04 Lordship Salvation, A Biblical Evaluation

Lordship Salvation, A Biblical Evaluation and Response 

Charles C. Bing   Lordship Salvation, A Biblical Evaluation

Ph. D. Dissertation
Dallas Theological Seminary
1991

http://www.gracelife.org/resources/dissertation.asp

Introduction – Chapter 1 


In recent years a renewed debate has raged over the conditions of salvation. 1   Salvation, unless defined otherwise, in this study will denote eternal, eschatological salvation from hell which includes the concepts of justification and regeneration.At issue is the nature of the prerequisite response necessary for a person to receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This dissertation is written to evaluate, critique, and respond to the position commonly called “Lordship Salvation.” In this introduction, some preliminary considerations will be discussed and the Lordship Salvation position defined and surveyed historically.

Preliminary Considerations

It is necessary to justify this study by its need, to define it in its scope, and preview it according to its procedure.

The Need for the Study

The intensity of the debate in recent years is enough to justify this study of Lordship Salvation. 2   See Brian Bird, “Old Debate Finds New Life,” Christianity Today (CT) 33 (March 17, 1989): 38-40; S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “How Faith Works,” CT 33 (September 22, 1989): 21-25; Robert Dean, Jr., “Gospel Wars, Part I,” Biblical Perspectives (BP) 3 (January-February 1990): 1-6.But it is the various biblical, theological, and practical issues involved, all crucial to orthodox Christianity, which demand clarification and biblical evaluation. Several issues in particular represent the need for the present study.

Debate over the conditions of salvation

The answer to the simple question “What must I do to be saved?” is disputed in the Lordship Salvation controversy. According to Lordship Salvation, the instruction “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31) includes theological implications and commitments which many modern evangelistic presentations have misrepresented, distorted, or concealed. 3   For example, one should note these representative works from the Lordship Salvation position that criticize some modern evangelistic presentations and seek to clarify the biblical conditions of salvation: John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970; reprint, 1985); A. W. Tozer, I Call It Heresy! (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1974).

All agree that no more important question in this life could be asked and answered. The correctness or incorrectness of one’s answer affects the eternal salvation of multitudes. Those who teach Lordship Salvation have offered their interpretation of the biblical conditions for salvation and these conditions should be evaluated biblically and answered.

Debate over the true gospel

Considering the anathema the Apostle Paul pronounced upon those who pervert the true gospel (Gal. 1:9-10), it is of utmost importance that its purity be maintained. Lordship and non-Lordship teachers have each charged the other with heresy and corruption of the gospel. For example, A. W. Tozer, a Lordship Salvation proponent, charges that “a notable heresy has come into being throughout our evangelical Christian circles—the widely-accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Saviour and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to.” 4   Tozer, Heresy!, 9-20. From the opposing view comes this statement by Charles C. Ryrie: “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), and this is a very serious matter.” 5   Charles Cadwell Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 170.

Whether or not Lordship Salvation defenders or its opponents deserve the Galatian anathema is a verdict one must reach after examining both views carefully. A presentation of Lordship Salvation, a biblical evaluation, and a response to Lordship Salvation will therefore provide needed information for such a judgment.

Practical ramifications

One’s view of the gospel and how its saving effects are appropriated by the sinner will determine not only the message of evangelism proclaimed but also its methods. The Lordship Salvation presentation of the gospel is necessarily more involved as seen in J. I. Packer’s comment: “In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress as Christ did on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness.” 6   J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 73.Accordingly, Charles Price relates this story to illustrate how the gospel should be presented:

After we had talked for a couple of hours, the young man seemed to be prepared to give himself to Christ. My friend, no doubt sensing that asked him a question: “In light of all we have talked about this evening, can you think of any reason why you should not become a Christian tonight?”

The young man sat for a few minutes, then looked back at him and replied, “No, I cannot think of any reason.”

I was excited by this, but to my amazement, my friend leaned across the table and said, “Then let me give you some!” For the next few minutes he began to explain the cost of being a Christian. He talked about the young man’s need to surrender his whole life, his future, his ambitions, his relationships, his possessions, and everything he was to God. Only if he was prepared to do this, my friend explained, could Christ begin to work effectively in his life.

… My friend then leaned even further across the table and asked, “Can you still not think of any reason why you shouldn’t become a Christian tonight?”

After another moment, the reply came, “I can think of some now.”

My friend responded, “In that case, do not become a Christian until you have dealt with every one of those reasons and are willing to surrender everything to Christ.” 7   Charles Price, Real Christians (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1987), 55-56.

Lordship Salvation teaching also has an inevitable effect upon the assurance of the believer. Assurance from the objective promise of God appears to recede in importance to the subjective assessment of the quality of faith of the one professing faith and the equally subjective evaluation of visible fruits of obedience in one’s life. This makes absolute assurance impossible in this life, so it is taught, “Doubts about one’s salvation are not wrong so long as they are not nursed and allowed to become an obsession.” 8   MacArthur, The Gospel, 190.

It can also be shown how the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the gospel has shaped the Church Growth movement and modern missions. Suffice it to say that including discipleship and lordship obedience in the gospel of salvation has significantly altered methods of evangelism and exalted social concern over traditional missionary evangelism. No longer is the emphasis on gospel proclamation as “only” salvation from sin, because it is believed the gospel itself demands that people and societies be brought under the lordship of Christ.

Need for biblical evaluation and response

The above concerns demonstrate the impact of Lordship Salvation on the message and methods of Christianity. These crucial areas of doctrine, as all doctrine, must be held accountable to the Word of God. Those of both the Lordship Salvation persuasion and the non-Lordship persuasion have criticized the other for basing their views on theological presuppositions or lack of exegesis, coherent theology, and historical validation. 9   E.g., from the Lordship view see Richard P. Belcher, A Layman’s Guide to the Lordship Controversy (Southbridge, MS: Crowne Publications, 1990), 92; D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 96-97, 137; John F. MacArthur, Jr., “Faith According to the Apostle James,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) 33 (March 1990): 33; and non-Lordship proponents J. Kevin Butcher, “A Critique of The Gospel According to Jesus,” in Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (JOTGES) 2 (Spring 1989): 27-43; Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free! (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House and Dallas: Redención Viva, 1989), 213-18 (notes 4-5).Of course, this accusation has only rhetorical value in the debate. Every view must be tested or argued against Scripture first.

John MacArthur has attempted the most in-depth biblical presentation of Lordship doctrine in his book The Gospel According to Jesus. 10   MacArthur’s book deserves two observations: 1) It is not comprehensive as it deals primarily with the Gospels and not the epistolary literature (except in an eight page appendix); 2) It does not present the strongest argument for Lordship Salvation because it begins with the Gospels to define the gospel instead of the theological interpretations of the Epistles.The two most articulate responses to MacArthur to date are Charles C. Ryrie’s So Great Salvation and Zane Hodges’s Absolutely Free. 11   Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989); See bibliography on previous page for Hodges, Absolutely Free! Both books give a well-reasoned response to the Lordship position. Ryrie’s book is a concise theological answer, which, because of its nature, does not evaluate or critique many of the biblical interpretations argued by Lordship proponents. Hodges’s book deals with many of the Lordship passages, but not all. Because these responses to Lordship Salvation were written more or less at the popular level, there is a need for a comprehensive and in-depth evaluation, critique, and response to the many biblical arguments used by Lordship advocates. This study intends to fill this need by a careful systematization and examination of Lordship Salvation’s specific biblical arguments.

The Scope of the Study

The task of this study is to evaluate the biblical arguments of the Lordship Salvation position in a systematic fashion. The study will limit itself to the most prominent lexical arguments and important Bible passages used by that position. The arguments from these passages will be considered and evaluated on the basis of a proper exegetical and hermeneutical procedure. Also, in each of the four main chapters a brief section will present a biblical response to the Lordship Salvation position.

It is realized that this subject is very theological and should also be answered on a theological level. This will be outside the immediate scope of this study, though the Appendix will briefly present the major theological issues. Since good theology is based on raw biblical data properly systematized, this study will focus on that data. The completeness and sufficiency of New Testament revelation concerning salvation demands the primary consideration in this study.

The Procedure of the Study

In this introduction, Lordship Salvation will be defined, surveyed in its historical development, and discussed in terms of the issues behind the modern controversy. Four key issues relating to salvation form the basis of the subsequent four chapters: faith, repentance, Christ’s Lordship, and discipleship. 12   This four-fold schema is the approach used by Kenneth L. Gentry in his key article “The Great Option: A Study of the Lordship Controversy,” Baptist Reformation Review (BRR) 5 (Spring 1976): 49-79 and is also supported by MacArthur (The Gospel, 159).Each of the four chapters will state the Lordship Salvation position, evaluate and critique the lexical arguments and key Bible passages, and end with a summary response of opposing arguments and Bible passages. Chapter six will summarize the discussions of previous chapters and state a final conclusion to the study.

The relationship of the Lordship Salvation position to several important theological issues (the relationship of law to grace, the relationship of justification to sanctification, the doctrines of security, perseverance, and assurance, the reality of sin in the believer) is discussed in the Appendix. There the primary differences between the Lordship and non-Lordship positions will be briefly presented, but not evaluated.

A Survey of Lordship Salvation

Before proceeding it is necessary to define Lordship Salvation for the purposes of this study and to briefly survey the historical background of the debate.

A Definition of Lordship Salvation

Though there are many particulars which delineate the doctrines of Lordship Salvation, 13   The designation “Lordship Salvation” is reluctantly accepted by both proponents and opponents (See MacArthur, The Gospel, ix-xiv, 28-29; Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 2). It is potentially misleading because non-Lordship advocates believe in the necessity of Christ’s lordship in salvation at least in the objective sense (See Arthur L. Farstad, “Jesus is Lord” JOTGES 2 Spring 1989.: 3-11). As defined by its own advocates, Lordship Salvation could more properly be called “Commitment Salvation,” “Surrender Salvation,” or “Submission Salvation” since in actuality the debate is not over the Lordship of Christ, but the response of a person to the gospel and the conditions which must be met for salvation. Nevertheless, in this study the position will be referred to as “Lordship Salvation” or simply “Lordship.”a general definition must first be articulated. In his crucial study, Kenneth L. Gentry, himself a proponent, offers this defining criterion of the position:

The Lordship view expressly states the necessity of acknowledging Christ as the Lord and Master of one’s life in the act of receiving Him as Savior. These are not two different, sequential acts (or successive steps), but rather one act of pure trusting faith. 14   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:52.

Richard P. Belcher identifies Lordship Salvation as that which believes “true saving faith includes in it a submission to the Lordship of Christ.” 15   Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 2. Thus the central tenet of Lordship Salvation is that submission of one’s life to Christ as Master is the only true expression of saving faith. It will be seen in subsequent chapters how such a definition of Lordship Salvation supports their understanding of faith, repentance, Christ’s lordship, and discipleship in relation to salvation. 16   However, a summary of the Lordship position in relation to these areas can be found in Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:76-77, and Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 53-60.

The opposing view is often called the “non-Lordship” view, or even derogatorily “Easy-believism,” 17   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:49-50. but neither is acceptable. 18   Opponents of Lordship Salvation believe Christ’s Lordship has great significance to salvation and do not teach it is “easy” to believe.For the purposes of this study, the “non-Lordship” view will be called the “Free Grace” position to represent the emphasis of the freeness of salvation and the simplicity of faith. The choice of this term is somewhat pragmatic; it does not imply there are only two views in the debate. It will simply be used in reference to those who oppose Lordship Salvation and teach the simplicity of faith as unencumbered trust or acceptance of God’s gift of salvation. It will be seen that the Free Grace position holds that salvation is a gift of God realized by man only through the simple response of faith, which is basically defined as “trust, confidence in.” 19   See chapter two.

A Survey of the Lordship Salvation Debate

A brief survey of the history and development of Lordship Salvation should add perspective to the current debate. Its history, however, is somewhat difficult to trace since the designation “Lordship Salvation” is a fairly recent appellation attached to a view that has been implied or demanded by preexisting theological systems.

A study of the Church Fathers is of little help in tracing Lordship thought. Berkhof rightly notes,

It would be unreasonable to look for a common, definite, well integrated, and fully developed view of the application of redemption in the earliest Church Fathers. Their representations are naturally rather indefinite, imperfect, and incomplete, and sometimes even erroneous and self-contradictory. 20   Louis Berkhof, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1937), 207.

In fact, the clearest expressions of Lordship thought appear in post-reformational theology. 21   This is evidenced by the fact that MacArthur develops most of his historical argument from this period (MacArthur, The Gospel, 221-237).Lordship Salvation seems to flow naturally from a strong Calvinism most often found in Reformed theology, and is inherent in some expressions of the Reformed doctrines of assurance and perseverance. Belcher explains the connection to Calvinism:

Lordship salvation flows from a Calvinistic foundation. God has chosen a people and He will save them. He regenerates them and grants them the gifts of repentance and faith. Such a work of salvation transforms them. God has also justified them and He has begun the work of sanctification in them which He will also perfect. Through trials, difficulties, and even failures, they are not only eternally secure but will persevere in holiness and faith. 22   Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 99.

Though attempts have been made to trace Lordship Salvation to the Reformers themselves, the most that can be proved by examining their doctrines is that they may have held positions similar to those found in later Reformed doctrines on assurance and perseverance. Explicit Lordship conditions for salvation are absent or controversial in the writings of the Reformers and cannot be taken for granted. 23   See Thomas G. Lewellen, “Has Lordship Salvation Been Taught Throughout Church History?” Bibliotheca Sacra (BibSac) 147 (January-March 1990): 54-68. MacArthur’s survey of the reformers fails to show more than that they explicitly held to a form of perseverance that sees works as a validation of salvation. Noticeably absent from his citations are statements about the terms or conditions of salvation. See MacArthur, The Gospel, 221-26.Some recent studies have done much to show that later Reformed thought in the area of faith and assurance strayed significantly from that of the Reformers it claimed to represent. 24   See R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979); M. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1985); Anthony N. S. Lane, “Calvin’s Doctrine of Assurance,” Vox Evangelica (VoxE) 11 (1979): 32-54. Kendall argues that English Calvinism departed from Calvin by separating assurance from faith so that a person had to scrutinize his or her faith and degree of godliness to determine faith’s genuineness. Bell built on Kendall’s work to argue that Calvin taught faith was passive, centered in the understanding, assurance was of the essence of faith, and faith was grounded in the person and work of Christ. He claims Scottish theology departed from Calvin in teaching that faith was primarily active, centered in the will, and separate from assurance so that assurance was a fruit of faith obtained from self-examination making the grounds of assurance more subjective. Lane also argues that Calvin taught assurance was the essence of faith and defends Kendall’s thesis that later Calvinism departed from this.By the time of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1643-49; English Calvinism’s influential statement of Reformed theology) assurance was separated from the essence of faith making it more dependent upon subjective evidences. 25   The Westminster Confession of Faith 18.2-3. See also Lewellen, “Lordship Salvation,” BibSac 147:58-59.

Some tenets of Reformed soteriology were challenged in the early 1900’s by dispensationalist theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer. Chafer did more than any other theologian to emphasize the doctrines of grace for decades to come. 26   This occurred largely through his founding of and influence upon Dallas Theological Seminary which traditionally has held an interpretation of the gospel consistent with what is here called the Free Grace position.Themes common in his writings were the freeness of grace in salvation, the efficacy of simple saving faith, and the reality of carnal Christians. 27   Chafer’s chief works which addressed these issues were He That Is Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Company, 1918), Grace: The Glorious Theme (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1922), and volume 3 of Systematic Theology (8 vols., Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-48).He criticized those who attached conditions to the gospel such as those found in Lordship theology today. For example, he wrote,

Outside the doctrines related to the Person and work of Christ, there is no truth more far-reaching in its implications and no fact more to be defended than that salvation in all its limitless magnitude is secured, so far as human responsibility is concerned, by believing on Christ as Savior. To this one requirement no other obligation may be added without violence to the Scriptures and total disruption of the essential doctrine of salvation by grace alone. Only ignorance or reprehensible inattention to the structure of a right Soteriology will attempt to intrude some form of human works with its supposed merit into that which, if done at all, must, by the very nature of the case, be wrought by God alone on the principle of sovereign grace. . . .

But even when the supernatural character of salvation is recognized, it is possible to encumber the human responsibility with various complications, thus to render the whole grace undertaking ineffectual to a large degree. These assertions lead naturally to a detailed consideration of the more common features of human responsibility which are too often erroneously added to the one requirement of faith or belief (emphasis his). 28   Lewis Sperry Chafer, “The Terms of Salvation,” BibSac 107 (October-December 1950): 389-90. The article argues against these additions to faith: repentance, confession of Christ, baptism, surrender to God, confession of sin or restitution, imploring God to save.

Since the debate is a relatively recent one, it will serve better to focus on the appearance of the doctrine and controversy in modern times. Though Dietrich Bonhoeffer had earlier promoted the idea of a “costly” salvation and preached against “cheap grace,” 29   See, for example, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1963), 45-60, which was first published in 1937 and in English in 1949. His book was prompted by the accommodation of the church in Germany to Hitler. He was concerned about those members of the state church who presumed they were going to heaven but gave little or no place to the lordship of Christ in their daily affairs.John R. W. Stott was among the first to debate and defend what could be called Lordship Salvation in published works during the years 1958 and 1959. 30   John R. W. Stott, “Must Christ Be Lord To Be Savior?–Yes,” Eternity 10 (September 1959): 15-18, 36-37. See also his book, Basic Christianity (London: InterVarsity Press, 1958), 109-18, 127-28.J. I. Packer also espoused the view in his key work on evangelism in 1961. 31   Packer, Evangelism, 39, 71-73.

Not much else appeared on the topic until 1969 when Charles C. Ryrie devoted one chapter of his book, Balancing the Christian Life, to refuting Lordship Salvation. This renewed the debate as Lordship advocates eventually responded. Works by A. W. Tozer (1974), Kenneth L. Gentry (1976), and Arend ten Pas (1978) argued against Ryrie and what they called “easy believism.” 32   Tozer’s book (Heresy!) and Gentry’s article (“The Great Option,” BRR 5:) have already been cited; Arend J. ten Pas, The Lordship of Christ (n.p.: Ross House Books, 1978).

The debate was carried into the eighties by Zane C. Hodges whose book, The Gospel Under Siege (1981), asserted the Free Grace position while refuting the Lordship position. 33   Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1981).Sides polarized further. Pastor and author John MacArthur incorporated into his Shepherd’s Conference a “Lordship Salvation Syllabus” (1981) by Marc Mueller which argued the Lordship position. 34   Marc Mueller, “Lordship Salvation Syllabus,” Panorama City, CA: Grace Community Church, 1981In 1986 James Montgomery Boice published a book espousing costly discipleship, which he equated with salvation. 35   James Montgomery Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986).Debate reached a peak with the Lordship teaching of MacArthur asserted and defended in The Gospel According to Jesus (1988). Both Ryrie and Hodges responded immediately with their own books (1989) defending the Free Grace position and answering the Lordship position. 36   Ryrie, So Great Salvation; Hodges, Absolutely Free!

Another significant event was the creation of the Grace Evangelical Society in 1986 by Robert N. Wilkin and other Free Grace supporters which states as its purpose: “To promote the clear proclamation of God’s free salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, which is properly correlated with and distinguished from issues related to discipleship.” 37   This purpose statement can be found in each of the society’s newsletters and journals.Through conferences, newsletters, and a semiannual journal, GES debates the Lordship issue and other issues relating to the gospel, soteriology, and sanctification from a Free Grace position.

At the time of this dissertation, articles and books continue to appear on the subject. Many of these will be cited, though some can receive only limited interaction due to their lateness. The debate has finally generated its due attention and has reached an unprecedented level of interaction between the two sides.

Issues Behind the Modern Controversy

The modern form of the Lordship controversy is ignited by several key issues. These issues can be categorized as practical, theological, and social.

Practical issues

What seems to be a major issue fueling the modern debate is the Lordship concern about the preponderance of false professors and uncommitted Christians in the churches. This is seen in MacArthur’s introductory comments in The Gospel According to Jesus:

This new gospel has spawned a generation of professing Christians whose behavior often is indistinguishable from the rebellion of the unregenerate. Recent statistics reveal that 1.6 billion people world-wide are considered Christians.[3] A well-publicized opinion poll indicated nearly a third of all Americans claim to be born again.[4] Those figures surely represent millions who are tragically deceived. Theirs is a damning false assurance. ________ [3]Information Please Almanac (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988), p. 400. [4] George Gallop, Jr. and David Poling, The Search for America’s Faith (Nashville: Abingdon, 1980), p. 92. 38   MacArthur, The Gospel, 16. See also Boice, Discipleship, 27. Unfortunately, these statistics tend to mislead by exaggeration. The concern is not with all nominal Christians (which would include Catholics), but those who profess an evangelical born-again salvation experience of personal faith in Christ. When the question is more carefully framed, the number of professing Christians shrinks dramatically. Recent studies using a more carefully worded question show that Gallop’s figures are about three times higher than the actual number of truly born-again Christians. See Richard D. Dixon, Diane E. Levy, and Roger C. Lowery, “Asking the ‘Born-Again’ Question,” Review of Religious Research (RRR) 30, (September 1988): 33-39.

Likewise, Chantry states,

Products of modern evangelism are often sad examples of Christianity. They make a profession of faith, and then continue to live like the world…Only a small proportion of those who ‘make decisions’ evidence the grace of God in a transformed life…

All of this is related to the use of a message in evangelism that is unbiblical…Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the deluded with a perverted Gospel. 39   Chantry, Gospel, 13-14. The way Lordship literature is generally introduced may lead one to believe that the pragmatic issue (uncommitted professing Christians) is more the motivation for their position than the theological issue (purity of the true gospel).

The concern over false professors has naturally led to the denouncement of much modern evangelistic preaching and methods of asking for public decisions or other forms of evangelistic invitations. 40   E.g., ibid., 13-18, 29, 45-46, 55, 64-66. See also J. I. Packer, “The Means of Conversion,” Crux 25 (December 1989): 14-22.

The Lordship concern is thus a very good one. They desire a genuine Christianity that demonstrates consistency between profession and conduct. They are motivated by the worthy desire to see those who profess Christ go on to maturity and fruitfulness. Faced with the sad realities of inconsistent behavior, “backsliding,” and outright apostasy by some professing Christians, they have proposed a gospel that demands up front an exclusive commitment to an obedient lifestyle in hopes of minimizing these problems.

Theological issues

The chief theological concern of the Lordship movement is preservation of what it considers the true gospel. As already noted, this necessarily involves other theological issues such as the meaning and nature of faith, repentance, Christ’s lordship, discipleship, justification, sanctification, security, perseverance, and assurance.

Anything but the Lordship gospel is labeled “a perverted gospel” 41   Chantry, Gospel, 14.or a “heresy” 42   Tozer, Heresy!, 9.in apparent identification with the Apostle Paul’s concern expressed in Galatians 1:6-10. To Lordship proponents the controversy with Free Grace proponents is therefore no small debate or matter of semantics, but a debate about two very different views of the gospel and salvation. 43   So MacArthur, The Gospel, xiv; Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 105. For specific points of difference, see the introductory discussion of “The Issue” in each of the four subsequent chapters and the Appendix.

Social issues

Another issue that gives impetus to some in the Lordship position is concern for Christian influence in the social arena. Anyone deeply committed to a social agenda can conveniently advocate a Lordship gospel in which the gospel not only offers salvation from sin but also from sinful social structures. In their view, the gospel demands social commitment because Christ is Lord of all and those who are His disciples (or all the saved) will carry Christ’s lordship into society. A gospel that fails to bring people into the struggle for social change is a false gospel. 44   For a good overview and discussion of this issue, see Wagner, Church Growth, especially chapter 7, “The Gospel, Conversion, and Ethical Awareness.”

Exemplifying this concern is Jim Wallis who criticizes any gospel which omits costly discipleship and the demand for obedience in all areas of life because it is “biblically irresponsible and implicitly endorses a low view of Christ by suggesting the gospel is not relevant to the wider issues of human life and society.” He then includes social change in the content of the gospel:

Our gospel is God’s good news of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord who brings forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new creation; of his cross and resurrection which have won and sealed the victory over the forces of destruction and death; and of a radically new kind of community, a new humanity united in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live according to the standard and character of a new order. 45   Jim Wallis, “Many to Belief, but Few to Obedience,” Sojourner’s (Soj) (March 1976): 20-21.

This issue is somewhat removed from the more serious practical and theological issues discussed above, which appear to dominate the motivation of the Lordship position. Discerning motivation, however, is certainly more subjective than evaluating arguments from the biblical data, which will be the task of the following study.


 References:

1  Salvation, unless defined otherwise, in this study will denote eternal, eschatological salvation from hell which includes the concepts of justification and regeneration.

2  See Brian Bird, “Old Debate Finds New Life,” Christianity Today (CT) 33 (March 17, 1989): 38-40; S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., “How Faith Works,” CT 33 (September 22, 1989): 21-25; Robert Dean, Jr., “Gospel Wars, Part I,” Biblical Perspectives (BP) 3 (January-February 1990): 1-6.

3  For example, one should note these representative works from the Lordship Salvation position that criticize some modern evangelistic presentations and seek to clarify the biblical conditions of salvation: John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988); Walter Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970; reprint, 1985); A. W. Tozer, I Call It Heresy! (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1974).

4  Tozer, Heresy!, 9-20.

5  Charles Cadwell Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 170.

6  J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 73.

7  Charles Price, Real Christians (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1987), 55-56.

8  MacArthur, The Gospel, 190.

9  E.g., from the Lordship view see Richard P. Belcher, A Layman’s Guide to the Lordship Controversy (Southbridge, MS: Crowne Publications, 1990), 92; D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 96-97, 137; John F. MacArthur, Jr., “Faith According to the Apostle James,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) 33 (March 1990): 33; and non-Lordship proponents J. Kevin Butcher, “A Critique of The Gospel According to Jesus,” in Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (JOTGES) 2 (Spring 1989): 27-43; Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free! (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House and Dallas: Redención Viva, 1989), 213-18 (notes 4-5).

10  MacArthur’s book deserves two observations: 1) It is not comprehensive as it deals primarily with the Gospels and not the epistolary literature (except in an eight page appendix); 2) It does not present the strongest argument for Lordship Salvation because it begins with the Gospels to define the gospel instead of the theological interpretations of the Epistles.

11  Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989); See bibliography on previous page for Hodges, Absolutely Free!

12  This four-fold schema is the approach used by Kenneth L. Gentry in his key article “The Great Option: A Study of the Lordship Controversy,” Baptist Reformation Review (BRR) 5 (Spring 1976): 49-79 and is also supported by MacArthur (The Gospel, 159).

13  The designation “Lordship Salvation” is reluctantly accepted by both proponents and opponents (See MacArthur, The Gospel, ix-xiv, 28-29; Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 2). It is potentially misleading because non-Lordship advocates believe in the necessity of Christ’s lordship in salvation at least in the objective sense (See Arthur L. Farstad, “Jesus is Lord” JOTGES 2 Spring 1989.: 3-11). As defined by its own advocates, Lordship Salvation could more properly be called “Commitment Salvation,” “Surrender Salvation,” or “Submission Salvation” since in actuality the debate is not over the Lordship of Christ, but the response of a person to the gospel and the conditions which must be met for salvation. Nevertheless, in this study the position will be referred to as “Lordship Salvation” or simply “Lordship.”

14  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:52.

15  Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 2.

16  However, a summary of the Lordship position in relation to these areas can be found in Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:76-77, and Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 53-60.

17  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:49-50.

18  Opponents of Lordship Salvation believe Christ’s Lordship has great significance to salvation and do not teach it is “easy” to believe.

19  See chapter two.

20  Louis Berkhof, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1937), 207.

21  This is evidenced by the fact that MacArthur develops most of his historical argument from this period (MacArthur, The Gospel, 221-237).

22  Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 99.

23  See Thomas G. Lewellen, “Has Lordship Salvation Been Taught Throughout Church History?” Bibliotheca Sacra (BibSac) 147 (January-March 1990): 54-68. MacArthur’s survey of the reformers fails to show more than that they explicitly held to a form of perseverance that sees works as a validation of salvation. Noticeably absent from his citations are statements about the terms or conditions of salvation. See MacArthur, The Gospel, 221-26.

24  See R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979); M. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1985); Anthony N. S. Lane, “Calvin’s Doctrine of Assurance,” Vox Evangelica (VoxE) 11 (1979): 32-54. Kendall argues that English Calvinism departed from Calvin by separating assurance from faith so that a person had to scrutinize his or her faith and degree of godliness to determine faith’s genuineness. Bell built on Kendall’s work to argue that Calvin taught faith was passive, centered in the understanding, assurance was of the essence of faith, and faith was grounded in the person and work of Christ. He claims Scottish theology departed from Calvin in teaching that faith was primarily active, centered in the will, and separate from assurance so that assurance was a fruit of faith obtained from self-examination making the grounds of assurance more subjective. Lane also argues that Calvin taught assurance was the essence of faith and defends Kendall’s thesis that later Calvinism departed from this.

25  The Westminster Confession of Faith 18.2-3. See also Lewellen, “Lordship Salvation,” BibSac 147:58-59.

26  This occurred largely through his founding of and influence upon Dallas Theological Seminary which traditionally has held an interpretation of the gospel consistent with what is here called the Free Grace position.

27  Chafer’s chief works which addressed these issues were He That Is Spiritual (Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Company, 1918), Grace: The Glorious Theme (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1922), and volume 3 of Systematic Theology (8 vols., Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-48).

28  Lewis Sperry Chafer, “The Terms of Salvation,” BibSac 107 (October-December 1950): 389-90. The article argues against these additions to faith: repentance, confession of Christ, baptism, surrender to God, confession of sin or restitution, imploring God to save.

29  See, for example, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1963), 45-60, which was first published in 1937 and in English in 1949. His book was prompted by the accommodation of the church in Germany to Hitler. He was concerned about those members of the state church who presumed they were going to heaven but gave little or no place to the lordship of Christ in their daily affairs.

30  John R. W. Stott, “Must Christ Be Lord To Be Savior?–Yes,” Eternity 10 (September 1959): 15-18, 36-37. See also his book, Basic Christianity (London: InterVarsity Press, 1958), 109-18, 127-28.

31  Packer, Evangelism, 39, 71-73.

32  Tozer’s book (Heresy!) and Gentry’s article (“The Great Option,” BRR 5:) have already been cited; Arend J. ten Pas, The Lordship of Christ (n.p.: Ross House Books, 1978).

33  Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1981).

34  Marc Mueller, “Lordship Salvation Syllabus,” Panorama City, CA: Grace Community Church, 1981

35  James Montgomery Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986).

36  Ryrie, So Great Salvation; Hodges, Absolutely Free!

37  This purpose statement can be found in each of the society’s newsletters and journals.

38  MacArthur, The Gospel, 16. See also Boice, Discipleship, 27. Unfortunately, these statistics tend to mislead by exaggeration. The concern is not with all nominal Christians (which would include Catholics), but those who profess an evangelical born-again salvation experience of personal faith in Christ. When the question is more carefully framed, the number of professing Christians shrinks dramatically. Recent studies using a more carefully worded question show that Gallop’s figures are about three times higher than the actual number of truly born-again Christians. See Richard D. Dixon, Diane E. Levy, and Roger C. Lowery, “Asking the ‘Born-Again’ Question,” Review of Religious Research (RRR) 30, (September 1988): 33-39.

39  Chantry, Gospel, 13-14. The way Lordship literature is generally introduced may lead one to believe that the pragmatic issue (uncommitted professing Christians) is more the motivation for their position than the theological issue (purity of the true gospel).

40  E.g., ibid., 13-18, 29, 45-46, 55, 64-66. See also J. I. Packer, “The Means of Conversion,” Crux 25 (December 1989): 14-22.

41  Chantry, Gospel, 14.

42  Tozer, Heresy!, 9.

43  So MacArthur, The Gospel, xiv; Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 105. For specific points of difference, see the introductory discussion of “The Issue” in each of the four subsequent chapters and the Appendix.

44  For a good overview and discussion of this issue, see Wagner, Church Growth, especially chapter 7, “The Gospel, Conversion, and Ethical Awareness.”

45  Jim Wallis, “Many to Belief, but Few to Obedience,” Sojourner’s (Soj) (March 1976): 20-21.

Faith and Salvation – Chapter 2 


Both sides of the Lordship debate would agree that faith is the necessary response required of a person for eternal salvation. The debate exists over the definition and content of the volitional aspect of faith. The classic three-fold definition of faith as notitia (knowledge, understanding), assensus (assent, agreement), and fiducia (the volitional aspect) is accepted by some on both sides, 1   Louis Berkhof elaborated this definition of faith attributing its origin to the Reformers (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939], 496-97, 503-5). Berkhof, Charles Hodge, and John Murray are favorably cited by Ryrie (Salvation, 119-121), which shows some agreement between Reformed theology and the Free grace position on the volitional aspect of faith as the issue in salvation. Cf. Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967), 29; John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 138.but does not resolve the debate; it simply focuses the debate on the nature of the volitional aspect.

This chapter will consider the issue of the nature of saving faith and examine the two approaches commonly used by the Lordship position to define faith. The first involves lexical evidence, and the second key Bible passages. Finally, a biblical understanding of the nature of faith according to the Free Grace position will be offered.

The Issue

The issue of faith in the Lordship controversy is whether its volitional aspect involves only simple trust or confidence in something, or that plus a deeper commitment that includes surrender and obedience. Lordship Salvation assumes the latter position. Advocates argue that there are different kinds of faith; one which is merely intellectual and cannot save, and one which is volitional and saves. Evidently, volitional trust and reliance upon falls short of saving faith. Enlow’s remark is representative of the tendency to qualify faith:

To “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” involves more than knowledge, assent and trust (reliance). True, one must know about God’s provision, he must assent to the truth of the gospel and he must rely on Christ to save him.

But to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ means more than to believe that He is Lord and more than to rely on Him to give eternal life. It also means to receive Christ as one’s own Lord, the ruler of one’s own life. 2   Elmer R. Enlow, “Eternal Life: On What Conditions?” The Alliance Witness (AW) (January 19, 1972): 3.

Enlow proposes a definition of faith that involves not only trusting Christ for salvation, but submitting to Christ as Ruler of all of one’s life.

The debate, then, is not over the object of faith, but focuses instead on the kind of faith. There is a kind of faith that does not save. Gentry says, “Empty faith is too often promoted today; all faith is not saving faith.” 3   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:57. This inadequate kind of faith is said to be “only intellectual acquiescence” or “a casual acceptance of the facts regarding Jesus Christ.” 4   MacArthur, The Gospel, 170, 179. MacArthur says this in spite of the fact that the Free Grace position clearly defines faith as “trust” or “confidence in”. It is an unfortunate straw man that clouds the issue. In response to MacArthur, Ryrie burns the straw man by defending the necessity of historical and doctrinal facts and the nature of faith in them, which is clearly more than “casual acceptance” (Ryrie, Salvation, 13-16).

If simple trust or confidence does not save, then what kind of faith does? Lordship proponents answer with a rather elaborate definition. Mueller claims that faith is “synonymous with obedience.” 5   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20. Craig L. Miller also asserts that faith and obedience are sometimes used synonymously, yet goes on to say, “faith has within itself a dynamic element that reorients and impels the will toward obedience to its object.” The latter assertion seems different from his first. It seems to this writer that Miller confusedly makes faith different but the same thing as obedience. See Craig L. Miller, “The Theological Necessity of Christ’s Lordship in Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Talbot School of Theology, 1987), 74.Thus it follows that true faith will have measurable works or visible fruit: “Faith obeys. Unbelief rebels. The fruit of one’s life reveals whether that person is a believer or an unbeliever.” 6   MacArthur, The Gospel, 178.Furthermore, saving faith is the commitment and surrender of one’s life to the Lord as Master. 7   Ibid., 197; Chantry, Gospel, 60; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:54. Also, since faith is considered a gift of God, it is viewed as a dynamic which “guarantees its endurance to the end.” 8   MacArthur, The Gospel, 173.With this understanding of faith, it is evident why Lordship proponents argue there is such a thing as a faith that does not save, or a spurious faith.

To support their definition of faith, the Lordship side argues from the lexical nature of the faith word group, and also from a number of Bible passages. The task of the remainder of this chapter is to evaluate the credibility of these arguments.

An Evaluation of the Lexical Arguments

Two major lexical arguments are employed to support the idea of faith as obedience, surrender, submission, and commitment. The first considers the root of the words pisti”/pisteuw. The second argues from the occurrence of pisteuw with prepositions, particularly in the Gospel of John.

Pisteuw in Relation to Its Etymological Root

This argument claims that since pisteuw is related to peiqwand both derive from the root piq-,, faith can have the sense of “obedience”. The word peiqw may sometimes be used in the Scriptures to mean “obey,” but its basic and overwhelmingly prevalent meaning is “convince, persuade, come to believe.”  9   A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD), 1952 ed. S.v. “peiqw”, 644-45. However, to fortify the argument that pisteuw can mean obedience, Lordship proponents also argue from the meaning of the common root piq.

Gentry asserts that piq has the sense of “to bind” and from this draws the conclusion that “The idea of ‘bind’ has a dominant influence on the concept of faith and is of great significance to the Lordship controversy.” 10   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:54. Though Gentry never says how or why ‘to bind’ equals ‘to obey,’ B.B. Warfield, in a similar argument, claims that whatever a person considers binding upon himself is the object of that person’s faith. See B.B. Warfield, “On Faith in Its Psychological Aspects,” in Biblical and Theological Studies, 375-403, ed. Samuel Craig (Philadelphia, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1952), 375.Likewise, Mueller cites Becker who gives piq– the sense of “obey.” 11   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 19; Oswald Becker, s.v. “peiqomai,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT) 1 (1975): 588.Still, Becker admits that this root has the basic meaning of “trust”; 12   Becker goes on to say that “Trust can refer to a statement, so that it has the meaning to put faith in, to let oneself be convinced, or to demand, so that it gets the meaning of obey, be persuaded (ibid., 588). But this lexical leap seems to beg the question, for though being persuaded is the basis for obedience, it is not the same thing.a meaning which should only be altered with unequivocal evidence.

