches to whom John writes, for if they had they would no longer been a problem! On the contrary, the apostle is clearly concerned about the exposure his readers have had, or will have, to these men. One of the claims they must have had, which gave them a false aura of authority, was that they originated in the same sphere where the apostles themselves operated, in all probability a reference to the Jerusalem church." (Zane Hodges, Epistles of John, 108)

I agree with John MacArthur's concluding statements, that the issue is not a trivial one.

Charles Ryrie has said

"The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is a false gospel and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Gal 1:6-9)" (Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation).

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