"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

Lordship salvation

Lordship salvation

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“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10, ESV)

Lordship salvation is the position that receiving Christ involves a turning in the heart from sin and, as a part of faith, a submissive commitment to obey Jesus Christ as Lord. It also maintains that progressive sanctification and perseverance must necessarily follow conversion. Those who hold to the doctrine of perseverance of the saints see this not only as a requirement, but an assured certainty according to the sustaining grace of Christ.

The doctrine of lordship salvation has implications for evangelism, assurance, and the pursuit of holiness. The grace of God in salvation not only forgives, but transforms, and a lack of obedience or transformation in a person's life is warrant to doubt that they have been born again. The grounds for assurance include not only the objective promises of God (like John 3:16), but also the internal testimony of the Spirit (Romans 8:16) and holiness the Spirit produces in our lives (1 John 2:3-4,19).

The non-lordship salvation position is popularly known by critics as “easy believism”, and by adherents as “free grace”. However, proponents of Lordship salvation frown upon this usage of the term “free grace”, as the free grace spoken of in the Bible both justifies the sinner and transforms the heart unto obedience.


Receiving Jesus Christ in repentance and faith

There is a close relationship between that of receiving Christ and having faith in Christ. In fact, the two are indistinguishable. There cannot be an individual who has truly received Christ who lacks faith in Christ, or an individual who has faith in Christ but has yet to receive him.

“We can do nothing but only receive Christ and what he has done already. Salvation is not offered to us upon any condition, but freely and for nothing. We are to do nothing for it; we are only to take it. This taking and receiving is faith. … Faith cannot be called the condition of receiving, for it is the receiving itself.” (Jonathan Edwards) [1]

The apostle Paul writes explaining the way in which believers begin with Christ: in faith with thanksgiving. He encourages the Colossians to continue in the same way that they began or received Christ.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Col 2:6-7)

Saving faith “energizes a life of love and obedience”

Sam Storms writes:

“The doctrine of Lordship Salvation views saving faith neither as passive nor fruitless. The faith that is the product of regeneration, the faith that embraces the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross energizes a life of love and obedience and worship. The controversy is not a dispute about whether salvation is by faith only or by faith plus works. All agree that we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works (Eph. 2:8-10). But the controversy is about the nature of the faith that saves.”^[1]^

Repentance is a turning in the heart from sin to God

Jesus evangelistically calls people to discipleship

When Jesus preached the gospel, he both called men to trust in his promises and to follow him in radical discipleship.

Among Christians there is no elite subcategory of joint-heirs with Christ

Paul writes in Romans 8:16-17:

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs””heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Richard P. Belcher writes,

“The Greek word in Romans 8:17 speaks of glorification and not reigning. It is a word related to the one translated 'glorified' in [Romans 8:30]. The word in verse 17 is a compound verb (a prepositional prefix with a simple verb), while the word in verse 30 is the simple verb alone… Clearly both a simple reading of the passage and a careful interpretation of the passage brings us to the same conclusion. We are heirs-join-heir with God in Christ. The reality of our relation to Christ is shown in our lives of suffering for Him, and we shall be glorified together with Him.”^[2]^

“Inheriting” the kingdom is not a separate category from “entering” the kingdom

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (ESV)^[3]^

That Paul is not dividing his audience into two kinds of justified Christians-inheritors and non-inheritors-is made apparent by the very next verse (11):

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Matt Waymeyer writes:

“The New Testament speaks of believers seeing the kingdom (John 3:3), entering the kingdom (Matt 7:21), receiving the kingdom (Mark 10:15), inheriting the kingdom (1 Cor 15:50; Gal 5:21), and having an inheritance in the kingdom (Eph 5:5). The fact that these verbs are not perfectly synonymous with one another hardly disproves that each is being used to describe the experience of every believer (albeit by emphasizing slightly different nuances of the believer”™s relationship to the kingdom). In Mark 10:14-15, for example, receiving the kingdom, entering the kingdom, and having the kingdom belong to you are all used interchangeably in reference to the experience of everyone who believes.”^[4]^