The same restraint should govern the interpretation of peiqw. Though there is evidence for occasionally interpreting this word as “obey,” these instances comprise a minority of its uses. 13   Of the forty-some occurrences of peiqw in the New Testament, BAGD lists only four of these as probably translated, “obey, follow” (Gal. 3:1; 5:7; Heb. 13:17; James 3:3) and four more with the possible range of “be persuaded by someone’s advice or obey, follow someone” (Acts 5:36-37, 39; 23:21; 27:11; See BAGD, s.v. “peiqw,” 645).The normative use in the active voice is “convince, persuade,” and in the perfect tense “depend on, trust in, put one’s confidence in.” 14   Ibid., 644-45. Also, see Becker, s.v. “peiqomai,” NIDNTT 1:589; and Rudolph Bultmann, s.v. “peiqw,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) 6 (1968): 4-7.If one attempts to define pisteuw by linking it to peiqw,, as Lordship proponents do, the comparison should be based upon the primary meanings of each word and the primary meaning of their common root, piq. When this is done, one can only safely arrive at “trust” for a definition of pisteuw.

At this point a question of methodology must be asked and answered: Should the meaning of a word be determined by the meaning of its root, as the Lordship side does with pisteuw? The linguist, James Barr, answers that such comparisons should never supplant the meaning derived from context and usage:

…the “meaning” of a “root” is not necessarily the meaning of a derived form. Still less can it be assumed that two words having the same root suggest or evoke one another…

In many cases the “root fallacy” comes to much the same thing as “etymologizing”, i.e., giving excessive weight to the origin of a word as against its actual semantic value. . . .

…..The main point is that the etymology of a word is not a statement about its meaning but about its history; it is only as a historical statement that it can be responsibly asserted, and it is quite wrong to suppose that the etymology of a word is necessarily a guide either to its “proper” meaning in a later period or to its actual meaning in that period. 15   James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Glasgow: Oxford University Press, 1961), 102-3, 109. Colin Brown cites Barr and adds, “Words have histories as well as etymologies. The meaning of any given word in any given context depends at least as much upon the place and use of the word in that context as upon any supposed derivation,” (NIDNTT, 1:10). See also Moiss Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 25-26.

Thus the Lordship argument that pisteuw has the sense of “obey” merely because of its relation to peiqw and the root piq – is tenuous at best. Such a crucial soteriological term should be handled with more care. Context and usage must determine the meaning of pisteuw.

Still, Lordship proponents argue from several standard dictionaries which define faith as obedience and submission but neglect context and usage. 16   For criticisms of a number of standard dictionaries and how they carelessly handle pisteuo, see J. E. Botha, “The meanings of pisteuo in the Greek New Testament: A semantic-lexicographical study,” Neotestamentica (Neot) 21 (1987): 225-40. His chief criticism is that these works often demonstrate the lack of a definite semantic theory of methodology. This sometimes results in confusing the lexical meaning of a word like pisteuo with a theological concept.For example, Vine’s three-fold characterization of faith as “a firm conviction . . .a personal surrender . . . [and] conduct inspired by such surrender” is quoted by MacArthur. 17   MacArthur, The Gospel, 173-74. Cf. also ten Pas, Lordship, 14.But Vine merely proof-texts the second and third elements with the questionable passages John 1:12 and 2 Cor 5:7 respectively. 18   W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 4 vols. in one (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), 2:71. To “receive” in John 1:12 cannot be made to mean “surrender? without some persuasive lexical and biblical justification, which is lacking (See the discussion later in this chapter). Also, it is curious that Vine uses 2 Corinthians 5:7 and its words “For we walk by faith” as proof that faith refers to conduct, since this amounts to a meaningless tautology.In addition, Bultmann is cited by many for his suggestion that faith can have the sense of “obey.” 19   E.g., Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5-54-55; MacArthur, The Gospel, 175; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 6-7; Delbert Hooker, “The Echo of Faith,” Discipleship Journal(DJ)40 (1987): 33. The article cited is by Rudolf Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuo,” in TDNT 6 (1969): 174-228.However, Bultmann does affirm that the essential meaning of pisteuw is “to rely on” or “to trust.” 20   Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuo,” TDNT 6:203.Also, it should be noted that he supports his conclusion that faith can mean obedience by appealing to biblical passages and to theology. The passages he cites are those often quoted by Lordship proponents and will be discussed later in this chapter. 21   One example will suffice here to demonstrate the liberty Bultmann assumes with the biblical text. He claims that ?to believe? is ?to obey” is emphasized in Hebrews 11 (ibid.,6:205). However, this chapter does not prove that faith is obedience, but only that faith is behind the obedience of the characters named in the chapter. The relationship is cause and effect. The statement “by faith Abraham obeyed” (11:8) cannot make faith equal to obedience lest the statement become a meaningless tautology (“By obedience Abraham obeyed”). Besides, faithful Abraham did not always obey. All that can be concluded is that Abraham’s obedience was prompted by his faith. His faith is distinguished from his obedience, though his faith infers obedience.

The influence of Bultmann’s theology of Heilsgeschichte or “salvation history” on his understanding of faith can be seen from this sample statement:

For the figure of Jesus Christ cannot be detached from its “myth,” i.e., the history enacted in His life, death and resurrection. This history, however, is salvation history. That is, the man who accepts the kerygma in faith recognizes therewith that this history took place for him. Since Jesus Christ was made the Kurios by His history, acceptance of the kerygma also includes acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as the Kurios. This is expressed in the formula pistis eis ton k?rion jj@hmwn Isoun or the like. 22   Ibid., 6:211. Again, Barr speaks lucidly about the dangers of a prejudiced approach to linguistic study. His criticisms of Kittel’s dictionary in general are appropriate for Bultmann’s method in particular: “¬the attempt to relate the individual word directly to the theological thought leads to the distortion of the semantic contribution made by words in contexts; the value of the context comes to be seen as something contributed by the word, and then it is read into the word as its contribution where the context is in fact different. Thus the word becomes overloaded with interpretive suggestions; and since a combination of words will be a combination of words each of which has some relation to the general theological structure of the NT, sentences acquire in interpretation that tautological air of which we have seen some examples” (emphasis added). Later he states, “Detailed linguistic uses being described are often related to these terms like heilsgeschichte or Revelation or Eschatology by mere association; that is, for example, if a word is used in a context which has something to say of the historical acts of God or of His purposes, the word is thus deemed to be filled with eschatological content or oriented to the history of salvation,” (Barr, Semantics, 233-34; 257).

The bearing of Bultmann’s theology on his definition of faith is emphasized to show that his view of faith relies more on his theology than on semantical usage. 23   For this same criticism of Bultmann see Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, 2 vols. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968), 1:562.On this basis, a Lordship position can easily be argued to the neglect of proper linguistic principles. Relating pisteuw to peiqw or their root piq– does not conclusively prove or attest to a definition of obedience for pisteuw. Meaning must come primarily from the context and usage.

Pisteuw in Relation to Its Use with Prepositions

Another Lordship argument differentiates two kinds of faith according to whether prepositions are used with the verb pisteuw or not. This is best expressed by Gentry’s own words:

To the Greek mind, the idea of “belief” could have two connotations, each expressed by distinct syntactical structures. To believe a person was one thing, but to believe in or upon a person was quite another.

The prepositions eis (“into”), epi (“upon”), and en (“in”) make a remarkable difference in the meaning of a sentence when used in associations with pisteuw. . . .

Thus for a Greek-speaking person to say that he believed “into” (eis plus the accusative), or “upon” (epi plus the accusative or dative) someone, it was a strong statement to the effect that he was placing his entire confidence, trust, or hope into that person or grounding it upon his character as revealed to him. . . The very act of placing faith into Christ must imply submission to Him. . . .

Many people may claim to believe Christ (in the sense of pisteuo plus the dative case without a preposition), but this is a far cry from placing one’s trust wholly in Him. 24   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:55-56. Others who would concur include George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 272; C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: The University Press, 1953), 184; Robert L. Palmer, “Repentance, Faith, and Conversion: An Approach to the Lordship Controversy” (Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1982), 79-80.

The Lordship position thus distinguishes between effective faith (pisteuw ei”) that submits to the Lordship of Christ and mere intellectual assent (pisteuw without a preposition) which is empty faith. However, the claim of a “remarkable difference” determined by the presence or absence of prepositions with pisteuw must be compared to the biblical evidence.

Different kinds of faith is most frequently argued from uses of pisteuw in the Gospel of John. However, after noting every use of pisteuw in John 25   Pisteuw eis with accusative: 1:12; 2:11, 23; 3:16, 18a, 18c, 36; 4:39, 6:29, 35, 40; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 10:42; 11:25, 26a, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 42, 44 (twice), 46; 14:6 (twice), 12; 16:9; 17:20.

Pisteuw with dative: 2:22; 4:21, 50; 5:24, 38, 46 (twice), 47 (twice); 6:30; 8:31, 45, 46; 10:37, 38 (twice); 12:38; 14:11a.

Pisteuw @oti: 4:21; 6:69; 8:24; 11:27, 42; 13:19; 14:10, 11a; 16:27, 30; 17:8, 21; 20:31a.

Pisteuw used absolutely: 1:7, 50; 3:12 (twice), 15, 18b; 4:41, 42, 48, 53; 5:44; 6:36, 47, 64 (twice); 9:38; 10:25, 26; 11:15, 40; 12:39; 14:11b, 29; 16:31; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29 (twice), 31b.

Pisteuw with neuter accusative: 11:26b

Special construction and non-religious usage: 2:24; 9:18.Schnackenburg concludes, “In many texts, pisteuw ei” is on the same footing as a @oti-clause . . .” and “Often the absolute pisteuein means the Johannine faith in the fullest sense . . .” 26   Schnackenburg, John, 1:561.Thus one should not so easily delete the soteriological significance of pisteuw plus @oti- in John. This is the construction found in clear salvation verses like John 8:24, “believe that I am He,” and 20:31, “believe that Jesus is the Christ”. 27   See also: John 11:42; 13:19; 14:10; 17:8, 21; 1 John 5:1, 5. Likewise, pisteuw plus the dative without a preposition is used in a clear salvation verse, John 5:24, “believes him who sent me” (NIV). 28   Unfortunately and unnecessarily the NKJV inserts the word “in.” This non-prepositional construction is also used soteriologically in 1 John 5:10.

To agree that pisteuw with a preposition may emphasize the moral element of personal trust or emphasize the object of faith does not mean that constructions without these prepositions represent less than saving faith. A number of scholars observe that to “believe in” and to “believe that” are used interchangeably in John. 29   Cf. John 4:39 with 42; 11:45 with 42; 14:12 with 11; 17:20b with 8 and 21. See Gordon H. Clark, Faith and Saving Faith (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1983), 101; Bultmann, s.v. “Pisteuo,” TDNT6:203; Schnackenburg, John, 1:561; Richard Christianson, “The Soteriologicai Significance of PISTEUO in the Gospel of John” (Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1987); E. Herbert Nygren, “Faith and Experience,” The Covenant Quarterly (CovQ) 41 (August 1983): 41-42; Elizabeth Jarvis, “The Key Term ‘Believe’ in the Gospel of John,” Notes on Translation (NTr) 2 (1988): 46-51. After studying the data in John, Christianson concludes,

The difference between the pisteuw ei” and pisteuw @oti constructions is not one of meaning. Both mean one and the same thing: voluntary acceptance of a specific proposition. The difference between the two constructions is that pisteuw @oti introduces an explicit statement of the proposition which is accepted while pisteuw ei” does not. The pisteuw ei” construction thus functions as an abbreviation for the pisteuw @oti construction. 30   Christianson, “Significance of PISTEUW,” 86-87.

Morris also comments on the various constructions of pisteuw in John:

The conclusion to which we come is that, while each of the various constructions employed has its own proper sense, they must not be too sharply separated from one another. Basic is the idea of that activity of believing which takes the believer out of himself and makes him one with Christ. But really to believe the Father or really to believe the facts about Christ inevitably involves this activity. Whichever way the terminology is employed it stresses the attitude of trustful reliance on God which is basic for the Christian. 31   Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 337.

What is found in John appears to hold true for the rest of New Testament literature. From his study of pisteuw Bultmann is able to affirm that pisteuw ei” is equivalent to pisteuw @oti in the New Testament. 32   Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuw,” TDNT 6:203.The non-prepositional construction of pisteuw is used in verses that clearly speak of salvation (eg., Acts 16:34; 18:8; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; 2 Tim 1:12; Titus 3:8; Jas 2:23). Similarly, pisteuw plus @oti is also used in salvation passages (eg., Matt 9:28; Rom 10:9; 1 Thess 4:14). Berkhof concurs, as seen in his comment on the construction pisteuw plus the dative: “If the object is a person, it is ordinarily employed in a somewhat pregnant sense, including the deeply religious idea of a devoted, believing trust.” 33   Berkhof, Theology, 494.

Thus Gentry’s purported distinction between effective faith and deficient faith, or the difference between the volitional act of committing one’s life to Jesus as Master and mere intellectual assent to historical or doctrinal facts, has little basis. Such a sharp distinction between the “heart” and the “head,” argued from whether pisteuw is followed by ei” or @oti lacks support. The notion of different kinds of faith in John and other Bible books is derived theologically more than lexically. 34   Thus Botha rejects Brown’s definition of faith in John as commitment, dedication of one’s life to Jesus, and obedience (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, The Anchor Bible [AB”, 2 vols. [Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1966″, 1:512-13). He writes, “Brown considers words such as pisteuw to have special meaning(s) in John, distinguishing it from other usage?s. This of course, is wrong. Brown confused the lexical meaning of pisteuw with the theology of John, which is something different. The lexical meaning of pisteuw in John is the same as in other books of the New Testament, but the theology of John is different. This type of error is very common, especially in theological works” (Botha, “The meanings of pisteuw,” Neot 21:227-29).None of the New Testament authors speak of those who truly believe. Faith normally refers to that which trusts in Jesus Christ for eternal life. One may conjecture intellectual and volitional aspects to faith, but this distinction is not clearly seen, especially in such a way as to place one against the other. 35   Specific passages used to argue this will be discussed later in the chapter.While pisteuw with the prepositions epi, ei”, and en may emphasize or clarify the object of belief, they do not distinguish between qualities of belief.

An Evaluation of Key Bible Passages

There are a host of Bible passages used to support the Lordship idea of faith. Some passages appear predictably as major arguments while others are of a minor nature. Here, the major passages used will be evaluated. The passages can be categorized according to the various facets of the Lordship definition of faith: Faith as obedience, faith as resulting in measurable works, faith as submission, faith as spurious, and faith as a gift of God. Where faith touches the issue of repentance, discussion will be reserved for chapter three.

Faith as Obedience

Mueller states “Faith is synonymous with obedience.” 36   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20.Likewise, Stott claims “Faith includes obedience” 37   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. and MacArthur contends “Scripture often equates faith with obedience.” 38   MacArthur, The Gospel, 32-33. In light of over 150 references to faith and believing for salvation in the New Testament, it is surprising that MacArthur would use the word “often” and support this with only three references. There might be little more than a dozen passages, which could be used to equate faith with obedience–still a small percentage of New Testament uses.By far the primary Scriptures used to support this are two passages in Romans which link faith and obedience (Rom 1:5; 16:26). Used less often, but similarly, are: Acts 6:7; 2 Thess 1:7-8; John 3:36; and passages from Hebrews 3, 4,and 5.

Romans 1:5; 16:26

The phrase @?pakohn pisteuws, “obedience to the faith,” in Rom 1:5 and 16:26 is used to make faith and obedience essentially the same. Gentry states that “Paul often speaks freely of the ‘obedience of faith’ as the way of salvation (Rom 1:5; 6:17; 16:26). Thus faith binds a man in obedience to Christ.” 39   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:55.

Stott has the same understanding. He defends his interpretation with three arguments. 40   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17.First, he notes that the contexts of Rom 1:5 and 16:26 concern the proclamation of the gospel to heathen nations:  “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.” Second, he argues grammatically:

the Greek phrase is very compact. Neither noun (“obedience” and “faith”) has an article, which we should expect if a distinction was being drawn between them and one were to be conceived as a result of the other. Instead, “obedience of faith” appears to be the one response desired by the evangelist, a personal abandonment of obedience-and-faith or, if you prefer, “obedient faith.”

Third, he argues that obedience characterizes conversion in Rom 6:17.

Stott is occupied with arguing against the view that “obedience of faith” refers to sanctifying obedience which comes after saving faith. He does not address an alternative interpretation that faith is the obedient response of sinners to the gospel. 41   The presentation of the gospel was sometimes presented as an explicit command to believe, though certainly the command is always implicit. Cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; 1 John 3:23. This interpretation counters his first argument because the command to believe is the only command relevant to the unbelieving heathen nations. However, it must be tested grammatically.

Grammatically, one does see a close relationship between “obedience” and “faith” in @?pakohn pistews. This relationship is variously interpreted:  1) It is an objective genitive in which faith means “the faith,” i.e., the body of Christian truth, 42   Cf. the NRSV; Otto Michel, Der Brief an die R”mer, Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar ber das Neue Testament (G”ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978), 75-76.or “the authority of faith.” However, the absence of the article argues against this. 2)­ It is a subjective genitive in which obedience springs from faith. 43   Cf. NIV; BAGD, s.v. “@?pkoh,” 845: Matthew Black, Romans, 2nd ed., New Century Bible Commentary (NCBC) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 24; James Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 24. 3) It is an epexegetic or appositional genitive in which faith is the obedience called for. 44   So C. E. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (ICC), 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1975), 1:66, Ernst Kasemann, Commentary on Romans, transl. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980) 14-15: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 13:G. Segalla, “L”obbedienza di fede’ (Rm 1,5; 16,26) tema della Lettera ai romani?” Revista biblica (RevistB) 36 (March 1988): 329-42.Morris prefers not to understand it strictly appositionally. He comments,

While faith and obedience go together, they are not identical. Why use two words for one meaning? It seems rather that the gospel is seen as demanding the response of faith. Accordingly, the way to obey is to believe. 45   Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), 50. Others who hold that “obedience of faith” means acceptance of the message of salvation are Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1949), 55; John Ziesler, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, TPI New Testament Commentaries (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989), 64; D. B. Garlington, “The Obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans; Part I: The Meaning of @?pakohn pistews (Rom 1:5; 16:26),” Westminster Theological Journal (WTJ) 52 (1990): 201-24. Garlington, in a lengthy treatment, agrees that grammatically this view is preferable, but then argues theologically that faithful obedience in the Christian life must also be included.

Though the subjective genitive is grammatically preferable to the objective genitive, the context of salvation in chapter 1 (cf. vv. 13-17) favors Morris’ understanding over both. Stott may be right in noting that the phrase “obedience of faith” describes one response, but it is not necessary to make one aspect the result of the other. The single response would be the obedience of the nations to the command to believe in the gospel. 46   For another interpretation of “obedience of faith” in 1:5 that disagrees with Stott’s interpretation, see Gerhard Friedrich, “Muss @?pakohn pistews R”m 1:5 mit ‘Glaubens-gehorsam’ bersetzt werden?” Zeitschrift fur die neun-testamentliche Wissenschaft (ZNW) 72 (January-February 1981): 118-23. Friedrich argues that this phrase should be translated “preaching of the faith,” which refers to the preaching of the gospel. However, this seems to stray too far from the normal use of @?pakoh.

This interpretation is also more consistent with Paul’s argument in Romans which condemns men as sinners and pictures their refusal to believe (especially Israel) in the free gift of salvation as disobedience to the gospel which was continually preached to them (10:16-18). Morris concurs in his comment on the phrase “obedience of faith” in Rom 1:5: “It is not without interest that this epistle, which puts such stress on the free salvation won for us by Christ’s atoning act, should also stress the importance of obedient response.” 47   Morris, Romans, 49.Furthermore, in the section of the epistle where Paul argues for faith as the only requirement for justification (3:21–5:21), obedience is never mentioned to qualify faith. More specifically, in Rom 4:1-4 Paul argues conclusively that faith and works are mutually exclusive because the nature of works nullifies the free gift. He goes on to declare that it is “by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (5:19). His argument is that Christ obeyed (He worked), and sinners get the saving benefit of His obedience by the exercise of faith, not by their own obedience or works. To insist that sinners obey or even be willing to obey is to make human merit a requisite of the free gift, which negates the essence of a gift. This asks of the unregenerate a very Christian decision and confuses the issue of salvation with issues of the Christian life, as Godet correctly argues in his comment on Rom 1:5: “It is impossible to understand by this obedience the holiness produced by faith. For, before speaking of the effects of faith, faith must exist.” 48   Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1984), 82.

The distinction of the pre-conversion decision and post-conversion commitments answers Stott’s third argument that Rom 6:17 characterizes conversion as obedience. 49   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. Also MacArthur, The Gospel, 174.This text says, “you were (imperfect of eimi) slaves of sin, yet you obeyed (aorist of @?pakoh) from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered (aorist of paradidwmi).”  The obedience spoken of took place subsequent to their deliverance or committal to this doctrine. 50   The phrase typon didaches probably refers to the whole Christian teaching. So Bruce, The Letter of Paul to the Romans, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 134; Morris, Romans, 263; Ziesler, Romans, 168. The passive aorist of paradidomi sees God as the One who committed the believers to this body of truth. So Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8, The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (WEC) (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991) 417; William R. Newell, Lessons on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Toronto: J. I. C. Wilcox, 1925), 105; Nygren, Romans, 256. Paul is thanking God for their salvation which amounted to a change of masters or ownerships (v. 17a). In his reflection on their spiritual history, he now recognizes that they were not only freed from sin, but had also inclined themselves to serve righteousness (v. 18). Newell argues that verse 17b explains how this came about:

These Christians became obedient from the heart to their resurrection position. They not only reckoned that position true; but they absolutely surrendered their all to it. 51   Newell, Romans, 106.

Cranfield similarly reasons that the explanation for Paul’s interpolation of verse 17b between 17a and 18 is “Paul’s special concern at this point to stress the place of obedience in the Christian life–the fact that to be under God’s grace involves the obligation to obey Him.” 52   Cranfield, Romans, 1:325. See also, Charles R. Erdman, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 81; Moo, Romans 1-8, 417. This honors the immediate context which is unmistakably speaking of sanctification and the decision to “present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness,” (v. 19). Only after one is “set free from sin” can there be “fruit to holiness,” (v. 22), thus the obedience in 6:17 follows saving faith; it is not part of it.

The evidence presented has suggested that the “obedience of faith” spoken of in Rom 1:5 and 16:26 is obedience to the command to believe the gospel. Therefore, these passages should not be used to support the Lordship position that faith itself is in essence obedience.

John 3:36; Acts 6:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8

These passages are also popularly used by Lordship proponents to equate faith with obedience. 53   For example: MacArthur, The Gospel, 32-33, 47, 53, 174: Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:55; Chantry, Gospel, 60.The argument from each is similar. These arguments will now be examined.

John 3:36

In the New American Standard Version John 3:36 reads, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” MacArthur asserts that this equates disobedience with unbelief, then continues, “Thus the true test of faith is this: does it produce obedience? If not, it is not saving faith. Disobedience is unbelief. Real faith obeys.” 54   MacArthur, The Gospel, 47. MacArthur seems to be saying two different things here: First, that faith is obedience; second, that faith produces obedience. The converse of his statement, “Disobedience is unbelief,” is not “Real faith obeys,” as he suggests. Rather, the converse would be “Obedience is faith.” The difference is significant in theology. It seems that MacArthur sometimes tries to sidestep a strong statement that faith equals obedience, perhaps to avoid the charge of a works gospel (which he ardently disavows. Ibid., xiii). Thus he is quick to equate disobedience with unbelief, but prefers to say that faith produces obedience, or a “longing to obey.” To be consistent, MacArthur must conclude that unbelief equals disobedience, not an unwillingness or lack of longing to obey, and that the converse is belief equals obedience. Still, he elsewhere calls faith and obedience synonyms (See his discussion on page 174). His understanding of obedience is explained elsewhere in his book:  “obedience to Jesus’ commands is clearly enjoined by texts such as John 3:36.” 55   MacArthur, The Gospel, 33, n. 30.

The participle from apeiqew, translated by the NASB “he who does not obey,” is translated by the KJV and the NKJV “he who does not believe.” 56   See also Luther’s translation (Die Bibel oder die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments nach der Deutlich Uberletzung D. Martin Luthers). In support, see Gerhard Maier, Johannes-Evangelium, Bibel-Kommentar (Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hanssler-Veriag, 1984), 143. A reason for this is given by Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich who recognize the controversy here, but support the translation with this explanation:

Since, in view of the early Christians, the supreme disobedience was a refusal to believe their gospel, apeiqew may be restricted in some passages to the mng. disbelieve, be an unbeliever. This senseseems most probable in [John 3:36, et al]. 57   BAGD, s.v. “apeiqw,” 82.

A comparison to the parallel verse in 3:18 where unbelief brings condemnation would support this meaning. Indeed, John’s condition for salvation is overwhelmingly framed in the language of belief and unbelief. 58   He uses pisteuw soteriologically nearly a hundred times.The choice of apeiqew to suggest unbelief in this passage amplifies the point of the context. John is arguing that a greater than he (Jesus Christ) has come (3:28-31). This One is sent by the Father, speaks the Father’s words (3:34), and has been given all authority by the Father (3:35). Thus framed in terms of Christ’s authority, the rejection of Christ’s testimony is characterized as the disobedience or rebellion which refuses to believe Him (3:32). It is therefore consistent with John’s Gospel, the “Faith Gospel,” if apeiqew is understood as disobedience to the command to believe.

Acts 6:7

This passage contains one of the familiar progress reports of Acts (cf. 2:47; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20; 28:30-31). Other reports of the spread of the gospel refer to those who “believed” (e.g. 2:44; 4:4; 11:21), but here the report is expressed differently:”a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” MacArthur thus comments, “Acts 6:7 shows how salvation was understood in the early church,” then goes on to argue that obedience is “an integral part of saving faith.” 59   MacArthur, The Gospel, 174.One wonders why MacArthur chooses this single verse to represent how the early church understood salvation, when Acts itself normally uses the word “believed”. This verse is the rare exception.

In contrast to MacArthur, Marshall takes the phrase “obedient to the faith” (@?phkouon thi pistei) in the sense of “obedience of faith” as in Rom 1:5 discussed above: “Obedient to the faith means obedient to the call for faith contained in the gospel.” 60   I. H. Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles. TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 128.While this is plausible, two significant differences with Rom 1:5 should be noted: First, the verb form is used, not the noun, for @?pakouw; Second, pistis is articular rather than anarthrous.

The verb form @?phkouon is in the imperfect tense, which indicates a progressive incomplete action. This sets it off from pisteuw in the aorist found in the other progress reports (2:44; 4:4; 11:21). While these aorists denote initial saving faith, the imperfect here could denote continued progress in “the faith.” The articular tei pistei indicates that the body of Christian truth as a whole is meant rather than personal faith. 61   Simon J. Kistemaker, Acts, New Testament Commentary (NTC) (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 225. In other words, a great many priests who had believed (implied) were continuing to obey the new standard of Christ’s teachings. Others understand the imperfect to mean that a great many priests kept on joining the church, 62   R. J. Knowling, “The Acts of the Apostles,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament (EGT), ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, 2:1-554 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 172; R. C. H. Lenski The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 248.or joined one by one. 63   Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (WPNT), 6 vols. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 3:74-75. Still, their obedience is seen in relation to a new system of belief as a whole, not to initial personal faith.

In any case, the reference to obedience is not surprising at this point in the narrative. In the last half of chapter five, Peter and John are obedient to God rather than men in preaching the gospel (5:29). Then Gamaliel reminds the Jewish leaders of the futility of obedience to a cause that is not of God (5:36-37). In comparison, many of the priests of Israel were now obeying the new Christian teaching (6:7). Finally, the contrast of obedience and disobedience to God is highlighted in Stephen’s message (cf. 7:35, 39, 51-53). Unlike Israel’s leaders in the past, these priests have submitted in obedience to God’s will.

The unique language of this verse should guard against using it independently to argue how salvation was understood in the early church. It does not demonstrate that obedience is a part of personal saving faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8

This is another passage used by Lordship proponents to equate faith with obedience. 64   MacArthur, The Gospel, 32-33, 174.The pertinent words are in verse 8: “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey (tois mh @?pakouousi) the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That obedience refers to the command to believe is clear from the context which contrasts the fates of those who do not obey the gospel (v. 8) and those who have obediently believed (v. 10). Also, the second phrase, “do not obey the gospel,” is used synonymously with the first, “do not know God,” in verse 8. 65   Knowing God evidently refers to the salvation experience (John 17:2-3).In the context, both point to the lack of salvation and not a lack of works, as the basis of eschatological judgment. To not obey the gospel is to reject Christ’s revelation of Himself and refuse the invitation of the gospel. Morris notes,

The second clauseinvolves the rejection of the revelation that God has given in His Son. The gospel is a message of good news, but it is also an invitation from the King of kings. Rejection of the gospel accordingly is disobedience to a royal invitation. 66   Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 205. For similar views, see R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 388; David A. Hubbard, “The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,” in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (WycliffeBC), eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, 1361-66 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 1362.

Thus the passage in no way supports the idea of faith as obedience to a set of commands.

Hebrews 3:18-19 and 4:6; 5:9

These passages in Hebrews are discussed separately because of the distinctive nature of this Epistle and its use of terms. Lordship advocates generally assume the salvation spoken of in the Epistle is eschatological from hell, an interpretation that must be evaluated by the contexts of the passages and the book itself.

Hebrews 3:18-19; 4:6

The Lordship argument from these verses is similar to that for the previous passages. Disobedience is said to be the same as unbelief since 3:18 says the Israelites did not enter God’s rest because they “did not obey” and 3:19 says they did not enter “because of unbelief.” MacArthur and ten Pas claim that this passage equates disobedience and unbelief.  67   MacArthur, The Gospel, 53; ten Pas, Lordship, 14.Mueller claims the same, and adds 4:6 which states that disobedience prevented entrance into God’s rest. 68   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20. Though MacArthur and Mueller make no explicit statement about the meaning of “rest,” their arguments indicate they assume it is equal to eschatological salvation from hell. The author believes this is a limited view of rest, which, like salvation, encompasses a broad range of benefits in Hebrews, as discussed under Heb 5:9. However, their interpretation will be accepted for the sake of argument.

In the context, the author of Hebrews is describing the sin of the Israelites in the wilderness by both its cause and its effect. Unbelief is the cause of disobedience just as faith is the cause of obedience. Unbelief is described as disobedience because this focuses on the Israelites’ refusal to believe God’s promise concerning the promised land, and their consequent refusal to obey His command to possess it. Their unbelief is also evidenced in their fearful report (Num. 13:31-33) and their desire to return to Egypt (Num. 14:1-4). To say that unbelief is the cause of disobedience recognizes a vital relationship between the two, but does not make them equal. It is interesting that MacArthur quotes Vine on 3:18-19 who says that disobedience is the “evidence” of unbelief, because this is far from making disobedience and unbelief equal as MacArthur does. 69   MacArthur, The Gospel, 174. Cf. also p. 53. See Vine, Expository Dictionary, 3:124.

Hebrews 5:9

The words “He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (tois @?pakouousin),” have been used by Lordship interpreters to argue that faith is obedience. 70   MacArthur, The Gospel, 33, 174; ten Pas, Lordship, 14-15.The “all” obviously refers to believers because Jesus is the author of their salvation and they “obey”. It can also be seen that the present tense of @?pakouw indeed denotes continued acts of obedience. However, the salvation spoken of is not salvation from hell. It must be pointed out that the argument of the book is concerned with keeping Christians 71   A lengthy argument will not be made at this point to support this interpretation of the argument of Hebrews. However, some passages which clearly indicate the book was written to believers, as all the epistles were, are 3:1; 5:12; 6:1-2, 9, 19; 10:19-25, 39; 12:1-2; 13:1ff. Commentators who hold that the recipients were believers include Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 12; G. H. Lang, The Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Paternoster Press, 1951), 15; Charles R. Erdman, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 14-15; W. H. Griffith Thomas, Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 3, 7, 10-11; Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (BKC), New Testament ed., eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 777-813 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 779.from falling away and keeping them in the full benefits of Christ’s ministry. Also, the concept of “salvation” in Hebrews has a distinct sense of not only a final deliverance from hell, but a present and future aspect that relates to the believer’s rest (4:1, 3, 6, 9-11). 72   Further support for the view that salvation and rest in Hebrews is much more than salvation from hell is found in G. H. Lang, Hebrews, 73-75; Erdman, Hebrews, 36; W. H. G. Thomas, Hebrews, 26-28, 64-65; and Hodges, “Hebrews,” in BKC (782-83), 792.This is emphasized by the adjective “eternal” and the comparison of salvation to a future inheritance (1:14; 7:25; 9:15, 28).

The writer of Hebrews apparently uses “obey” in relation to believers to emphasize the obedience of Jesus Christ set forth in the verses which precede verse 9. As the office of High Priest was obtained through His obedience (4:15; 5:7-8), so believers also obtain their blessing through obedience. The obedient act of initially believing in Christ is the first act of obedience that places sinners under the benefits of Christ’s priestly sacrifice and ministry. Then by continued obedience, they avail themselves of the benefits of His High Priestly ministry to believers, a privilege that can be forfeited (unlike salvation from hell).

It has been argued that faith as obedience is not supported from these Scriptures, unless obedience to the command to believe is meant. That obedience springs from faith is obvious from some Scriptures (e.g., Heb 11). Also, the inner disposition reflected by one’s faith, and the act of obeying the command to believe, surely incline the new believer towards obedience so that faith implies obedience. However, there appears to be no good scriptural basis for confusing faith and obedience in essence.

Faith as Resulting in Measurable Works

With faith defined as obedience, it is no surprise that Lordship advocates also argue that true believers will live a life of obedience evidenced by measurable works. The word “measurable” is carefully chosen in this discussion, because Lordship proponents can only evaluate the salvation experience of someone based on what they can measure outwardly. MacArthur states, “The fruit of one’s life reveals whether that person is a believer or an unbeliever. There is no middle ground.” 73   MacArthur, The Gospel, 178.To MacArthur, the fruit must be measurable or “abundant–not something you have to scrounge around looking for.” 74   Ibid., 127.Therefore, the issue in this section is not whether professing Christians bear fruit or not, but whether they bear measurable fruit, or fruit that can always be seen and measured by some standard.

It will soon be apparent that this Lordship understanding of faith is vulnerable to the charge of subjectivity. While it is clear that God desires all Christians to bear fruit (Eph 2:10), and it is certainly an inference from Scripture that all do (1 Cor 4:5), it must be proved whether the Scriptures ascribe a certain measure of works which validates salvation. Ryrie agrees that every Christian bears fruit, but enjoins three appropriate caveats: 1) This does not mean that a believer will always be fruitful, for if there can be minutes of unfruitfulness, why not days, months, or years?; 2) Fruit is not always obvious to an observer, but can be private or erratic; 3)­ One’s concept of fruit is often incomplete, for biblically speaking, fruit includes less obvious things such as character traits, praise to God, and giving of money. 75   Ryrie, Salvation, 45-50. Likewise, Hodges states that because of the inference of Scripture he believes all true Christians will do good works. See Zane C. Hodges, “Assurance of Salvation,” JOTGES 3 (Autumn 1990): 7, 9.

The Lordship position uses a number of passages to show the necessity of measurable fruits to genuine faith. Virtually all refer to Jas 2:14-26, therefore this passage will be discussed first. John 15:1-6 is used to a lesser extent. Other passages which will be discussed are Matt 7:15-20; 7:21-23; John 6:28-29; Gal 5:6; 1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:11; and Eph 2:10.

James 2:14-26

This passage may be the crux interpretum in the Lordship debate. 76   Evidence of this is MacArthur’s article “Faith According to the Apostle James,” JETS 33 (March 1990): 13-34, which appears as his first line of defense against the criticism of his book The Gospel According to Jesus. Just as these verses were declared by Roman Catholics to be the Achilles’ heel of the Reformation, 77   G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), 132.so they are similarly used by Lordship advocates against the Free Grace view. The difference seems only a matter of emphasis. Instead of the Romanist assertion that faith plus works obtains salvation, the Lordship adherent argues that the kind of faith that works obtains salvation.

In asserting this, Lordship proponents have been charged with conditioning salvation upon works. Hodges says,

It is pure sophistry to argue that what is meant in such [Lordship] theology is only that works are produced by grace and are simply its necessary results. On the contrary, if I cannot get to heaven apart from the regular performance of good works, those works become as much a condition for heaven as faith itself. Many theologians who hold to the kind of synthesis we are discussing, honestly admit that good works are a condition for heaven! (emphasis his). 78   Hodges, “Assurance of Salvation,” JOTGES 3:9. Hodges cites as an example Samuel T. Logan’s assertion that “evangelical obedience is an absolute necessity, a ‘condition’ in man’s justification.” The quote is from Samuel T. Logan, Jr., “The Doctrine of Justification in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards,” WTJ 46 (1984): 43.

The conclusion that works are a condition of salvation is indeed admitted by some commentators who take the words of James at face value. For example, one writes, “Logically, then, good works must be a condition of justification.” 79   W. Nicol, “Faith and Works in the Letter of James,” in Essays on the General Epistles of the New Testament, Neot 9 (Pretoria: The New Testament Society of South Africa, cl975), 22.Another states, “The exegesis has shown beyond doubt that James is very critical of faith alone and insists that works are necessary for salvation” 80   Thorwald Lorenzen, “Faith without Works does not count before God! James 2:14-26,” The Expository Times (ExpTim) 89 (May 1978): 233. See also Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James, Peter, John and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint ed. 1951, orig. ed. n.d.), 42. and, “for James works are the necessary presupposition for salvation and the decisive soteriological element without which faith is dead and cannot save (emphasis his).” 81   Barnes, James, Peter, John, Jude, 234.

Of course, Lordship interpreters do not admit this, preferring instead to say that works are the necessary fruit of the faith necessary for salvation. They argue that Jas 2:14-26 denounces a sterile intellectual faith as opposed to a genuine saving faith evidenced by works. MacArthur states,

Not all faith is redemptive. James 2:14-26 says faith without works is dead and cannot save. James describes spurious faith as pure hypocrisy, mere cognitive assent, devoid of any verifying works—no different from the demons’ belief. 82   MacArthur, The Gospel, 170.

