“Cheap Grace?” by Dr. Roy Zuck

This blog is by guest contributor, Dr. Roy Zuck. Dr. Zuck is Senior Professor Emeritus of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary and the editor of the theological journal Bibliotheca Sacra. He is the author or editor of many books including Basic Bible Interpretation, Bible Knowledge Commentary, A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament and A Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Dr. Zuck is one of ABI’s endorsing theologians.

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Must a person submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ in order to be saved?  If he did not make Christ Lord of his life at the moment of salvation, is he now saved?  If an unsaved person did not consciously surrender every area of his life to the control of Christ, was he genuinely saved?

Advocates of “lordship salvation” (the belief that a person must surrender every area of his or her life to Christ’s absolute control in order to be saved) contend that one cannot receive Christ as Savior from sin without also receiving Him as Lord of one’s entire life.  Why do they promote this view?  One reason is their concern over so many people who say they are Christians but give little or no evidence of a changed life.  According to lordship adherents, those so-called Christians are not genuinely born-again—they only say they are saved.  Since those professing believers were not challenged to obey Christ, to surrender all to Him, they may well be lost.  Others claim omitting the requirements of commitment, obedience, and self-denial makes salvation too easy.  They say it cheapens grace by de-emphasizing the cost of becoming a Christian.  Therefore unless a person is a dedicated disciple of Christ, he is not a Christian at all.  To become a Christian, a person must give up everything, renounce his own will and plans and give up every sin.

But is this view correct?  How does it compare with what the Bible teaches about salvation?

Common Emphases

Let’s look at several truths with which those who teach lordship salvation and those who do not can agree.

1.  Faith is not merely intellectual assent.
Salvation involves more than understanding certain facts and mentally acquiescing to those facts.  In coming to Christ for salvation, a sinner acknowledges that as a sinner, he cannot save himself, that Christ died for him as his Substitute, and that he can have eternal life through faith in Christ.  But in coming to Christ a sinner also is emotionally sensing and acknowledging his desperate need, and is volitionally turning to Christ.  To “believe” means more than accepting the facts in one’s mind.  It is an act of volition, an exercise of the will.

2.  A person may say he is a Christian but not actually be saved.
Judas is an example of a professing but no genuine follower of Christ.  He was even a “disciple” (Matt.  10:1).  In other words it is not merely enough to claim to be a Christian.  However, others cannot always tell if a person is saved.  Even Judas for a time deceived others into thinking he was regenerate.

3.  Repentance is a genuine part of salvation.
Repentance is included in believing.  Faith and repentance are like two sides of the same coin.  Genuine faith includes repentance, and genuine repentance includes faith.  The Greek word for repentance (metanoia) means to change one’s mind.  But to change one’s mind about what?  About sin, about one’s adequacy to save himself, about Christ as the only way of salvation, the only One who can make a person righteous.

Repentance is not a feeling of remorse or anguish over sin, nor an exercise in recounting past transgressions.  Repentance is a turning from sin, while faith is turning to Christ.  A change of outlook toward both sin and Christ, as Lewis Sperry Chafer has noted, “promotes a change in the course being pursued.”

Peter said to the Jews, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped” (Acts 3:19).  Barnabas and Paul told the people of Lystra to “turn from these worthless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15).  Paul reported to the Ephesians elders that he had preached to Jews and Gentiles that they “must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).  To the Thessalonian believers Paul wrote that they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess.  1:9).  When a person accepts Christ as his Savior, he is simultaneously turning to God (faith) and from sin (repentance).

4.  The life of a true believer is changed.
Everyone “in Christ” is a “new creation” (2 Cor.  5:17).  He has been regenerated, justified, reconciled, redeemed, and made a child of God.  The Holy Spirit has baptized (placed) him into the body of Christ, indwelt him, and sealed him.  Genuine believers practice righteousness (1 John 3:7, 9) and obey Christ’s commands, though, as will be discussed later, they may falter at times, some more than others.  The Holy Spirit’s presence and work in a believer’s life will result in some fruit.  Some evidence of a changed life will be seen at some time in his life, while no change whatever over a long period of time may well reveal a person is not saved at all (see 1 Tim.  5:24-25; 1 John 2:19).