Concerning Matthew 25:31-46, he goes to write,

“In [this passage], Jesus is describing what will happen when He returns to this earth in glory and sits on His glorious throne (v. 31). At this time, He will gather the nations before Him and separate humanity into two groups of people (v. 32), placing the sheep on His right and the goats on His left (v. 33). The sheep, of course, represent believers (vv. 34-40) and the goats represent unbelievers (vv. 41-45). Later, Jesus describes how He will tell the goats: 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels' (v. 41). But first He addresses the sheep, saying to them: 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world' (v. 34; emphasis added). All believers, Jesus says, will inherit the kingdom. “According to the [non-lordship] view, Jesus should have divided humanity into three groups: (1) the righteous sheep who will inherit the kingdom, (2) the unrighteous sheep who will enter but not inherit the kingdom, and (3) the unrighteous goats who will depart into eternal fire. But instead, He divided them into two (and only two) groups of people: (1) the sheep who will inherit the kingdom and (2) the goats who will go away into eternal punishment. These two groups are otherwise known as the blessed ones and accursed ones (vv. 34, 41), the righteous and the unrighteous (v. 46). Again, all true believers will inherit the kingdom of God.”


A person can be saved and not know fully the implications of Christ's lordship

John Piper writes:

“[S]omething may be real even when we don”™t understand it fully or even use the right language to describe it. For example, is a person not 'born again' just because he has never heard the term 'born again' and does not relate to Jesus in those terms but only in terms of faith and forgiveness and atonement? No. A person is just as born again if he believes in Jesus, even if he has never heard of the word 'regeneration' or the term 'born again'. Many have been born again and saved through gospel tracts which say nothing about the term 'rebirth.' … [N]one of us yet understands the full implications of the lordship of Christ on our lives. I am struggling every day to know what the Lord is requiring of me in specific choices among good options. I am learning every day the extent of his lordly control of the world and his mysterious ways of fulfilling his promises as Lord of my life and my church. Submitting to the lordship of Christ is a lifelong activity. It must be renewed every day in many acts of trust and obedience. Submission to Christ”™s lordship is not merely a once-for-all experience.”^[5]^

Our submission to Christ is imperfect and progressive

Due in part to some unhelpful rhetoric by proponents of lordship salvation, some have objected that it

“places sanctification before salvation. If people are to give up/turn from all of their sins before they are saved, then, in essence, they are to become sanctified before they are saved. This is something that no Christian has achieved in this life””not even Paul could claim such an achievement at the end of his life (Phil. 3:12).”^[6]^ But Sam Storms notes that the lordship position “recognizes a distinction between the implicit acknowledgment by the new convert of the principle of Christ's rightful authority over his life and the explicit practice of progressive submission to the Christ who is Lord.”^[1]^ John Piper writes:

“[F]rom the time of our first saving acceptance of Christ, he is our King and Lord and Savior and Priest and Prophet and Counselor. All that he is, he is for those who are his. And then begins a life of faltering and growing yieldedness to Christ in all that he is. This can come in the form of decisive crises, or in the form of gradually growing commitment, or in the form of daily surrenderings. The lordship of Christ, in reality, is something that is not discovered and yielded to once, but thousands of times. It is yieldedness to his lordship that is at stake every time we are tempted to sin-every day… [A]ll saved people own Jesus as Lord of their lives but live out that submission in greater or lesser degrees of consistency.”^[5]^

Works are not the essence of faith

Sam Storms writes:

“We must distinguish between the content of faith and the consequences of faith. To say that faith issues in good works does not mean faith is good works. To say that works are the expression of faith does not means works are the essence of faith.”^[1]^

Calvin Beisner puts it this way:

“The relationship of entailment between A [faith] and B [works] may be any of several kinds. A entails B if A and B are identical; If A then B is a valid inference by the law of identity. By causation, A entails B if A is a necessary and sufficient condition of B: If A then B. A. Therefore B” is a valid inference by modus ponens. By inclusion, A entails B if all A are B, even if not all B are A: All A are B. C is A. Therefore C is B is a valid inference by modus ponens. [With regard to faith and works, what matters] is whether the entailment is that of identity, cause, or inclusion.

