Lordship Salvation is the idea that in order to be saved, one must receive Jesus as both Savior and Lord. Belief in Christ is not enough, but good works are required. The guys who ascribe to this view would describe saving faith as repentance (turning from sin) plus faith (turning to God). They also say that to receive Christ, means to receive His whole person, which includes His roles as both Savior and Lord. John Stott says, “The call of God in the gospel is not just to receive Jesus Christ, but to belong to Him, not just to believe in Him, but to obey Him.”
Now, the guys who oppose this view are called “Free Grace” guys. They point to the Scriptures that speak of salvation as a “gift.” There is nothing one must do to earn it. No “good works” are required. They point to Acts 2:38 which says that we must only “repent” before we can be baptized and brought into the fellowship.
My own opinion actually finds its’ strength in 1 Corinthians 3 where Paul speaks of the “carnal” man. It’s clear that this man is saved, but also that he is not living with Christ as “Lord” of his life. Now, if he is saved but Christ isn’t Lord of his life then, “saving faith” must not require “Lordship.” There is no such thing as a “Carnal Christian” if Lordship Salvation is true.
When we went over this in class, our professor also described a 3rd view which he called “soft Lordship.” This view says that once a man is saved (by repentance alone), the Holy Spirit would begin to work on him and there would be “good works” or fruit to being to appear. It may be as small as a feeling of conviction which he never had before, but it’s still fruit. The idea is that Christ would begin to become “Lord” from that day forward.
Here’s the summary:
Lordship Salvation: Faith + works/fruit = salvation
Free Grace: Faith = Salvation and works/fruit may or may not follow.
Soft Lordship: Faith = Salvation and works/fruit will follow.
I think I’d have to put myself in the “soft Lordship” category. I believe that a “Carnal Christian” is just one who’s “works” have not had time to start showing up on the outside. In regards to the “Free Grace” view, I have a hard time believing that the Holy Spirit’s presence doesn’t make any difference.
How does this make a difference in my life?
There’s a part of me that is really comforted by knowing that the Holy Spirit’s work in us, might not be very evident to the onlooker. In my years of youth ministry, I
have seen many kids “walk the aisle” to receive Christ and then go for years with no evidence that it made any difference. Sometimes I watch them make decisions which clearly would not honor God. Jesus is definitely not “Lord” for them. It’s comforting to know that faith alone is sufficient. I will continue to teach and encourage His Lordship, but will also seek out the small, subtle things that the Holy Spirit might be doing within them. I think that this understanding of grace, makes me more gracious.
(Info from “Must Christ be Lord to Be Savior” by Everett Harrison and John Stott – also from “How Faith Works” by S. Lewis Johnson Jr., and “A Critique of Lordship Salvation Debate” by Charles E. Powell)
One Reply to “Lordship Salvation”
I became interested in the Lordship Salvation debate about two to three years back and I have come to accept a “moderate/conservative free grace” position. My views are:
1) Salvation (regeneration) is received by faith alone in Christ alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ where He offered Himself as the perfect atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
2) Works play absolutely no part in an individual coming to a saving knowledge of Christ; it is solely by the sheer grace of God that an individual is converted.
3) Is it possible to accept Jesus Christ as Savior but not as Lord? It is very difficult. Lordship in the context of salvation refers to the authority that had been given to Christ to save an individual from his sins. If Christ’s authority to save is not acknowledged, an individual would in all probabilities not come to the realization that Jesus Christ could be their savior. At the same time, I do not agree with the position that an individual must fully and unequivocally surrender all areas of his life to Jesus failing which he is never truly saved in the first place. Also, an individual who acknowledges Christ’s authority to save but does not accept Christ as Savior is still lost in his sins… and this is a possibility that cannot be ignored.
4) When professing believers do not produce fruit, are they “never truly saved in the first place”? Chuck Swindoll writes “For a person whose life is without works, it means one of two things. If that person is a genuine believer, the result will be a slide toward a death-like experience….. The other kind of person is the one who simply can’t produce real fruit because he or she doesn’t have the root of faith”. I concur with Chuck Swindoll on this; it is sometimes very difficult to tell whether a person is a carnal believer or a fake believer.
5) Is repentance necessary for saving faith? Repentance plays an important role for an individual to come to saving faith. If repentance is defined as a “change of mind”, then if an individual does not change his attitude about who Christ is and what He had done on the cross, it is difficult to envisage him accepting Christ as Lord and Savior. On the other hand, when an individual comes to his senses (through the ministry of the Holy Spirit) and comes to faith in Christ, he is in effect turning away from the cardinal sin of rejecting Jesus Christ and His offer of the free gift of eternal life… this cardinal sin is articulated in John 16:8-9 which reads in the NLT “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.”