5.  True believers will sin; no one is perfect this side of heaven.
Some advocates of lordship salvation, however, speak as if perpetual spiritual progress is inevitable, as if obedience is flawless and continual.  Other lordship proponents, however, recognize that when a Christian sins, the Holy Spirit seeks to make him sensitive to his need for confession of sin and for restored fellowship with Christ (1 John 1:9).

Problems in lordship salvation

Several problems, however, exist in the “lordship” approach to the gospel.

1.  Lordship salvation may dilute the idea of salvation as a free gift.
If I offer my wife a gift and then tell her it will cost her something to get it, it is no longer a gift.  Salvation is a gift from God.  But if someone says a person must commit, surrender, obey, forsake all, or deny self in order to receive that gift and be saved, that implies that salvation is not a gift after all.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God . . . you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).  Romans 5:15 speaks of “the gift that came by [God’s] grace.” According to Romans 6:23, “The gift of God is eternal life.” Salvation by God’s “surpassing grace” is “his indescribable gift” (2 Cor.  9:14-15).

2.  Lordship salvation may confuse consecration with conversion.
The lordship view does not clarify the distinction between sanctification and justification, or between discipleship and sonship.  It mixes the condition with the consequences.  It confuses becoming a Christian with being a Christian.

True, a person who is justified by God’s grace is sanctified positionally, set apart to God at the moment of salvation.  But that is when the Holy Spirit begins His work of ongoing sanctification, not finishes it.  One follows the other.  Discipleship starts at rebirth and should continue on after it.

Regeneration pertains to one’s relationship to Christ as Savior from sin.  Sanctification, on the other hand, pertains to one’s relationship to Christ as his Lord and Master.  In the new birth a person is made a new creation in Christ; in sanctification he grows in that relationship.

3.  Lordship teaching seems to add works to salvation.
Though advocates of this teaching deny their view leads to adding works to salvation, the view itself does not give that impression.  If a person must do something to be saved, he is adding to salvation.  Repeatedly the Bible clearly states that salvation comes only by receiving it by faith.  Jesus said to a woman, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50).  He did not say, “Your faith and your commitment have saved you.”

A person can become a child of God only by believing, as John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 20:31; acts 16:31 and other verses make abundantly clear.  Faith, not faith and surrender or obedience, is credited as righteousness (Rom.  4:5).  Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith”—not through faith plus surrender (Eph.  2:8).  Faith in Christ as Savior is the only way of salvation.  To add to faith, to add to receiving God’s gift of eternal life is to alter the gospel.

4.  Lordship salvation can cause some genuine believers to lack assurance of salvation.
Those who promote lordship salvation suggest there is no middle ground.  Either a person is a genuine believer and is living a life of unreserved obedience, or he cannot be sure he is saved.  As one writer put it, “To know assurance you have to see a pattern of holiness . . . . Therefore, if you are not denying ungodliness, you cannot be certain you are really saved.”

But what of a person who has been genuinely born again but is still struggling with some sin in his or her life?  According to the lordship doctrine, his salvation is questionable.  As a result he doubts his salvation.  He asks himself, “Did I really accept Christ as my Savior?” I thought I did, but this struggle with sin now makes me wonder.  Must I be saved again to be sure of my salvation?

Losing one’s salvation is not what lordship salvation proponents believe, yet ironically their system causes some genuine believers to doubt their salvation and wonder if they need to be saved again.  And again!  This obviously contradicts the biblical teaching of a believer’s security in Christ (see John 3:16; 5:24; 6:37; 10:28-29; Rom.  8:29-30).