Likewise, Mueller uses this passage to argue that

the true faith that saves (justifies) is the faith that also produces appropriate works (sanctifies). In James’ thinking, “to be justified by faith” is equivalent to saying “to be justified by works” when the latter works are the fruit of saving faith. To James, these fruits are indispensable and distinguish saving faith from its non-soteric counterfeit (cf. 2:19). 83   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 22-23.

But Saucy admits that calling works in James the necessary “fruit” of faith is including obedience in the essence of faith:

If some kind of obedience, represented by the works of James, is necessarily the fruit of saving faith, then it is difficult to see how some dimension of obedience can be totally excluded from the seed of faith. Surely there is something alike in the essence of a particular fruit and the essence of the seed that produced it. 84   Robert L. Saucy, “Second Response to ‘Faith According to the Apostle James’ by John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” JETS 33 (March 1990): 46-47.

In considering the text itself, MacArthur’s view represents well the popular and Lordship view of James 2:14-26. 85   It should be noted that the popular view of Jas 2:14-26 is also held by those who oppose Lordship Salvation. E.g., Ryrie, Salvation, 132-33. The popular view is that it concerns the reality of faith in relation to salvation. MacArthur says, “[James] says that people can be deluded into thinking they believe when in fact they do not, and he says that the single factor that distinguishes counterfeit faith from the real thing is the righteous behavior inevitably produced in those who have authentic faith.” 86   MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:16.This interpretation arises from the assumption that James is speaking of salvation as eschatological and justification as forensic (in the same sense as Paul in Romans 3 and 4). 87   Consequently, this also leads to the debate about the priority of James versus Paul and the many attempts to reconcile their teachings. This debate is believed to be unnecessary as will be shown. The interpretation adopted by the author as best fitting the argument of the book and the context, grammar, and words is indebted to the work of Zane C. Hodges in Dead Faith: What Is it? (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1987) chiefly for the arguments that James’ is not addressing eternal salvation and that justification is non-soteriological in 2:14-26. Therefore, the first question to be answered concerns the central issue James addresses in 2:14-26.

An important interpretive key to this passage is a correct understanding of the spiritual condition of James’ readers. There seems every indication that the readers were true believers. They were born from above (1:18), possessed faith in Christ (2:1), and were considered “brethren” (1:2, 19, 2:1; 14; 3:1; 4:11; 5:7, 10, 12, 19). 88   Those who consider James’ readers to be believers include Douglas J. Moo, James, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William S. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), 32-33; D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistle of James (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 37-38: Martin Dibelius, James, rev. Heinrich Greeven, transl. Michael A. Williams, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 178: Earl D. Radmacher, “First Response to ‘Faith According to the Apostle James’ by John F. MacArthur. Jr.,” JETS 33 (March 1990): 37.Clearly, the “brothers” (adelfoi) are addressed in the introductory 2:14. Also in verse 14, the impersonal tis serves as James’ hypothetical example and gives no clue as to spiritual condition in and of itself. The closest identity to the tis in verse 14 is the tis in verse 16 which apparently speaks of the same hypothetical person and where it is qualified by autois ex @?mwn for the meaning “one of you”. James assumes that there are individuals among his Christian readers who can have faith without works.

The nature of this “faith” mentioned first in verse 14 is a controlling factor in one’s interpretation. Is it a genuine Christian faith or a false faith? MacArthur argues that it is this person’s claim to be a believer, but it is only an “empty profession.” 89   MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:22-23.He supports this from the articular use of pistis at the end of the verse:  “That faith cannot save him, can it?” 90   Ibid., 24. It is popular to insert “such” (NIV) or “that” (NASB) before “faith” as a translation of the article, making it a “say-so faith.” In contrast, cf. NKJV.However, it is debated whether his interpretation should lean so heavily on the articular pistis when the same construction is found in 2:17, 20, 22, and 26 with no such understanding. Examination shows that when James uses faith as the subject, he also uses the article. 91   For a fuller argument, see Hodges, Dead Faith, 10-11, 29, notes 13-14; Dibelius, James, 152, 178.The fact that this person “says” (legh) he has faith appears only to state an assumption, the reality of which is not challenged by James. James challenges only the “profit” of such a faith without works. The profit he has in mind is expressed in the use of the verb swzw in verse 14. MacArthur understands the verb and the context to refer to eternal salvation. 92   MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:24, 30.But this may not harmonize with its usage in James. Though it can surely refer to salvation, swzw is sometimes used in the general sense of “deliver” or “preserve” from danger, loss, or physical death. 93   BAGD, “sozo,” 805-6. Also, see Radmacher’s cautions about the “reductionistic error? of too often seeing this word in its narrow sense of eternal salvation (Radmacher, “First Response to John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” JETS 33:39-40).Its use in 1:21, in context, probably refers to deliverance from the deadening effect of sin in the Christian’s life. 94   For a full discussion, see Hodges, Dead Faith, 12-13. Commenting on the context of 1:21, Kendall says about 1:22, “If James means by ‘but’ that one must be a ‘doer of the word’ in order to ratify saving faith, then it must be said firmly and categorically that James does not believe that salvation is the gift of God by faith alone. There must be works” (emphasis his; R. T. Kendall, Once Saved Always Saved [Chicago: Moody Press, 1983″, 210).Its other use in 5:20 evidently refers to deliverance from physical death. 95   In both cases psyche, or literally “life,” has the meaning of “physical life,” a legitimate usage in the New Testament (BAGD, s.v. “psyche,” 901-02).

The context suggests from what one is saved in 2:14-26. The motif of judgment brackets this passage (2:13; 3:1). Since he is addressing Christians, the judgment seat of Christ must be in view. Verse 2:14 appears after a discussion of this judgment (v. 13) without a connecting particle showing the continuity of thought about accountability at the judgment. The judgment seat of Christ is a judgment based on the believer’s works (1 Cor 3:13; 2 Cor 5:10), which fits James’ concern exactly. Radmacher comments, “Faith without works is useless in this life and results in serious loss at the judgment seat of Christ (cf. 2 John 7-8).” 96   Radmacher, “First Response to John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” JETS 33:38.The illustration of the destitute brother or sister who is verbally blessed but not helped (2:15-16) shows that this lack of works is profitless (or useless, dead) 97   BAGD appropriately gives the meaning “useless” for the word nekros in 2:14-26 (s.v. ” nekros,” 536). “Useless” correlates with the idea of no “profit” expressed in verses 14 and 16.both for the needy person in this life and consequently to the Christian at the judgment seat of Christ. 98   See also Kendall, Once Saved, 170-72, 207-17.

That James speaks of a genuine faith which cannot “save” a Christian at the judgment seat of Christ is consistent with the New Testament’s usage of swzw and its teaching on the bema. In 1 Cor 5:5 swzw is used of the believer at the bema who is saved from suffering a loss of some kind. This believer is already saved from hell, therefore he (as those in James) is saved from having his unworthy works burned (1 Cor 3:12-15) or from suffering a loss of reward and whatever other benefits are bestowed at the bema. 99   See Shane Barnes, “The Negative Aspect of Rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984). Thus it seems the profit of which James speaks is not salvation, but advantages accrued in this life and at the judgment seat of Christ.

Therefore, James is not concerned with the reality of the readers’ faith, but the quality (1:3, 6; 2:1; 5:15) and usefulness (1:12, 26; 2:14, 16, 20 [NASB]) of their faith. Though most assume James argues that a vital faith will manifest itself in works, upon closer examination he is saying the reverse: that without works faith is useless or unprofitable. This is his thesis, stated summarily in 2:17: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” The word “dead” (nekra) answers to the word “profit” (ofelos) in the question of 2:16 thus rendering the sense “unprofitable” or “useless.” This sense fits the overall concern of his epistle. He is concerned that the readers’ faith in Christ produce maturity (1:2-4) and the righteousness of God (1:19-20) in the face of trials. Such results come only when one acts on the Word (1:22-25), bridles the tongue (1:26; 3:1-12), and engages in good works (1:27). This kind of faith in trials is profitable because it earns reward from God (1:12) and thus is not “useless” (1:26). 100   The word used in 1:26 translated “useless” is mataios which can mean “empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth” (BAGD, s.v. ” mataios,” 496). Here it is used to describe accurately the religion of one who overestimates the profitability of (not the existence of) his religion. It’s use supports the argument that James here and throughout his epistle is concerned with an existent faith that is useless, not a nonexistent faith.

Another argument used by MacArthur comes from the objector’s sequence in 2:18-20. Recognizing the difficulty of delineating exactly which words belong to the objector and which to the respondent, he concludes, “However one reads it, the essential point is clear: The only possible evidence of faith is works.” 101   MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:24-25.He goes on to argue that verse 19 is James’ “assault on passive faith” which shows “Orthodox doctrine by itself is no proof of saving faith.” 102   Ibid., 25.

In this objector’s sequence, a common interpretation takes the first half of the verse as an objector’s words and the last half as James’ reply. The objector is then saying that one person may be gifted in faith and another in works, i.e., that faith and works can be divorced and either is allowable. James then challenges this in his reply. 103   For this view cf. NIV; NKJV; RSV; Hiebert, James, 182-85; Lenski, James, 592; Dibelius, James, 154.However, it is likely that verses 18-19 are the words of a supporter of James interjected here in response to the speaker of verse 16. “The writer, with his usual modesty, puts himself in the background, does not claim to be the representative of perfect working faith, but supposes another to speak.” 104   J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James (Grand Rapids: Zondevan Publishing House, 1954), 99.This may be indicated by the use of tis both in verses 16 and 18. The All of verse 18 shows objection to the speaker of verse 16. Verse 18 recognizes the possibility of faith without works (cwris), 105   The reading of the UBS and TR is accepted, though the MT reads _k from which Hodges argues that verses 18-19 are from an objector. See Hodges, Dead Faith, 16-19, and “Light on James Two from Textual Criticism,” BSac 120 (October-December 1963): 341-50.but implies the speaker’s superiority of faith with works. The NASB attributes all of verse 18 to the speaker. However, it makes sense that the speaker says verse 19 as well, since he is arguing against faith without works. Verse 19 shows that faith (Su pisteueis) is good (Kalws poieis), but not necessarily of practical benefit without works, for the demons believe (ta daimonia pistesousi) the same and only tremble. They truly believe there is one God, but there is no profit because their aversion to good works brings them only the fearful prospect of judgment. James then joins his ally in rebuking the speaker of verse 16 with his words in verse 20. 106   In support of James’ response beginning in verse 20, see Mayor, James, 101-2; Christian Donker, “Der Verfasser des Jak und sein Gegner: Zum Problem des Einwasdes in Jak 2:18-19,” ZNW72 (March-April 1981): 235-39: Francois Vouga, L?epitre de Saint Jacques, Commentaire du Nouveau Testament (CNT) (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1984), 87-88.His conclusion in verse 20 echoes the conclusion in verse 17: Faith without works is useless. 107   It is significant that in verse 20 arge (“useless”) instead of nekra is supported by some good manuscripts and so is preferred in the NIV, NASB, and RSV.

Whatever view of the objector’s sequence one takes, it must be admitted that all verses 19 and 20 affirm is that monotheism, though commendable as a belief, can be held by men and demons to no profit if it is without appropriate good works. 108   MacArthur speaks as if demons could be saved if they had the right kind of faith (MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:25), but Jesus did not die for demons. The quality of their faith is not the issue here, but its uselessness without works.Monotheism is much different from faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, thus verse 19 does not speak of a deficient soteriological faith.

Another Lordship argument comes from James’ examples of working faith in Abraham and Rahab (2:21-25). The text states that both Abraham and Rahab were “justified by works” (ex ergwn edikaiwqh; vv. 21, 25). MacArthur understands this to refer to forensic justification before God. 109   MacArthur takes the phrase “justified by works” as a metonymy of effect for cause and therefore sees no contradiction with Paul in Rom. 3:18 (MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:27).Such an understanding fuels the perennial debate about whether James contradicts Paul; a debate that is unnecessary if James’ use of justification is understood in context.

It appears that the justification of which James speaks is not that which is before God, but before men. As argued above, salvation from hell is not James’ concern in the epistle. Rather, he is concerned about the quality of his readers’ faith. Whether verse 22 is considered a statement or a rhetorical question, James is asserting that Abraham’s works made his faith “perfect,” not vice versa, though his faith was cooperating with (s?nergei) 110   ?Work with, cooperate (with”, help.” BAGD, s.v. “Synergeo,” 795.works. The passive verb eteleiwqh has faith as the subject and works as the instrument with perhaps God as the acting agent. The verb itself means “to perfect” (or “to complete, bring to an end, finish, accomplish,” 111   BAGD, s.v. “teleiow,” 817.cf. 1:3-4). Abraham’s works were used to perfect the quality of his faith. Such a faith made perfect or mature 112   Davids prefers the meaning of eteleiwqh, “is brought to maturity.” Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James, New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 128.was profitable to him. The examples of Abraham and Rahab answer the question posed in verse 20 about the usefulness of faith without works. Faith is proved to be a useful and profitable faith when it is shown before men. The visible display of faith fulfills the challenge set forth in verse 18 (“Show me your faith”) and wins the approval of men who declare that Abraham, for one, was intimately related to God (“And he was called the friend of God,” v. 23).

It is therefore entirely valid to speak of a justification before men in the sense of a visible vindication of invisible faith. The Apostle Paul alludes to such a justification in Rom 4:2: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God.” In agreement with Paul, James 2:24 states there are two kinds of justification; one concerns practical righteousness before men, and the other judicial righteousness before God. Longenecker remarks on the lack of conflict between Paul’s and James’ use of the word “justification,”

James uses it more phenomenally to mean the recognition of existing goodness and of acts of kindness, whereas Paul employs it more forensically to mean that which God gives to the ungodly. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, Paul employs the verb “to justify” with respect to God’s acceptance of man, whereas James employs the same verb to mean the recognition of what is good, helpful and kind. 113   Richard N. Longenecker, “The ‘Faith of Abraham’ Theme in Paul, James and Hebrews: A Study in the Circumstantial Nature of New Testament Teaching,” JETS 20 (September 1977): 207. For a similar sense of vindication before men, cf.. Matt 11:19.

Certainly James’ concept of practical justification presupposes Paul’s forensic concept, but they are not one and the same.

James ends his discussion with an analogy that illustrates and repeats his thesis: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead (nekra) also” (v. 26). While most assume that the analogy teaches true faith animates works, James’ point is the opposite because the animating principle in the analogy is not faith, but works. It is works which vitalizes or makes faith useful, just as the spirit vitalizes or makes the body useful. MacArthur agrees, “There is no question that Jas 2:26 pictures works as the invigorating force and faith as the body.” 114   MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:31. See also, Moo, James. 117. MacArthur disputes Hodges argument that the body was once alive (See Hodges, Dead Faith, 7-9; MacArthur, The Gospel, 171). Whether the body was alive or not does not seem essential to the interpretation suggested above, because the point of the illustration is simply that a body without the spirit is useless. The existence of the body is assumed, as is the existence of faith. The question is whether it is a useful body (i.e., useful faith).James says the key to a useful, living faith is good works. He does not say a living faith is the key to good works. So the issue in James is not whether faith exists in a person, but how it becomes profitable or useful to the Christian. 115   So Radmacher, “First Response to John F. MacArthur,” JETS 33:38.

MacArthur’s interpretation of James 2:14-26 does not adequately treat the passage in light of the argument of the book, the immediate context, the meaning of crucial terms, and the direct statements of the text. The alternative interpretation offered above seeks to resolve the theological tension over works in relation to faith in light of these crucial facts. However they may try to explain this theological tension, the Lordship interpretation of Jas 2:14-26 still sadly focuses on the quality one’s faith instead of one’s Savior.

John 15:1-8

Though this passage does not explicitly link faith to works, it will be discussed here because that is exactly the interpretation often given it. Laney, in arguing against a dichotomy between faith and fruit, makes the connection to faith in this passage through the verb “abide,” which he claims “is equivalent to believing in Christ,” and therefore, “There is no fruit without faith, and there is no faith without fruit.” 116   J. Carl Laney, “Abiding Is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6,” Bsac 146 (January-March 1989): 65. The entire article (pp. 55-66) will be used as a representative Lordship interpretation in this discussion, though Laney makes no explicit claim in the article to be a Lordship advocate.Thus the issue is whether this passage teaches that saving faith must bear measurable fruit.

Laney’s argument is summarized here: The fate of the fruitless branches of verse 2 is determined by the word airei, best translated “remove,” which denotes judgment. These branches are the same as in verse 6 which says they are “cast out,” something Jesus promised never to do to believers (John 6:37), therefore they are professing believers severed from their superficial connection with Christ. Furthermore, their fate of being burned is the destiny of unbelievers only. He also notes the progressive nature of belief in John’s Gospel as an indication of the possibility that faith can fall short of salvation. 117   The previous discussion of pisteuo in John (pp. 18-20) would dispute this idea of faith progressing toward salvation in John. More such support will be offered later in discussions of John 2:23-25 and 8:30-31.“Abide,” therefore, is said to equal genuine faith, and those who abide will bear visible fruit.

Observation should begin with the wider context. In John, chapters 13-17 form a unique unit of intimate dialogue between Jesus and the disciples on the eve of His arrest. The evangelistic interest of Jesus, prominent in chapters 1-12, is left behind as Jesus addresses His believing disciples. The vast proportion of His message is delivered after Judas, the only unbeliever, leaves (13:31ff.). The lack of an evangelistic appeal signals that an evangelistic motif for 15:1-8 is out of place. Instead, Jesus is concerned about the future fruitfulness of the disciples who will do “greater works” than He (14:12) with the resources of prayer (14:13-14) and the Holy Spirit (14:15, 26).

In verse 1, Jesus uses the analogy of the vine and vinedresser as He reflects Old Testament symbolism in which God pictures His covenant people as a vine (Ps. 80:8-16; Isa. 5:1-7; Jer. 2:21; 5:10; 12:10; Eze. 15:1-8; 17:1-24; Hos. 10:1). Since Jesus is the true vine, any branches in Him belong in a special relationship to Him. He says of the branches in verse 2 that they are “in Me,” thus designating this vital relationship. Laney prefers to take the “in Me” adverbially as the sphere in which fruit-bearing can take place, rather than adjectivally as a modifier of “branch.” He asserts that word order is not definitive. 118   Ibid., 63-64. As he notes, in Greek a modifier can either precede or follow the word modified.

The fact that most commentators do not consider the phrase problematic and also assume the adjectival interpretation is significant. 119   For example, of those who even consider the phrase, cf. Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Co., 1981), 198; J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, 2 vols., ICC (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1928), 479; Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), 1029. Hendriksen discusses the adverbial possibility, but dismisses it as too, complicated (William Hendriksen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John, NTC [Grand Rapids;: Baker Book House, 1953″, 298-99, n. 179). Furthermore, the adjectival use was preferred by every English Bible translation consulted.The closer proximity of en emoi to Pan klhma than feron supports the adjectival interpretation. Also, the phrase, “You are the branches” (@?meis ta klhmata) in verse 5 specifies that the disciples are the branches in Christ. Furthermore, Laney admits that “in Me” is used elsewhere in John to signify genuine salvation (6:56; 10:38; 14:10-12, 30; 17:21). 120   Laney, “Abiding Is Believing,” BSac 146:63-64. In his response to Laney, Dillow argues convincingly that “in Me” not only refers to a true Christian, but also to fellowship with Christ. See Joseph C. Dillow, “Abiding is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6,” Bsac 147 (January-March 1990): 44-48. The statement of verse 3 is that the disciples are “already clean” (Hdh…kaqaroi), a reference to their salvation (cf. 13:10). One must ask why Jesus abruptly reminds them of this. It appears he is laying the foundation for his following exhortation which will challenge them in an aspect of Christian truth: “Abide in Me.” This command in verse 4 is addressed to the disciples (the imperative Meinate is second person plural), as is the possibility of not bearing fruit expressed by oude @?meis ean mh en emoi meinte: “neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” In verse 5 a similar possibility is assumed in the phrase cwris emou ou dunasthe poiein ouden: “without Me you can do nothing.” The third class condition used in verse 6 (Ean mh tis meinh en emoi) also supports the possibility of not abiding just as it also shows conditionality in verses 7, 10, and 14. 121   The third class condition expresses conditions believed to be probably or possibly realizable in the future. See H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto: The MacMillan Company, 1957), 290; Maximillian Zerwick, Biblical Greek (Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963), 109; Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965), 274.The indefinite tis may temper Jesus statement of possibility by giving the benefit of the doubt to the disciples in regards to the possibility of judgment without totally excluding them. Yet it remains a real possibility that the disciples could not abide. The meaning of “believe” for menw in this passage does not make sense if the disciples are addressed, for they are already clean (v. 3).

The consequences of not abiding are stated most graphically in the controversial verse 6. Laney, holds that the consequences of being cast out, withered, gathered, cast into the fire, and burned speak of those who profess to be Christians but are not and thus are severed from their superficial connection with Christ. He cites only one view consistent with the interpretation that these are Christians; the view that the consequences speak of believers disciplined by death. He then refutes this by noting that the removal of the branch is a prelude to judgment, not the blessing of fellowship with Christ in heaven.

But Laney does not consider another interpretation consistent with his assertion that judgment is in view. 122   Laney is criticized for this by Paul Holloway (review of “Abiding is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6” by J. Carl Laney, JOTGES 2 [Autumn 1989: 97). According to this interpretation, the judgment is not the final judgment of unbelievers, but that of the believer at the judgment seat of Christ. As Harrison notes, “Since the subject is the bearing of fruit and not eternal life, the burning is a judgment upon fruitlessness, not an abandonment to eternal destruction.” 123   Everett F. Harrison, “The Gospel According to John,” in WycliffeBC, (1071-1122), 1107.

A number of commentators admit that the symbolism of verse 6 is obscure. Erdman cautions appropriately that the figure cannot be taken too rigidly:  “The thought is not to be pressed as to raise the question of the loss of souls who are once united with Christ. We are concerned here with service rather than salvation.” 124   Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 140.Westcott also believes this refers to the fate of true believers and refuses to press the figure. Commenting on the identity of “they” (the ones who gather), he says, “The indefiniteness of the subject corresponds with the mysteriousness of the act symbolized.” 125   Westcott, John, 218.It is likely Jesus Himself did not clarify the figure so that the hearer would be left with the single impression that fruitlessness in His children would be severely judged.

In light of subsequent New Testament revelation, the only judgment facing the Christian is the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:12-15; 2 Cor 5:10). Paul acknowledged a certain sense of fear involved in the accounting before the bema (2 Cor 5:11), therefore the unpleasant imagery of burning is not inconsistent. Moreover, the judgment seat of Christ will result in the burning of unworthy works (1 Cor 3:15). If the figure must be pressed, the unfruitful works of the believer could be those which are burned in verse 6. 126   Dillow argues that the believer and his works are so intimately related that “To apply the fire of judgment to the believer is the same as applying it to his work. Indeed the believer’s works are simply a metonymy for the believer himself.” He supports this from 1 Corinthians 3 where the believer is the building (1 Cor 3:9ff.), yet the building is built from various materials representing works (3:12) and the fire is applied to the building (3:13-15). He believes the judgment is temporal and at the judgment seat of Christ (Dillow, “Abiding Is Fellowship,” Bsac 147:53).Even Boice, a Lordship advocate, comments,

True, the matter of burning is often associated with hell and therefore the loss or non-possession of salvation. But that does not mean that it is always associated with it or that it is associated with it here. On the contrary, burning is not always used of hell, as the passage in 1 Corinthians about works proves. And it is its association with the destruction of useless works rather than with the loss of salvation that is most appropriate in this passage. It is always dangerous to try to interpret a parable on any level other than that involved at its most basic point. 127   James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 4:238. See also Harrison, “John,” WycliffeBC, 1107; The Ryrie Study Bible, New American Standard Translation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 1630.

The change from tis as the one who “does not abide,” “is cast out as a branch, and is withered” to the neuter auta for that which is actually gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned may support Boice’s view. Somewhat more convincing is the view that the figure simply points to the uselessness of the life of a believer without fruit. It was well known to John’s readers that grape vines without fruit were virtually useless and burned as debris (Eze. 15:1-8). 128   This passage in Ezekiel throws light on the interpretation of the vine and branches. It is helpful to see here that the wood of the vine represents God’s covenant people, Israel(Eze 15:6). The idea of uselessness apart from fruitfulness is; also clear. Most significantly, the burning of the vine in Ezekiel is disciplinary judgment upon the nation, not eternal forfeiture of God’s promises, for God never renounces His promises to Israel.Thus Jesus graphically pictures the life of the fruitless believer as a useless life, as He also indicated in verse 5: “without Me you can do nothing.” There is no reason that the fire must be literal since the other elements (Vine, branches, fruit) are allegorical.

If fruitfulness in service is the subject, airei in verse 2 would then speak of something other than eternal judgment. One possibility is to translate airw as “remove” or “cut off” so that it refers to believers whom the Lord removes from earth through death. 129   Chafer, Theology, 7:4. However, a better view translates the word “lift up.” In this view, the vinedresser is seen lifting the blossoming grape branches off the ground so that they will be more exposed to the sun and less susceptible to damage, and thus become fruitful. 130   Many cite Palestinian practice in viticulture to confirm this. See R. K. Harrison, s.v. “Vine,” The Intemational Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), ed. G. W. Bromiley, 1988, 4:986-87; A. C. Schultz, s.v. ‘Vine, vineyard,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (ZPEB), ed. Merrill C. Tenney, 1975, 5:882-84; Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), 106. Once fruitful, the second half of verse 2 (connected by kai) 131   Zerwick notes that kai can be used to denote a consecutive idea. Zerwick, Biblical Greek, 153. says they are pruned to produce “more fruit.” This interpretation of airw is consistent with the figure introduced in verse 1 and the ultimate desire for fruitfulness mentioned at the end of verse 2 and in verse 8. It is also consistent with the use of the word airw as “lift up” elsewhere in John (cf. 5:8-12; 8:59; 10:18,24). Significantly, Jeremias, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, defines airw first as “to lift up from the ground.” 132   Joachim Jeremias, s.v. “airw,” in TDNT, 1 (1964): 185. Also, BAGD, s.v. ” airw,” 23. This view has even staunch Lordship advocates in support. See Boice, John, 4:228, and A. W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 4 vols. (Ohio: Cleveland Bible Truth Depot, 1929), 3:337.

Therefore, the word “abide,” though it may have some conceptual overlap with “believe,” 133   For example, Dillow observes, “The first condition of abiding in Christ, or being in fellowship with Him, is to have believed on Him” (Dillow, “Abiding Is Fellowship,” BSac 147:49). is chiefly a word for Christians which describes the most intimate union with Christ. Lexically, menw has the meaning “remain, stay, continue, abide.” 134   BAGD, s.v. “menw,” 504-5.Not only is it distanced lexically from “believe,” but the immediate context does the same: Verse 7 indicates it is the condition for answered prayer, and in verse 10 abiding is a result of keeping Christ’s commandments (cf. 1 John 3:24). The fact that Christ also abides in the disciples (John 15:4, 5, 7) shows that menw does not denote saving belief, but rather an intimate relationship presupposing faith. It is a word used to describe a fuller progression of faith in John; a faith not progressing to salvation, but from it.

Besides the evidence cited, the inevitable weakness of Laney’s view of John 15, and Lordship insistence on quantifiable fruit in general, is the subjectivity of determining when a person is fruitful enough to be considered saved. The use of John 15:1-8 to support faith as resulting in measurable works is in essence an unprovably vague and subjective argument. It can hardly be claimed that “fruit is the ultimate test of true salvation.” 135   MacArthur, The Gospel, 127.

Matthew 7:15-20

This passage is used similarly to John 15:1-8 to argue that fruit is the necessary proof of salvation. 136   Ibid., 33, 126. The key thought is found in verse 16: “You will know them [false prophets] by their fruits” (cf. v. 20).

But here the subject of the passage is false prophets (v. 15), not professing Christians in general. Strictly speaking, the test in 7:15-20 is not for discerning true salvation but for discerning whether a prophet is of God. Also significant is that the test itself is not no fruits but bad fruits (v. 17). In their initial impression (when they first “come to you,” v. 15) these false prophets are indiscernible in words and works from other believers (they have “sheep’s clothing,” v. 15). However, given time to ripen, their fruits will betray them (v. 16). Likewise, a tree cannot be judged good or bad from its outer appearance, but from what fruit it produces (vv. 17-18). Thus the true test of a prophet is whether his fruits are good or bad. “Fruits” can refer to both works (Matt 3:8; 13:23) and words (Matt 12:33-37). 137   That words are the fruit spoken of in Matt 12:33-37 is quite clear when the subject of the entire context is considered (especially verses 31-32). Hodges argues from this passage that the fruits of Matt 7:20 is words only (Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse [Dallas: Redenci6n Viva, 1985, 15). However, it seems that other gospel passages indicate fruit can include works (Matt 3:8; 13:23; Luke 8:14-1 5; John 15:2-8, 16. While it may be admitted that the primary test of a false prophet in the Old Testament was his words (Deut 13:1-6; 18:20-22), the New Testament distinguishes false prophets by both words and works (2 Pet 2:1-3, 10, 12-15, 18-19; Jude 4, 8-11, 16).This passage, therefore, only teaches how to discern a false prophet, not how to discern whether one is saved or not.

Matthew 7:21-23

This passage is also quoted by Lordship proponents as evidence that faith which saves must manifest itself in works of obedience. 138   See MacArthur, The Gospel, 22, 188-92, 203-4; Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4.Given their understanding, the passage would actually teach against using works as proof of salvation, because the works performed in verse 22 do not reveal the professors’ true spiritual condition as shown by the subsequent rebuke (v. 23).

In context, 7:21-23 is chiefly concerned with the false prophets discussed in 7:15-20 (cf. v. 22—they “prophesied”). Their prophetic “ministries” of good works are acknowledged (v. 22), but have no merit in the day of final judgment. The only criterion given is whether they did the will of the Father (v. 21). However, the Father’s will could not be good works lest it be concluded that they are saved by works. 139   Yet this conclusion is virtually stated by MacArthur who remarks on this passage, “obedience to divine authority is a prerequisite of entry into the kingdom” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 204).Those who hold that this refers to a life of obedience must acknowledge that the Father’s will is perfect obedience (Matt 5:48), an impossible standard for unsaved men to reach. Jesus elsewhere characterized believing as doing the work of God (John 6:28-29). It would therefore be consistent if here “My Father’s will” referred to the response of repentance and faith in the gospel (cf. 2 Pet 3:9).

John 6:28-29

Both MacArthur and Mueller use this dialogue between Jesus and some followers to argue that faith is a work. 140   Ibid., 33; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20. Both claim it is a work produced by God. Jesus’ answer to those who ask, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” is “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Believing is not here called a work that God produces, 141   So MacArthur, The Gospel, 33; James F. Brown, “Faith as Commitment in the Gospel of St. John,” Worship 38 (April 1964): 266. for the question from the followers is “what shall we do” (v. 28, emphasis added). Rather, “the work of God” refers to that which God requires of men. 142   Morris, John, 360.This work, however, is not something done as a human merit or a work of the law, which was what the questioners expected to hear as signified by their use of the plural “works.” It is only the act of believing that God requires, as indicated by Jesus’ answer using the singular “work” (cf. 1 John 3:23). As Blum observes,

Jesus’ response to their question was a flat contradiction of their thinking. They could not please God by doing good works. There is only one work of God, that is, one thing God requires. They need to put their trust in the One the Father has sent. 143   Edwin A. Blum, “John” in BKC (267-348), 295. See also The Ryrie Study Bible, 1611 Siegfried Schulz, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 104; Urban C. von Wahlde, “Faith and Works in Jn vi 28-29: Exegesis or Eisegesis?” Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus (NTOA) 22 (April 1980): 304-15.

Galatians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11

In these verses faith is associated with works. The phrases “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) and “work of faith” (1 Thess 1:3; 2 Thess 1:11) are sometimes referred to as proof that “faith is active in the life and manifests its activity within by producing results in the life.” 144   Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 33-34.It cannot be denied that faith produces these results. 145   Though Bruce cites strong evidence that Galatians 5:6 could be read “faith energized (produced) by love.” F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 232.In the Thessalonians passages, however, the faith referred to is not initial saving faith as supposed, but that faith which relates to living the Christian life. 146   Edmund Hiebert, The Thessalonians Epistles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 46, 297. The parallel phrases “labor of love” and “patience of hope” in 1:3 confirm that the post-conversion life of faith is in view. Just as labor is prompted by love and patience by hope, work is prompted by faith. Besides, the Apostle Paul is simply acknowledging that the Thessalonians’ faith was seen in works; he says nothing about whether it must be seen to be legitimate.

Galatians 5:6 is also used to argue that the faith which saves works through love, as if love proved this faith to be genuine. 147   So Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 25. Many other commentators interpret the context as governed by justification instead of sanctification. E.g., Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, ICC (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, Ltd., 1980), 280; R. Alan Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 143-44; Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 229-32; However, it appears the passage discusses faith in the context of sanctification, not justification. Paul speaks to believers (4:31; 5:1) who are “in Christ” (5:6) to persuade them to walk in the Spirit by faith (5:5, 16) and keep the ethic of love not law (5:14). The benefit in view (“avails anything”) is not salvation from hell, but the righteous fruit of a life governed by faith (5:5, 22-23). 148   This author believes that sanctification is a primary theme of Galatians. For agreement and discussion, see Merrill C. Tenney, Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 27; H. A. Ironside, Expository Messages on the Epistle to the Galatians (New York: Loiseaux Brothers, 1940), 10; The Ryrie Study Bible. 1769: Daniel P. Fuller, Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 114-15.Luther seems to recognize this context in his comment on 5:6:

Paul goeth not about here to declare what faith is, or what it availeth before God; he disputeth not, I say, of justification (for this hath he done largely before), but as it were gathering up his argument, he briefly sheweth what the Christian life itself is

Wherefore, seeing this place speaketh of the whole life of Christians, no man of good sense can understand it as concerning justification before God. 149   Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, revised ed. based on the “Middleton” ed. of the English version of 1575 (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), 465-66. Cf. also Robert Govett, Govett on Galatians (Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1981), 176.

Paul, therefore, is not addressing the reality of justifying faith, but the efficacy of sanctifying faith.

Ephesians 2:10

This verse is used in much the same way as those above:  to argue that the faith that saves will produce measurable works. 150   MacArthur, The Gospel, 95-96: “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:31; John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 84-85.But this seems more than the verse really says. “Created . . . for (epi) good works” means that God purposed 151   Purpose is expressed by the use of epi with the dative, a “true dative of purpose.” Robertson, WPNT, 4:525.that every Christian have good works, and though it may be inferred that they will, this phrase says nothing about the fulfillment of the purpose or what measure of works validates faith. These works were prepared by God beforehand (ois prohtoimasen ho qeos) so that Christians might walk in them (@ina en autois peripathsawmen). The purpose clause signified by the @ina uses the subjunctive mood of peripatw to express expectancy and probability, but not certainty. 152   The subjunctive mood is the mood of mild contingency; the mood of probability.” See Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar, 170. On clauses introduced by hina Burton asserts, “There is no certain, scarcely a probable, instance in the New Testament of a clause introduced by hina denoting actual result conceived of as such.” See Ernest De Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1900), 94.The clause states a purpose, not a promise. Ephesians 2:10 shows that God’s desire for every believer is to walk in the good works He has designed, and surely every believer has some good works (1 Cor 4:5), but it does not make them the decisive validation of genuine faith.

Faith as Submission

The issue of submission/surrender/commitment in relation to salvation is fully discussed in chapter five under the subject of discipleship and salvation. However, one passage sometimes used to support the idea of faith as submission, John 1:12, should be discussed here because it mentions faith explicitly.

Since submission of one’s life to the Lord is at the heart of Lordship theology, it is not surprising that saving faith is defined as such a commitment. Stott writes,

 in true faith there is an element of submission. Faith is directed towards a Person. It is in fact a complete commitment to this Person involving not only an acceptance of what is offered but a humble surrender to what is or may be demanded. 153   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. See also Brown, “Faith as Commitment,” Worship 38:263; Scott McCormick, Jr., “Faith as Surrender,” Interpretation (Int) 17 (1963): 302-7; and James R. Edwards, “Faith as Noun and Verb,” CT 29 (August 9, 1985): 23.

Arguments to support this idea of faith often refer to the interpretation of pisteuw eis in John, as discussed earlier. In John 1:12, however, appeal is also made to the use of “receive” as a synonym of “believe.”  Taking the argument further, it is insisted that Christ must be received as Lord of one’s life if there is to be salvation. 154   Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 3; MacArthur, The Gospel, 206.

The word “receive” can be taken as a parallel to “believe,” but this in no way proves the Lordship argument. The basic meaning of lambanw is “take, receive, accept” not “submit, surrender, commit.” 155   Burghard Siede, “lambanw,” in NIDNTT, 3 (1981): 747-48; G. Delling, “lambano,” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 5-15; BAGD, s.v. ” lambanw,” 465-66. Of the three, the latter is the only dictionary to bring into the meaning the idea of recognizing the authority of the person who is the object. It does this only for John 1:12, 5:43, and 13:20, which seems like special pleading. Recognition most sensibly extends only to Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the Savior (20:31).The word “receive” is used in 1:12 in contrast to those who “did not know” and “did not receive” Jesus Christ (1:10-11). These negative parallels show that to “receive” is also to “know” (ginwskw). Therefore, acknowledgment and recognition of who Jesus is (as the Messiah and Son of God, cf. 6:69; 8:28; 20:31) is in view, not submission to Him as Lord of one’s life.

Faith as Spurious

In view of Lordship Salvation’s understanding of faith seen thus far, it is not surprising this position sees some examples of believing in the Scriptures as inadequate for salvation. They claim these are examples of only intellectual or emotional faith, not the necessary obedient or submissive faith, and thus spurious. Though “false faith” is usually argued from Jas 2:19 as discussed above, John 2:23-25; 8:30-31; and Luke 8:4-8, 11-15 are claimed as examples of this kind of insufficient faith. In interpreting these passages, the preponderance of commentators assume the same position as the more vocal Lordship advocates.