The first equates faith and works and destroys the whole Biblical teaching of justification by faith alone apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28). The third subsumes works under faith and likewise destroys sola fide. Only the second maintains the Biblical distinction between faith and works and the Biblical doctrine that works are the necessary consequence of faith and so upholds the Biblical teaching of justification by faith alone apart from the works of the law.”^[7]^

Christians can be carnal

John MacArthur writes,

“Christians can be carnal. That is, they can behave in carnal ways. But 'carnal Christian' is not a plane of spiritual existence where one can remain indefinitely. Carnality is never spoken of by Scripture as a perpetual state for believers.”^[8]^

The First Epistle of John

1 John was largely written to deal with this very issue (how you can know you have eternal life), and thus is the most directly relevant scripture for this issue. John wrote in 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” He was relentlessly clear in the epistle: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1:6). Consider the following passages:

  • “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (2:3-6)
  • “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (2:9-11)
  • “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world””the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions””is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (2:15-17)
  • “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (2:28-29)
  • “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (3:4-10)
  • “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (3:14-15)


See main page: Non-lordship salvation

Salvation should be distinguished from discipleship

“This Lordship teaching fails to distinguish salvation from discipleship and makes requirements for discipleship prerequisites for salvation. Our Lord distinguished the two (Luke 14:16-33). This teaching elevates one of the many aspects of the person of Christ (Master over life) in making it a part of the Gospel. Why not require faith in His kingship? Or in the fact that He is Judge of all, or that He was the Creator? Though my view has been dubbed “easy believism,” it is not easy to believe, because what we ask the unsaved person to believe in not easy. We ask that he trust a person who lived two thousand years ago, whom he can only know through the Bible, to forgive his sins. We are asking that he stake his eternal destiny on this.

Remember the example of Evangelist Jesus. He did not require the Samaritan woman to set her sinful life in order, or even be willing to, so that she could be saved. He did not set out before her what would be expected by way of changes in her life if she believed. He simply said she needed to know who He is and to ask for the gift of eternal life (John 4:10).” – Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology. “How can the Scriptures teach that salvation is a free gift of God if the human cost to become a disciple, that is, to be born again, is very great as Lordship Salvation advocates insist? Salvation is either the free gift of God, or it is costly to man. The Bible teaches that salvation is a gift from God (Romans 6:23), but that discipleship or following Christ is costly (Luke 14:26-27)”¦ . Lordship advocates rationalize the upfront commitment to costly discipleship for salvation by calling it a difficult paradox. These men teach that a commitment to discipleship (cross bearing and following) is as necessary as faith in order to be saved. “Lordship proponents have arrived at their costly discipleship gospel as a response to the growing number of people who claim to be Christian, but do not live up to their profession of having placed their faith in Christ. Do advocates of Lordship Salvation believe they can remedy the situation by demanding sinners make an up-front commitment to obedient discipleship in order to be saved?” Lou Martuneac, In Defense of the Gospel (Xulon Press, 2006).

To require accompanying works is to deny salvation by faith alone

“If good works were necessary to obtain salvation, then why would Paul say that salvation is 'not of works, lest anyone should boast'? And why would he speak of the salvation of the Ephesians as an already accomplished fact, 'You have been saved'? The answers are simple. Good works are not a condition. Faith is the only condition and salvation occurs at the moment of faith. No subsequent sins can change this. Salvation is a done deal at the moment one believes in Christ for eternal life.” – Bob Wilkin, Confident in Christ, pg 52.