5.  Lordship salvation raises the question of how much commitment is enough.
How much must a person’s life change in order for him to be saved?  How can he know at the moment of salvation if he is giving up everything?  Must a person sell all his possessions and give them to the poor (Matt.  19:21) to be saved?  Must a person hate his parents (Luke 14:26) in order to be saved?  Must a person be perfect as God is perfect (Matt.  5:48)?  Must he relinquish all anger, jealousy, lust, pride, selfishness, bitterness, swearing, worry, hatred?  Has anyone ever done these things?  If not, is anyone genuinely saved?  And how can someone do any of these things if he is still unregenerate, has no spiritual life, and has no receptivity to spiritual things (1 Cor.  2:14)?

Some advocates of lordship salvation respond by say a person coming to Christ must be willing to relinquish these things.  But is that not an entirely different matter?  Willingness to do something is not the same thing as actually doing it, and does not answer the question, “How much commitment is necessary?” If Lordship proponents do not mean a person must surrender everything to be saved, then why do they say all must be surrendered?

6.  Lordship salvation limits the meaning of the word “disciple.”
To most Lordship advocates a disciple already means one who is totally committed to the Lord.  But this view that “believers” and “disciples” are always synonyms overlooks the fact that in Scripture the word “disciples” is used of (1) curiosity seekers who later left Jesus and obviously were not genuinely saved (John 6:66); (2) true followers of Christ (Acts 11:26); (3) and the Twelve—including Judas (Matt.  10:1).  In the lordship salvation view, a person who is not a disciple of the Lord (in the sense of being a fully committed Christian) is not saved.  Obviously this can bring confusion and doubt.

True, in becoming a Christian, a person enters into a discipleship relationship, in which he is now under a new authority, a new Head—the Lord.  He becomes a disciple, but then grows in that discipleship as he walks with the Lord.

7.  Room for spiritual growth and for spiritual regression in the Christian life is not allowed for—or at least is de-emphasized—in lordship salvation.
If one commits everything to Christ to be saved, where is there room for growth and development in the Christian life, as the Bible clearly encourages?  And what happens if a believer falls into sin?

The lordship gospel does not make much allowance for carnality.  Not that carnality is condoned or should go unchallenged.  But it is seen in the Bible.  To say that every true believer consistently obeys the Lord overlooks examples of many believers in the Bible who lapsed into sin.  Peter denied the Lord but did not lose his salvation.  Lot was called a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7) though much of his conduct was not admirable.  When Abraham lied, or Job challenged God, or Moses disobeyed, or David committed adultery and murder, were they unbelievers?  Obviously not.  Did they lose their salvation?  Again, the answer is no.  But they did lose their fellowship with the Lord and needed, as David wrote, to have the joy of their salvation restored (Ps.  51:12).  Confession was necessary (1 John 1:9).

Carnal Christians—Christians living in sin—look like the unsaved (1 Cor.  3:1-3).  Therefore we cannot always tell whether a person living in sin is a Christian or not.  Only God knows the heart.  Paul addressed members of the Corinthian church as believers (1 Cor.  1:2) and “brothers” (1 Cor.  1:10; 2:1; 3:1; 12:1; 15:1, 58), yet they were guilty of gross misconduct.  Did that mean they were unsaved?  No.  Paul did not deny their salvation; instead he admonished them to deal with their sin as believers.

All Christians struggle with temptation and sin.  But the Bible urges us not to succumb and instead to make use of the spiritual resources provided by God’s Word, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and prayer.

What about verses that seem to support lordship salvation?  Some vers of the Bible refer to unbelievers coming to Christ in obedience.  Are these referring to commitment to a life of obedience?  No—they are challenging unbelievers to obey by turning to Christ in faith (see Acts 6:7; Rom.  1:5; 15:18; 16:26; 2 Thess.  1:8; Heb.  5:9).