John 2:23-25

The argument from this passage focuses on the significance of the terminology in verse 23 and the reaction of Jesus in verse 24. Speaking of Jesus in Jerusalem at the Passover, it is said that “many believed in His name when they saw the signs which he did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.” Commenting on those said to have “believed” in verse 23, MacArthur states,

Their kind of belief has nothing to do with saving faith, as we see from John’s testimony that “Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men” (2:24). That’s a clear statement about the inefficacy of artificial faith. 156   MacArthur, The Gospel, 38. It should be noted that verse 24 does not contain a “clear statement” on the kind of faith the believers had; it contains no statement on their faith, only a statement about Jesus’ response based on His supernatural knowledge of them.

Many commentators agree with MacArthur’s assessment of an artificial faith for these “believers.” 157   Blum, “John,” BKC, 280; Brown, John, 1:127; Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, transl. G. R. Beasley-Murray, eds. R. W. N. Hoare and J. K. Riches (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), 131; Frederic Louis Godet, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), 371; Hendriksen, John, 127-28; Homer A. Kent, Light in the Darkness: Studies in the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 53; R. H. Lightfoot, St. John’s Gospel: A Commentary, ed. C. F. Evans (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), 115; Morris, John, 205, Schnackenburg, John, 1:35; Westcott, John, 45; Xavier Leon-Dufour, Lecture de l?evangile selon Jean (chapitres 1-4): Parole de Dieu, Tome 1 (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1988), 285.Typically three reasons are posited for this conclusion: 1) They only believed in Christ’s name, not His person (v. 23); 2) They only believed in the signs, not in Christ as the Messiah (v. 23); 3) Jesus rejected their faith (v. 24).

The first argument must admit that there is no explicit denial of the reality of true faith in this passage. The phrase “believed in His name” (episteusan eus to onoma autou) in 2:23 would be taken the same as in 1:12 were it not for verse 24 (explained below). In 1:12 “those who believe in His name” are those who receive Christ and become God’s children. Likewise, in 20:31, the purpose statement of the book, salvation is indicated by the phrase “life through His name.” Also, the converse—not believing in the name of the Son of God—merits eternal condemnation (3:18). Furthermore, it seems inconsistent for commentators to argue that “believe in” (pisteuw eis) is John’s technical term for saving faith, yet deny that same meaning in 2:23. 158   E.g., R. H. Lightfoot, John, 115; Brown, John, 1:126; Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 85.That John chose to use such language when he could have easily used other is convincing evidence that he meant these people were saved.

Second, the supposed inadequacy of sign-based faith (insufficient faith prompted by signs) is not supported by the text which states that they believed “in His name.” This is significant faith regardless of what prompts it because the person of Christ is the object of faith, not signs. The verb qeorew for “saw” can have the basic meaning of “see” or “perceive” with physical eyes, but could also denote the perception of mind and spirit, 159   BAGD, s.v. “qeorew,” 360. which may be the sense here. It is used more clearly with this meaning elsewhere in John. 160   Cf. John 4:19; 12:19: 14:17, 19. Dahn notes that verbs of seeing take on a special significance in John, often that of spiritual perception and faith. He says, “Seeing as well as hearing again and again provide the impetus to faith (2:11; 20:8), lead to knowledge (14:9), and minister to inner perception (“I perceive that you are a prophet”, 4:19).” Karl Dahn, s.v. “horao,” in NIDNTT 3 (1981): 516-17.Christianson uses three other lines of argument to show that faith based on signs can be fully effectual: 1) Signed-based faith is seen elsewhere in John (1:47-49; 2:11; 4:52-53; 10:41-42; 11:42, 45; 20:26-29); 2) The Lord Himself encouraged faith based on signs (1:50-51; 10:37-38; 14:11); and 3) The Apostle John expected signs to prompt faith (12:37), something he declared in no less than his purpose statement for the Gospel (20:31). 161   Christianson, “Significance of PISTEUW,” 116-19.Finally, one should consider faith that is prompted by the resurrection of Christ, the greatest of His signs. Faith based on signs may not be on the same level of blessedness as faith exercised apart from signs (20:29), but there is nothing to indicate it does not result in salvation in 2:23.

The third argument appears the most viable because the response to faith described in verses 24-25 is not typical of Jesus. What then is the significance of the words “Jesus did not commit Himself to them” (v. 24)? John evidently intends a word play against the use of pisteuw in verse 23, for “commit” is a transitive use of pisteuw and is used nonsoteriologically. The negative use of pisteuw in verse 24 indicates Jesus’ lack of confidence in these believers, the reason for which is given in the remaining clauses. The phrases “because (Dia) He knew (ginwskein) all [men]” (v. 24) and “He knew (eginwske) what was in man” (v. 25) indicate a supernatural knowledge about these people that led to an unfavorable impression. The phrases say nothing explicit about the salvation experience of the believers or the genuineness of faith, so the conclusion that Jesus did not commit Himself to them because they had not truly believed must come from inference or theological presuppositions. A better inference incorporates the conclusions cited in response to the first two arguments: that “believed in His name” and sign-based faith legitimately describe genuine faith. In this way the unclear “Jesus did not commit Himself to them” is interpreted in light of the clearer language of “believed in His name.”

If taken as genuine faith, Jesus did not want to commit Himself to these believers because their faith was lacking in obedience at this early point. The word “commit” would then denote the intimate relationship with Jesus that brings further disclosure of His person and which is conditioned upon obedience (14:23; 15:14-15). The immature faith of “untrustworthy believers” 162   That is, true believers whom the Lord finds yet unworthy of His trust. For an excellent development of this see Zane C. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers-John 2:23-25,” BSac 135 (April-June 1978): 139-52: Robert Bryant, “The Secret Believer in the Gospel of John” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975).is a subtle motif in John (9:22; 12:42-43; 19:38). 163   One example is the development of Nicodemus’ faith from that of secret inquiry (3:1-4) to feeble defense of Christ (7:47-52) to public identification with Christ (19:39-42). No doubt John intends the word anqropo in 2:25 to carry the reader to anqropos in 3:1. Nicodemus serves as an example of one who was known by Jesus (seen by how Jesus cuts to Nicodemus’ concern, v. 3) and who was also being drawn to faith, in the same manner as the people had in 2:23, by the signs he had seen (v. 2).Sadler’s words form a fitting conclusion to this discussion:

It has been said that their faith was a false faith, because Jesus, who saw their hearts, did not trust Himself to them. But we have no right to say this: for in the scriptures, especially in this Gospel, every degree of faith is recognized as faith. If it exhibits weakness and deficiency, it is not because the faith is deficient, qua faith, but because the heart is shallow. Faith is a product of the Word of God, received into the heart. It may spring up, and afterwards wither, or be choked; but the springing up is real for the time, and it withers because it has no root, on account of the shallowness of the ground of the heart

His not committing Himself to them may be best understood by contrasting His conduct to them with that of His Apostles, to whom He says, “I have called you friends for all things that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you” (xv. 15). 164   M. F. Sadler, The Gospel according to St. John (London: George Bell and Sons, 1883), 59-60.

John 8:30-31

Speaking again of Jesus’ ministry, this passage says, “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed’.” Spurious faith is also claimed in this passage, as exemplified in this statement by Morris:

This section of discourse is addressed to those who believe, and yet do not believe. Clearly they are inclined to think that what Jesus said was true. But they were not prepared to yield Him the far-reaching allegiance that real trust in Him implies. 165   Morris, John, 454. Most all commentators who argue for a spurious faith in 2:23-24 will also argue for it here.

The usual reasons for this position are several: 1) It is argued that “believed Him” in verse 31 indicates inadequate faith by the use of pisteuw without the preposition eis; 2) Jesus gives a condition for becoming disciples which is equated with salvation (v. 31); 3) It is said that the hostility of these believers continues (vv. 33ff.) and Jesus calls them children of the devil (v. 44).

The first argument goes against evidence to the contrary. It is obvious that those addressed in verse 31 are the same as those in verse 30 who “believed in Him,” a strong term denoting salvation. 166   Gentry agrees this is a strong term for salvation (Gentry, ?The Great Option,” BRR 5:56).As argued earlier in the chapter, the construction of pisteuw without the preposition in verse 31 does not prove faith is inadequate. 167   See pp. 18-20.In the context, salvation must be meant since in verse 24 pisteuw with no preposition is used when Jesus states “if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Also, in John 5:24, a clear salvation verse, no preposition accompanies pisteuw. Sadler rightly concludes,

All this shows that too much stress is laid on the difference between believing on Him and believing Him, particularly when we find that believing Him that sent Him (Ch. v. 24, Revised), expressed the fullest belief unto life. 168   Sadler, John, 221.

The second argument should be evaluated in light of this evidence. In verse 31, the condition for becoming disciples (Ean @?meis meinhte en tw logw) need not be construed as an admonition to unbelievers. In fact, the opposite is indicated by the emphatic pronoun @?meis which distinguishes the true believers from the rest of the Jews. 169   So Lenski, John, 628.Also, Jesus admonishes them not to enter His word, but to abide (menw) or continue in it. The aorist subjunctive (Ean…meinhte) indicates a difference among believers: “All are disciples of Jesus who in any way believe in his word, but those are truly disciples who once for all become fixed in his word. Hence also the ‘if’.” 170   Ibid., 629.Those who do abide in His word “are” (present tense eimi) “disciples indeed” (alhqws maqhtai) who “will know” (future tense ginwskw) the truth and will be set free (future tense eleuqerow) by it. Knowledge of the truth and freedom are results of both initial faith in Him as well as future results from continuing to abide in Christ’s word, or teaching. The assumption that they are already in His word indicates “abide” is a condition for further knowledge of the truth and freedom in Christ. Discipleship, as intimacy with Christ, is elsewhere in John made conditional on love and obedience (e.g., 13:35; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:4, 7, 10, 14). 171   The important difference and relationship between salvation and discipleship is discussed in chapter five.

The third argument from this passage notes the hostile objections of verses 33 and following. This continuing hostility reflects the opposition of the Jews, which is a major motif of this section. In light of what has been argued thus far, verses 31-32 show Jesus briefly directing His attention to those Jews who were saved as He taught in the temple. John’s commentary in verse 30 is inserted before Jesus’ remarks to direct the reader to a change of focus by Christ before the opposition resumes in verse 33 as a reaction to Christ’s remarks.< 172   This Johannine technique of editorial explanation is further discussed in Hodges, Gospel Under Siege, 39-40. Lenski notes that the editorial significance of the information is similar to that in verse 27 which explains to the readers why Jesus turned to prophecy in verse 28. 173   Lenski, John, 627.As soon as He finishes his remarks to these believers, the Jews raise another objection, just as they have been doing from the start of the dialogue (cf. 8:13, 19, 22, 25). The objection of verse 33 is totally out of character with the inclination of those mentioned in verses 31 and 32. The identity of those in verse 33 is assumed, as Lenski argues, “John does not need to say in v. 33 who these objectors are, for we have heard them from the very start, and their objection is of the same type as before.” 174   Ibid., 628.Jesus thus calls the unbelieving Jews children of the devil (v. 44).

The above interpretation is most reasonable because it prevents Christ, who says in verse 45 “you do not believe Me,” from contradicting John in verses 30-31 who said they “believed in Him” and “believed Him.” It also has greater textual and theological consistency than that which labels these “unbelieving believers.”

Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

The parable of the soils is also used by Lordship advocates to argue for spurious or temporary faith. 175   MacArthur, The Gospel, 117-27; Packer, “Conversion” Crux 25:20. Most The parable and its interpretation is found in Matt 13:3-23 and Mark 4:3-20, but the account in Luke is of special interest to this study because it says that the second soil (shallow soil on the rock) represents those who “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (8:13). Luke is the only author to say these believed. 176   Interestingly, neither MacArthur nor Packer refer to Luke’s account and this mention of belief, though it would seem to their advantage to do so.Concerning this second group, the argument for the Lordship position says of their reception of the gospel (the seed sown),

No thought is involved, no counting of the cost. It is quick, emotional, euphoric, instant excitement without any understanding of the actual significance of discipleship. That is not genuine faith. 177   MacArthur, The Gospel, 123.

It could be argued that hermeneutically it is unwise to press every detail of a parable for theological subtleties. Whether these groups genuinely believed or not may not be significant to the main point of this parable which simply teaches that people respond differently to the gospel and those with good hearts bear abundant fruit. However, it is significant that the word “believe” is used of the second group, for it has been argued in passages studied so far that “believe” signifies authentic faith.

There is evidence to suggest that “believe” means no less than saving faith here. First, it is observed that only the first group has the word (obviously the gospel) snatched from them by Satan “lest they should believe and be saved” (v. 12). But those of the second group (v. 13) receive the word and believe apart from Satan’s interference. 178   So Zane C. Hodges, The Hungry Inherit (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1980), 68-69. The text indicates by grammatical (de) and literary contrasts that belief clearly secures salvation, something the devil understands when he takes away the word in verse 12. This being so, it would be a hermeneutical travesty to give “believe” in verse 13 a different meaning from verse 12 without overwhelming support. 179   See Robert L. Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1960), 32. Though Shank is generally aligned with the Lordship view (cf. pp. 217-20), he argues for true belief here. He goes on to argue, however, the Arminian position that salvation can be lost.Marshall argues that Luke’s use of pisteuw in this passage is in no way distinctive from other soteriological uses in the Synoptics. 180   Howard Marshall, “Tradition and Theology in Luke (Luke 8:5-15),” Tyndale Bulletin (TynBul 20 (1969): 66.In addition, this formula of decomai with ton lwgon (“receive the word”) is used consistently by the early church for belief that brings genuine salvation (Acts 8:14; 11:1; 17:11; 1 Thess 1:6 [which adds “with joy” as Luke does]; 2:13). 181   See Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 325-26; John Nolland, Luke 1-9:20, WBC (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 385, 388.

What may make this belief in verse 13 seem spurious is the phrase “for a time” (pros kairon) that modifies pisteuw, and the related fact that in time of testing these believers “fall away” (afistantai). Obviously, both indicate a faith that does not endure, but they also fall short of denying the initial reality of that faith. If these details are to be pressed for significance in relation to the reality of faith, then it must also be admitted that real germination and growth also occurred, because the seed (word of the gospel) “sprang up” (v. 6). Furthermore, it should be noted that Luke gives the reason for the withering of the second group’s growth as both “it lacked moisture” (8:6) and “these have no root” (8:13), to which Matthew and Mark add mention that this group “did not have much earth” (Matt 13:5; Mark 4:5). The concepts are all related, but in no way jeopardize the integrity of the initial reception of the word as all relate to growth, not germination. 182   LaVerdiere’s comment is fitting: ?. . . the word which has been sowed is viewed from the standpoint of the hearers who have internalized it in varying degrees or who have rejected it. The word is thus seen as operative in the believers, and the kind of ground merely describes the quality of its internalization.” Eugene LaiVerdiere, Luke, New Testament Message (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1980), 114.In fact, the concept of being “rooted” is used elsewhere of the basis for ongoing sanctification after salvation (Eph 3:17; Col 2:6-7). Finally, the possibility that real faith can fail seems implied by the Lord Himself in Luke 22:32 when He tells Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail.” 183   Cf. the thought of Acts 20:30; 1 Tim 1:19; 2 Pet 3:17.

There must always be caution when using parables to teach doctrine, especially the major doctrines of soteriology. The interpretation of parables must be held accountable to the plain teaching of Christ and the rest of the New Testament. 184   So Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, third revised ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 285.In this context, Jesus is teaching there will be various degrees of acceptance of the message of the gospel. He is not teaching how people are saved. There is sufficient evidence not only to question but also to reject the Lordship argument that the parable of the soils, specifically Luke 8:13, teaches the possibility of a spurious faith.

Faith as a Gift of God

The Lordship concept of faith relies heavily on the assumption that saving faith is a gift of God which contains a divine dynamic to sustain the believer in a righteous life. Faith is said to be a “saving energy” which is “divinely produced.” 185   MacArthur, The Gospel, 28, 172-73. “Saving energy” is quoted by MacArthur from B. F. Westcott, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1906, reprint), 32.The logical conclusion is stated by Miller:  “if it is accepted that faith is a gift of God, then it would seem possible to assert that part and parcel of the gift of faith is the ability and will to commit one’s life to the object of saving faith, Jesus Christ, not just the ability to place trust in His promise to deal with the sin question.” 186   Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 36.Likewise, MacArthur concludes, “The faith God begets includes both the volition and the ability to comply with His willIn other words, faith encompasses obedience.” 187   MacArthur, The Gospel, 173.

Support for faith as this kind of a gift from God centers on the text of Eph 2:8-9 which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone one should boast.” 188   Ibid., 28, 172-73: Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10-17: Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 36.The crucial interpretational problem is the identity of the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun touto, “that,” connected by kai to the preceding Th gar cariti (grace) este seswsmenoi (perfect passive participle of swzw) dia ths pistews (faith). Is it “grace,” “faith,” or salvation as a whole? Less common is the view that “grace” is the antecedent, for then it would be redundant to call it a “gift.” A few commentators argue that “faith” is the antecedent, 189   For example, Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3, AB (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1984), 225; Westcott, Ephesians, 32; Handley C. G. Moule, Ephesian Studies (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), 77; William Hendriksen, Exposition of Ephesians, NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 122-23.a view just shown to be most conducive to Lordship theology. However, this is unlikely since “that” (touto) is neuter but “faith” (and “grace” also) is feminine.

The antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun “that” is best taken as the concept of salvation presented in the verse. Exegetical support for this is compelling. First, this is consistent with salvation by grace as the governing theme of the context beginning in chapter 1, and especially in 2:4-9. Second, as Hoehner notes, it is common for the neuter touto to refer to the previous phrase or clause, as in 1:15 and 3:1. 190   Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in BKC (613-45), 624. Third, there is parallelism between “not of yourselves” in verse 8 and “not of works” in verse 9 which best harmonizes with the concept of salvation by grace through faith rather than faith only. Many commentators support the view that the antecedent is salvation. 191   Besides Hoehner, also see W. Robertson Nicoll, “Ephesians,” in EGT (3:16-395), 289; Robertson, WPNT, 4:525; Irwin J. Habeck, Ephesians (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1978), 431; Rudolf Schnackenburg, Der Brief an die Ephfiser, Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Veriag, 1982), 98. John Peter Lange, “Ephesians,” in Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, transl. and eci. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), 80. Lange argues that most notable exegetes have held this view.MacArthur concedes somewhat, but contends that since faith is part of the process of salvation in this passage, it is a gift of God also. 192   MacArthur, The Gospel, 173. It is assumed that this represents his latest position, since in an earlier work he argued against it and for “the act of believing” as the antecedent. See John F. MacArthur, Jr., Ephesians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (MNTC) (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 61. But this too easily confuses the gift (salvation), the grounds (grace), and the means (faith). 193   Hodges, Free!, 219.

The Lordship conclusion that faith is a gift of God is a theological inference as Hoekema admits:

It is hard to find specific biblical texts teaching that faith is the gift of God. The fact that we are completely dependent on God for our salvation as well as everything else certainly implies that we cannot have true faith unless God enables us to do so. 194   Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 143.

However, there are some theological problems with faith as a gift of God in the way Lordship advocates interpret it. 195   See Gary L. Nebeker, “Is Faith a Gift of God?,” in The Grace Evangelical Society News (GESN) 4 (July 1989): 1, 4; Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 191; Hodges, Free!, 219-20. First, when faith is called a dynamic (the same as calling it a power), it is confused with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the agent of salvation and the Power that effects a changed life. Faith is the instrument of salvation which, when exercised as a response to God’s grace, secures the Spirit’s salvation. Second, the idea of faith as an infused substance resembles Roman Catholic sacramentalism and neglects the aspect of human response. 196   See Berkouwer’s discussion, Faith and Justification, 191.Third, if faith is the gift of God’s saving power, the demand for people to “believe” seems misplaced. A command to “accept God’s power” would be more appropriate, yet this is not how the gospel is presented in the Bible. Finally, if faith is infused as a divine dynamic that guarantees good works, the many admonitions to good works in the New Testament seem eviscerated of real significance.

The Holy Spirit is the effectual power for both salvation (John 3:5) and the believer’s sanctification 197   For example, He fills (Eph 5:18), intercedes in prayer (Rom 8:26), illumines and teaches (1 Cor 2:12-13), and bears fruit in the believer’s life (Gal 5:22-23).through the exercise of one’s faith. Faith is not an “energy” or a “dynamic;” these terms must be reserved for God the Spirit. The Lordship understanding of faith as an infused energy seems beyond biblical validity, especially if Ephesians 2:8-9 is the chief appeal. 198   Though the view that faith is not a gift of God is preferred by this writer, the view that faith is a gift of God can avoid the theological problems mentioned above if it is not understood as a dynamic, power, or energy, but simply the gift of God-given ability. Acts 17:26-27 shows that God has given man the ability to “grope for Him and find Him.” Another understanding that avoids these problems is when faith is considered a gift in the sense that it is prompted by the Spirit of God in response to the hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17).

A Biblical Understanding of Faith

Having argued what faith is not, it is necessary to articulate a definition and description of faith consistent with the biblical evidence. The purpose of this section is to state the nature of faith in a way that reflects the biblical evidence as that to which Lordship advocates must respond.

Faith as a Human Response

It is clear that faith is a human response for the simple reason that God commands it of men (Acts 16:31). As shown above, the gift of Eph 2:8-9 is salvation, not faith. 199   Pp. 52ff.Faith does not come from outside a person, but from within. Berkouwer rightly says,

faith is not a gift in the sense of a donum superadditum added to the human nature as a new organ. This would mean that an unbeliever is less of a human than a believer. Such a notion is the result of cutting off faith from total concreteness of human life. 200   Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 191.

God the Spirit convicts people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) by His revelation of the truth about Jesus Christ in the gospel (2 Cor 4:6). In this way God stirs people to respond and draws them to Himself (John 6:44), but in the end faith is a person’s own responsibility. It is not necessary here to harmonize this human side of salvation with the doctrine of divine election, but only to note that the Bible clearly teaches both, and a person must accept both whether or not the mystery can be fathomed. 201   For a good contemporary discussion, see John Feinberg, Norman Geisler, Bruce Reichenbach, and Clark Pinnock, Predestination & Free Will, eds. David Basinger and Randall Basinger (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986).

Faith as a Simple Response 

Since faith is not a “divine dynamic” but a human response, it can be stripped of the cumbersome requirements attached to it by Lordship teachers. Obedience, measurable works, and submission, if included in faith, would depend on a divine infusion of power. Faith would be the result of salvation instead of salvation the result of faith as Acts 16:31 so clearly demonstrates. Faith as a simple response is evidenced in many Bible passages; so many that discussion of them all would be redundant. Some exemplary ones will be mentioned briefly.

Since the purpose of John’s Gospel is to bring people to faith in Christ (20:30-31), it should be the primary source of instruction on the nature of faith. Here the verb pisteuw is used almost one hundred times in relation to salvation. One example of a full invitation to salvation through faith is found in the simple words of 3:15 and 16: “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” There are no conditions attached here, only the synonym “look” for believe (3:14; cf. Num. 21:8-9), the force of which is captured by Hogan: “In ‘looking,’ there is no idea of committal of life, no thought of healing being deserved, no question concerning the subsequent life of the looker, no possibility of surrender to the object of vision.” 202   William Hogan, “The Relationship of the Lordship of Christ to Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1959), 16. MacArthur criticizes Hogan claiming that Jesus used this example from the Old Testament to teach Nicodernus the necessity of repentance, not “easy” faith. Only eisegesis could lead him to make the insupportable remark, “in order to look at the snake on the pole, they had to drag themselves to where they could see it” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 45-46). The snake was used by Jesus for two obvious reasons. First, it being lifted up pictures the work of Christ on the cross (cf. 8:28; 12:32, 34 where the same verb for “lift up,” hypsoo, is used of Christ on the cross). Second, with both the snake and with Christ, it is implied that the simple look of faith saves.With equal simplicity Jesus told the woman at Sycar, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” If there are hidden conditions to salvation other than the simple request of faith, Jesus would be guilty of deception. 203   Still, MarArthur finds conditions of commitment between the words of John’s account. For example, he argues that to “drink” “implies full compliance and surrender,” yet goes on to say “to attempt to define faith with a metaphor is unwarranted selectivity” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 52).Other offers in John are just as simple and clear (1:12; 5:24; 6:47; 7:37-38; 8:24; 9:35-38; 11:25-26; 12:46), as is the purpose statement in 20:31: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Another key passage that explicitly argues the necessity of faith alone for salvation (justification) is Romans 4. Nothing in this passage includes in faith the ideas of commitment, submission, or obedience. Faith is instead contrasted with anything that would make justification a reward for human merit (Rom 4:4-5, 16).

The general nature of simple faith is seen in the unencumbered formula “Ask, and it will be given to you” in Matt 7:7. Such a promise assures that the simple response of man to God’s free gift of salvation will also be rewarded. As Machen asserts, “Certainly, at bottom, faith is in one sense a very simple thing; it simply means that abandoning the vain effort of earning one’s way into God’s presence we accept the gift of salvation which Christ offers so full and free.” 204   J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1925), 181.Godet’s comment on Paul’s concept of faith is similar:

“Faith, in Paul’s sense, is something extremely simple, such that it does not in the least impair the freeness of salvation. God says: I give thee; the heart answers: I accept; such is faith.” 205   Godet, Romans, 92.

The simplicity of faith for receiving the gift of salvation persists to the closing words of the Bible: “And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).

Faith as a Volitional Response

If one claims that there are different kinds of faith, one empty or intellectual and another effectual or volitional, it seems unsafe to claim support from the Bible. The passages studied in this chapter can be used to argue that in the Scriptures, the response of faith in the gospel anticipates genuine faith. And though Bible passages may on occasion emphasize either the aspects of knowledge and assent (e.g. John 11:26-27; 20:31; 1 John 5:1; 1 Cor 15:1-11) or the volitional aspects (e.g. the commands to believe), the three are never wholly separated, nor can they be. 206   So Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 143.Saving facts are necessary to saving faith, 207   See Raymond E. Brown’s remarks on 1 John 5:1 and the necessity of facts to faith in The Epistles of John, AB (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1982), 534-35.so is agreement with the facts, but the response to the command to believe those facts is also essential. While it could be said that mere knowledge and mental assent without a personal response falls short of the biblical understanding of saving faith, it is doubtful that such psychologizing of faith should really be imposed on the Bible. The construct of faith as knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and volition (fiducia) may be used to describe the nature of faith psychologically, but should not be used to distinguish different kinds of faith biblically. 208   Clark observes a major weakness with this construct: “The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). The Latin fide is not a good synonym for the Greek piste£_. Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found” (Clark, Faith, 52). He consequently dismisses any distinction between head and heart knowledge (ibid., 58-60).

Still the volitional aspect of faith must be articulated, because this is where the Lordship controversy centers. Hodges defines faith as “receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true.” 209   Hodges, Free!, 31.But he also calls it “an act of appropriation,” 210   Ibid., 40.which seems to imply a personal response of embracing as trustworthy the object (or promise) in view. No more than this can be understood by saving faith. Faith as a commitment of the totality of one’s life to the Lord simply has no biblical support. The only commitment that might be said to characterize faith is the commitment of one’s eternal destiny to Christ for salvation. 211   See Ryrie, Salvation, 121. But this is actually secondary to the primary idea of passive appropriation. Machen notes,

The true reason why faith is given such an exclusive place by the New Testament, so far as the attainment of salvation is concerned, over against love and over against everything else in manis that faith means receiving something, not doing something or even being something. To say, therefore, that our faith saves us means that we do not save ourselves even in the slightest measure, but that God saves us. 212   Machen, What Is Faith?, 173.

Faith as Determined by Its Object

Since faith in the Bible always speaks of genuine faith, what determines its validity in the Scriptures is not its quality, but its object. Warfield writes, “The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith or the attitude of faith or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith.” 213   Benjamin B. Warfield, “Faith,” in Biblical and Theological Studies, 404-44, ed. Samuel Craig (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1952), 425.Properly speaking, one is not saved by faith as a condition, but through faith as a means. 214   ‘The expressions of and through faith direct us to the objectivity of God’s grace in Christ, which, of and through faith, is recognized and received as wholly divine grace” (Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 80). Also, see Warfield, “Faith,” Studies, 425-26.To examine the quality of one’s faith is therefore a misplaced emphasis. Again, Machen’s words are appropriate:

The efficacy of faith, then, depends not upon the faith itself, considered as a psychological phenomenon, but upon the object of the faith, namely Christ. Faith is not regarded in the New Testament as itself a meritorious work or a meritorious condition of the soul; but it is regarded as a means which is used by the grace of God: the New Testament never says that a man is saved on account of his faith, but always that he is saved through his faith or by means of his faith; faith is merely the means which the Holy Spirit uses to apply to the individual soul the benefits of Christ’s death (emphasis his). 215   Machen, What Is Faith?, 180. See also Robert Preus, “Perennial Problems in the Doctrine of Justification,” Concordia Theological Quarterly (CTQ) 45 (1981): 176.

To emphasize the quality of one’s faith necessarily means that the object of faith is de-emphasized. 216   See the argument by J. Kevin Butcher, “A Critique of The Gospel According to Jesus,” JOTGES 2 (Spring 1989): 39. The proper object of faith is the person and work of Jesus Christ as declared in the gospel (1 Cor 15:1-11, 14, 17). Genuine faith in an improper object cannot save (Jas 2:19).

This truth is born out in the many miracle narratives which show that simple faith secures the power of God. Most notable is the account of the boy with the mute spirit and his father who received a miracle though his faith was small (Mark 9:14-29). In the parallel account (Matt 17:14-21) Jesus used the occasion to teach that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to secure miracles (cf. Luke 17:6). A small faith is not inferior in quality, but in amount. Such is also the case with saving faith.

Weak faith will not remove mountains, but there is one thing at least that it will do; it will bring a sinner into peace with God. Our salvation does not depend upon the strength of our faith; saving faith is a channel not a force. 217   Machen, What Is Faith?, 251.

The sad consequence of examining the quality of faith instead of its object is simply that one begins to put faith in one’s faith instead of its object. Objectivity is surrendered to subjectivity and inevitably assurance of salvation is impossible. 218   Though the issue of assurance will not be addressed directly in this study, the Appendix will survey the positions of both sides of the debate.Machen expresses it this way:

it is not as a quality of the soul that faith saves a man, but only as the establishment of contact with a real object of the faith.

Faith is, indeed, nowadays being exalted to the skies; but the sad fact is that this very exaltation of faith is leading logically and inevitably to a bottomless skepticism which is the precursor of despair. 219   Machen, What Is Faith?, 174. Machen wrote this against the liberal tendencies of his day, but it is also a fitting word to Lordship proponents because of their similar concern with one’s faith to the neglect of the object of faith.

Faith as a Non-Meritorious Response 

It has already been observed from Paul’s definitive theology of the gospel, his Epistle to the Romans, that salvation is a free gift (Rom 6:23) secured by the obedience of Christ, not the sinner (Rom 5:15-21). Faith in and of itself can have no merit (Rom 4:4-5, 16). Faith as a divinely prompted yet human response in no way makes it a meritorious work that earns salvation.

Conclusion

The lexical evidence and Bible passages do not support the Lordship definition of faith as obedience, willingness to obey, or submission. Neither can it be shown that faith is a “divine dynamic” which is a gift from God or that it guarantees a certain measure of works, though it implies works. Furthermore, there is no strong argument that the Bible contains examples of spurious faith. Faith is always real faith.

The lexical evidence shows that faith is trust, reliance upon, or confidence in something. Biblical passages demonstrate its simplicity as a human response. It involves man in his intellectual and volitional capacities which should not be separated. The validity of faith is determined by the quality of its object, not the quality of faith itself.

What makes saving faith different from any other faith is its object. Therefore, saving faith is defined as trust or confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior from sin. It is a personal acceptance of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for the sinner. There is full agreement with Calvin’s definition of faith:

Now we shall have a complete definition of faith, if we say, that it is a steady and certain knowledge of the Divine benevolence towards us, which, being founded on the truth of the gratuitous promise in Christ, is both revealed to our minds, and confirmed in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit. 220   John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., transl. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 3.2.7. Calvin taught that assurance was included in faith (Institutes 3.2.16). For an expanded discussion, see Hodges “Assurance,” JOTGES 3:11-16; Victor A. Shepherd, The Nature and Function of Faith in the Theology of John Calvin, NABPR Dissertation Series, Number 2 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), 24-28.

When one believes, he takes God at His word and personally appropriates the provision of Christ’s free gift of salvation for himself. This is saving faith.


 References:

1  Louis Berkhof elaborated this definition of faith attributing its origin to the Reformers (Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939], 496-97, 503-5). Berkhof, Charles Hodge, and John Murray are favorably cited by Ryrie (Salvation, 119-121), which shows some agreement between Reformed theology and the Free grace position on the volitional aspect of faith as the issue in salvation. Cf. Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967), 29; John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 138.

2  Elmer R. Enlow, “Eternal Life: On What Conditions?” The Alliance Witness (AW) (January 19, 1972): 3.

3  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:57.

4  MacArthur, The Gospel, 170, 179. MacArthur says this in spite of the fact that the Free Grace position clearly defines faith as “trust” or “confidence in”. It is an unfortunate straw man that clouds the issue. In response to MacArthur, Ryrie burns the straw man by defending the necessity of historical and doctrinal facts and the nature of faith in them, which is clearly more than “casual acceptance” (Ryrie, Salvation, 13-16).

5  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20. Craig L. Miller also asserts that faith and obedience are sometimes used synonymously, yet goes on to say, “faith has within itself a dynamic element that reorients and impels the will toward obedience to its object.” The latter assertion seems different from his first. It seems to this writer that Miller confusedly makes faith different but the same thing as obedience. See Craig L. Miller, “The Theological Necessity of Christ’s Lordship in Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Talbot School of Theology, 1987), 74.

6  MacArthur, The Gospel, 178.

7  Ibid., 197; Chantry, Gospel, 60; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:54.

8  MacArthur, The Gospel, 173.

9  A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD), 1952 ed. S.v. “peiqw”, 644-45.

10  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:54. Though Gentry never says how or why ‘to bind’ equals ‘to obey,’ B.B. Warfield, in a similar argument, claims that whatever a person considers binding upon himself is the object of that person’s faith. See B.B. Warfield, “On Faith in Its Psychological Aspects,” in Biblical and Theological Studies, 375-403, ed. Samuel Craig (Philadelphia, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1952), 375.

11  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 19; Oswald Becker, s.v. “peiqomai,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT) 1 (1975): 588.

12  Becker goes on to say that “Trust can refer to a statement, so that it has the meaning to put faith in, to let oneself be convinced, or to demand, so that it gets the meaning of obey, be persuaded (ibid., 588). But this lexical leap seems to beg the question, for though being persuaded is the basis for obedience, it is not the same thing.

13  Of the forty-some occurrences of peiqw in the New Testament, BAGD lists only four of these as probably translated, “obey, follow” (Gal. 3:1; 5:7; Heb. 13:17; James 3:3) and four more with the possible range of “be persuaded by someone’s advice or obey, follow someone” (Acts 5:36-37, 39; 23:21; 27:11; See BAGD, s.v. “peiqw,” 645).

14  Ibid., 644-45. Also, see Becker, s.v. “peiqomai,” NIDNTT 1:589; and Rudolph Bultmann, s.v. “peiqw,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) 6 (1968): 4-7.

15  James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Glasgow: Oxford University Press, 1961), 102-3, 109. Colin Brown cites Barr and adds, “Words have histories as well as etymologies. The meaning of any given word in any given context depends at least as much upon the place and use of the word in that context as upon any supposed derivation,” (NIDNTT, 1:10). See also Moiss Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), 25-26.

16  For criticisms of a number of standard dictionaries and how they carelessly handle pisteuo, see J. E. Botha, “The meanings of pisteuo in the Greek New Testament: A semantic-lexicographical study,” Neotestamentica (Neot) 21 (1987): 225-40. His chief criticism is that these works often demonstrate the lack of a definite semantic theory of methodology. This sometimes results in confusing the lexical meaning of a word like pisteuo with a theological concept.

17  MacArthur, The Gospel, 173-74. Cf. also ten Pas, Lordship, 14.

18  W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 4 vols. in one (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966), 2:71. To “receive” in John 1:12 cannot be made to mean “surrender? without some persuasive lexical and biblical justification, which is lacking (See the discussion later in this chapter). Also, it is curious that Vine uses 2 Corinthians 5:7 and its words “For we walk by faith” as proof that faith refers to conduct, since this amounts to a meaningless tautology.

19  E.g., Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5-54-55; MacArthur, The Gospel, 175; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 6-7; Delbert Hooker, “The Echo of Faith,” Discipleship Journal(DJ)40 (1987): 33. The article cited is by Rudolf Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuo,” in TDNT 6 (1969): 174-228.

20  Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuo,” TDNT 6:203.

21  One example will suffice here to demonstrate the liberty Bultmann assumes with the biblical text. He claims that ?to believe? is ?to obey” is emphasized in Hebrews 11 (ibid.,6:205). However, this chapter does not prove that faith is obedience, but only that faith is behind the obedience of the characters named in the chapter. The relationship is cause and effect. The statement “by faith Abraham obeyed” (11:8) cannot make faith equal to obedience lest the statement become a meaningless tautology (“By obedience Abraham obeyed”). Besides, faithful Abraham did not always obey. All that can be concluded is that Abraham’s obedience was prompted by his faith. His faith is distinguished from his obedience, though his faith infers obedience.

22  Ibid., 6:211. Again, Barr speaks lucidly about the dangers of a prejudiced approach to linguistic study. His criticisms of Kittel’s dictionary in general are appropriate for Bultmann’s method in particular: “¬the attempt to relate the individual word directly to the theological thought leads to the distortion of the semantic contribution made by words in contexts; the value of the context comes to be seen as something contributed by the word, and then it is read into the word as its contribution where the context is in fact different. Thus the word becomes overloaded with interpretive suggestions; and since a combination of words will be a combination of words each of which has some relation to the general theological structure of the NT, sentences acquire in interpretation that tautological air of which we have seen some examples” (emphasis added). Later he states, “Detailed linguistic uses being described are often related to these terms like heilsgeschichte or Revelation or Eschatology by mere association; that is, for example, if a word is used in a context which has something to say of the historical acts of God or of His purposes, the word is thus deemed to be filled with eschatological content or oriented to the history of salvation,” (Barr, Semantics, 233-34; 257).