The real issue is whether works always accompany saving faith, which alone saves. The same Paul who taught justification by faith alone also taught of the works that necessarily result from that faith (cf. Romans 5-8). Paul indeed teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9 salvation by faith apart from works. In this same context, however, it is equally true that Paul speaks of his Christian readers as those who used to walk and live and act one way, but now do so in another:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (2:1-3) Paul contrasts this past behavior with the new reality of having been made “alive together with Christ” (2:5).

Paul goes on to speak of this grace in verse 10, showing that the grace extends not only to forgiveness of sins and a secured future, but also to the workmanship God performs, the result of which is a new way of living (i.e. “walking”):

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

All faith is saving faith

“But how can we be sure that we have really believed? Therein lies a problem created by traditions, not by the Word of God. That question is foreign to the biblical gospel. There is no such thing as true faith as opposed to false faith. All faith is faith. If we believe in Christ for eternal life, then we have eternal life and we know we have it, because He guarantees it, 'He who believes in Me has everlasting life' (John 6:47). To doubt that we really believe is to disbelieve Jesus' promise.” – Bob Wilkin, Confident in Christ, pg 55.

This notion directly contradicts James 2, which distinguishes living and dead faith:

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – James 2:17

Paul likewise speaks of a “vain” faith, which is manifested when one does not “hold fast to the word”:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you-unless you believed in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

No other gospel accentuates belief like John. It is frequently clear and succinct in saying that those who believe will not perish but have eternal life, yet it also speaks of two different kinds of faith.

It is impossible to quantify the kind of disobedience which reveals a lack of salvation

Soli Deo Gloria


  1. “‘ ^1.0^ ^1.1^ ^1.2^ “The Lordship Salvation Debate”, by Sam Storms. November 6, 2006. Accessed October 15, 2008. Link
  2. “‘ Richard P. Belcher, “A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy”. p. 90. 1990 (Massachusetts: Crowne Publications, Inc.)
  3. “‘ Crossway Bibles (2001). The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Good News Publishers.
  4. “‘ Matt Waymeyer, “1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and the Lordship Debate”. October 24th, 2006. Link. Accessed October 20, 2008.
  5. “‘ ^5.0^ ^5.1^ “Letter to a Friend Concerning the So-Called 'Lordship Salvation'”, Link, February 1, 1990. Accessed October 14, 2008
  6. “‘ “Soteriology Workbook”, p. 90. Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. 2006. Accessed October 15, 2008. Link.
  7. “‘ “What Is the Faith that Justifies?”, by E. Calvin Beisner. October 22, 2002. Accessed October 16, 2008. Link
  8. “‘ John MacArthur, “The Gospel According to Jesus”, p. 279″. 2008.


  • A Layman's Guide to the Lordship Controversy, by Belcher, Richard ISBN 0925703133
  • Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, Michael Horton (editor), Baker, 1992. ISBN 0801043743


  • The Gospel According to Jesus, by John F. MacArthur, Jr. (Zondervan), 1988.
  • The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance & Assurance, by Thomas Schreiner
  • Future Grace, by John Piper


  • Balancing the Christian Life, by Charles C. Ryrie (Moody Publishers), 1969. ISBN 0802404529
    • “It is an inexcusable error to confront sinners with problems that concern the Christian life and call upon them to make promises regarding them. An unsaved person is never called upon to surrender himself to God. The saving act is in no instance represented as our 'giving ourselves to God'; it is, on the contrary, taking His Son as our Savior.” (p. 170)
  • So Great Salvation, by Charles C. Ryrie (Wheaton: Victor Books), 1989
  • Basic Theology, by Charles C. Ryrie (Moody Publishers), 1999
  • Absolutely Free, by Zane Hodges (Zondervan), 1989
  • Confident in Christ, by Robert N. Wilkin (Grace Evangelical Society), 1999
  • In Defense of the Gospel: Biblical Answers to Lordship Salvation, by Lou Martuneac (Xulon Press), 2006

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