When Jesus told the Samaritan woman to call her husband (John 4:16), He was not telling her to deal with her sin of adultery before she could be saved.  He was pointing out the fact of her sin and showing her the He is the Messiah, as proved by his knowledge of her situation without being told (vv.  17-19).

What about Matthew 7:16, 20, which tells us that “by their fruit you will recognize them”?  While it is true that believers will bear at least some fruit in their lives, it will not be evident to the same degree in all believers all the time.  At some given moment, if a Christian is in sin his life may seem to others to be no different from the unregenerate.  But in Matthew 7:16, 20 Jesus was speaking of those who had total lack of fruit.  His hearers called Him, “Lord” but were evildoers (vv.21-23).  They had never turned to Him in faith and repentance.

A free gift, received by faith

Salvation then is a gift, to be received by faith or trust in Christ, apart from any additional requirements or demands.  A sinner becomes a child of God by faith in Christ as his Savior.  Then as a believer his is to grow in Christ, to develop as a disciple, to make Christ Lord or Master of all areas of his life.

Assurance of salvation is based on the Word of God (John5:24; 10:28-29; 1John 5:9-13), not on good works.  One’s good works, however, can demonstrate to others that he is saved.  Lordship salvation proponents say the way to deal with the problem of professing Christians—people who say they are saved but whose lives don’t match their lips—is to inquire whether they submitted to the lordship of Christ at the time of their alleged salvation.  However, a better answer is to challenge true believers who are seemingly not committed to become His disciples, to grow in their walk with the Lord, and to obey Him as their Master.  That is the ongoing challenge of the Christian life.

11 Comments
  1. I remember a long time ago a preacher explaining on the radio that with some people, when you preach the gospel to them you have to tell them that they have to, “Commit their lives to Christ”, to others, you have to tell them, “All you have to do is trust”. I think there is truth in that. There are some people who are committed, to whatever they do, and these people have to understand that they are not saved by their commitment, they are saved by the finished work of Christ. All they have to do is trust. There are others who do not commit to anything and they have to undersand that genuine faith involves committment. They need to hear that they have to committ their lives to Christ. The finer points of the gospel message have to be tweeked a little depending to who you are talking to. We are saved by grace alone by faith alone, but that can look a little different for different people.

  2. The idea of lordship salvation (hereafter “LS”) has always seemed obviously correct to me. Or at least the notion that coming to Christ for salvation means also coming under His leadership. If I didn’t acknowledge that He is Lord (with what that means for me as “non-lord”), why would I believe what He said about what would happen if I didn’t put my faith in Him? Simply to accept the gospel is to submit to its truth. What sense would it make to submit to that if one doesn’t also recognize the authority of Christ and have a sense of the implications of that?

    I wonder if the problem here is the belief that those who espouse LS believe that “a person must surrender every area of his or her life to Christ’s absolute control in order to be saved.” Do responsible, knowledgeable scholars say that? I haven’t come across it yet, but maybe Prof. Zuck has. Could it be rather that he has set up a straw man? I’m sure that J.I. Packer, who believes one comes to Christ as prophet, priest, and king, would not fit Zuck’s descrption. If anyone *has* said that, I’d disagree.

    If Zuck’s position is that there must be a true acknowledgment that one is coming to Christ who is God in flesh and has the authority and power to cast body and soul into hell, and that what is required is genuine willingness to change when one is made aware of necessary changes, then I am largely with him. However, because of differences with him, I think there must be a third position (if he’s correct that advocates say what he says they do). Just a few notes here.

    At one place Dr. Zuck says repentance is a change of mind. At another he says it is turning away from sin. Much has been made by those who reject LS about metanoia meaning to change one’s mind. OT scholar John Walton made the point in a recent book that a word’s meaning isn’t determined by its etymology but by its use. In the NT, metanoia means the turning of the person prompted by a change in thinking. (See the discussion on metanoia in NIDNTT under “Conversion, Penitence, Repentance, Proselyte.”) Zuck acknowledges that it means turning from sin. He goes on to say, however, that the “turning to Christ” part is faith. In the NT, however, repentance also involves the aspect of turning to God (cf. Acts 20:21; 26:20 [which also notes the necessity of proving repentance by one’s deeds]; Rev. 16:9).