23  For this same criticism of Bultmann see Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel According to St. John, 2 vols. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1968), 1:562.

24  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:55-56. Others who would concur include George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 272; C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: The University Press, 1953), 184; Robert L. Palmer, “Repentance, Faith, and Conversion: An Approach to the Lordship Controversy” (Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1982), 79-80.

25  Pisteuw eis with accusative: 1:12; 2:11, 23; 3:16, 18a, 18c, 36; 4:39, 6:29, 35, 40; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:30; 9:35, 36; 10:42; 11:25, 26a, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 42, 44 (twice), 46; 14:6 (twice), 12; 16:9; 17:20.

Pisteuw with dative: 2:22; 4:21, 50; 5:24, 38, 46 (twice), 47 (twice); 6:30; 8:31, 45, 46; 10:37, 38 (twice); 12:38; 14:11a.

Pisteuw @oti: 4:21; 6:69; 8:24; 11:27, 42; 13:19; 14:10, 11a; 16:27, 30; 17:8, 21; 20:31a.

Pisteuw used absolutely: 1:7, 50; 3:12 (twice), 15, 18b; 4:41, 42, 48, 53; 5:44; 6:36, 47, 64 (twice); 9:38; 10:25, 26; 11:15, 40; 12:39; 14:11b, 29; 16:31; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29 (twice), 31b.

Pisteuw with neuter accusative: 11:26b

Special construction and non-religious usage: 2:24; 9:18.

26  Schnackenburg, John, 1:561.

27  See also: John 11:42; 13:19; 14:10; 17:8, 21; 1 John 5:1, 5.

28  Unfortunately and unnecessarily the NKJV inserts the word “in.” This non-prepositional construction is also used soteriologically in 1 John 5:10.

29  Cf. John 4:39 with 42; 11:45 with 42; 14:12 with 11; 17:20b with 8 and 21. See Gordon H. Clark, Faith and Saving Faith (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1983), 101; Bultmann, s.v. “Pisteuo,” TDNT6:203; Schnackenburg, John, 1:561; Richard Christianson, “The Soteriologicai Significance of PISTEUO in the Gospel of John” (Th.M. thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1987); E. Herbert Nygren, “Faith and Experience,” The Covenant Quarterly (CovQ) 41 (August 1983): 41-42; Elizabeth Jarvis, “The Key Term ‘Believe’ in the Gospel of John,” Notes on Translation (NTr) 2 (1988): 46-51.

30  Christianson, “Significance of PISTEUW,” 86-87.

31  Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 337.

32  Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuw,” TDNT 6:203.

33  Berkhof, Theology, 494.

34  Thus Botha rejects Brown’s definition of faith in John as commitment, dedication of one’s life to Jesus, and obedience (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, The Anchor Bible [AB”, 2 vols. [Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1966″, 1:512-13). He writes, “Brown considers words such as pisteuw to have special meaning(s) in John, distinguishing it from other usage?s. This of course, is wrong. Brown confused the lexical meaning of pisteuw with the theology of John, which is something different. The lexical meaning of pisteuw in John is the same as in other books of the New Testament, but the theology of John is different. This type of error is very common, especially in theological works” (Botha, “The meanings of pisteuw,” Neot 21:227-29).

35  Specific passages used to argue this will be discussed later in the chapter.

36  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20.

37  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17.

38  MacArthur, The Gospel, 32-33. In light of over 150 references to faith and believing for salvation in the New Testament, it is surprising that MacArthur would use the word “often” and support this with only three references. There might be little more than a dozen passages, which could be used to equate faith with obedience–still a small percentage of New Testament uses.

39  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:55.

40  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17.

41  The presentation of the gospel was sometimes presented as an explicit command to believe, though certainly the command is always implicit. Cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; 1 John 3:23.

42  Cf. the NRSV; Otto Michel, Der Brief an die R”mer, Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar ber das Neue Testament (G”ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978), 75-76.

43  Cf. NIV; BAGD, s.v. “@?pkoh,” 845: Matthew Black, Romans, 2nd ed., New Century Bible Commentary (NCBC) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 24; James Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 24.

44  So C. E. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (ICC), 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1975), 1:66, Ernst Kasemann, Commentary on Romans, transl. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980) 14-15: John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 13:G. Segalla, “L”obbedienza di fede’ (Rm 1,5; 16,26) tema della Lettera ai romani?” Revista biblica (RevistB) 36 (March 1988): 329-42.

45  Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), 50. Others who hold that “obedience of faith” means acceptance of the message of salvation are Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1949), 55; John Ziesler, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, TPI New Testament Commentaries (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989), 64; D. B. Garlington, “The Obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans; Part I: The Meaning of @?pakohn pistews (Rom 1:5; 16:26),” Westminster Theological Journal (WTJ) 52 (1990): 201-24. Garlington, in a lengthy treatment, agrees that grammatically this view is preferable, but then argues theologically that faithful obedience in the Christian life must also be included.

46  For another interpretation of “obedience of faith” in 1:5 that disagrees with Stott’s interpretation, see Gerhard Friedrich, “Muss @?pakohn pistews R”m 1:5 mit ‘Glaubens-gehorsam’ bersetzt werden?” Zeitschrift fur die neun-testamentliche Wissenschaft (ZNW) 72 (January-February 1981): 118-23. Friedrich argues that this phrase should be translated “preaching of the faith,” which refers to the preaching of the gospel. However, this seems to stray too far from the normal use of @?pakoh.

47  Morris, Romans, 49.

48  Frederic Louis Godet, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1984), 82.

49  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. Also MacArthur, The Gospel, 174.

50  The phrase typon didaches probably refers to the whole Christian teaching. So Bruce, The Letter of Paul to the Romans, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 134; Morris, Romans, 263; Ziesler, Romans, 168. The passive aorist of paradidomi sees God as the One who committed the believers to this body of truth. So Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8, The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (WEC) (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991) 417; William R. Newell, Lessons on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Toronto: J. I. C. Wilcox, 1925), 105; Nygren, Romans, 256.

51  Newell, Romans, 106.

52  Cranfield, Romans, 1:325. See also, Charles R. Erdman, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 81; Moo, Romans 1-8, 417.

53  For example: MacArthur, The Gospel, 32-33, 47, 53, 174: Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:55; Chantry, Gospel, 60.

54  MacArthur, The Gospel, 47. MacArthur seems to be saying two different things here: First, that faith is obedience; second, that faith produces obedience. The converse of his statement, “Disobedience is unbelief,” is not “Real faith obeys,” as he suggests. Rather, the converse would be “Obedience is faith.” The difference is significant in theology. It seems that MacArthur sometimes tries to sidestep a strong statement that faith equals obedience, perhaps to avoid the charge of a works gospel (which he ardently disavows. Ibid., xiii). Thus he is quick to equate disobedience with unbelief, but prefers to say that faith produces obedience, or a “longing to obey.” To be consistent, MacArthur must conclude that unbelief equals disobedience, not an unwillingness or lack of longing to obey, and that the converse is belief equals obedience. Still, he elsewhere calls faith and obedience synonyms (See his discussion on page 174).

55  MacArthur, The Gospel, 33, n. 30.

56  See also Luther’s translation (Die Bibel oder die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments nach der Deutlich Uberletzung D. Martin Luthers). In support, see Gerhard Maier, Johannes-Evangelium, Bibel-Kommentar (Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hanssler-Veriag, 1984), 143.

57  BAGD, s.v. “apeiqw,” 82.

58  He uses pisteuw soteriologically nearly a hundred times.

59  MacArthur, The Gospel, 174.

60  I. H. Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles. TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 128.

61  Simon J. Kistemaker, Acts, New Testament Commentary (NTC) (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990), 225.

62  R. J. Knowling, “The Acts of the Apostles,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament (EGT), ed. W. Robertson Nicoll, 2:1-554 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 172; R. C. H. Lenski The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 248.

63  Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (WPNT), 6 vols. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 3:74-75.

64  MacArthur, The Gospel, 32-33, 174.

65  Knowing God evidently refers to the salvation experience (John 17:2-3).

66  Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 205. For similar views, see R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 388; David A. Hubbard, “The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians,” in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (WycliffeBC), eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison, 1361-66 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 1362.

67  MacArthur, The Gospel, 53; ten Pas, Lordship, 14.

68  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20. Though MacArthur and Mueller make no explicit statement about the meaning of “rest,” their arguments indicate they assume it is equal to eschatological salvation from hell. The author believes this is a limited view of rest, which, like salvation, encompasses a broad range of benefits in Hebrews, as discussed under Heb 5:9. However, their interpretation will be accepted for the sake of argument.

69  MacArthur, The Gospel, 174. Cf. also p. 53. See Vine, Expository Dictionary, 3:124.

70  MacArthur, The Gospel, 33, 174; ten Pas, Lordship, 14-15.

71  A lengthy argument will not be made at this point to support this interpretation of the argument of Hebrews. However, some passages which clearly indicate the book was written to believers, as all the epistles were, are 3:1; 5:12; 6:1-2, 9, 19; 10:19-25, 39; 12:1-2; 13:1ff. Commentators who hold that the recipients were believers include Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 12; G. H. Lang, The Epistle to the Hebrews (London: Paternoster Press, 1951), 15; Charles R. Erdman, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 14-15; W. H. Griffith Thomas, Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 3, 7, 10-11; Zane C. Hodges, “Hebrews,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary (BKC), New Testament ed., eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, 777-813 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 779.

72  Further support for the view that salvation and rest in Hebrews is much more than salvation from hell is found in G. H. Lang, Hebrews, 73-75; Erdman, Hebrews, 36; W. H. G. Thomas, Hebrews, 26-28, 64-65; and Hodges, “Hebrews,” in BKC (782-83), 792.

73  MacArthur, The Gospel, 178.

74  Ibid., 127.

75  Ryrie, Salvation, 45-50. Likewise, Hodges states that because of the inference of Scripture he believes all true Christians will do good works. See Zane C. Hodges, “Assurance of Salvation,” JOTGES 3 (Autumn 1990): 7, 9.

76  Evidence of this is MacArthur’s article “Faith According to the Apostle James,” JETS 33 (March 1990): 13-34, which appears as his first line of defense against the criticism of his book The Gospel According to Jesus.

77  G. C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), 132.

78  Hodges, “Assurance of Salvation,” JOTGES 3:9. Hodges cites as an example Samuel T. Logan’s assertion that “evangelical obedience is an absolute necessity, a ‘condition’ in man’s justification.” The quote is from Samuel T. Logan, Jr., “The Doctrine of Justification in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards,” WTJ 46 (1984): 43.

79  W. Nicol, “Faith and Works in the Letter of James,” in Essays on the General Epistles of the New Testament, Neot 9 (Pretoria: The New Testament Society of South Africa, cl975), 22.

80  Thorwald Lorenzen, “Faith without Works does not count before God! James 2:14-26,” The Expository Times (ExpTim) 89 (May 1978): 233. See also Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: James, Peter, John and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint ed. 1951, orig. ed. n.d.), 42.

81  Barnes, James, Peter, John, Jude, 234.

82  MacArthur, The Gospel, 170.

83  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 22-23.

84  Robert L. Saucy, “Second Response to ‘Faith According to the Apostle James’ by John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” JETS 33 (March 1990): 46-47.

85  It should be noted that the popular view of Jas 2:14-26 is also held by those who oppose Lordship Salvation. E.g., Ryrie, Salvation, 132-33.

86  MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:16.

87  Consequently, this also leads to the debate about the priority of James versus Paul and the many attempts to reconcile their teachings. This debate is believed to be unnecessary as will be shown. The interpretation adopted by the author as best fitting the argument of the book and the context, grammar, and words is indebted to the work of Zane C. Hodges in Dead Faith: What Is it? (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1987) chiefly for the arguments that James’ is not addressing eternal salvation and that justification is non-soteriological in 2:14-26.

88  Those who consider James’ readers to be believers include Douglas J. Moo, James, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William S. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), 32-33; D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistle of James (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 37-38: Martin Dibelius, James, rev. Heinrich Greeven, transl. Michael A. Williams, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 178: Earl D. Radmacher, “First Response to ‘Faith According to the Apostle James’ by John F. MacArthur. Jr.,” JETS 33 (March 1990): 37.

89  MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:22-23.

90  Ibid., 24. It is popular to insert “such” (NIV) or “that” (NASB) before “faith” as a translation of the article, making it a “say-so faith.” In contrast, cf. NKJV.

91  For a fuller argument, see Hodges, Dead Faith, 10-11, 29, notes 13-14; Dibelius, James, 152, 178.

92  MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:24, 30.

93  BAGD, “sozo,” 805-6. Also, see Radmacher’s cautions about the “reductionistic error? of too often seeing this word in its narrow sense of eternal salvation (Radmacher, “First Response to John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” JETS 33:39-40).

94  For a full discussion, see Hodges, Dead Faith, 12-13. Commenting on the context of 1:21, Kendall says about 1:22, “If James means by ‘but’ that one must be a ‘doer of the word’ in order to ratify saving faith, then it must be said firmly and categorically that James does not believe that salvation is the gift of God by faith alone. There must be works” (emphasis his; R. T. Kendall, Once Saved Always Saved [Chicago: Moody Press, 1983″, 210).

95  In both cases psyche, or literally “life,” has the meaning of “physical life,” a legitimate usage in the New Testament (BAGD, s.v. “psyche,” 901-02).

96  Radmacher, “First Response to John F. MacArthur, Jr.,” JETS 33:38.

97  BAGD appropriately gives the meaning “useless” for the word nekros in 2:14-26 (s.v. ” nekros,” 536). “Useless” correlates with the idea of no “profit” expressed in verses 14 and 16.

98  See also Kendall, Once Saved, 170-72, 207-17.

99  See Shane Barnes, “The Negative Aspect of Rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984).

100  The word used in 1:26 translated “useless” is mataios which can mean “empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, lacking truth” (BAGD, s.v. ” mataios,” 496). Here it is used to describe accurately the religion of one who overestimates the profitability of (not the existence of) his religion. It’s use supports the argument that James here and throughout his epistle is concerned with an existent faith that is useless, not a nonexistent faith.

101  MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:24-25.

102  Ibid., 25.

103  For this view cf. NIV; NKJV; RSV; Hiebert, James, 182-85; Lenski, James, 592; Dibelius, James, 154.

104  J. B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James (Grand Rapids: Zondevan Publishing House, 1954), 99.

105  The reading of the UBS and TR is accepted, though the MT reads _k from which Hodges argues that verses 18-19 are from an objector. See Hodges, Dead Faith, 16-19, and “Light on James Two from Textual Criticism,” BSac 120 (October-December 1963): 341-50.

106  In support of James’ response beginning in verse 20, see Mayor, James, 101-2; Christian Donker, “Der Verfasser des Jak und sein Gegner: Zum Problem des Einwasdes in Jak 2:18-19,” ZNW72 (March-April 1981): 235-39: Francois Vouga, L?epitre de Saint Jacques, Commentaire du Nouveau Testament (CNT) (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1984), 87-88.

107  It is significant that in verse 20 arge (“useless”) instead of nekra is supported by some good manuscripts and so is preferred in the NIV, NASB, and RSV.

108  MacArthur speaks as if demons could be saved if they had the right kind of faith (MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:25), but Jesus did not die for demons. The quality of their faith is not the issue here, but its uselessness without works.

109  MacArthur takes the phrase “justified by works” as a metonymy of effect for cause and therefore sees no contradiction with Paul in Rom. 3:18 (MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:27).

110  ?Work with, cooperate (with”, help.” BAGD, s.v. “Synergeo,” 795.

111  BAGD, s.v. “teleiow,” 817.

112  Davids prefers the meaning of eteleiwqh, “is brought to maturity.” Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James, New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 128.

113  Richard N. Longenecker, “The ‘Faith of Abraham’ Theme in Paul, James and Hebrews: A Study in the Circumstantial Nature of New Testament Teaching,” JETS 20 (September 1977): 207. For a similar sense of vindication before men, cf.. Matt 11:19.

114  MacArthur, “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:31. See also, Moo, James. 117. MacArthur disputes Hodges argument that the body was once alive (See Hodges, Dead Faith, 7-9; MacArthur, The Gospel, 171). Whether the body was alive or not does not seem essential to the interpretation suggested above, because the point of the illustration is simply that a body without the spirit is useless. The existence of the body is assumed, as is the existence of faith. The question is whether it is a useful body (i.e., useful faith).

115  So Radmacher, “First Response to John F. MacArthur,” JETS 33:38.

116  J. Carl Laney, “Abiding Is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6,” Bsac 146 (January-March 1989): 65. The entire article (pp. 55-66) will be used as a representative Lordship interpretation in this discussion, though Laney makes no explicit claim in the article to be a Lordship advocate.

117  The previous discussion of pisteuo in John (pp. 18-20) would dispute this idea of faith progressing toward salvation in John. More such support will be offered later in discussions of John 2:23-25 and 8:30-31.

118  Ibid., 63-64. As he notes, in Greek a modifier can either precede or follow the word modified.

119  For example, of those who even consider the phrase, cf. Brooke Foss Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Co., 1981), 198; J. H. Bernard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. John, 2 vols., ICC (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1928), 479; Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1943), 1029. Hendriksen discusses the adverbial possibility, but dismisses it as too, complicated (William Hendriksen, A Commentary on the Gospel of John, NTC [Grand Rapids;: Baker Book House, 1953″, 298-99, n. 179). Furthermore, the adjectival use was preferred by every English Bible translation consulted.

120  Laney, “Abiding Is Believing,” BSac 146:63-64. In his response to Laney, Dillow argues convincingly that “in Me” not only refers to a true Christian, but also to fellowship with Christ. See Joseph C. Dillow, “Abiding is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 15:1-6,” Bsac 147 (January-March 1990): 44-48.

121  The third class condition expresses conditions believed to be probably or possibly realizable in the future. See H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto: The MacMillan Company, 1957), 290; Maximillian Zerwick, Biblical Greek (Rome: Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, 1963), 109; Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1965), 274.

122  Laney is criticized for this by Paul Holloway (review of “Abiding is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6” by J. Carl Laney, JOTGES 2 [Autumn 1989: 97).

123  Everett F. Harrison, “The Gospel According to John,” in WycliffeBC, (1071-1122), 1107.

124  Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 140.

125  Westcott, John, 218.

126  Dillow argues that the believer and his works are so intimately related that “To apply the fire of judgment to the believer is the same as applying it to his work. Indeed the believer’s works are simply a metonymy for the believer himself.” He supports this from 1 Corinthians 3 where the believer is the building (1 Cor 3:9ff.), yet the building is built from various materials representing works (3:12) and the fire is applied to the building (3:13-15). He believes the judgment is temporal and at the judgment seat of Christ (Dillow, “Abiding Is Fellowship,” Bsac 147:53).

127  James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of John, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 4:238. See also Harrison, “John,” WycliffeBC, 1107; The Ryrie Study Bible, New American Standard Translation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 1630.

128  This passage in Ezekiel throws light on the interpretation of the vine and branches. It is helpful to see here that the wood of the vine represents God’s covenant people, Israel(Eze 15:6). The idea of uselessness apart from fruitfulness is; also clear. Most significantly, the burning of the vine in Ezekiel is disciplinary judgment upon the nation, not eternal forfeiture of God’s promises, for God never renounces His promises to Israel.

129  Chafer, Theology, 7:4.

130  Many cite Palestinian practice in viticulture to confirm this. See R. K. Harrison, s.v. “Vine,” The Intemational Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), ed. G. W. Bromiley, 1988, 4:986-87; A. C. Schultz, s.v. ‘Vine, vineyard,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (ZPEB), ed. Merrill C. Tenney, 1975, 5:882-84; Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), 106.

131  Zerwick notes that kai can be used to denote a consecutive idea. Zerwick, Biblical Greek, 153.

132  Joachim Jeremias, s.v. “airw,” in TDNT, 1 (1964): 185. Also, BAGD, s.v. ” airw,” 23. This view has even staunch Lordship advocates in support. See Boice, John, 4:228, and A. W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 4 vols. (Ohio: Cleveland Bible Truth Depot, 1929), 3:337.

133  For example, Dillow observes, “The first condition of abiding in Christ, or being in fellowship with Him, is to have believed on Him” (Dillow, “Abiding Is Fellowship,” BSac 147:49).

134  BAGD, s.v. “menw,” 504-5.

135  MacArthur, The Gospel, 127.

136  Ibid., 33, 126.

137  That words are the fruit spoken of in Matt 12:33-37 is quite clear when the subject of the entire context is considered (especially verses 31-32). Hodges argues from this passage that the fruits of Matt 7:20 is words only (Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse [Dallas: Redenci6n Viva, 1985, 15). However, it seems that other gospel passages indicate fruit can include works (Matt 3:8; 13:23; Luke 8:14-1 5; John 15:2-8, 16. While it may be admitted that the primary test of a false prophet in the Old Testament was his words (Deut 13:1-6; 18:20-22), the New Testament distinguishes false prophets by both words and works (2 Pet 2:1-3, 10, 12-15, 18-19; Jude 4, 8-11, 16).

138  See MacArthur, The Gospel, 22, 188-92, 203-4; Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4.

139  Yet this conclusion is virtually stated by MacArthur who remarks on this passage, “obedience to divine authority is a prerequisite of entry into the kingdom” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 204).

140  Ibid., 33; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20. Both claim it is a work produced by God.

141  So MacArthur, The Gospel, 33; James F. Brown, “Faith as Commitment in the Gospel of St. John,” Worship 38 (April 1964): 266.

142  Morris, John, 360.

143  Edwin A. Blum, “John” in BKC (267-348), 295. See also The Ryrie Study Bible, 1611 Siegfried Schulz, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 104; Urban C. von Wahlde, “Faith and Works in Jn vi 28-29: Exegesis or Eisegesis?” Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus (NTOA) 22 (April 1980): 304-15.

144  Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 33-34.

145  Though Bruce cites strong evidence that Galatians 5:6 could be read “faith energized (produced) by love.” F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 232.

146  Edmund Hiebert, The Thessalonians Epistles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), 46, 297.

147  So Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 25. Many other commentators interpret the context as governed by justification instead of sanctification. E.g., Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, ICC (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, Ltd., 1980), 280; R. Alan Cole, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 143-44; Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 229-32;

148  This author believes that sanctification is a primary theme of Galatians. For agreement and discussion, see Merrill C. Tenney, Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 27; H. A. Ironside, Expository Messages on the Epistle to the Galatians (New York: Loiseaux Brothers, 1940), 10; The Ryrie Study Bible. 1769: Daniel P. Fuller, Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 114-15.

149  Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, revised ed. based on the “Middleton” ed. of the English version of 1575 (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, n.d.), 465-66. Cf. also Robert Govett, Govett on Galatians (Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1981), 176.

150  MacArthur, The Gospel, 95-96: “Faith According to James,” JETS 33:31; John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 84-85.

151  Purpose is expressed by the use of epi with the dative, a “true dative of purpose.” Robertson, WPNT, 4:525.

152  The subjunctive mood is the mood of mild contingency; the mood of probability.” See Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar, 170. On clauses introduced by hina Burton asserts, “There is no certain, scarcely a probable, instance in the New Testament of a clause introduced by hina denoting actual result conceived of as such.” See Ernest De Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1900), 94.

153  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. See also Brown, “Faith as Commitment,” Worship 38:263; Scott McCormick, Jr., “Faith as Surrender,” Interpretation (Int) 17 (1963): 302-7; and James R. Edwards, “Faith as Noun and Verb,” CT 29 (August 9, 1985): 23.

154  Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 3; MacArthur, The Gospel, 206.

155  Burghard Siede, “lambanw,” in NIDNTT, 3 (1981): 747-48; G. Delling, “lambano,” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 5-15; BAGD, s.v. ” lambanw,” 465-66. Of the three, the latter is the only dictionary to bring into the meaning the idea of recognizing the authority of the person who is the object. It does this only for John 1:12, 5:43, and 13:20, which seems like special pleading. Recognition most sensibly extends only to Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the Savior (20:31).

156  MacArthur, The Gospel, 38. It should be noted that verse 24 does not contain a “clear statement” on the kind of faith the believers had; it contains no statement on their faith, only a statement about Jesus’ response based on His supernatural knowledge of them.

157  Blum, “John,” BKC, 280; Brown, John, 1:127; Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, transl. G. R. Beasley-Murray, eds. R. W. N. Hoare and J. K. Riches (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), 131; Frederic Louis Godet, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), 371; Hendriksen, John, 127-28; Homer A. Kent, Light in the Darkness: Studies in the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 53; R. H. Lightfoot, St. John’s Gospel: A Commentary, ed. C. F. Evans (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956), 115; Morris, John, 205, Schnackenburg, John, 1:35; Westcott, John, 45; Xavier Leon-Dufour, Lecture de l?evangile selon Jean (chapitres 1-4): Parole de Dieu, Tome 1 (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1988), 285.

158  E.g., R. H. Lightfoot, John, 115; Brown, John, 1:126; Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 85.

159  BAGD, s.v. “qeorew,” 360.

160  Cf. John 4:19; 12:19: 14:17, 19. Dahn notes that verbs of seeing take on a special significance in John, often that of spiritual perception and faith. He says, “Seeing as well as hearing again and again provide the impetus to faith (2:11; 20:8), lead to knowledge (14:9), and minister to inner perception (“I perceive that you are a prophet”, 4:19).” Karl Dahn, s.v. “horao,” in NIDNTT 3 (1981): 516-17.

161  Christianson, “Significance of PISTEUW,” 116-19.

162  That is, true believers whom the Lord finds yet unworthy of His trust. For an excellent development of this see Zane C. Hodges, “Untrustworthy Believers-John 2:23-25,” BSac 135 (April-June 1978): 139-52: Robert Bryant, “The Secret Believer in the Gospel of John” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975).

163  One example is the development of Nicodemus’ faith from that of secret inquiry (3:1-4) to feeble defense of Christ (7:47-52) to public identification with Christ (19:39-42). No doubt John intends the word anqropo in 2:25 to carry the reader to anqropos in 3:1. Nicodemus serves as an example of one who was known by Jesus (seen by how Jesus cuts to Nicodemus’ concern, v. 3) and who was also being drawn to faith, in the same manner as the people had in 2:23, by the signs he had seen (v. 2).

164  M. F. Sadler, The Gospel according to St. John (London: George Bell and Sons, 1883), 59-60.

165  Morris, John, 454. Most all commentators who argue for a spurious faith in 2:23-24 will also argue for it here.

166  Gentry agrees this is a strong term for salvation (Gentry, ?The Great Option,” BRR 5:56).

167  See pp. 18-20.

168  Sadler, John, 221.

169  So Lenski, John, 628.

170  Ibid., 629.

171  The important difference and relationship between salvation and discipleship is discussed in chapter five.

172  This Johannine technique of editorial explanation is further discussed in Hodges, Gospel Under Siege, 39-40.

173  Lenski, John, 627.

174  Ibid., 628.

175  MacArthur, The Gospel, 117-27; Packer, “Conversion” Crux 25:20. Most

176  Interestingly, neither MacArthur nor Packer refer to Luke’s account and this mention of belief, though it would seem to their advantage to do so.

177  MacArthur, The Gospel, 123.

178  So Zane C. Hodges, The Hungry Inherit (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1980), 68-69.

179  See Robert L. Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (Springfield, MO: Westcott Publishers, 1960), 32. Though Shank is generally aligned with the Lordship view (cf. pp. 217-20), he argues for true belief here. He goes on to argue, however, the Arminian position that salvation can be lost.

180  Howard Marshall, “Tradition and Theology in Luke (Luke 8:5-15),” Tyndale Bulletin (TynBul 20 (1969): 66.

181  See Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), 325-26; John Nolland, Luke 1-9:20, WBC (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 385, 388.

182  LaVerdiere’s comment is fitting: ?. . . the word which has been sowed is viewed from the standpoint of the hearers who have internalized it in varying degrees or who have rejected it. The word is thus seen as operative in the believers, and the kind of ground merely describes the quality of its internalization.” Eugene LaiVerdiere, Luke, New Testament Message (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1980), 114.

183  Cf. the thought of Acts 20:30; 1 Tim 1:19; 2 Pet 3:17.

184  So Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, third revised ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 285.

185  MacArthur, The Gospel, 28, 172-73. “Saving energy” is quoted by MacArthur from B. F. Westcott, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1906, reprint), 32.

186  Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 36.

187  MacArthur, The Gospel, 173.

188  Ibid., 28, 172-73: Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10-17: Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 36.

189  For example, Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3, AB (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1984), 225; Westcott, Ephesians, 32; Handley C. G. Moule, Ephesian Studies (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), 77; William Hendriksen, Exposition of Ephesians, NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 122-23.

190  Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in BKC (613-45), 624.

191  Besides Hoehner, also see W. Robertson Nicoll, “Ephesians,” in EGT (3:16-395), 289; Robertson, WPNT, 4:525; Irwin J. Habeck, Ephesians (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1978), 431; Rudolf Schnackenburg, Der Brief an die Ephfiser, Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Veriag, 1982), 98. John Peter Lange, “Ephesians,” in Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, transl. and eci. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), 80. Lange argues that most notable exegetes have held this view.

192  MacArthur, The Gospel, 173. It is assumed that this represents his latest position, since in an earlier work he argued against it and for “the act of believing” as the antecedent. See John F. MacArthur, Jr., Ephesians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (MNTC) (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 61.

193  Hodges, Free!, 219.

194  Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989), 143.

195  See Gary L. Nebeker, “Is Faith a Gift of God?,” in The Grace Evangelical Society News (GESN) 4 (July 1989): 1, 4; Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 191; Hodges, Free!, 219-20.

196  See Berkouwer’s discussion, Faith and Justification, 191.

197  For example, He fills (Eph 5:18), intercedes in prayer (Rom 8:26), illumines and teaches (1 Cor 2:12-13), and bears fruit in the believer’s life (Gal 5:22-23).

198  Though the view that faith is not a gift of God is preferred by this writer, the view that faith is a gift of God can avoid the theological problems mentioned above if it is not understood as a dynamic, power, or energy, but simply the gift of God-given ability. Acts 17:26-27 shows that God has given man the ability to “grope for Him and find Him.” Another understanding that avoids these problems is when faith is considered a gift in the sense that it is prompted by the Spirit of God in response to the hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17).

199  Pp. 52ff.

200  Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 191.

201  For a good contemporary discussion, see John Feinberg, Norman Geisler, Bruce Reichenbach, and Clark Pinnock, Predestination & Free Will, eds. David Basinger and Randall Basinger (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986).

202  William Hogan, “The Relationship of the Lordship of Christ to Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1959), 16. MacArthur criticizes Hogan claiming that Jesus used this example from the Old Testament to teach Nicodernus the necessity of repentance, not “easy” faith. Only eisegesis could lead him to make the insupportable remark, “in order to look at the snake on the pole, they had to drag themselves to where they could see it” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 45-46). The snake was used by Jesus for two obvious reasons. First, it being lifted up pictures the work of Christ on the cross (cf. 8:28; 12:32, 34 where the same verb for “lift up,” hypsoo, is used of Christ on the cross). Second, with both the snake and with Christ, it is implied that the simple look of faith saves.

203  Still, MarArthur finds conditions of commitment between the words of John’s account. For example, he argues that to “drink” “implies full compliance and surrender,” yet goes on to say “to attempt to define faith with a metaphor is unwarranted selectivity” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 52).

204  J. Gresham Machen, What Is Faith? (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1925), 181.

205  Godet, Romans, 92.

206  So Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 143.

207  See Raymond E. Brown’s remarks on 1 John 5:1 and the necessity of facts to faith in The Epistles of John, AB (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1982), 534-35.

208  Clark observes a major weakness with this construct: “The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). The Latin fide is not a good synonym for the Greek piste£_. Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found” (Clark, Faith, 52). He consequently dismisses any distinction between head and heart knowledge (ibid., 58-60).

209  Hodges, Free!, 31.

210  Ibid., 40.

211  See Ryrie, Salvation, 121.

212  Machen, What Is Faith?, 173.

213  Benjamin B. Warfield, “Faith,” in Biblical and Theological Studies, 404-44, ed. Samuel Craig (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1952), 425.

214  ‘The expressions of and through faith direct us to the objectivity of God’s grace in Christ, which, of and through faith, is recognized and received as wholly divine grace” (Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 80). Also, see Warfield, “Faith,” Studies, 425-26.

215  Machen, What Is Faith?, 180. See also Robert Preus, “Perennial Problems in the Doctrine of Justification,” Concordia Theological Quarterly (CTQ) 45 (1981): 176.

216  See the argument by J. Kevin Butcher, “A Critique of The Gospel According to Jesus,” JOTGES 2 (Spring 1989): 39.

217  Machen, What Is Faith?, 251.

218  Though the issue of assurance will not be addressed directly in this study, the Appendix will survey the positions of both sides of the debate.

219  Machen, What Is Faith?, 174. Machen wrote this against the liberal tendencies of his day, but it is also a fitting word to Lordship proponents because of their similar concern with one’s faith to the neglect of the object of faith.

220  John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., transl. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975), 3.2.7. Calvin taught that assurance was included in faith (Institutes 3.2.16). For an expanded discussion, see Hodges “Assurance,” JOTGES 3:11-16; Victor A. Shepherd, The Nature and Function of Faith in the Theology of John Calvin, NABPR Dissertation Series, Number 2 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983), 24-28.

Repentance and Salvation – Chapter 3 


The role of repentance in salvation is a second area of great controversy in the Lordship debate.At the heart of the disagreement is the precise meaning of the term as used particularly in the New Testament in soteriological contexts. After examining the controversy over the nature of repentance in relation to salvation, this chapter will proceed to evaluate the lexical arguments and the key Bible passages used by Lordship advocates. The chapter will then conclude with a biblical understanding of repentance.

The Issue

The controversy over repentance concerns the scope of its meaning in soteriological passages.That the Scriptures sometime refer specifically to a repentance involved with salvation is generally accepted by both sides. 1   A notable exception is Zane C. Hodges of the Free Grace position who believes repentance is not a condition of salvation, but a condition of a harmonious relationship with God. His view is explained in Absolutely Free!, 143-63. Both Belcher and Erickson characterize the entire Free Grace position by Hodges’s view. See Belcher, A Layman’s Guide, 18, 53-55; Millard J. Erickson, “Lordship Theology: The Current Controversy,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 33 (Spring 1991): 6-7. However, most in the Free Grace position hold that repentance is involved in salvation. See Charles C. Ryrie, Salvation, 91-100; Michael G. Cocoris, Lordship Salvation: Is It Biblical? (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1983), 11-12; Robert N. Wilkin, “Repentance and Salvation–Part 4: New Testament Repentance: Repentance in the Gospels and Acts,” JOTGES 3 (Spring 1990): 11-25; “Part 5: New Testament Repentance: Repentance in the Epistles and Revelation,” 3 (Autumn 1990): 19-32; Livingston Blauveldt, Jr,”Does the Bible Teach Lordship Salvation?” BSac 143 (January-March 1986): 42.While Free Grace advocates think of repentance in terms of a “change of mind,” 2   See the Free grace sources listed in the previous note with the exception of Hodges.Lordship proponents argue for a narrower definition of repentance as that which is always related to sin. Gentry declares, “The necessary element in salvatory repentance is a true recognition of one’s evil state and a decided resolve to forsake sin and thrust oneself at Christ’s mercy.” 3   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:60. While some Lordship proponents include sorrow as a necessary element of repentance (see below), Gentry does not.Likewise, Mueller asserts, “Repentance is related to the issue of sin, which also includes unbelief in Christ” (emphasis his). 4   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 21.MacArthur writes that the primary New Testament word, metanoia, “always speaks of a change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin” (emphasis his). 5   MacArthur, The Gospel, 162.Pink’s formal definition is typical of the Lordship understanding of repentance:”Repentance is a supernatural and inward revelation from God, giving a deep consciousness of what I am in His sight, which causes me to loathe and condemn myself, resulting in a bitter sorrow for sin, a holy horror and hatred for sin, and a turning away from or forsaking of sin.” 6   A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 58. See also Boice, Discipleship, 107-8.Such a definition makes turning away from sin, though stated as a result, an essential and necessary component of repentance. 7   Some Lordship people, like Gentry and Pink, seem reluctant to call repentance the actual forsaking of sins. They prefer to speak of the “determination or resolve” to forsake sin. But as will be seen, most hold that a change of conduct is a necessary ingredient of repentance. For example, Pink also argues there are three “phases of repentance”: a change of mind, heart, and life, and that “The three must go together for a genuine repentance” (Pink, Salvation, 72). Many adhere to The Westminster Confession of Faith which says of repentance, “By it a sinner…so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments” (17:2). See also, Stott, Basic Christianity, 112-13; Bruce Jones, “Real Repentance,” Moody Monthly (MM) (October 1987): 23.

The criticism of the Free Grace understanding of repentance as a change of mind is thus stated by MacArthur:

This kind of repentance has nothing to do with turning from sin or abandoning self.It is utterly devoid of any recognition of personal guilt, any intent to obey God, or any desire for true righteousness. 8   MacArthur, The Gospel, 161.

MacArthur demonstrates his difference with the Free Grace view when he gives this three-fold significance to repentance: 1) Intellectually it is a recognition of sin; 2) Emotionally it includes an element of sorrow; and 3) Volitionally it is a “change of direction… a determination—to abandon stubborn disobedience and surrender the will to Christ” which for MacArthur must result in an observable change of behavior. 9   Ibid., 164. MacArthur has stated both that “repentance always involves an element of remorse” (emphasis added, p. 163) and that it “often accompanies an overwhelming sense of sorrow” (emphasis added, p. 164). He also clarifies that behavioral change is not repentance, but the necessary fruit of repentance (p. 164).