    Prof. Zuck says lordship salvation “seems to” add works to salvation. I suspect we have a straw man here. What work is being added? Is this possibly some supposedly logical inference from the fact that change is expected in the Christian’s life, the conclusion being that if there isn’t real change, the person wasn’t saved at all? I don’t know how Prof. Zuck can disagree with that. Look again at Acts 26:20. James also makes abundantly clear how works prove real faith. To simply dismiss the significance of the evidence of works by asking rhetorically, “How much must a person’s life change in order for him to be saved?” will not do. What does Dr. Zuck believe Jesus is talking about in the passages he cites in the first paragraph under #5 above? Shall we just say that Jesus doesn’t really expect us to do those things and dismiss them as referring only to his hearers? It makes more sense to understand them in keeping with the overall message of Scripture: that sin has damaged us and rendered us worthy of eternal punishment; that we are in rebellion against God; that we come to Christ not only to get into heaven but to be conformed to His image; that the accomplishing of that will require change in our lives; and we are coming under the authority of One who is in the position of requiring change in our lives in a relationship of trusting obedience. This is the substance of LS as I understand it.

    The person coming to Christ recognizes that the Lord of the universe has demanded something of him with severe consequences if he refuses (i.e., repent and trust in Christ or go to hell). To accept that verdict and put one’s faith in Christ is to acknowledge the power and authority of the One doing the calling and to submit to it. It is itself an implicit (if not explicit) acknowledgment of Christ’s lordship. The person is saying, in effect, “I’d better do what Jesus says I should do.” And then he does it.

    Dr. Zuck says this about discipleship: “Lordship salvation limits the meaning of the word ‘disciple.’ To most Lordship advocates a disciple already means one who is totally committed to the Lord.” Once more, I haven’t heard a lordship advocate say this; I certainly don’t believe it myself. Contrary to what Prof. Zuck says, though, LS takes discipleship seriously. It acknowledges that we’re called into real discipleship, into a relationship of obediently following the supreme Model. A person coming to Christ must know that changes in his life will be expected. Jesus Himself made clear to people that they must count the cost of following Him, which following will require things of them (Lk. 14:25-35).

    To repeat: I suspect that a big problem in this discussion is the notion that advocates of lordship salvation say a person has to “surrender every area of life” to be saved. That’s a positio easily refuted. Based on my (limited) reading, however, I don’t think they do. If I’m wrong, I join Dr. Zuck in rejecting such an extreme position.

    I wonder if Prof. Zuck would mind posting such references.

    • Hi Rick,

      Always good to hear from you! Thanks for your comments.

      I will leave the specific responses directed to Dr. Zuck and his article to him, if he is following this and would like to weigh in.

      However, I would add a few of my own thoughts.

      The first is that this article was originally published in Kindred Spirit in 1989, which (if I remember correctly) was about the time that John MacArthur’s book The Gospel According to Jesus was being widely read. The subtitle of the book is “What did Jesus mean when he said, ‘Follow me?'” We first find this statement by the Lord in Matthew 4 when he calls Peter and Andrew. But I think contextually, this is a call to discipleship and to be with Jesus in ministry. Rather than being a call to salvation, it presumes a spiritual relationship to Christ. Although, as Dr. Zuck points out, responding to the call to discipleship and ministry does not require someone to actually be in that relationship. Judas is the biblical example that Dr. Zuck provides – and throughout history, many people have been in Christian ministry who are not born again.

      And it is this last point that actually illustrates the problem with the Lordship view – at least the way it is often applied. In the case of Judas, who did respond to the call to “Follow me,” his commitment to the Lordship of Christ did not save him. However, up until his betrayal of Jesus, a Lordship proponent could have looked at his life and concluded that he was a believer because he was a “disciple.” However, as we can see, this commitment was not preceded by genuine faith and so he ultimately fell away.

      By adding commitment to faith, we actually introduce more than a condition for salvation, we are also using it as a test for salvation and in practice it can lead to our natural temptation to judge who is actually a believer and who is not. The danger here is that this is essentially what the Pharisees were doing. They set up extra-biblical conditions – ways to measure if someone was actually in the faith or not. I’m not at all suggesting this is the motivation, but it is a result that has many examples in the church today.

      Of course, someone must understand who Jesus is – and among those things is the fact the he is Lord. Certainly no one can reject his Lordship and be saved, because to do so is to reject him personally. An unbeliever can accept the *fact* that Christ is Lord, but I would suggest that it is beyond the ability of an unbeliever to *submit* to the Lordship of Christ. He can *believe* Jesus is Lord – in fact, I don’t think it is inappropriate to say he *must* believe he is Lord. And that is the essence of the “change of mind and heart” – to understand and accept that Jesus is Lord – the one who should have control over our lives – not ourselves.

      The interesting thing about the Lordship view is that the most prominent proponents hold to a Reformed view of salvation. John MacArthur does and many, if not most of the footnotes in The Gospel According to Jesus cite Reformed theologians. As I’m sure you know, in Reformed soteriology, regeneration precedes faith – which I believe is not a biblical view. But, for the sake of argument, if regeneration precedes faith, then we are talking about the faith that a *regenerated* person would have – not that of an unregenerate person. If this is true, then Lordship requirements are not unreasonable – yet, at the same time, Lordship is actually a moot point – which is why I believe the Lordship view within the Reformed view is theologically unnecessary. Those who hold to Lordship as a condition for salvation tend to fall at the two extremes of soteriology – full Arminians and full Calvinists. The Lordship view is a theological necessity in Arminianism, but is completely unneeded within Calvinism.

  3. Sal,
    Thank you for your comments.

    I understand your point, but I would suggest that, in line with Dr. Zuck’s article, that commitment is not a part of faith or trust in the sense you describe because it is in essence a “promise” to do something.

    For example, if there is a need in our church and they are looking for volunteers and I commit to meeting that need, then I am making a promise to do certain things and meet certain expectations. But, I think this begs the questions, “To what degree do I need to commit?”; “Must I be willing to make sacrifices to keep that commitment?”; “If I fail to keep the commitment at any time, then does that mean my initial statement of commitment wasn’t genuine?”

    I agree that we can adjust the *presentation* of the gospel to be audience-appropriate (i.e., the presentation might be different for a group of teens versus for a group of senior citizens). However, we cannot change the *content* or requirements of the gospel. If we say to some that they must “commit their lives to Christ,” then that is a fundamental change to the requirements. If anything, trust implies “resting” rather than commitment.

    If we aren’t careful to maintain this distinction, then we are adding to the gospel and actually trying to step in to do only what the Holy Spirit can do, namely, to convict people and convince people concerning the gospel – including those who aren’t very committed to things in general. Only someone who is born again can genuinely commit his life to the serving the Lord. To add commitment to the “equation” is to add a condition that an unbeliever cannot meet.

    I understand that the motivation is usually to try to avoid “false conversions” – which is a good reason – but if the gospel is presented biblically (which is our responsibility) then the rest is between the individual and the Lord (which is not our responsibility).

  4. Just a few notes. My eyes are worn out from editing all day.

    1. I’m curious why you think the call to Peter and Andrew presumed a previous relationship. Jesus was a rabbi who was calling some Jews to follow Him. One might reasonably suppose they had some knowledge of him already since they didn’t stop to ask where he was leading them. If there’s no support in the text, though, for the idea of an established spiritual relationship, it would be illegitimate to use that story as support for your position. You mentioned Judas. Peter and Andrew came to believe Jesus was the Messiah (Peter made an explicit declaration, recorded in Matt. 16:16). Either Judas did, too, and fell badly, or he never did.