Finally, some Lordship advocates assert that repentance can be synonymous with faith 10   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61; MacArthur says, “repentance is at the core of saving faith” (The Gospel, 32)., an assertion allowed by some in the Free Grace position. 11   For example, Chafer, Theology, 3:373-76; Ryrie, Salvation, 99; Wilkin, “Repentance and Salvation, Part 3: New Testament Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2 (Autumn 1989): 18-19.Others say that repentance and faith belong together as an “indissoluble pair” and are the constitutional elements of conversion; repentance being the negative aspect of conversion, and faith the positive. 12   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:15; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:62. Gentry speaks of a “repentant faith” required for salvation.Whatever the relation there is general agreement on the Lordship side with Pink who says, “They who leave out repentance, are preaching ‘another gospel’ (Gal. 1:6).” 13   Pink, Salvation, 73. Also, MacArthur, The Gospel, 22.

Lexical evidence is certainly not the main argument of the Lordship position, but must be considered for a balanced understanding of the parameters of repentance.The main Lordship argument is built upon a number of Bible passages, most of which will be examined in some detail after an evaluation of the lexical evidence.

An Evaluation of the Lexical Arguments

The lexical argument for the Lordship understanding of repentance involves three New Testament words:metanoew, metamelomai, and epistrefw. The primary word, metanoew, is often associated with the other two to define repentance, its usual translation. MacArthur thus explains how he understands repentance:

Repentance is also not simply a mental activity; genuine repentance involves the intellect, emotions, and will.18 “Of the three words that are used in the Greek Gospels to describe the process, one emphasizes the emotional element of regret, sorrow over the past evil course of life, metamelomai; “a second expresses reversal of the entire mental attitude, metanoew, …the third denotes a change in the direction of life, one goal being substituted for another, epistrefomai.

________

18Cf. Berkhof, p. 486. 14   MacArthur, The Gospel, 163-64.

This section of the study will examine the relationship of metanoew and its translation “repentance” to metamelomai and epistrefw. It will also discuss the meaning of metanoew in the New Testament.

The Association of Metanoew with Metamelomai

MacArthur links metamelomai with metanoew which invests the latter with emotional and soteriological significance.  The word metamelomai is usually defined as “change one’s mind, regret, repent” 15   Fritz Laubach, “metamelomai,” in NIDNTT, 1 (1975): 356.and expresses emotional sorrow over a past decision or stance. 16   So the NKJV, NASB, and NIV (except in Matt. 21:32) have chosen to reflect this meaning of regret as opposed to the old KJV use of “repent.”The six uses of metamelomai in the New Testament never refer to the repentance associated with salvation. 17   Matt. 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Cor. 7:8 (twice); Heb. 7:21. While the parable of Matthew 21:28-32 has salvation in view, the use of metamelomai in verse 32 speaks of regret over the mistake of not earlier believing John the Baptist, not a regret for sins that secures salvation (Laubach, “metamelomai,” NIDNTT, 1:356; O. Michel, “metamelomai,” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 628-29).Laubach states that the term looks back, “Hence, it does not necessarily cause a man to turn to God.” 18   Laubach, “metamelomai,” NIDNTT, 1:354.Vincent notes that metamelomai has “a meaning quite foreign to repentance in the ordinary gospel sense.” 19   Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 1:116.Gentry agrees with Vincent and concludes, “It is simply never used in the gospel message.” 20   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:59. For other discussions that support this conclusion, see Robert Nicholas Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition for Salvation in the New Testament” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985), 232-235, and “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:19; Stephen Mitchell Elkins, “Current Issues Concerning Lordship Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984): 71-74.Indeed, 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 shows that sorrow, expressed by metamelomai , is not identical with repentance, expressed by metanoew. In this passage, Paul explains that sorrow can lead to repentance or death.Judas regretted (metamelomai ) his betrayal of Jesus, but did not find salvation (Matt. 27:3). 21   On this Laubach notes, “The example of Judas makes it clear that metamelomai and metanoew do not have identical meanings in the NT” (s.v. “metamelomai,” NIDNTT, 1:356).

Thus the use of metamelomaito connect soteriological repentance with emotional sorrow for sins has no biblical or lexical foundation.Usually, the connection is assumed without an attempt to explain any biblical or lexical relationship.

The Association of Metanoew with Epistrefw

The verb epistrefw is used thirty-six times in the New Testament and is generally translated transitively “turn someone or something” and intransitively “turn around, turn back.” Some uses convey a definite moral content. 22   BAGD, s.v. “epistrefw,” 301.It is used to speak of salvation and conversion fourteen times. 23   Matt. 13:15; Mark 4:12; Luke 1:16; Acts 3:19; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18, 20; 28:27; 2 Cor. 3:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:25. In the salvation contexts, the emphasis is on the object of faith as that to which one turns.Only three times is it mentioned from what one turned.In these instances it is “vain things” (Acts 14:15), “darkness” and “the power of Satan” (Acts 26:18), and “idols” (1 Thess. 1:9). Rather than some sin which must be forsaken, what seems emphasized as that to which and from which one turns is the object of one’s trust. 24   For example, on 1 Thess. 1:9 and the phrase “you turned to God from idols, Frame says, “In keeping with v. 8, faith in God is singled out as the primary characteristic of the readers, but the idea is expressed… with a phrase perhaps suggested by the contrast with the idols” (James Everett Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, ICC [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912, 87). Similarly, Best comments that epistrefw in 1 Thess. 1:9 “is a suitable word to express the change from one faith to another” (Ernest Best, A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians [New York: Harper & Row, 1972, 82). For other discussions that support this conclusion, see Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 215-31; “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:20; Elkins, “Current Issues,” 67-70.Nevertheless, it cannot be ignored that the word is never translated “repent,” 25   In spite of this fact, Mueller, remarking on epistrefw, asserts that “Repentance has not taken place where there is no ‘turning from,'” (Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 21-22).therefore any attempt to define metanoew using epistrefw appears motivated by dogmatics.

The Meaning of Metanoew

The English word “repent” is used to translate the Greek word metanoew. Gentry correctly asserts that a discussion of repentance in relation to salvation should focus on the meaning of metanoew. 26   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:59.But does this term always speak of a “change of purpose, and specifically a turning from sin” as MacArthur claims? 27   MacArthur, The Gospel, 162.

The basic meaning of the Greek word metanoew is “to change the mind.” 28   BAGD, s.v. “metanoew,” 513.This is the uniform opinion of lexicographers and Lordship proponents alike.Gentry’s own analysis states,

Metanoeo comes from the conjoining of meta, “after,” with noeo, “to perceive, think” (related to nous, “mind”). Thus, “to perceive afterwards,” implying a change of mind. 29   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:59.

The pre-Christian and extra-biblical field of meaning for metanoew is set forth by Behm:

In pre-biblical and extra-biblical usage metanoew and metanoia are not firmly related to any specific concepts. At the first stage they bear the intellectual sense of “subsequent knowledge.” With further development both verb and noun then come to mean “change of mind.” …The change of opinion or decision, the alteration in mood or feeling, which finds expression in the terms, is not in any sense ethical.It may be for the bad as well as for the good… For the Greeks metanoia never suggests an alteration in the total moral attitude, a profound change in life’s direction, a conversion which affects the whole conduct… 30   Johannes Behm and E. Würthwein, “metanoew, metanoia” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 979. It is remarkable that Behm follows this analysis with the statement, “One searches the Greek world in vain for the origin of the New Testament understanding of metanoew and metanoia” (4:980). As if the New Testament writers were from another world!

In light of this admission, it is unfortunate that the basic meaning of “to change the mind” is eclipsed by the Lordship insistence on something more from the word itself in the New Testament. 31   Not surprising is the admission by Miller that “The Greek metanoia and the Hebrew shWb are both filled with theological import beyond a change of mind” (Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” p. 49). The reader should see again the remarks by Barr, Brown, and Silva on linguistic fallacies which import to words new meaning not justified by context and usage (pp. 16-17). MacArthur argues for the basic meaning of “change of mind” then says, “but biblically its meaning does not stop there.” 32   MacArthur, The Gospel, 162. It is interesting how often Lordship teachers agree with the meaning “change of mind,” then invest the term with theology that demands much more. For other examples, see Boice, Discipleship, 108; Pink, Salvation, 55. Trench’s comment is revealing: “It is only after metanoia has been taken up into the uses of Scripture…that it comes predominantly to mean a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past, …a regret for the ill done in the past, and out of all this a change of life for the better; …This is all imported into, does not etymologically nor yet by primary usage lie in, the word” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 242). Likewise, Mueller echoes, “Repentance is far more than a “change of mind” about who Christ is.” 33   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 21.

A justification for this conclusion is set forth by both Behm and Goetzmann.Behm argues that metanoew in the LXX “approximates” the Hebrew word shWb, “to turn.” 34   Behm and Würthwein, s.v. “metanoew, metanoia,” TDNT, 4:989-90. In agreement are Ladd, Theology, 38; Geldenhuys, Luke, 143.But this logic is easily refuted by Wilkin who notes,

The term shWb was used 1,056 times in the Hebrew text. None of those occurrences is translated by metanoew in the Greek OT. Not one. This is inexplicable if the translators of the LXX felt that metanoew was a good translation of shWb.Rather, the translators routinely used strefw and its various compound forms to translate shWb. 35   Wilkin, “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:16.

Goetzmann claims the New Testament also uses metanoew to express the force of shWb, 36   Jürgen Goetzmann, s.v. “metanoia,” in NIDNTT, 1 (1975): 357. but again, epistrefw , not metanoew, is the choice of the New Testament writers to convey the meaning “turn around.”

Thus it is concluded that the word metanoew denotes basically a change of mind.  The definition that takes it as a turning from sins is suspected of being theologically derived.Of course, sin can be that about which the mind changes depending on the biblical context.It is recognized that nous or “mind,” as used by the authors of Scripture, can denote more than intellect. It can refer to the “total inner or moral attitude”, 37   Johannes Behm, “noew,” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 958.the “inner man,” 38   Günther Harder, “nous,” in NIDNTT, 3 (1981): 127.or the “sum total of the whole mental and moral state of being”. 39   BAGD, s.v. “nous,” 544. Cf. Rom. 7:23, 25; Eph. 4:23; Col. 2:18. Thus Moulton and Milligan translate metanoew as “a complete change of attitude, spiritual, and moral, towards God” (The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, by James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, 1930, s.v. “metanoew,” 404). Thus, while the basic meaning is “to change the mind,” there is sometimes implication of emotional and volitional elements, but never is a change in behavior necessary to the word itself. 40   In the LXX the verb often translates the Hebrew n`h~m, “to be sorry, to comfort oneself” (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament [BDB, by Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, 1980, s.v. ” n`h~m,” pp. 636-37) which shows an emotional element. It is significant, however, that n`h~m occurs 108 times in the Old Testament, but is used only three times of the repentance of men (Job 42:6; Jer. 8:6; 31:19); and none of these refer to salvation from eternal judgment. For further discussion, see Robert N. Wilkin, “Repentance and Salvation, Part 2: The Doctrine of Repentance in the Old Testament,” JOTGES 2 (Spring 1989): 26.

It is unfortunate that metanoew is translated “repent” in the English Bible, for the English etymology denotes more the idea of penitence as sorrow, or worse, the Catholic doctrine of penance, than it does the more accurate “change of mind.” 41   A. T. Robertson remarked, “It is a linguistic and theological tragedy that we have to go on using ‘repentance’ for metanoia.” (WPNT, 6:241; also see 1:24). For a complete discussion on the inadequacy of the translation “repentance,” see Treadwell Walden, The Great Meaning of METANOIA (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1896), and William Douglas Chamberlain, The Meaning of Repentance (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954). Chamberlain shows how metanoew has been misunderstood or mistranslated since Tertullian’s day (late second century) up to the present time. He shows how Tertullian et al have argued for the meaning “change of mind.” See supporting comments by Berkhof, Theology, 480-81; Wilkin, “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:16-17; Harry A. Ironside, Except Ye Repent (New York: American Tract Society, 1937), 12-13; William Walden Howard, “Is Faith Enough to Save?–Conclusion,” BSac 99 (January-March 1942): 95-96. All that is certain is that the word itself merits no strict definition in terms of action, sin, or sorrowful emotion, though these things are often closely related and sometimes implied.The context must decide the meaning of metanoew in the New Testament. Key passages using metanoew will now be examined in their contexts.

An Evaluation of Key Bible Passages

The Lordship case for making repentance always related to sin, a resolve to turn from sin, and a turning from sins for salvation is argued from a number of Bible passages.The major passages will be examined first where repentance is used in relation to the offer of salvation, then in relation to sins, its production of fruits, and its characterization as a gift from God. Finally, the idea of repentance will be examined in some salvation narratives.Passages which do not have the idea of soteriological repentance may only be noted in brief.

Repentance in Relation to the Offer of Salvation

From a number of passages concerning the offer of salvation Lordship proponents adduce that repentance was presented as the resolve to forsake sins, or the actual turning from sins.The approach taken here is to consider all of the passages that relate repentance to the offer of salvation in the preaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles, and see whether Lordship claims are justified.

The Preaching of John the Baptist

John came preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2).It is said that he preached a “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4/Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; cf. Matt. 3:11).Does his preaching require of people that they resolve to forsake sins or actually turn from sins in order to be saved? 42   Most, if not all, connect John’s preaching of repentance with the Old Testament preaching of shWb, resulting in the force of “turn away from sin.” See J. W. Heikkinen, “Notes on ‘Epistrepho’ and ‘Metanoeo’,” Ecumenical Review (ER) 19 (1967): 314; Ladd, Theology, 38-40; and Rudolf Schnackenburg, “Typen der Metanoia-Predigt im Neuen Testament,” Munchener theologishe Zeitschrift (MTZ) 1 (1950): 1-2. The two ideas are not exactly equal, as argued above (pp. 65-66). However, shWb may be seen as the outer manifestation or result of inner repentance. It should also be noted that the theological uses of shWb in the Old Testament were expressed in the context of the covenant community and their return to God and were thus non-soteriological. See Victor P. Hamilton, s.v. “shWb,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols., eds. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 2:909-10.

Paul’s commentary in Acts 19:4 on John’s “baptism of repentance” is important in understanding John’s use of repentance. If by “repent” John meant a change of mind, a new attitude and disposition, 43   See Charles L’Eplattenier, Lecture de L’Evangile de Luc (Paris: Desclée, 1982), 48 on Luke 3:3 and the use of metanoew in Luke. it is easy to understand the meaning of Acts 19:4. Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Jesus Christ.” The Ephesian disciples had not believed on Jesus Christ and therefore had not received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-3). Having been baptized by John, they were obviously Jewish believers.However, the new revelation of the gospel of grace demanded that they come to faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Paul considers John’s baptism as preparatory to faith in Christ.

Another important commentary on John’s use of repentance in the offer of salvation is found in Acts 13:24 which not only infers that John’s preaching was preparatory to Christ, but states that its audience was specifically “all the people of Israel.” Repentance for Israel had distinct significance under the Mosaic covenant in that it was the means by which the sinning nation repaired their covenant with God and returned to His blessing (Deut. 30:2, 10; 2 Chr. 7:14). 44   It should be noted that each of these Old Testament verses contains the idea of repentance as an inner attitude (“heart and soul,” “humble themselves”) which leads to the normally expected overt obedience.Only in such a state of blessing could the nation as a whole accept Jesus as their Messiah.

Repentance in John’s preaching was designed to prepare the nation of Israel for faith in Jesus Christ, their Messiah.It called for a change of attitude (about their present condition and/or the coming Messiah) from which covenant obedience should naturally flow and the acceptance of faith should follow.Repentance for the Jews in the context of John’s preaching cannot be divested of covenantal implications. Therefore, it is ill-advised to give similar emphasis to John’s preaching of repentance to Israel during the transition period between law and grace to the offer of salvation for all people after this period. 45   A discussion on the proper emphasis of repentance in the offer of the gospel appears later in this chapter. John’s use of repentance in Matt. 3:8/Luke 3:8 is also discussed later in the chapter.

The preaching of Jesus

The preaching of Jesus recounted in the Gospels normally uses repentance in reference to eternal salvation. There is sometimes a recognizable emphasis on repentance in relation to sin(s). However, it must be seen whether Jesus demanded a reformation of life.

Matthew 4:17/Mark 1:15;
Matthew 11:20-21/Luke 10:13

As with John, Jesus’ preaching was at times directed toward the nation of Israel in the context of covenantal obligations (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). This is most obvious in His upbraiding of the impenitent Jewish cities (Matt. 11:20-24/Luke 10:13-16). These were the cities to which the twelve apostles were sent when Jesus said “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6).Their refusal to repent (Matt. 11:20-21/Luke 10:13; cf. Mark 6:12) was a refusal to change from their sinful attitude of self-righteousness and rejection of God’s righteousness in Christ. 46   So Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1980), 157; A. C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols., (New York: Publication Office, Our Hope, 1910), 1: 232; Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew (London: Robert Scott, Paternoster Row, 1909), 165.Jesus’ words in Mark 1:15, “Repent, and believe in the gospel,” may give the clearest sense as to why Jesus preached repentance.It expressed in covenantal terms the way in which the Jews could restore their relationship with God through the Messiah.The command “Repent” reminded of covenant obligations that had been neglected; the command “believe in the gospel” looked forward to the work of Jesus the Messiah and the faith that would appropriate that work for salvation.

Matthew 9:13/Mark 2:17/Luke 5:32

The account of Matthew’s conversion is sometimes told so as to emphasize Christ’s call to repentance in terms of turning from sins to follow Christ. In the account, Jesus’ only words to Matthew are “Follow Me” (Matt. 9:9).However, to emphasize repentance from sins MacArthur embellishes the scriptural record with the statement, “Matthew was unequivocally the vilest, most wretched sinner in Capernaum.” 47   MacArthur, The Gospel, 62. Though Kent agrees with MacArthur’s point about repentance in the passage, he states, “MacArthur indulges in a bit of extravagant language to paint his word picture of the event, perhaps revealing his rhetorical skills more than dependance on the text. . .[This reviewer considers those descriptions somewhat stronger than the Biblical [sic passage itself requires. This writer certainly agrees with Kent’s criticism, but believes he is too accommodating especially when his next sentence reads, “Of course, this has no real bearing on the issue being discussed.” It has every bearing on the issue, because the issue is whether repentance as a turning from sins is being unduly emphasized in the text. See Homer A. Kent, “Review Article: The Gospel According to Jesus,” Grace Theological Journal (GTJ) 10 (1989): 70-71.

It is more accurate to say that the emphasis of the text lies not on sins in general, but on attitudes, i.e., the contrast between Matthew’s sense of unrighteousness and the self-righteous pride of the Pharisees. 48   Such is the emphasis addressed by Lenski, Interpretation of Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964), 365-67, and Willoughby C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965), 90.The Lord’s saying, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matt. 9:13; Luke 5:32) 49   It seems arbitrary that MacArthur would call this statement “a full perspective on Jesus’ ministry, a summary of the message of Christianity, a close-up of the nucleus of the gospel” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 60-61) when he earlier warned against such a dogmatic conclusion from the gospel presentation in John 4 (ibid., 49-50).focuses on self-perceptions as attitudes that separate those who would obey Christ’s call from those who would not.Those who come to repentance have changed their thinking about their own lack of righteousness and have come to acknowledge their sinfulness and need of “healing” (Matt. 9:12; Luke 5:31).Thus only sinners, or those who realize their need of righteousness, are ready to change their minds about Christ’s offer of forgiveness.Repentance, then, is spoken of in terms of one’s thinking about himself and the need for Christ’s salvation.

Matthew 12:41/Luke 11:32

When answering the Pharisees’ request for a sign, Jesus rebukes their unbelief and contrasts them with the Ninevites of Jonah’s day who “repented at the preaching of Jonah.” The condemnation of the contemporary generation’s unbelief in contrast to the repentance of the Ninevites shows that Jesus’ use of repentance was applied to Gentiles also. The Ninevites changed their minds and hearts when they heard Jonah.The change of mind, however, did not focus on sin and their resolve to forsake it, 50   Contra Gentry (Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61).but on God and his message of judgment. 51   So Geldenhuys, Luke, 335; Caird, The Gospel of St. Luke (New York: The Seabury Press, 1963), 156. Also, the parallelism of metanoew (v. 41) with akouw (v. 42) shows that “As the city of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, so the Queen of the South listened to Solomon’s wisdom. Repentance is thus likened to listening to and accepting a message from God’s spokesman” (Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 110).Jonah 3:5 is explicit: “So the people of Nineveh believed God.” Jesus is contrasting His generation’s unbelief with the Ninevites’ belief which was displayed in acts of mourning resulting from repentance.

Luke 13:3, 5

Jesus tells an “innumerable multitude” (12:1) that just as the Galileans were killed by Pilate (13:1-2) and the eighteen were killed by the tower in Siloam (13:4), “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” 52   It does not change the meaning of “repent” if “perish” in verses 3 and 5 refers to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (as Frederic Louis Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, 2 vols. [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1952, 2:117-18), or to eternal damnation (as Geldenhuys, Luke, 370-71). Jesus’ other uses of repent and repentance (with the exception of Luke 17:3-4) support the latter interpretation.The point of teaching is that those who died were not more sinful than anyone else (13:2, 4). Judgment awaits all who do not repent. The message had special significance to the sinful nation of Israel, as illustrated in the following parable of the fruitless fig tree (13:6-9).Unless there is evidence of repentance (“fruit”) during the time of opportunity (13:8) the nation would be judged. 53   So Liefeld, “Luke,” EBC, 8:970; Geldenhuys, Luke, 372; David L. Tiede, Luke, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament (ACNT) (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), 248; Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 149.Exactly what they must change their minds about is not immediately clear in the context, but it is obviously related to their attitudes which rejected Christ thus far. There is no explicit reason to conclude that He was telling them to “resolve to turn from sins” or “turn from sins.” 54   So Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4. A change of attitude, mind, or disposition which would cause them to forsake their unbelief and make them amenable to trusting in Jesus as Messiah and Savior is as much as one can conclude from the passage.

Luke 15

Jesus also highlights repentance in the three parables of Luke 15. The central point is stated in the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin:God and heaven rejoice “over one sinner who repents” (15:7, 10). This thesis is then poignantly illustrated in the parable of the lost son (15:11-32).The parables were given in response to the self-righteous Pharisees, who did not see themselves as sinners, to teach that repentance from such an attitude brings the Father’s joyful acceptance.

The lack of any emphasis on turning from specific sins must be noted. The parables of the lost sheep and lost coin do not mention turning away from sins at all.In the parable of the lost son, repentance can be identified with the son’s change of mind in the far country when he “came to himself” and decided to trust in his father’s mercy. 55   So Geldenhuys, Luke, 407-08; Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896), 371, 375. Jeremias comments on the parable, “Repentance means… putting one’s whole trust in the heavenly Father…Repentance is simply trusting the grace of God” (Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, transl. John Bowden [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, 156). Jones gets the order wrong when he says, “the son eventually came to his senses, went back to his father, and repented” (Jones, “Real Repentance,” MM, 23).His return (v. 20) was a logical implication of his decision. 56   Contra Stott and Pink who makes the son’s return a necessary part of his repentance (Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17; Pink, Salvation, 51). See also Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 61.

Furthermore, there is no reason to consign this teaching to the soteriological realm only, for this is not explicit in the passage. The audience is both “sinners” (15:1), who represent the unsaved, and “the Pharisees and Scribes” (15:2), who represent the covenant nation Israel in their deluded self-righteousness. Jesus was simply teaching that when anyone changes his mind about his own unrighteousness and trusts in God’s mercy, he will be joyfully accepted by God.The moral of these stories is stated broadly enough to apply to a repentant unbeliever or a repentant believer. 57   Chafer, for example, believes these parables refer to the restoration of repentant believers (Theology, 6:244-50). Though argued convincingly, it does not seem the Lord’s teaching can be made so exclusive one way or the other.

Luke 16:30

Another mention of repentance that could be construed as salvific is in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.Here the rich man in Hades begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers so they will escape a similar fate.When Abraham refuses, the rich man argues, “if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (16:30).Abraham’s answer shows that the idea of repentance here is chiefly that of holding a particular attitude, for he says that the brothers will not be “persuaded” (i.e., believe in Jesus, about whom Moses and the prophets wrote) even by one risen from the dead (v. 31). Repentance, then, is a persuasion of the soul, a change of the mind and heart akin to faith.It may refer here to both a change of mind about their unbelief as well as a change of mind about Christ.There is no mention of turning from all sins.

Luke 24:47

A final mention of repentance by the Lord comes after His resurrection when He commissioned the disciples with the words, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).It is clear that Jesus intended the message of repentance to go beyond the Jews to the Gentiles, but it is not stated explicitly what is to be the focus of their repentance. It can be safely said that He wanted all people everywhere to come to a change of mind, attitude, and disposition towards themselves and His gospel message, especially in view of His death and resurrection. 58   In agreement are Geldenhuys, Luke, 641; Lenski, Luke, 1206; and Talbert, Reading Luke: A literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1982), 231. This seems a general way of expressing His desire that all men be restored to God’s favor. The change of attitude would include the more specific faith in Christ.

The preaching of the apostles

Peter and Paul preached or mentioned repentance in their offers of salvation.The book of Acts is the record of how they did so in fulfillment of Luke 24:47.

Acts 2:38

Peter’s pentecostal sermon is the first example of the apostolic preaching of repentance.In 2:38 he responds to the crowd’s question of “What shall we do?” (v. 37) with the words, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The text describes the emotional state of the people:they were “cut to the heart” (katen?ghsan).  This word connotes a “sharp pain connected with anxiety, remorse. 59   BAGD, s.v. “katann?ssomai,” 416.If this describes their feelings, then Peter’s admonition to repent must certainly address another kind of response besides emotional grief lest it be superfluous. The people were driven by their feelings of remorse to seek an avenue of change, thus Peter says “Repent.”

There are several clues in the context about the focus of their repentance.Peter addresses the specific sin of their (the Israelites’) crucifixion of the Lord Jesus (v. 36). Verse 37 begins, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.” Their source of remorse was the mistake of crucifying the Messiah.Now they must repent, or change their minds about who He is and change their disposition toward Him. 60   Gentry claims the Jews had already changed their minds about Christ (v. 37), and now must “determine to forsake their sin and flee to Christ” (Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:60). But it was obviously their sin that struck them with grief in verse 37. All that was left to them was the way to find forgiveness in a different attitude toward Christ.Talbert comments,

The condemnation of Christ had been done in ignorance (Acts 3:17; 13:27), but in raising Jesus God showed the Jews they had made a mistake: they had crucified the Christ (Acts 2:36). Now, however, the Jews are given a chance to change their minds, to repent (2:38; 3:19; 5:31). 61   Talbert, Reading Luke, 231. Likewise, Ironside says, “The call to repentance was as though he had said, `Change your attitude!’ The nation has rejected Jesus. You must receive Him'” (Repent, 48). In agreement are F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), 90; Schnackenburg, “Typen der Metanoia-Predigt,” MTZ 1:6; R. Michiels, “La Conception Lucanienne de la Conversion,” Ephremerides theologicae lovanienses (ETL) 41 (1965): 44-46; Jacques Dupont, “Repentir et Conversion d’aprPs les Actes des Ap^tres,” Sciences EcclJsiastiques (ScEccl) 12 (1960): 166; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), 67-68; Ryrie, Salvation, 96; Wendall Johnston, “The Soteriology of the Book of Acts” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1961), 24, 124.

When they so change their minds, they will see Christ as their Messiah and Savior and receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The exhortation to be baptized is an exhortation to display the fruits of invisible repentance in a visible act that would separate them from the nation under judgment and identify them with the new community of believers. 62   Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68. Baptism itself is not a condition for the remission of sins. Metanohsate and lhyesqe are plural while baptisqhtw is set off from the rest of the sentence as a singular. A comparison to 10:43 shows that baptism is not necessary for the remission of sins. There is perhaps an emphasis on individual responsibility (cf. @ekastos) while the nation is being called to repentance. See Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” in EBC (9:205-573), 283. Also, Stanley Toussaint, “Acts,” in BKC (349-432), 359; Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 71-73.They had already come to regret their sin, now Peter urges them on to a change of mind about Christ. Of course, repentance to the exclusively Jewish addressees (cf. vv. 14, 22, 36) had special significance in that they had to change their attitude about their own righteousness in contrast to God’s provided in the Messiah. 63   Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68.

The progression in Acts 2:37-38 is expressed by 2 Corinthians 7:10: “For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation.”From their sorrow the Jews are led to the point of repentance, and being repentant they believe in Christ (v. 44). Repentance, though motivated by their remorse over the sin of crucifying Christ, focuses more on their thinking about Christ than on their sin.

Acts 3:19

Another occasion of Peter preaching repentance is in his sermon on Solomon’s portico (3:11-26).The audience and issues appear similar to that of the pentecostal sermon. The Jews must come to see their error in crucifying the Messiah (3:14-15) and change their minds about Him (17-19).

Bruce says, “All that they had to do to avail themselves of this salvation was to change their former attitude to Jesus and bring it into line with God’s attitude.” 64   Bruce, Acts, NICNT, 90.The internal and mental aspect of repentance is emphasized by Peter’s mention of their “ignorance” (v. 17).There is no indication of necessary external actions such as the forsaking of sins.In fact, Peter’s second command, “be converted” (v. 19, from epistrefw ), distinguishes the logical outward result of the inner attitude.”It denotes the action which results in the change of mind indicated by repentance.” 65   Thomas Walker, The Acts of the Apostles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 76.

Acts 8:22

The preaching of repentance to Simon the Sorcerer has an altogether different context.Here Peter addresses an individual about a specific sin: that of presuming to buy the power of the apostolic office (v. 19). Furthermore, the issue is not salvation, but deliverance from temporal judgment, 66   The word “perish” (v. 20, apwleia) can refer to a temporal destruction, ruin, or loss. For other such uses, see Matt. 26:8/Mark 14:4; Acts 25:16 (MT); 1 Tim. 6:9. for it is clearly stated that Simon had believed (v. 13) and there is no reason to take this as less than salvific. 67   See chapter two’s argument that biblical faith anticipates real faith. In fact, the text emphasizes Simon’s faith by singling him out of the group of Samaritans as one who had believed. Also, the sin to be repented of involves the “thought” of his “heart” and “bitterness,” not unbelief in Christ. Even Simon’s response in verse 24 befits a saved man better than an unbeliever. For a discussion of Simon’s salvation see James Inglis, “Simon Magus,” Waymarks in the Wilderness 5 (1897):35-50 reprinted in JOTGES2 (Spring 1989):45-54; Wilkin, “Repentance in the Gospels and Acts,” JOTGES 3:19; “Repentance as a Condition,” 76-77; Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary, transl. B. Noble and G. Shinn (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), 303; I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (London: Epworth Press, 1969), 87-88.This shows that repentance can be demanded of believers as well as unbelievers.

Acts 14:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:9

Another passage cited by Lordship proponents is Acts 14:15, where Paul tells those in Lystra that “We…preach to you that you should turn from these vain things to the living God.” Usually correlated with this is 1 Thessalonians 1:9 where Paul reminds the Thessalonians, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 68   So Pink, Salvation, 60.The argument that this defines repentance is weakened by the simple observation that no form of the word repentance is used in either passage.The verb “turn/turned” is epistrefw which is never translated “repent” in the English New Testament. Had this been what Paul wanted to say, he could have used metanoew. But in these passages, Paul is focusing on the desired (Acts 14:15) and actual (1 Thess. 1:9) result and the outer manifestation of the implied inner repentance and faith 69   Cf. Acts 17:4 where epeisqhsan (“persuaded”) indicates the faith of the Thessalonians. of his subjects.Thus the turning is related to, but distinct from, what caused it.

Acts 17:30

The next incidence of preaching repentance in relation to salvation occurs in Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus in Athens (17:22-31). His words explicitly extend to all men: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (v. 30). The tenor of Paul’s message shows that he tailored it to those in basic “ignorance” of the gospel message. 70   For example, he begins with a basic knowledge of the Creator (v. 24), and the unity of the human race as His “offspring” (vv. 25-29). Clearly, no background of Jewish theology is assumed.As Gentiles, they were excluded from the mold of Jewish theology.Yet repentance is required of all such men in ignorance because they must come to the point of recognizing the true God as opposed to their errors of idolatry. Ironside comments,

…these supercilious scoffers of the Areopagus were not ready for the message of pure grace.They needed to realize their true state before God.To them the call came, “Change your minds!Your whole attitude is wrong.Repent and heed the voice of God. 71   Ironside, Repent, 60.

In this passage, the juxtaposition of “repent” with “we ought not to think” (v. 29) and “ignorance” (v. 30) denotes the internal nature of repentance rather than the Lordship characterization of turning from sins.It is here a change in conviction and attitude about worshiping false gods to worshiping the true God. 72   This understanding of metanoew is suggested by Jacques Dupont, “Le Discours a l’Areopagé (Acts 17, 22-31) lieu de recontre entre christianisme et hellenism,” Biblica (Bib) 60 (1979): 542; Michiels, “La Conception Lucanienne,” ETL 41:49; Bruce, Acts, NICNT, 361; Haenchen, Acts, 525-26.Such an attitude is necessary for faith in Christ to follow.

Acts 20:21

The above understanding of repentance is exemplified in Paul’s description of his ministry to the Ephesian elders (20:17-35). He characterized his past ministry as that of “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 21). This affords an important insight into the significance of repentance in relation to salvation. Paul mentions two aspects of obtaining salvation, the more general “repentance toward God” and the more specific “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”Jesus Christ is God’s specific way by which people can come into a right relationship with God. The second phrase thus adds specific content to the first and shows there is sometimes a close relationship in the ideas of repentance and faith in relation to salvation. 73   The relationship of repentance to faith will be discussed later in this chapter.Also noteworthy is that repentance is towards God, not away from sins.

In conclusion to this section, these passages which speak of repentance in relation to the offer of salvation show that repentance is an inner change of mind and heart.That about which one repents varies from sin, to God, to one’s opinion about Jesus Christ. Sometimes the biblical text shows that the result of repentance is faith in Christ; at other times the result is turning from sins. But these results are not properly in the realm of the term itself, though they are often implied.

Repentance in Relation to Sins

In a number of other passages, it is obvious that specific acts of sin are closely tied to repentance.There is nothing, however, to suggest that repentance itself demands more than a change of attitude about the acts, though this leads to a change in conduct. It should also be noted that these verses, for the most part, do not refer to soteriological repentance and are therefore of little help to this study.

2 Corinthians 12:21

In 2 Corinthians 12:21 Paul fears the Christian readers 74   In the context, Paul refers to them as “children” (12:14), speaks of Titus’ companion as “our brother” (12:18), and calls them “beloved” (12:19).“have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and licentiousness which they have practiced.” Their attitude had not changed as evidenced by their continuation in these sins.This passage does not speak of repentance in reference to salvation.

Hebrews 6:1

This verse speaks of Christians 75   The evidence that the readers were Christians is overwhelming, and indeed seems to be the author’s whole point in verses 4 and 5. Marshall calls this conclusion from verses 4 and 5 “irresistible” (Marshall, Kept by the Power, 138). See the earlier argument on page 28, n. 71. who need to progress in their Christian growth “not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.” Dead works probably refers to those works by which one tries to earn salvation and result in death, not sins per se. In order to be saved they had had to change their attitudes about the efficacy of their works and believe the gospel. 76   So Donald Guthrie, Hebrews, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), 138; Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 197-98; Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 144; Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), 106; Ironside, Repent, 83.Now the author wants them to go on to matters beyond the basics related to their salvation.

Revelation 2 and 3

The letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are addressed primarily to Christians, though unbelievers may have been present.  Nevertheless, the force of John’s commands to repent are intended for the Christians who needed to change their thinking about tolerating false teaching and evil deeds in their midst (2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19).  He is not instructing them in salvation. 77   Others with this view include John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), 57; Merrill C. Tenney, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963), 13; Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 41-42; Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 162-69.

Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9, 11

These passages speak of repentance in relation to those who are unsaved and are experiencing the judgments of the Tribulation period. As in Revelation 2 and 3, the judgments here are the temporal trumpet and bowl judgments of the Tribulation. The implication of the context is that if these people would repent, the judgments would cease, though their eternal destruction seems already sealed by the mark of the beast (14:16-18).

That from which these unbelievers repent in 9:20-21 is “the works of their hands” (referring to idols), and “murders,” “sorceries,” “sexual immorality,” and “thefts.” Though 16:9 does not mention anything specific about which the people should repent, 16:11 states they “did not repent of their deeds.”These passages show that repentance can focus on specific acts of sin as that which discloses the heart and mind. The accounts emphasize the hardness of these unbelievers’ hearts in that they never changed their stubborn minds about their sins, as exhibited by their persistence in evil deeds.However, the statement about their refusal to repent from evil deeds does not imply an offer of eternal salvation, but serves as an observation that confirms their evil dispositions and proves God’s judgment to be justified.

Repentance in Relation to Its Fruit

Several passages speak of repentance and the fruits of repentance together.This has led Lordship teachers to equate repentance with the actual work of forsaking sins or changing conduct. Though some say that repentance only leads to these works, others actually define repentance in terms of its outward fruits.

Matthew 3:8/Luke 3:8

Stott cites Luke 3:8 to argue that repentance must include a change of behavior. 78   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. Also, Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 22.These are John the Baptist’s harsh words for those coming out to his baptism.Both Matthew and Luke record the words, “Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance.”

The question immediately arises as to how “fruits worthy of repentance” can be the same thing as repentance. Lenski observes,

…repentance cannot be meant by “fruits”…”Fruits” indicate an organic connection between themselves and repentance just as the tree brings forth the fruit that is peculiar to its nature…repentance is invisible; hence we judge its presence by the…fruits, which are visible. 79   Lenski, Luke, 188.

As Lenski has offered, the visible fruit should not be confused with the invisible root, though there is an undeniable connection. When the people ask “What shall we do?” (3:10, 12, 14a), they are asking for an expansion of the nearest thought: John’s exhortation to bear fruits worthy of repentance (3:8). 80   So Nolland, Luke 1-9:20, 149; John A. Martin, “Luke,” in BKC (199-265), 211; Alexander Balmain Bruce, “The Synoptic Gospels,” in EGT (1:3-651), 482.John answers with a three-fold instruction for good deeds (Luke 3:11, 13, 14b).Thus actions are the result and evidence of repentance.