    2. I, as a Lordship advocate, see no reason to believe Judas was a real (believing) disciple just because he followed along. Other people followed Jesus and later stopped (cf. Jn. 6:66). A person’s “following” could be as phony as a prayer offered up at the end of an evangelistic crusade. John spoke about people who turned away (1 Jn. 2:19).

    3. Re: using obedience as a test of someone’s Christianity–If a person, over a long period of time, exhibits no interest in real discipleship, other Christians would be warranted in asking the person what his position really was. It’s risky business saying finally what a person’s condition is, but we can urge him on to obedient living. There are times we can even treat such a person as an unbeliever (Mt. 18:15-17).

    4. You said, “Certainly no one can reject his Lordship and be saved.” Wouldn’t it be odd for someone (if asked, and assuming he knows what “lord” means) to say, “Oh yes, I know Jesus is Lord over all, but as far as I know now, that has nothing to do with how I live, with my relationship to Him. Right now I’m just believing for salvation.” That person either doesn’t know what “lord” means or isn’t serious about accepting Christ.

    5. Re: commitment being an added condition–I think “submission” is a better word. The position I’m advocating doesn’t make submission an add-on; it’s part and parcel of genuine faith, even though it isn’t fully understood what that means. Jesus called people to “repent and believe in the gospel.” In the context of the NT, that doesn’t just refer to a change of mind; it means a change of direction (see the reference above to the discussion of metanoia in NIDNTT). Simply to acknowledge the gospel as true means the person has turned (inwardly, at least) toward God. What is that person turning toward? Just salvation?

    6. Interesting point about the significance of Reformed theology in the matter. I believe in election but not that regeneration comes first. But even for those who do believe this, there’s a distinction between what goes on “behind the scenes” in the spiritual realm and the psychological state of the person. I suppose if we push Calvinism hard enough, a call to salvation wouldn’t be needed either.

  5. Rick,

    I don’t know if you have read my post on worldviews, but I think you will find that I have tried to find the biblical balance in this. Check that out and see if we’re really that far apart.

    My experience has been that we can easily end up overstating our position after a series of iterations in these kinds of discussions. I think this happened between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges back in the 80’s.

  6. I found Dr. Zuck’s article to be a good discussion of the issue.

    There is, in my view, a tension purposely created by our Lord in the Word. Yes, salvation is by grace through faith. Period. No one can build a Tower of Babel to heaven. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you are instructed to build one. Every breath of our new life in Christ is a gift. Even our obedience to Him is a gift.

    However, the Word clearly states that we are to commit all things to God. Salvation is free, yet it is also costly because it costs us our lives. The true Christian eagerly surrenders his or her life to Christ because it is a joy — not a burden — to do so. What true believer would not joyfully surrender all to the great love that is God? Who would not say, “Yes, Lord, I am here. I surrender everything, even my very self, to you?”

    Finally, I think a key verse is in 1 Corinthians 13: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

    Regrettably, it seems the discussion can drift towards “What do I have to do to get it right?” and away from “What a joy it is to be filled, bathed, lifted up and, yes, completely motivated, by the love of God that surpasses all understanding.”

    • Hugh,

      Thanks for your thoughts and comments. I think your point is exactly right – that Christians should rightfully and joyfully submit to the Lordship of Christ. This is the only appropriate and normal response for the believer. And along with this is the idea that this is something that an unbeliever is incapable of doing – so to make it a condition for salvation is adding to the gospel. For many who most strongly hold to Lordship salvation, I believe it is a moot point, because they are Reformed with regard to their theology of salvation – and have regeneration preceding faith. If that is true then it really can’t be a condition for salvation even though it is expressed that way.

  7. I’ve just today gotten back to this because of other responsibilities. I will look for your discussion on worldviews, Dave.