Here, John is evaluating the evidence for inner repentance in those who have come to be baptized.The fact that Matthew records John speaking these words “when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism” (v. 7) suggests that John was able to discern the self-righteous hypocrisy of the Jewish leadership who posed as candidates for baptism. They continued to trust only in their physical descent from Abraham for merit with God (Matt. 3:9/Luke 3:8). They were presuming to flee the coming judgment for their sins, yet they had not truly changed their minds and hearts about their sinfulness. 81   So Geldenhuys, Luke, 138-39.On the basis of external evidence, John rebuked them. “Fruits worthy of repentance” can only speak of the results of the inner attitude of repentance and not define repentance itself.

Acts 26:20

Likewise, when Paul testified to King Agrippa that he declared to the Jews and Gentiles “that they should repent (metanoein), turn (epistrefein) to God, and do (prassontas) works befitting repentance (metanoias),” it is clear there is a logical and close relationship between repentance and its fruits, but not a necessary one. The accusative plural participle prassontas seems to imply the subject autous for the two infinitives metanoein and epistrefein 82   Robertson, WPNT 3:450and indicates contemporaneous action, but not identical action.The participle shows that works should accompany repentance and turning to God in a close relationship, but it cannot equate the doing of works with repentance itself because they are distinguished as “works befitting (axia) repentance”.There is a distinction here between the root (repentance) and the fruit (works). 83   So Bruce, Acts, 493; Gerhard A. Krodel, Acts, ACNT (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986), 465; John Calvin, Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles, 2 vols., trans. Christopher Fetherstone, ed. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), 2:383.Repentance is the underlying change of disposition about one’s condition which leads to a turning toward God which should also be accompanied by expected works.

In conclusion, there is no evidence in these passages that repentance must be defined by its works.As Berkhof notes,

“According to Scripture repentance is wholly an inward act, and should not be confounded with the change of life that proceeds from it. Confession of sin and reparation of wrongs are fruits of repentance. 84   Berkhof, Theology, 487. Also, see Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology: Systematic and Biblical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 231.

Fruits consistent with a repentant attitude are normally expected, but no text of Scripture has shown that fruits are inherent to or essentially required in the definition of the word itself. On the contrary, the passages examined thus far distinguish outward works from inner repentance.”Just as the gifts brought to mother do not constitute love itself but a demonstration of it, so the good works are the demonstration of repentance….” 85   Theodore Mueller, “Repentance and Faith: Who Does the Turning?” Concordia Theological Quarterly (CTQ) 45 (1981): 31.

Repentance as a Gift of God

From four passages (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25; sometimes Rom. 2:4) it is argued that repentance is a gift of God with the implication that its works are God-produced and therefore a necessary evidence for salvation. Citing these passages, Gentry states, “Repentance, or the enablement to repent, is a gift of God.” 86   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:62.Likewise MacArthur argues,

Nor is repentance merely a human work. It is, like every element of redemption, a sovereignly bestowed gift of God…If God is the One who grants repentance, it cannot be viewed as a human work. 87   MacArthur, The Gospel, 163.

Thus MacArthur can argue that one is saved by works, but not one’s own, for the works one produces are divine works:”As part of His saving works, God will produce repentance, faith, sanctification, yieldedness, obedience, and ultimately glorification.” 88   Ibid., 33. Sharing this view are Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17; ten Pas, Lordship, 12; Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 129.

Acts 5:31; 11:18

In the first passage, Peter tells the Jewish leaders that God exalted Jesus Christ “to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” The fact that only a small part of the nation of Israel repented shows that what is probably meant is that God gave Israel an opportunity to repent. 89   So Haenchen, Acts, 251; Marshall, Acts, 120; Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, transl. G. Buzwell (London: Faber & Faber, 1960), 101; Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 75.

Much the same thought appears in Acts 11:18, except the Gentiles are in view.After Peter defended his vision and the conversion of Cornelius, the apostles in Jerusalem conclude, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” 90   It is important to note that Cornelius was called “a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews” (10:22). He had nothing to change except his thinking about Christ (See J. Edwin Orr, “Playing the Good News Melody Off-Key,” CT 10 [January 1, 1982, 25). Thus the issue is not turning from sin but faith in Christ (10:43), which comprised a change of mind about Him, or repentance.The granting of repentance seems to refer to the opportunity to repent as in 5:31. This is certainly arguable from the context of the gospel going to the Gentiles for the first time.

2 Timothy 2:25

These instructions of Paul to Timothy include the advice to correct those who are in opposition, “if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” Though these troublesome people are most likely believers, 91   See George Billingslea, “The Identity of Timothy’s Opposition in 2 Timothy 2:25-26” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 32-72 for an in-depth discussion. Wilkin summarizes Billingslea’s arguments in “Repentance as a Condition,” 135-36. appears that God must give them repentance. 92   Guthrie’s comment on this verse supports this writer’s understanding of the meaning of met_noia: “It requires a change of mind (metanoia) to come to a recognition of truth when the mind is already ensnared. The same expression for recognition of truth is found in I Tim. ii. 4 denoting the divine desire for all men.” Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957), 154.Pentecost suggests how this can be understood:

As the servant of God teaches the Word of God, the truth of the Word of God will be brought home by the Spirit to the mind of the hearer, and the hearer will change his mind because of the truth that has been presented. This change of mind, in respect to a revealed truth from the Word of God, is called in II Timothy 2:25 “repentance.” 93   Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 63.

Repentance can thus be viewed as a gift of God because it is produced by the Spirit of God through the Word of God.This verse would be an example of metonymy of effect for cause: The Holy Spirit (cause) promotes repentance (effect) through the Word (means).

If repentance originates as a gift of God or is considered a divine work that affects change, then it is not wholly a response of man. This raises problems: 94   The author recognizes the antinomy that accompanies the convergence of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and does not deny either (cf. Packer, Evangelism, 18-36). However, this does not seem to be the issue here. Rather, it is how the gift of repentance is understood–as a divine power to effect change, or something else.Why does God command men to repent if He Himself is responsible for bestowing it? Would it not be more appropriate to invite people to receive God’s repentance? Why are people told to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20) if God-given repentance guarantees them?Do not the biblical exhortations to forsake sin and do good works become superfluous?

There are a number of ways in which Scripture may consider repentance a gift.Most importantly, it must be noted that if repentance is a divine gift in the passages examined above, nothing is said of forsaking all sins. As already suggested in Acts 5:31 and 11:18, it is probable that the opportunity for repentance is in the idea of gift.In 2 Timothy 2:25, the divine gift that produces change is the Holy Spirit using the Word of God. 95   Repentance is the inwrought work of the Holy Spirit effected by faithful preaching of the Word (Ironside, Repent, 39).Another sense in which repentance may be considered a gift is that God works in such an overwhelming way to convince people of His goodness and bring them to the point of changing their minds and hearts, that this whole action, including the result of repentance, is simply described as a gift.This seems to be the idea of Romans 2:4, ” …the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”

Repentance in Salvation Accounts

Sometimes Lordship advocates argue from gospel accounts of salvation that repentance is emphasized in the conversion of the subject involved. There is no argument that many of their examples truly illustrate repentance, but it is highly questionable whether the stories emphasize repentance in the explicit manner claimed for them, much less as the forsaking of sins.In fact, militating against such an emphasis is the fact that the terms “repent” and “repentance” are not found in the accounts. Still, a few examples will be examined and the argument answered. Though the account of the rich young ruler could be used as an example here, discussion of it will be reserved for chapter four.

Nicodemus, John 3

In an effort to counter the Free Grace argument that faith, not repentance, is the emphasis of the New Testament and especially the Gospel of John, MacArthur has interpreted the account of Nicodemus in John 3 to create an emphasis on repentance.He states that “Jesus was demanding that Nicodemus forsake everything he stood for, and Nicodemus knew it.” 96   MacArthur, The Gospel, 40.Of Jesus’ use of Numbers 21, MacArthur says,

Jesus was not painting a picture of easy faith. He was showing Nicodemus the necessity of repentance.”

…In order to look at the bronze snake on the pole, they had to drag themselves to where they could see it.They were in no position to glance flippantly at the pole and then proceed with lives of rebellion. 97   Ibid., 46. Kent supports MacArthur, but misses his point when he says, “It is difficult to see how a changed attitude toward sin (i.e., repentance) can be excluded from this saving look…” (Kent, “Review Article, GTJ 10:70). A “changed attitude” is much less than MacArthur is claiming.

It is difficult to see how anyone could find this emphasis without one word from the Lord here about repenting.

An analysis of the account shows an emphasis on faith both by mention of it explicitly, and by illustration of it from Numbers 21. 98   See the discussion of Numbers 21 on p. 55.As throughout John, “believe” is the key word for salvation (3:15-16, 18).Jesus makes no demands of Nicodemus, and certainly points to nothing specific of which he should repent.Faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah would, for Nicodemus, entail a change of mind about his present condition and a change of disposition toward Christ, but that is assumed in the invitation to believe. For Nicodemus, the chief issue is not sin, but an accurate understanding about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The woman at the well, John 4

MacArthur takes a similar liberty of emphasizing repentance with the account of the conversion of the Samaritan woman in John 4. While admitting that “We are told only the barest essentials of the Lord’s conversation with the woman” and warning that “this passage in and of itself is not an appropriate foundation upon which to base an understanding of what constitutes the gospel,” 99   MacArthur, The Gospel, 49-50. MacArthur bases his conclusion on what is not supplied in the passage, which is not prudent. The “barest essentials” which are present are still carefully selected by both the divine author and the human author to describe the woman’s salvation.he nevertheless comes to some significant conclusions about repentance and sin here. He says, “To call her to Himself, Jesus had to force her to face her indifference, lust, self-centeredness, immorality, and religious prejudice.” 100   Ibid., 49.He continues with statements such as, “It is inconceivable that Jesus would pour someone a drink of living water without challenging and altering that individual’s sinful lifestyle,” 101   Ibid., 54.and, “Those who confess and forsake their sin… will find a Savior anxious to receive them, forgive them, and liberate them from their sin.” 102   Ibid., 58. This statement appears contradictory in that he says one must forsake sin in order to be saved, yet only on this basis will Jesus liberate from sin. It is difficult to reconcile the first half of his statement with a later statement that “repentance is not a pre-salvation attempt to set one’s life in order…to make sin right before turning to Christ in faith” (emphasis his; ibid., 163).Similarly, Chantry states, “Jesus’ Gospel insisted that she turn from her adultery.” 103   Chantry, Gospel, 48-49.

All of these arguments, designed to prove an emphasis on repentance as forsaking of sin, are answered by the Lord’s own words to the woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (4:10). Jesus simply made no demands of the woman.His mention of her husbands (vv. 16-18) was not to demand that she reform her life, but served to point the woman to her spiritual need of living water (when she was incorrectly fixated on her physical needs, v. 15) and to convince her, and the Samaritans later, that Jesus was the messianic Prophet (vv. 19, 25, 29, 39). 104   Bultmann, John, 187-88; Tenney, John, 94-95; Hendriksen, John, 165.This recognition led them to “believe” (vv. 41-42).There is no mention of repentance or of forsaking sins, so it should not be made an emphasis.

The sinful woman, Luke 7:37-50

In this account of the woman labeled “a sinner” (v. 37) who washed and anointed Jesus feet with her tears, hair, and fragrant oil, some insist there is an emphasis on repentance. Truly, repentance is present in the passage, but does it merit the central focus given by Gentry when he says, “Her weeping was not necessary for salvation, but the repentance it exemplified was”? 105   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61.

Jesus’ own words suffice to emphasize what brought the woman’s salvation.He tells the objecting Pharisee that “her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (v. 47). Her love was an expression of her faith, for next Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Your faith has saved you” (v. 50). Repentance, never mentioned by the Lord, is not the emphasis, but faith.Her faith which embraced Christ as Savior included a changed attitude about her condition and resulting sorrow, and in this way repentance is present, but not emphasized.

The Pharisee and the tax collector, Luke 18:9-14

This story is also used to point out the nature of repentance. 106   MacArthur, The Gospel, 90-91; Pink, Salvation, 59.Whereas the Pharisee is presented as proud and self-righteous (vv. 9, 11-12, 14), the tax collector has a humble attitude and a keen awareness of his sinfulness (13).Though the words metanoia and metanoew are not used, this is an accurate picture of repentance for it focuses on the different attitudes of the two men.Concerning the Pharisee, Schnackenburg comments, “the attitude of mind that most frequently militates against repentance is self-righteousness and presumption.” 107   Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Moral Teaching of the New Testament, transl. J. Holland-Smith and W. J. O’Hara (Freiburg: Herder and Herder, 1965), 29.In contrast, the repentant tax collector is justified. 108   This is understood in the sense of Pauline justification. See Geldenhuys, Luke, 451; Caird, Luke, 203.Wilkin notes that the preceding and subsequent contexts concern faith (18:8 and 15-17), and this links the implied repentance in verses 9-14 with the same motif of faith. He observes, “Saving repentance according to Luke’s understanding of Jesus thus culminates in saving faith.” 109   Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 62.Though repentance is illustrated, the larger context emphasizes faith.

The conversion of Zacchaeus, Luke 19:1-10

The crucial focus of this story is the declaration by Jesus about Zacchaeus that “Today salvation has come to this house” (v. 9). There are some who make Zacchaeus’ salvation contingent upon his repentance which included making restitution. Using Zacchaeus’ example, Stott argues, “Sometimes, true repentance will have to include restitution” and Jones agrees, “there is no repentance unless there is restitution for sin” (emphasis his). 110   Stott, Basic Christianity, 112; Jones, “Real Repentance,” MM, 23.

The text, however, indicates that Zacchaeus’ reception of Jesus Christ into his home (vv. 6-7) was also a spiritual reception of Jesus and His message. 111   So Marshall, Luke, 697; Talbert, Reading Luke, 177; Geldenhuys, Luke, 471.The joyful response of Zacchaeus to Jesus’ words (v. 7) indicates an attitude of repentance and faith. Then his acts of restitution demonstrate repentance with what John the Baptist called “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matt. 3:8/Luke 3:8). 112   The fruit John admonished of tax-collectors was “Collect no more than what is appointed for you” (Luke 3:13).The fruits are not repentance, but the outward manifestation of it. 113   This interpretation is taken by Lenski, Luke, 943; Marshall, Luke, 697; A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1912), 834-35.

The passages studied thus far show that repentance is basically a change of mind, heart, and disposition.When it is preached in the offer of salvation, change in conduct is not demanded, but a change in thinking about one’s need of God’s righteousness and God’s provision in Jesus Christ. Also, though sins are sometimes the focus of repentance, such a meaning is not demanded by every usage. The focus of repentance must be determined from the context, if possible.

A Biblical Understanding of Repentance

It is now necessary to declare in brief fashion an understanding of repentance which reflects the sum of observations from the biblical evidence considered above.This section is designed to present a biblical view of repentance and also present the arguments which must be answered by the Lordship Salvation view.

Repentance as an Inner Attitude

From the etymology as well as biblical evidence, it is seems that repentance of any kind refers to an inner attitude.Most basically, it is a “change of mind,” but as has been seen, “mind” denotes the heart and soul of man along with the intellect and will. It is a careless error to make the outward fruit of repentance the same as inner repentance itself.The fruit must be distinguished from the root, the cause from the effect.

At times repentance will be accompanied by sorrow and great emotion, but this is not essential to saving repentance.It has been shown that there can be sorrowful repentance that comes short of salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).Another argument not yet mentioned is that in the Old Testament God repents.Cocoris explains the implication:

In the King James Version, the word repent occurs forty-six times in the Old Testament. Thirty-seven of these times, God is the one repenting (or not repenting).If repentance meant sorrow for sin, God would be a sinner (emphasis his). 114   Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 68-69.

Neither should one’s conduct be made a necessary element of repentance.It is agreed that true repentance should and probably will result in a visible change of conduct because it is the new inner disposition of a person and indicates a new desire and bearing.However, to make outward transformation essential to the meaning of repentance itself is to confuse the two beyond biblical validity.Chamberlain has stated it well:

The objection to laying the stress on “change of conduct” or “reformation” is that we tend to lead the minds of people away from the fact that metanoew deals primarily with the “springs of action,” rather than with the actions themselves. Metanoew deals with the source of our motives, not with conduct, or even with the motives themselves. 115   Chamberlain, Repentance, 41.

To make outer conduct essential to the meaning of repentance also leads logically to the conclusion that one is indeed saved by works, the works of true repentance. 116   See again, MacArthur, The Gospel, 33. He claims repentance is not “merely a human work” (emphasis added), but a gift of God. He also denies it is a “pre-salvation attempt to set one’s life in order,” though he clearly makes turning from sin concurrent with faith in Christ (p. 163).Furthermore, one can easily become quagmired in subjectivity while trying to determine if his repentance is sufficient for salvation.Fruit is often subtle and invisible to observers, including the subject.

A clear biblical support that outward change is not the basic idea of repentance comes from Luke 17:3-4. Here Jesus teaches that one should forgive an offender “if he repents” (v. 3). Furthermore, Jesus says that “if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (v. 4).It would be artificial to demand of the passage that the offender’s behavior change even seven times in one day. 117   Moreover, “seven” denotes an unlimited number of times. So Paul-Gerhard Mhller, Lukas-Evangelium (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholishes Bibelwerk GmbH, 1986), 140; Marshall, Luke, 643; Hendriksen, Luke, 795.Besides, the Lord conditions forgiveness on the offender’s verbal confession of repentance, not a scrutiny of his deeds.

Repentance as a Volitional Response

The study so far has also inferred that repentance is a voluntary decision.Were this not true, or if God imparted repentance apart from man’s response, the commands to repent would be superfluous.

It is sometimes argued that a person cannot respond to God in repentance (and faith, for that matter) because he is spiritually dead. Yet it is clear that a person can repent of sin, and change his mind about other things that do not lead to salvation, without God’s enablement.Why can one not change his mind about who Christ is and his need of Him for salvation from sin apart from a divine impartation of power?At issue here is one’s understanding of spiritual death.Ironside makes an excellent point in his discussion of repentance:

To say that because a sinner, whether Jew or Gentile, is dead toward God, therefore he cannot repent, is to misunderstand the nature of death. It is a judicial, not an actual, death. The unsaved man is identified with sinning Adam by nature and practice, and so is viewed by God as dead in trespasses and sins. He is spiritually dead, because sin has separated him from God.But actually he is a living, responsible creature to whom God addresses Himself as to a reasoning personality. 118   Ironside, Repent, 54.

Spiritual death is a separation from God and His life, not cessation or absence of the principle of life.In His sovereignty, God has given man the ability and thus the responsibility to respond to the command to repent. Were it not so, commands to repent would be meaningless.

Repentance as Determined by Its Context

The context must determine the exact significance of repentance. Since the contexts of the passages studied have shown different focuses for repentance, it is careless to insist that even salvific repentance always has sin as its focus. 119   As MacArthur, The Gospel, 162.

Sometimes, a sinful attitude is the focus of the change of mind required.This was seen in the story of the Pharisee who had a self-righteous attitude and the repentant tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Not sin, per se, but ineffectual works is the focus of repentance in Hebrews 6:1.On the other hand, Acts 2:38 shows that the change of mind involves the proper recognition of Jesus as the Messiah.In addition, Acts 17:30 involved a change of mind about trusting in pagan idols as opposed to the true God. In Acts 20:21, the focus of repentance is God Himself.

Thus repentance does not always mean a change of mind about sin, much less the forsaking of sins.It is a general term given exactness only by the context.

Repentance as an Emphasis of the Gospel

That repentance is preached in some gospel presentations is clear from the passages which have been discussed above.But to charge that “No one who neglects to call sinners to repentance is preaching the gospel according to Jesus” 120   Ibid., 66, also, 167.Such a blanket accusation attacks the integrity of the biblical authors, the apostles, and Jesus Himself, all of whom often presented the gospel without mention of repentance.It is recognized that repentance can express the condition for salvation to some degree, but it is clearly not the emphasis of the New Testament gospel.

It cannot be emphasized enough that God has given the church and the world one book explicitly devoted to showing sinners the way of salvation; that is the Gospel of John.This is the determinative Scripture for defining the gospel presentation because it alone claims that its purpose is to bring people to faith in Christ (20:31).Yet not once is any sinner told to “repent.” 121   If ever there was an opportunity to preach repentance to one in sin, the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4 was it. But Jesus only speaks of asking and believing. Indeed, Hodges’s assertion that John avoids the doctrine of repentance seems well supported by his observation that John the Baptist, when asked why he baptizes, answers not a word about a “baptism of repentance” as Matthew, Mark, and Luke have him answering (Hodges, Free!, 147). For John, the concept of “believe,” must adequately convey the concept of repentance. See the later discussion of repentance in relation to faith.Indeed, the words for repent and its cognates are not so much as found in the book. 122   Pink answers this argument by declaring that John’s Gospel was written to believers to strengthen their faith. He bases this on 20:31 (Pink, Salvation, 52). While agreeing that this was one purpose, and that this can possibly be supported from 20:31, it is nevertheless insisted that 20:31 speaks of initial faith first as the purpose of the book (“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ”). It is hardly necessary to cite commentators who agree with this primary purpose for John. Should John be thus indicted for teaching a false gospel? Or Jesus Himself, since so much of the book describes His words and witness?

Furthermore, the great theologian of the gospel, Paul, does not make repentance an emphasis of his gospel.His classic and most succinct gospel presentation is found in answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” He says nothing of repentance, only, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).Of all the references to Paul explicitly citing conditions for salvation in Acts, it is through faith in Christ five times (Acts 16:30-31; 17:2-3 cf. v. 12; 18:4-5 cf. v. 8; 22:19; 28:24), faith and repentance four times (13:24 and 13:38-39; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20), and repentance alone only once (17:30).In the Epistles, the numerous references to faith alone 123   E.g. Rom. 3:21–5:1; 9:30-33; 10:4-14; 13:11; 1 Cor. 1:21-24; 15:1-11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 2:16; 3:5-14, 24; Eph. 1:13; 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 3:9; 1 Tim. 1:16; 4:10; 2 Tim. 1:12. compare to only one reference to repentance alone (Rom. 2:4). As to the latter, it is significant that the book of Romans, recognized as a definitive theological treatise on the gospel, mentions repentance but once in relation to eternal salvation. 124   In Rom. 2:4 Paul addresses the moralist who, in his self-righteousness, rejects the need of God’s righteousness and thus God’s attempts to lead him to repentance, “not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Repentance here cannot refer to turning from sins because Paul’s whole argument is that righteousness comes through faith in Christ, not the works of the law (3:21–5:21). No one can keep the law perfectly (2:13; 3:20). The meaning most consistent with the immediate and larger contexts is that Paul speaks of repentance to the moralist as a change of mind about his self-righteous attitude that keeps him from accepting Christ’s righteousness through faith.It is obvious that in Paul’s argument for the gospel in Romans, the condition emphasized is faith, mentioned over fifty times in reference to salvation.

In his other Epistles, Paul refers to repentance in relation to salvation only once (2 Cor. 7:10). 125   As discussed, 2 Cor. 12:21 and 2 Tim. 2:25 should not be taken as soteriological uses (See pp. 76, 80-81).The scarcity of the mention of repentance in Paul’s epistles is noticed by Bultmann who comments, “in Paul’s own writing the idea of ‘repentance’ plays only a negligible role.” 126   Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., transl. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951 and 1955), 1:73. See Wilkin’s discussion and citation of others who make the same observation (“Repentance as a Condition,” 118-19).Schnackenburg reasons that Paul, like John, merges repentance with faith. 127   Schnackenburg, John, 1:559.The reason is that Paul emphasized faith as the way of obtaining God’s grace.

The greater emphasis of faith in apostolic preaching is no doubt due in some degree to the unique significance of repentance for the Jew. Dunn also comments on Paul’s sparse mention of repentance in relation to salvation:

Repentance held a very important place within Jewish teaching on salvation.It was a fundamental tenet for the pious Jew of Paul’s time that God had provided a way of dealing with sin for his covenant people through repentance and atonement… “repentance” as a concept was too much bound up with the accepted understanding of God’s covenant goodness, so that Paul prefers the more widely embracing concept of “faith”… 128   Dunn, Romans 1-8, 82. Others have recognized the distinction between the concept of repentance in general and repentance in relation to the Jew (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Salvation [Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1917, 49, and Theology, 3:375-76; Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68).

For the Gentile, faith more clearly signifies the change of mind that trusts in self-righteousness to that which trusts in Christ-righteousness. For the Gentile, there are no covenantal conditions of the Mosaic law (cf. Deut. 28-30) which must be mended by repentance. Thus as the apostolic gospel is spread in Acts and is articulated in the Epistles, the mention of repentance subsides as faith predominates.

From a theological perspective, the emphasis of the gospel is that Jesus Christ has reconciled the world (2 Cor. 5:19) and done away with sin’s penalty (Col. 2:13-14).The issue in salvation is not what man must do about his sin, but what Christ has already done about man’s sin. The sin that eternally condemns is refusal to believe in God’s provision for sin’s penalty, which is Christ (John 3:18). Therefore, the emphasis of the gospel is on Christ, as the One who paid for sin, and faith in Him, not repentance from sins.

Repentance in Relation to Faith

Even when repentance alone is mentioned as the condition of salvation, this does not exclude faith.In a number of passages, repentance is obviously used as a synonym for faith or salvation through faith.

For example, repentance is evidently a synonym for faith (or salvation through faith) in Luke 5:32 where Jesus declares, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”The whole tenor of Jesus’ ministry was to call men to faith in the gospel, thus He says, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Likewise, when the apostles declare in Acts 11:18 that “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life,” it is clear from the context that they refer to the Gentiles’ faith in Christ (10:43; 11:17). Also, when Paul called all men to “repent” in his sermon in the Areopagus (Acts 17:30), the summary comment is, “some men…believed” (17:34). The idea of repentance is thus included in faith. Hebrew 6:6 represents salvation through faith as well. 129   F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), 124; Simon J. Kistemaker, Hebrews, NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 161; Kent, Hebrews, 110-11.The convergence of repentance and faith is clearly seen in Peter’s declaration in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord…is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Men will perish unless they come to faith in Christ, so this must be included in Peter’s use of repentance.But men will not come to faith in Christ unless there is a change of attitude about Him and His promises. 130   See Chafer, Theology, 3:377; Wilkin, “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:18; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), 346.

In relation to faith, repentance appears to be the more general idea of changing the mind.When the focus of repentance is specifically one’s unrighteousness before God, the need of salvation, and the sufficiency of Christ to accomplish this salvation, then repentance is more appropriately expressed by the term faith.Acts 20:21 is an example of the general term giving way to the more specific: “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”Repentance is the larger sphere of a right relation to God.Faith comes within this sphere as that which specifically secures eternal life through Christ. Chafer comments,

It is quite possible to recognize God’s purpose, as many do, and not receive Christ as Savior.In other words, repentance toward God could not itself constitute, in this case, the equivalent of “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” though it may prepare for that faith.” 131   Chafer, Theology, 3:377-78.

Chafer’s understanding seems validated by Paul’s phrase “repentance to salvation” (2 Cor 7:10), salvation being that which comes only through faith and yet is also a result of repentance. Faith can thus be seen as a specific kind of repentance in that it is a change of mind and heart which accepts and trusts in God’s provision of salvation. Constable writes,

Whenever a person believes in Christ he repents, that is, he changes his mind about who Christ is and what He did… Saving faith involves repentance, but repentance does not necessarily involve saving faith. 132   Thomas Constable, “The Gospel Message,” in Walvoord: A Tribute, ed. Donald K. Campbell, 201-17 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), 208.

Thus, in overlapping the meaning of repentance, faith is synonymous with repentance to a certain extent, though when faith is preached, the more general requirement of repentance need not be emphasized.

Conclusion

The Free Grace position holds that repentance is necessary for salvation. 133   The exception is Hodges as noted on p. 60. Again, see Hodges, Free!, 143-63 for his view. In light of the previous study, this writer disagrees with Hodges. While it is true that repentance is a broader call than faith in Christ, this should not exclude faith as a form of repentance. After all, faith in Christ is the most essential condition of a harmonious relationship with God.In this there is agreement with the Lordship Salvation position.However, the understanding of what repentance means differs significantly. The basic Lordship tenet that repentance always involves sin and that repentance is turning from sins or the resolve to turn from sins is not supported from the lexical and biblical evidence.

The study has concluded that the lexical arguments of the Lordship position failed to show that metanoia encompassed the meanings of metamelomai and epistrefw . In fact, distinct meanings and usages were observed.Neither was it found that metanoew/metanoia has an essential meaning of turning from sins.The unfortunate English translation hardly reflects the basic sense “to change the mind, attitude, disposition.”

The passages studied support this definition of repentance. In the offer of salvation by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles, repentance can be distinguished from its resulting change of conduct.When specific acts of sins are in view, the command to repent almost always pertains to Christians (with the exception of Revelation 9:20-21 and 16:9, 11) and indicates a change of mind that leads to a change in conduct.The fruits of repentance can and must be distinguished from repentance as an inward attitude. The connection of the inner attitude and outer works can not be supported by the idea that repentance is a divine power given by God. Finally, it was shown why repentance does not deserve the emphasis demanded by Lordship advocates.

The Free Grace view holds that repentance is a change of mind, attitude, and disposition which implies and normally leads to an outward change in life and conduct, though the latter is not essential to the term itself. The focus of repentance must be determined by the context.In regards to salvation, repentance is implied in the call to believe in Christ.Thus it does not find the same emphasis as faith in gospel preaching.

On a final note, the Lordship view of repentance can not offer an absolute assurance of salvation (as with their view of faith) for one can never be absolutely sure all sins have been forsaken.If it is asserted that repentance means resolving to forsake all known sin, then the absurd scenario emerges in which it would be best to keep people ignorant of their sins when preaching the gospel.On the contrary, the Free Grace position believes sinners must be told of their precarious predicament and urged to change their minds in regards to their ability to save themselves, and to believe in the One who can save them, the Lord Jesus Christ.


 References:

1  A notable exception is Zane C. Hodges of the Free Grace position who believes repentance is not a condition of salvation, but a condition of a harmonious relationship with God. His view is explained in Absolutely Free!, 143-63. Both Belcher and Erickson characterize the entire Free Grace position by Hodges’s view. See Belcher, A Layman’s Guide, 18, 53-55; Millard J. Erickson, “Lordship Theology: The Current Controversy,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 33 (Spring 1991): 6-7. However, most in the Free Grace position hold that repentance is involved in salvation. See Charles C. Ryrie, Salvation, 91-100; Michael G. Cocoris, Lordship Salvation: Is It Biblical? (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1983), 11-12; Robert N. Wilkin, “Repentance and Salvation–Part 4: New Testament Repentance: Repentance in the Gospels and Acts,” JOTGES 3 (Spring 1990): 11-25; “Part 5: New Testament Repentance: Repentance in the Epistles and Revelation,” 3 (Autumn 1990): 19-32; Livingston Blauveldt, Jr,”Does the Bible Teach Lordship Salvation?” BSac 143 (January-March 1986): 42.

2  See the Free grace sources listed in the previous note with the exception of Hodges.

3  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:60. While some Lordship proponents include sorrow as a necessary element of repentance (see below), Gentry does not.

4  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 21.

5  MacArthur, The Gospel, 162.

6  A. W. Pink, The Doctrine of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), 58. See also Boice, Discipleship, 107-8.

7  Some Lordship people, like Gentry and Pink, seem reluctant to call repentance the actual forsaking of sins. They prefer to speak of the “determination or resolve” to forsake sin. But as will be seen, most hold that a change of conduct is a necessary ingredient of repentance. For example, Pink also argues there are three “phases of repentance”: a change of mind, heart, and life, and that “The three must go together for a genuine repentance” (Pink, Salvation, 72). Many adhere to The Westminster Confession of Faith which says of repentance, “By it a sinner…so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments” (17:2). See also, Stott, Basic Christianity, 112-13; Bruce Jones, “Real Repentance,” Moody Monthly (MM) (October 1987): 23.

8  MacArthur, The Gospel, 161.

9  Ibid., 164. MacArthur has stated both that “repentance always involves an element of remorse” (emphasis added, p. 163) and that it “often accompanies an overwhelming sense of sorrow” (emphasis added, p. 164). He also clarifies that behavioral change is not repentance, but the necessary fruit of repentance (p. 164).

10  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 20; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61; MacArthur says, “repentance is at the core of saving faith” (The Gospel, 32).

11  For example, Chafer, Theology, 3:373-76; Ryrie, Salvation, 99; Wilkin, “Repentance and Salvation, Part 3: New Testament Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2 (Autumn 1989): 18-19.

12  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:15; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:62. Gentry speaks of a “repentant faith” required for salvation.

13  Pink, Salvation, 73. Also, MacArthur, The Gospel, 22.

14  MacArthur, The Gospel, 163-64.

15  Fritz Laubach, “metamelomai,” in NIDNTT, 1 (1975): 356.

16  So the NKJV, NASB, and NIV (except in Matt. 21:32) have chosen to reflect this meaning of regret as opposed to the old KJV use of “repent.”

17  Matt. 21:29, 32; 27:3; 2 Cor. 7:8 (twice); Heb. 7:21. While the parable of Matthew 21:28-32 has salvation in view, the use of metamelomai in verse 32 speaks of regret over the mistake of not earlier believing John the Baptist, not a regret for sins that secures salvation (Laubach, “metamelomai,” NIDNTT, 1:356; O. Michel, “metamelomai,” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 628-29).

18  Laubach, “metamelomai,” NIDNTT, 1:354.

19  Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 1:116.

20  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:59. For other discussions that support this conclusion, see Robert Nicholas Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition for Salvation in the New Testament” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1985), 232-235, and “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:19; Stephen Mitchell Elkins, “Current Issues Concerning Lordship Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984): 71-74.

21  On this Laubach notes, “The example of Judas makes it clear that metamelomai and metanoew do not have identical meanings in the NT” (s.v. “metamelomai,” NIDNTT, 1:356).

22  BAGD, s.v. “epistrefw,” 301.

23  Matt. 13:15; Mark 4:12; Luke 1:16; Acts 3:19; 9:35; 11:21; 14:15; 15:19; 26:18, 20; 28:27; 2 Cor. 3:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:25.

24  For example, on 1 Thess. 1:9 and the phrase “you turned to God from idols, Frame says, “In keeping with v. 8, faith in God is singled out as the primary characteristic of the readers, but the idea is expressed… with a phrase perhaps suggested by the contrast with the idols” (James Everett Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, ICC [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912, 87). Similarly, Best comments that epistrefw in 1 Thess. 1:9 “is a suitable word to express the change from one faith to another” (Ernest Best, A Commentary on the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians [New York: Harper & Row, 1972, 82). For other discussions that support this conclusion, see Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 215-31; “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:20; Elkins, “Current Issues,” 67-70.

25  In spite of this fact, Mueller, remarking on epistrefw, asserts that “Repentance has not taken place where there is no ‘turning from,'” (Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 21-22).

26  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:59.

27  MacArthur, The Gospel, 162.

28  BAGD, s.v. “metanoew,” 513.

29  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:59.

30  Johannes Behm and E. Würthwein, “metanoew, metanoia” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 979. It is remarkable that Behm follows this analysis with the statement, “One searches the Greek world in vain for the origin of the New Testament understanding of metanoew and metanoia” (4:980). As if the New Testament writers were from another world!

31  Not surprising is the admission by Miller that “The Greek metanoia and the Hebrew shWb are both filled with theological import beyond a change of mind” (Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” p. 49). The reader should see again the remarks by Barr, Brown, and Silva on linguistic fallacies which import to words new meaning not justified by context and usage (pp. 16-17).

32  MacArthur, The Gospel, 162. It is interesting how often Lordship teachers agree with the meaning “change of mind,” then invest the term with theology that demands much more. For other examples, see Boice, Discipleship, 108; Pink, Salvation, 55. Trench’s comment is revealing: “It is only after metanoia has been taken up into the uses of Scripture…that it comes predominantly to mean a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past, …a regret for the ill done in the past, and out of all this a change of life for the better; …This is all imported into, does not etymologically nor yet by primary usage lie in, the word” (Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 242).

33  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 21.

34  Behm and Würthwein, s.v. “metanoew, metanoia,” TDNT, 4:989-90. In agreement are Ladd, Theology, 38; Geldenhuys, Luke, 143.

35  Wilkin, “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:16.

36  Jürgen Goetzmann, s.v. “metanoia,” in NIDNTT, 1 (1975): 357.

37  Johannes Behm, “noew,” in TDNT, 4 (1967): 958.

38  Günther Harder, “nous,” in NIDNTT, 3 (1981): 127.

39  BAGD, s.v. “nous,” 544. Cf. Rom. 7:23, 25; Eph. 4:23; Col. 2:18. Thus Moulton and Milligan translate metanoew as “a complete change of attitude, spiritual, and moral, towards God” (The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, by James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, 1930, s.v. “metanoew,” 404).

40  In the LXX the verb often translates the Hebrew n`h~m, “to be sorry, to comfort oneself” (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament [BDB, by Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, 1980, s.v. ” n`h~m,” pp. 636-37) which shows an emotional element. It is significant, however, that n`h~m occurs 108 times in the Old Testament, but is used only three times of the repentance of men (Job 42:6; Jer. 8:6; 31:19); and none of these refer to salvation from eternal judgment. For further discussion, see Robert N. Wilkin, “Repentance and Salvation, Part 2: The Doctrine of Repentance in the Old Testament,” JOTGES 2 (Spring 1989): 26.

41  A. T. Robertson remarked, “It is a linguistic and theological tragedy that we have to go on using ‘repentance’ for metanoia.” (WPNT, 6:241; also see 1:24). For a complete discussion on the inadequacy of the translation “repentance,” see Treadwell Walden, The Great Meaning of METANOIA (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1896), and William Douglas Chamberlain, The Meaning of Repentance (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954). Chamberlain shows how metanoew has been misunderstood or mistranslated since Tertullian’s day (late second century) up to the present time. He shows how Tertullian et al have argued for the meaning “change of mind.” See supporting comments by Berkhof, Theology, 480-81; Wilkin, “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:16-17; Harry A. Ironside, Except Ye Repent (New York: American Tract Society, 1937), 12-13; William Walden Howard, “Is Faith Enough to Save?–Conclusion,” BSac 99 (January-March 1942): 95-96.