    In my first post I wrote this: “I wonder if the problem here is the belief that those who espouse LS believe that ‘a person must surrender every area of his or her life to Christ’s absolute control in order to be saved.’ Do responsible, knowledgeable scholars say that? I haven’t come across it yet, but maybe Prof. Zuck has.” I suggested at the end of that response that Zuck give references. If there are Lordship scholars who are saying such things, I’d like to know so I don’t look silly in denying they do!

    • Rick,

      I will let Dr. Zuck respond to what he wrote specifically, since it was his article.

      As a general response, I think I can make a couple of comments and observations.

      This article first appeared in the DTS magazine “Kindred Spirit” in 1989. If I remember correctly, that was about the time the Lordship Salvation was much more of a hot topic than it is now – at least in writing. There were a lot of responses on both sides of the issue with John MacArthur and Zane Hodges being at what could be called the polar extremes – and as such, I think both probably overstated their case. I think Charles Ryrie’s book, So Great A Salvation probably struck the correct balance in looking for and finding a biblical way between the two.

      I don’t know that I can provide a quote from a theologian who advocates Lordship salvation that explicitly puts it quite the way Dr. Zuck did. However, I would say that Dr. Zuck’s analysis of the situation is pretty close to the reality – at least as it was being expressed in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. I think the overall discussion has become a bit more nuanced now and for conservative evangelicals like you and I this actual difference in what we believe constitutes the gospel and saving faith are probably not a hair’s breadth apart.

      I think the difference becomes larger when one moves to one of the two extremes in the discussion – full Calvinism and full Arminianism. In Arminianism (as expressed in holiness theology), Lordship has been assumed because of the nature of what it takes to “stay saved” in their system. I find Calvinism to be somewhat anachronistic in this discussion, however, and interestingly, some of the strongest proponents of Lordship salvation hold to the idea that regeneration precedes faith – which in my opinion sort of renders the whole point rather moot since a regenerated person will necessarily exercise saving faith. Because of this, Lordship salvation with Calvinism, has become more of an external test to determine whether or not someone is actually in the faith – which means, one of the elect.

      However, this also becomes a huge problem for several reasons. For one, this is almost identical to what the Pharisees attempted to do. And for a second, in the parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus warned us not to try to sort this out. Of course, there is always the issue of “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and the matter of “the good tree bearing good fruit” – but this was more for the purpose of being careful about following the teaching and lifestyle of false teachers and false converts in general. It wasn’t intended to be a means of weeding them out, per se.

      But again, I am virtually certain that if you and I were to sit down and discuss this, we would be completely comfortable that the other person’s position was acceptable – and I would have no problem with you preaching the gospel as my guest and you would have no problem with me doing the same as your guest. I don’t think the difference is really between us, but rather further out along toward the edges of the Calvinism-Arminianism continuum.

  8. I have been reading the posts with interest and I agree with Rick that I feel a little taken back that anyone who says that they believe in Lordship Salvation would say that you have to bring everything in your life under submission to Christ’s lordship in order to be saved. I hold to Lordship Salvation in that I have submitted to the Lord (at salvation) that His way is the only way and therefore my life will reflect that in obedience (after salvation). What happens for salvation is recognition and commitment, whereas obedience is witness of that commitment. If anyone were to claim that everything must be in submission to Christ at salvation, then, as the disciples said, “Who then can be saved?” The Bible is full of commands like, “Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We will always have areas that need to be brought into submission to the Lordship of Christ. However, at salvation, it must be our intention to make that come about a much as possible. I.e. it is our lack of submission to God (sin) that is sending us to hell, we must recognize that fact, realize that Jesus is the only One with the way of reconciliation, and SUMBIT to His Way (His authoritative declaration for salvation and life in general through His Word). Failures and sin will accompany everyone down this path. But we are to continually search out the things in our lives that need to be brought under submission to Christ.

    In short, I totally disagree with Dr. Zuck’s definition of Lordship Salvation.


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