42  Most, if not all, connect John’s preaching of repentance with the Old Testament preaching of shWb, resulting in the force of “turn away from sin.” See J. W. Heikkinen, “Notes on ‘Epistrepho’ and ‘Metanoeo’,” Ecumenical Review (ER) 19 (1967): 314; Ladd, Theology, 38-40; and Rudolf Schnackenburg, “Typen der Metanoia-Predigt im Neuen Testament,” Munchener theologishe Zeitschrift (MTZ) 1 (1950): 1-2. The two ideas are not exactly equal, as argued above (pp. 65-66). However, shWb may be seen as the outer manifestation or result of inner repentance. It should also be noted that the theological uses of shWb in the Old Testament were expressed in the context of the covenant community and their return to God and were thus non-soteriological. See Victor P. Hamilton, s.v. “shWb,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols., eds. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 2:909-10.

43  See Charles L’Eplattenier, Lecture de L’Evangile de Luc (Paris: Desclée, 1982), 48 on Luke 3:3 and the use of metanoew in Luke.

44  It should be noted that each of these Old Testament verses contains the idea of repentance as an inner attitude (“heart and soul,” “humble themselves”) which leads to the normally expected overt obedience.

45  A discussion on the proper emphasis of repentance in the offer of the gospel appears later in this chapter. John’s use of repentance in Matt. 3:8/Luke 3:8 is also discussed later in the chapter.

46  So Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1980), 157; A. C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols., (New York: Publication Office, Our Hope, 1910), 1: 232; Alfred Plummer, An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew (London: Robert Scott, Paternoster Row, 1909), 165.

47  MacArthur, The Gospel, 62. Though Kent agrees with MacArthur’s point about repentance in the passage, he states, “MacArthur indulges in a bit of extravagant language to paint his word picture of the event, perhaps revealing his rhetorical skills more than dependance on the text. . .[This reviewer considers those descriptions somewhat stronger than the Biblical [sic passage itself requires. This writer certainly agrees with Kent’s criticism, but believes he is too accommodating especially when his next sentence reads, “Of course, this has no real bearing on the issue being discussed.” It has every bearing on the issue, because the issue is whether repentance as a turning from sins is being unduly emphasized in the text. See Homer A. Kent, “Review Article: The Gospel According to Jesus,” Grace Theological Journal (GTJ) 10 (1989): 70-71.

48  Such is the emphasis addressed by Lenski, Interpretation of Matthew’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964), 365-67, and Willoughby C. Allen, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965), 90.

49  It seems arbitrary that MacArthur would call this statement “a full perspective on Jesus’ ministry, a summary of the message of Christianity, a close-up of the nucleus of the gospel” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 60-61) when he earlier warned against such a dogmatic conclusion from the gospel presentation in John 4 (ibid., 49-50).

50  Contra Gentry (Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61).

51  So Geldenhuys, Luke, 335; Caird, The Gospel of St. Luke (New York: The Seabury Press, 1963), 156. Also, the parallelism of metanoew (v. 41) with akouw (v. 42) shows that “As the city of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching, so the Queen of the South listened to Solomon’s wisdom. Repentance is thus likened to listening to and accepting a message from God’s spokesman” (Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 110).

52  It does not change the meaning of “repent” if “perish” in verses 3 and 5 refers to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (as Frederic Louis Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, 2 vols. [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1952, 2:117-18), or to eternal damnation (as Geldenhuys, Luke, 370-71). Jesus’ other uses of repent and repentance (with the exception of Luke 17:3-4) support the latter interpretation.

53  So Liefeld, “Luke,” EBC, 8:970; Geldenhuys, Luke, 372; David L. Tiede, Luke, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament (ACNT) (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), 248; Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), 149.

54  So Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4.

55  So Geldenhuys, Luke, 407-08; Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896), 371, 375. Jeremias comments on the parable, “Repentance means… putting one’s whole trust in the heavenly Father…Repentance is simply trusting the grace of God” (Jeremias, New Testament Theology: The Proclamation of Jesus, transl. John Bowden [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, 156). Jones gets the order wrong when he says, “the son eventually came to his senses, went back to his father, and repented” (Jones, “Real Repentance,” MM, 23).

56  Contra Stott and Pink who makes the son’s return a necessary part of his repentance (Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17; Pink, Salvation, 51). See also Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 61.

57  Chafer, for example, believes these parables refer to the restoration of repentant believers (Theology, 6:244-50). Though argued convincingly, it does not seem the Lord’s teaching can be made so exclusive one way or the other.

58  In agreement are Geldenhuys, Luke, 641; Lenski, Luke, 1206; and Talbert, Reading Luke: A literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1982), 231.

59  BAGD, s.v. “katann?ssomai,” 416.

60  Gentry claims the Jews had already changed their minds about Christ (v. 37), and now must “determine to forsake their sin and flee to Christ” (Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:60). But it was obviously their sin that struck them with grief in verse 37. All that was left to them was the way to find forgiveness in a different attitude toward Christ.

61  Talbert, Reading Luke, 231. Likewise, Ironside says, “The call to repentance was as though he had said, `Change your attitude!’ The nation has rejected Jesus. You must receive Him'” (Repent, 48). In agreement are F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954), 90; Schnackenburg, “Typen der Metanoia-Predigt,” MTZ 1:6; R. Michiels, “La Conception Lucanienne de la Conversion,” Ephremerides theologicae lovanienses (ETL) 41 (1965): 44-46; Jacques Dupont, “Repentir et Conversion d’aprPs les Actes des Ap^tres,” Sciences EcclJsiastiques (ScEccl) 12 (1960): 166; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965), 67-68; Ryrie, Salvation, 96; Wendall Johnston, “The Soteriology of the Book of Acts” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1961), 24, 124.

62  Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68. Baptism itself is not a condition for the remission of sins. Metanohsate and lhyesqe are plural while baptisqhtw is set off from the rest of the sentence as a singular. A comparison to 10:43 shows that baptism is not necessary for the remission of sins. There is perhaps an emphasis on individual responsibility (cf. @ekastos) while the nation is being called to repentance. See Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” in EBC (9:205-573), 283. Also, Stanley Toussaint, “Acts,” in BKC (349-432), 359; Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 71-73.

63  Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68.

64  Bruce, Acts, NICNT, 90.

65  Thomas Walker, The Acts of the Apostles (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 76.

66  The word “perish” (v. 20, apwleia) can refer to a temporal destruction, ruin, or loss. For other such uses, see Matt. 26:8/Mark 14:4; Acts 25:16 (MT); 1 Tim. 6:9.

67  See chapter two’s argument that biblical faith anticipates real faith. In fact, the text emphasizes Simon’s faith by singling him out of the group of Samaritans as one who had believed. Also, the sin to be repented of involves the “thought” of his “heart” and “bitterness,” not unbelief in Christ. Even Simon’s response in verse 24 befits a saved man better than an unbeliever. For a discussion of Simon’s salvation see James Inglis, “Simon Magus,” Waymarks in the Wilderness 5 (1897):35-50 reprinted in JOTGES2 (Spring 1989):45-54; Wilkin, “Repentance in the Gospels and Acts,” JOTGES 3:19; “Repentance as a Condition,” 76-77; Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary, transl. B. Noble and G. Shinn (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), 303; I. Howard Marshall, Kept by the Power of God: A Study of Perseverance and Falling Away (London: Epworth Press, 1969), 87-88.

68  So Pink, Salvation, 60.

69  Cf. Acts 17:4 where epeisqhsan (“persuaded”) indicates the faith of the Thessalonians.

70  For example, he begins with a basic knowledge of the Creator (v. 24), and the unity of the human race as His “offspring” (vv. 25-29). Clearly, no background of Jewish theology is assumed.

71  Ironside, Repent, 60.

72  This understanding of metanoew is suggested by Jacques Dupont, “Le Discours a l’Areopagé (Acts 17, 22-31) lieu de recontre entre christianisme et hellenism,” Biblica (Bib) 60 (1979): 542; Michiels, “La Conception Lucanienne,” ETL 41:49; Bruce, Acts, NICNT, 361; Haenchen, Acts, 525-26.

73  The relationship of repentance to faith will be discussed later in this chapter.

74  In the context, Paul refers to them as “children” (12:14), speaks of Titus’ companion as “our brother” (12:18), and calls them “beloved” (12:19).

75  The evidence that the readers were Christians is overwhelming, and indeed seems to be the author’s whole point in verses 4 and 5. Marshall calls this conclusion from verses 4 and 5 “irresistible” (Marshall, Kept by the Power, 138). See the earlier argument on page 28, n. 71.

76  So Donald Guthrie, Hebrews, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983), 138; Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 197-98; Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 144; Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), 106; Ironside, Repent, 83.

77  Others with this view include John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), 57; Merrill C. Tenney, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963), 13; Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 41-42; Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 162-69.

78  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17. Also, Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 22.

79  Lenski, Luke, 188.

80  So Nolland, Luke 1-9:20, 149; John A. Martin, “Luke,” in BKC (199-265), 211; Alexander Balmain Bruce, “The Synoptic Gospels,” in EGT (1:3-651), 482.

81  So Geldenhuys, Luke, 138-39.

82  Robertson, WPNT 3:450

83  So Bruce, Acts, 493; Gerhard A. Krodel, Acts, ACNT (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986), 465; John Calvin, Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles, 2 vols., trans. Christopher Fetherstone, ed. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), 2:383.

84  Berkhof, Theology, 487. Also, see Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology: Systematic and Biblical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 231.

85  Theodore Mueller, “Repentance and Faith: Who Does the Turning?” Concordia Theological Quarterly (CTQ) 45 (1981): 31.

86  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:62.

87  MacArthur, The Gospel, 163.

88  Ibid., 33. Sharing this view are Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17; ten Pas, Lordship, 12; Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 129.

89  So Haenchen, Acts, 251; Marshall, Acts, 120; Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke, transl. G. Buzwell (London: Faber & Faber, 1960), 101; Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 75.

90  It is important to note that Cornelius was called “a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews” (10:22). He had nothing to change except his thinking about Christ (See J. Edwin Orr, “Playing the Good News Melody Off-Key,” CT 10 [January 1, 1982, 25). Thus the issue is not turning from sin but faith in Christ (10:43), which comprised a change of mind about Him, or repentance.

91  See George Billingslea, “The Identity of Timothy’s Opposition in 2 Timothy 2:25-26” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1983), 32-72 for an in-depth discussion. Wilkin summarizes Billingslea’s arguments in “Repentance as a Condition,” 135-36.

92  Guthrie’s comment on this verse supports this writer’s understanding of the meaning of met_noia: “It requires a change of mind (metanoia) to come to a recognition of truth when the mind is already ensnared. The same expression for recognition of truth is found in I Tim. ii. 4 denoting the divine desire for all men.” Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1957), 154.

93  Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 63.

94  The author recognizes the antinomy that accompanies the convergence of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and does not deny either (cf. Packer, Evangelism, 18-36). However, this does not seem to be the issue here. Rather, it is how the gift of repentance is understood–as a divine power to effect change, or something else.

95  Repentance is the inwrought work of the Holy Spirit effected by faithful preaching of the Word (Ironside, Repent, 39).

96  MacArthur, The Gospel, 40.

97  Ibid., 46. Kent supports MacArthur, but misses his point when he says, “It is difficult to see how a changed attitude toward sin (i.e., repentance) can be excluded from this saving look…” (Kent, “Review Article, GTJ 10:70). A “changed attitude” is much less than MacArthur is claiming.

98  See the discussion of Numbers 21 on p. 55.

99  MacArthur, The Gospel, 49-50. MacArthur bases his conclusion on what is not supplied in the passage, which is not prudent. The “barest essentials” which are present are still carefully selected by both the divine author and the human author to describe the woman’s salvation.

100  Ibid., 49.

101  Ibid., 54.

102  Ibid., 58. This statement appears contradictory in that he says one must forsake sin in order to be saved, yet only on this basis will Jesus liberate from sin. It is difficult to reconcile the first half of his statement with a later statement that “repentance is not a pre-salvation attempt to set one’s life in order…to make sin right before turning to Christ in faith” (emphasis his; ibid., 163).

103  Chantry, Gospel, 48-49.

104  Bultmann, John, 187-88; Tenney, John, 94-95; Hendriksen, John, 165.

105  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61.

106  MacArthur, The Gospel, 90-91; Pink, Salvation, 59.

107  Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Moral Teaching of the New Testament, transl. J. Holland-Smith and W. J. O’Hara (Freiburg: Herder and Herder, 1965), 29.

108  This is understood in the sense of Pauline justification. See Geldenhuys, Luke, 451; Caird, Luke, 203.

109  Wilkin, “Repentance as a Condition,” 62.

110  Stott, Basic Christianity, 112; Jones, “Real Repentance,” MM, 23.

111  So Marshall, Luke, 697; Talbert, Reading Luke, 177; Geldenhuys, Luke, 471.

112  The fruit John admonished of tax-collectors was “Collect no more than what is appointed for you” (Luke 3:13).

113  This interpretation is taken by Lenski, Luke, 943; Marshall, Luke, 697; A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1912), 834-35.

114  Cocoris, Evangelism: A Biblical Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 68-69.

115  Chamberlain, Repentance, 41.

116  See again, MacArthur, The Gospel, 33. He claims repentance is not “merely a human work” (emphasis added), but a gift of God. He also denies it is a “pre-salvation attempt to set one’s life in order,” though he clearly makes turning from sin concurrent with faith in Christ (p. 163).

117  Moreover, “seven” denotes an unlimited number of times. So Paul-Gerhard Mhller, Lukas-Evangelium (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholishes Bibelwerk GmbH, 1986), 140; Marshall, Luke, 643; Hendriksen, Luke, 795.

118  Ironside, Repent, 54.

119  As MacArthur, The Gospel, 162.

120  Ibid., 66, also, 167.

121  If ever there was an opportunity to preach repentance to one in sin, the incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4 was it. But Jesus only speaks of asking and believing. Indeed, Hodges’s assertion that John avoids the doctrine of repentance seems well supported by his observation that John the Baptist, when asked why he baptizes, answers not a word about a “baptism of repentance” as Matthew, Mark, and Luke have him answering (Hodges, Free!, 147). For John, the concept of “believe,” must adequately convey the concept of repentance. See the later discussion of repentance in relation to faith.

122  Pink answers this argument by declaring that John’s Gospel was written to believers to strengthen their faith. He bases this on 20:31 (Pink, Salvation, 52). While agreeing that this was one purpose, and that this can possibly be supported from 20:31, it is nevertheless insisted that 20:31 speaks of initial faith first as the purpose of the book (“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ”). It is hardly necessary to cite commentators who agree with this primary purpose for John.

123  E.g. Rom. 3:21–5:1; 9:30-33; 10:4-14; 13:11; 1 Cor. 1:21-24; 15:1-11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 2:16; 3:5-14, 24; Eph. 1:13; 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 3:9; 1 Tim. 1:16; 4:10; 2 Tim. 1:12.

124  In Rom. 2:4 Paul addresses the moralist who, in his self-righteousness, rejects the need of God’s righteousness and thus God’s attempts to lead him to repentance, “not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Repentance here cannot refer to turning from sins because Paul’s whole argument is that righteousness comes through faith in Christ, not the works of the law (3:21–5:21). No one can keep the law perfectly (2:13; 3:20). The meaning most consistent with the immediate and larger contexts is that Paul speaks of repentance to the moralist as a change of mind about his self-righteous attitude that keeps him from accepting Christ’s righteousness through faith.

125  As discussed, 2 Cor. 12:21 and 2 Tim. 2:25 should not be taken as soteriological uses (See pp. 76, 80-81).

126  Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., transl. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951 and 1955), 1:73. See Wilkin’s discussion and citation of others who make the same observation (“Repentance as a Condition,” 118-19).

127  Schnackenburg, John, 1:559.

128  Dunn, Romans 1-8, 82. Others have recognized the distinction between the concept of repentance in general and repentance in relation to the Jew (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Salvation [Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1917, 49, and Theology, 3:375-76; Pentecost, Sound Doctrine, 67-68).

129  F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964), 124; Simon J. Kistemaker, Hebrews, NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), 161; Kent, Hebrews, 110-11.

130  See Chafer, Theology, 3:377; Wilkin, “Repentance: Lexical Considerations,” JOTGES 2:18; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), 346.

131  Chafer, Theology, 3:377-78.

132  Thomas Constable, “The Gospel Message,” in Walvoord: A Tribute, ed. Donald K. Campbell, 201-17 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1982), 208.

133  The exception is Hodges as noted on p. 60. Again, see Hodges, Free!, 143-63 for his view. In light of the previous study, this writer disagrees with Hodges. While it is true that repentance is a broader call than faith in Christ, this should not exclude faith as a form of repentance. After all, faith in Christ is the most essential condition of a harmonious relationship with God.

Christ’s Lordship and Salvation – Chapter 4 


Both sides of the Lordship debate believe Jesus is the Lord God of all.The conflict of opinion comes in how this applies to salvation, or more specifically, what must be the response of an unsaved person to the fact that Jesus is Lord.

After clarifying the issue surrounding Christ’s lordship, this chapter will consider the Lordship Salvation position first lexically, then biblically. A response will be offered that evaluates the biblical evidence.

The Issue

The issue at the core of this controversy is not the deity of Christ, but the implications of His divine sovereignty in the application of salvation. Does the title and position of Jesus as Lord carry with it the demand for the unsaved person to submit his or her life to that authority in order to obtain salvation?The Lordship position argues that it does.

There are many examples of explicit Lordship statements to this effect.For example:

The Lord will not save those whom He cannot command. He will not divide His offices. You cannot believe on a half-Christ. We take Him for what He is…the anointed Saviour and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of lords! 1   Tozer, Heresy!, 18-19.

He is Lord, and those who refuse Him as Lord cannot use Him as Savior.Everyone who receives Him must surrender to His authority, for to say we receive Christ when in fact we reject His right to reign over us is utter absurdity. 2   MacArthur, The Gospel, 210

But we must also insist that any attempt to divorce Christ as Savior from Christ as Lord also perverts the gospel, for anyone who believes in a Savior who is not the Lord is not believing in the true Christ and is not regenerate. 3   James Montgomery Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10 (October 1980): 9.

The astonishing idea is current in some circles today that we can enjoy the benefits of Christ’s salvation without accepting the challenge of His sovereign lordship.Such an unbalanced notion is not to be found in the New Testament. 4   Stott, Basic Christianity, 114.

Support for these assertions typically begins with a lexical study on the term “Lord.”It is argued that this title implies not only deity, but also authority and rulership. The biblical arguments used by Lordship also attempt to show that the offices of Lord and Savior are so connected that the unsaved person must acknowledge both in a submissive faith.In this way the issue of Christ’s Lordship is related to the Lordship Salvation understanding of faith and repentance. 5   MacArthur, The Gospel, 28; Chantry, Gospel, 60; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:54; ten Pas structures his entire Lordship Salvation argument around the issue of Christ’s Lordship (ten Pas, Lordship, 3-18).Furthermore, it is argued that the proclamation of the gospel demands surrender to Christ as Ruler of one’s life and outward confession of Christ as Master.These arguments will now be presented and evaluated.

An Evaluation of the Lexical Arguments

There is one major thrust to the lexical argument of the Lordship position. It is argued that the term for Lord, “kurios,” denotes “ruler.” From this Lordship adherents argue that submission to Christ as Ruler is essential to the gospel.

The argument begins with the recognition that Jesus Christ is called kurios 747 times in the New Testament (KJV), thus “there must be some special significance behind the employment of this particular term.” 6   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:63.Lordship advocates believe this does not simply refer to Christ’s deity, but to His sovereign authority and rulership. 6   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:63.They support this conclusion with a study of the term kurios in pre-New Testament usage and New Testament usage.

Pre-New Testament Usage

The LXX translates Yahweh (YHWH) with kurios 6156 times, 8   Gottried Quell, s.v. “kurios,” in TDNT 3 (1965): 1058. which is about 90% of the time.Miller asserts, “The special significance of the name YHWH that is crucial for Lordship supporters is the authority bound up in that name.” 9   Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 59.He relies on Bietenhard’s understanding of kurios as a translation of Yahweh which emphasizes creatorship, lordship, covenant relation to Israel, and legal authority to control the world. 10   Ibid., 59-60. See Hans Bietenhard, “kurios,” in NIDNTT 2 (1976): 512.Likewise, the LXX translates AAD{n, which became the title substituted for the sacred name Yahweh, with kurios exclusively. The idea of rulership and control is argued from this translation as well. 11   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:64.Some rare occurrences of kurios in Classical Greek are also claimed to denote ownership, thus authority. 12   Ibid.

Lawrence, however, argues that Yahweh denotes not God’s rulership so much as His redemptive faithfulness.He writes,

God made a special revelation of His name at the time of the exodus which showed Him to be the Eternal Creator acting in a redemptive manner to deliver Israel from Egypt.This act became basic to God’s revelation of Himself and of His name, Yahweh, with the result that whenever the name was seen or heard, it reminded Israel of God’s redemptive deliverance. 13   William D. Lawrence, “The New Testament Doctrine of the Lordship of Christ” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), 43.

Lawrence agrees that the idea of rulership is also present, but in this way:

On the basis of His redemptive grace, God made certain sovereign demands (Exodus 20) and this is typical of the way God has chosen to act. First, He exercises His grace toward undeserving man, and then, on the basis of this blessing, He requires submission in order that this grace may be fully enjoyed.The New Testament follows this pattern. 14   Ibid., 43.

It seems restrictive to say that kurios before the New Testament was used exclusively to mean rulership. Its association with Yahweh involved the idea of deity and much of what was implied with that, i.e., creatorship, redemption, ownership, and rulership.

New Testament Usage

In the New Testament, it is agreed by Lordship supporters that kurios was used in a number of ways that denoted less than deity or sovereign rulership. 15   For example, Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 60; Maurice Irvin, “His Name: Lord,” AW 112 (September 7, 1977): 3-4. Interestingly, Carson comments, “In Jesus’ day it is doubtful whether ‘Lord’ when used to address him meant more than ‘teacher’ or ‘sir.’ But in the postresurrection period, it becomes an appellation of worship and a confession of Jesus’ deity” (D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in EBC (8:1-599): 192).It was used to designate “owner” (Matt 12:9; 15:27; Luke 19:33; Acts 16:16, 19) and “master” as owner of slaves (Col 3:22).Jesus was called kurios 747 times, sometimes merely as a polite title of respect (John 4:11ff.; 5:7; 6:4; 9:36; 16   In John 9:36 the healed blind man obviously uses “Lord” as a title of respect because He did not yet realize that Jesus was the Son of God. When Jesus discloses that He is the Son of God, the man then says, “Lord, I believe!” and worships Him (v. 38). Contra MacArthur, the man’s exclamation proves no necessary element of personal submission. He worships Christ because he now sees Him as God the Son (vv. 35-37). The issue is clearly his belief (“Do you believe?” [v. 35] ), not submission. See MacArthur, The Gospel, 75-76. 13:6), but also as a reference to His deity and rulership (John 20:28). Certainly, the context must determine the meaning of the term. 17   So Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 55.However, the conclusion of some Lordship proponents is that the overwhelming meaning of kurios is rulership:

The ascription of kurios as a divine appellation is properly understood only on the basis of this supreme rulership. Therefore, when either God the Father or God the Son is called kurios, it must be in recognition of the fact of sovereign rulership. 18   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66.

The meaning of kurios in the New Testament cannot be dissociated from the influence of the LXX and its signification of Yahweh, the divine name.Turner’s conclusion that “In Biblical Greek, . . . kurios is a divine title, the LXX rendering of JHWH (God’s holy Name) and of adonai, (my Lord)” 19   Nigel Turner, Christian Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981), 257-58. is reinforced by Machen who says,

Thus when the Christian missionaries used the word “Lord” of Jesus, their hearers knew at once what they meant. n They knew at once that Jesus occupied a place which is occupied only by God…

…An important fact has been established more and more firmly by modern research…the fact that the Greek word “kyrios” in the first century of our era was, wherever the Greek language extended, distinctively a designation of divinity.The common use of the word indeed persisted; the word still expressed the relation which a master sustained toward his slaves.But the word had come to be a characteristically religious term, and it is in a religious sense, especially as fixed by the Septuagint, that it appears in the New Testament. 20   J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1921), 308.

Speaking of the influence of the LXX on the Apostle Paul, Warfield claims, “the title ‘Lord’ becomes in Paul’s hands almost a proper name, the specific designation for Jesus conceived as a divine person in distinction from God the Father.” 21   Benjamin B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 226.He also writes,

We should never lose from sight the outstanding fact that to men familiar with the LXX and the usage of “Lord” as the personal name of Deity there illustrated, the term “Lord” was charged with associations of deity, so that a habit of speaking of Jesus as the “Lord”…was apt to carry with it implications of deity. 22   Ibid., 95.

Even Boice, an ardent teacher of Lordship Salvation, agrees:

…in the Greek version of the Old Testament, which was well known to the Jewish community in the first century and from which most of the New Testament writers quoted when citing Scripture, the word kyrios (“Lord”) is used to translate the Hebrew word “Jehovah” and “Yahweh.” This is why most of our English Bibles do not have the name Jehovah but use Lord instead. The disciples of Christ knew that this title was repeatedly used for God.But knowing this, they did not hesitate to transfer the title to Jesus, an act tantamount to saying that Jesus is Jehovah. 23   Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:3. Other Lordship teachers agree: See John R. W. Stott, “The Sovereignty of God the Son,” in Our Sovereign God, ed. James M. Boice, 17-27 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), 17-18; Irvin, “His Name,” AW, 4.

Before and during the New Testament era kurios denoted deity before anything else. Of course, deity includes many things, including that God is Ruler, but also that He is Creator, Redeemer, Judge, etc. In light of the etymology of kurios it is questionable whether the issue can be settled on its objective meaning alone.The real issue is not the implications of the title kurios for the position of Jesus, but the implications, if any, in regards to the conditions of salvation.For this, a number of key Bible passages must be studied.

An Evaluation of Key Bible Passages

The significance for the title kurios in relation to salvation demands a study of key Bible passages in light of their contexts. Lordship proponents use a number of passages which link the term kurios to salvation in some way. First, this study will examine how the title kurios is used in relation to the position of Jesus as Lord.Second, the use of kurios in evangelistic proclamation will be studied to see if submission to Christ’s rulership was a condition of salvation. Third, the confession of Jesus as Lord in relation to salvation will be considered.

The Position of Jesus as Lord

As cited above, it is argued by the Lordship Salvation position that Christ’s rulership cannot be separated from Christ’s saviorhood in the understanding of the unsaved person who desires salvation.Several passages which speak of Jesus as Lord and Savior are used to support this. The chief passages are Luke 2:11; Philippians 2:5-11; and 2 Peter 1:11 and 3:18.

Before considering the passages, it must be noted that the Free Grace position recognizes that Jesus is Savior because He is the Lord God. Ryrie states,

…no other kind of savior can save except a God-Man. Deity and humanity must be combined in order to provide a satisfactory salvation…He must be God in order that that death be effective for an infinite number of persons. 24   Ryrie, Balancing, 175.

Christ’s deity and sovereign rulership make His work of redemption provisional for all people, because His eternal nature, His sovereign power, and His authority invest it with eternal significance.

However, Lordship proponents press the significance of the deity and rulership of Christ not only in the work of redemption, but in the application of redemption.The coupling of Jesus’ titles in passages such as these to be considered is used to argue that

…there was no disjunction between the Christian’s relationship to Jesus as Lord and his relationship to Jesus as Saviour. 2 Peter 1:11 and 3:18 speak of ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’…Peter apparently regards all Christians as sustaining this dual relationship to Jesus, and expects nothing less than instant recognition of this designation and whole-hearted assent to its content. 25   T. Alan Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord (Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1982), 70.

Likewise, MacArthur says,

…Jesus is both Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11), and no true believer would ever dispute that.”Savior” and “Lord” are separate offices, but we must be careful not to partition them in such a way that we end up with a divided Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:13). Nevertheless, loud voices from the dispensationalist camp are putting forth the teaching that it is possible to reject Christ as Lord and yet receive Him as Savior. 26   MacArthur, The Gospel, 27. MacArthur accuses dispensationalists with an obsession for dividing the Scriptures and feels this is the result. As a dispensationalist, this writer would contend that “dividing” the Scriptures to get at the truth is not in itself wrong, but biblical (2 Tim. 2:15).

While it is agreed that the objective position of Jesus as Lord, Ruler, and God is essential to His work as Savior, it must be found whether the verses used by Lordship Salvation advocates address the personal application of redemption.

Luke 2:11

Luke records the announcement of the angels to the shepherds at Christ’s birth with the declaration that “there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Rather than Lordship, Luke appears to emphasize that the significance of Jesus’ birth to these shepherds is that a Savior is born. After that is declared, the relative clause (hos este…) identifies Him as “Christ the Lord,” the unique prophetic identity and position of this Savior as God. 27   So Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, supplement series 12 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987), 81; Godet, Luke, 81; Marshall, Luke, 110; Geldenhuys, Luke, 111; FranHois Bovon, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (Zhrich: Benziger Verlag, 1989), 125-26. Boice also recognizes the title “Lord” here to denote Jesus’ deity (Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:4).Arndt writes, “In adding ‘the Lord’ to the title ‘Christ,’ ‘the Anointed,’ the angel announces the astounding fact that the Rescuer is God.” 28   William F. Arndt, Luke, Concordia Classical Commentary Series (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), 82. William F. Arndt, Luke, Concordia Classical Commentary Series (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), 82. Warfield explains the use of kurios here:

But what can the term “Lord” add as a climax to “Christ”?In “Christ” itself, the Anointed King, there is already expressed the height of sovereignty and authority as the delegate of Jehovah.The appearance is very strong that the adjunction of “Lord” is intended to convey the intelligence that the “Christ” now born is a divine Christ. 29   Warfield, Lord of Glory, 144.

It would seem that the chief interest to men like the shepherds who need salvation is not that Jesus is the divine Ruler, but that He is the divine Savior, the apparent emphasis of the angelic announcement.

Philippians 2:5-11

In this passage, Jesus the Savior (vv 5-8) is exalted as Lord to Whom all creation will bow in the future (vv 9-11).Jesus is surely identified here as Lord and Savior, but only the confession “Jesus is Lord” (v 11) comes from the mouths of all creation, saved and unsaved. 30   Those who see this as a confession of both saved and unsaved include Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 105; Jac. J. Mhller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955), 88; John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, transl. T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 252.This shows that the involuntary, objective, positional rulership of Christ can indeed be distinct from the voluntary, subjective, relational rule of Christ in a person’s life.Calvin declares, “Paul is not speaking here of voluntary obedience.” 31   Calvin, Philippians, 252.Chrisope, whose work argues against Ryrie’s understanding of the term “Lord” in relation to salvation, nevertheless admits the objective significance in the Philippians passage:

Since this acclamation will, at least on the part of those beings who are hostile to God, be made dutifully rather than willingly, the verb ‘confess’ (exomologew) should be understood to indicate an acknowledgement of fact rather than necessarily a confession arising from faith.The confession is, for those hostile beings, the recognition of the undeniable fact of their subjection to Jesus as Lord, and stands in contrast to the humble and adoring submission rendered by believers. 32   Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 30. Mueller also recognizes that in this passage “Christ’s Lordship extends far beyond the realm of just the ‘saved,'” yet in the same paragraph he argues that “Lordship in the New Testament, as it applies to Christ, clearly means Sovereign Ruler, Master, etc., evoking the attendant nuances of obedient service and submission” (Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 19). He either fails to see the flaw in his logic or fails to explain how the unsaved willingly render obedient service and submission.

Even MacArthur agrees:”Even those who die in unbelief will be forced to confess the lordship of Christ.” 33   MacArthur, The Gospel, 205.Miller cannot be right, therefore, when he says, “In Philippians 2:6-11 the confession of Lordship in view carries with it submission,” if he means voluntary submission. 34   Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 61. Such logic must lead to the implausible conclusion of Barth’s that even the evil powers finally submit in voluntary humility and obedience. See Gerhard Barth, Der Brief an die Philipper, Zhricher Bibelkommentar (Zhrich: Theologisher Verlag, 1979), 44.This passage clearly demonstrates the contrary: that Christ’s position as Lord over all can be confessed in an objective sense apart from a willing personal submission.

2 Peter 1:11 and 3:18

Second Peter 1:11 speaks of “the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and 3:18 admonishes the readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The context and content of both passages give no indication that the subject is eternal salvation.It should be noted that Peter speaks as a Christian of Jesus as Lord in a personal and possessive sense (“our”). 35   See Rich Wager, “Lordship Salvation: Another Gospel?,” Signal (November/December 1986): 12.In 1:11 the issue is not the condition for initial entrance into the kingdom, but the condition for abundant entrance into the kingdom.By use of the superlative term plousiws epicorhghqhsetai, “will be supplied to you abundantly,” the emphasis appears to be the quality of one’s entrance. 36   So Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 86; Hodges, Free!, 230-31.Furthermore, Peter is merely describing the kingdom as possessed by the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for tou Kuriou and Swthros Ihsou Cristou are genitives of possession.In 3:18 Peter shows explicitly that the issue is Christian growth, or sanctification. Thus these verses are not applicable to the initial salvation experience of the unbeliever.

It appears that Lordship proponents, in their effort to make submission a condition for salvation, have failed to distinguish between the involuntary objective position of Christ as Ruler from the voluntary, subjective, relational submission to Christ as Ruler. Of course Jesus is Lord, and His lordship is essential in securing man’s salvation, but voluntary submission to His rulership is not proved to be the issue in these passages.

The Proclamation of Jesus as Lord

A major argument of the Lordship position is that submission to Jesus Christ was demanded in apostolic preaching. Appeal is made to the record of Acts where the term “Lord” is used in evangelistic presentations, and to 2 Corinthians 4:5.Chrisope argues from the observation that “Virtually every evangelistic address found in Acts includes mention of the exaltation and lordship of Jesus.” 37   Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 55.Gentry concludes, “When used of Christ in the frequent Gospel preaching of Acts and the Epistles, kurios most certainly has to do with the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord to be Savior.” 38   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66; See also, Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.This assertion will now be evaluated in light of the major passages usually cited.

Acts 2:36

This verse is quoted frequently to argue that submission to Jesus as Master is a condition of salvation. 39   See MacArthur, The Gospel, 217; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:67-68; ten Pas, Lordship, 5; Chrisope, Lordship, 33-37; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18. In his pentecostal sermon, Peter concludes His presentation about the identity of Jesus with the words, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Citing the verse, MacArthur argues, “The Christ Peter preached was not merely a Savior with open arms, but also a Lord who demanded obedience.” 40   MacArthur, The Gospel, 217.

It should be noted that there is no demand for obedient conduct or a promise to obey in the passage or context.One must infer this from either the title “Lord” in verse 36, or from the command to repent in verse 38.That repentance cannot be a demand for practical obedience was discussed in the last chapter. 41   Especially pages 77-79.Therefore the question is, does the declaration that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ constitute a demand for obedience?

As already noted, the title “Lord” certainly includes sovereign rulership, but only because it first denotes deity.This is upheld by the context of Peter’s entire sermon which begins with the promise that “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (2:21).This quote from Joel 2:32 uses the title “LORD” to translate the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh.Upon quoting this, Peter immediately refers to Jesus as these Israelites had known Him in His humanity. Verse 22 calls Him “Jesus of Nazareth” and “a Man.”

Peter then exposits the words of David from Psalm 16:8-11 (vv 25-33) to show that God has raised up and exalted Jesus Who has authority to bestow the benefits of salvation mediated through the Holy Spirit (vv 32-33), and Psalm 110:1 (vv 34-35) to show that Jesus has been installed as Lord at the right hand of God the Father at the present time.The cruciality of the argument from Psalm 110 must not be overlooked:

The conclusion to be drawn from this Psalm must have been felt by the Pharisees themselves, that the Messiah, because the Son of David and Lord at the same time, was of human and at the same time superhuman nature; that it was therefore in accordance with Scripture if this Jesus, who represented Himself to be the predicted Christ, should as such profess to be the Son of God and of divine nature. 42   C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Psalms, Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 185.

The conclusion of verse 36 springs from the theology of these Psalms and thus contrasts the previous understanding of Jesus as a mere man with the truth that He is indeed the Lord God: It is “this Jesus” (i.e., “Jesus of Nazareth,” “a Man”, v 22) that was crucified, but is now raised and exalted as “Lord and Christ” (the divine Messiah who rules).Ryrie comments:

Now the inescapable conclusion: Jesus is both Lord or God, and Christ or Messiah (verse 36). A Jewish audience had the greatest difficulty acknowledging these two claims for Jesus.To assert that the man Jesus was God and also Israel’s Messiah and to ask the people to believe that was an almost insurmountable obstacle. 43   Ryrie, Salvation, 95-96.

The conclusion is as Bruce notes, that the title kurios here “represents the Ineffable Name of God.” 44   Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, NINCT, 96. So also, J. C. O’Neill, “The Use of Kyrios in the Book of Acts,” Scottish Journal of Theology (SJT) 8 (March 1955): 161; Darrell L. Bock, “Jesus as Lord in Acts and in the Gospel Message,” BSac 143 (April-June 1986): 148, and Lucan Christology, 273.The realization that they crucified the God-Man brought great grief to the Jews (v 37). Finally, it should be noted that Peter calls Him “the Lord our God” denoting the divine position of Jesus (v 39).

Mueller’s argument that the quotation of Psalm 110:1 in verses 34-35 “denotes sovereign rulership” 45   Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18. could be correct in as much as this is a prerogative of deity. The Psalm certainly speaks of the authority and rule of the Messiah.But several observations must be made.First, it should be noted that God the Father made Jesus Lord over all—believers and unbelievers—regardless of whether that fact is believed or not.Properly speaking, no human can actually “make Jesus Lord” in the sense of bestowing upon Him the position. Second, Psalm 110:1 indicates this rule has a determinative time of realization: “Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”The future fulfillment indicates that the present objective position of Jesus as Lord does not guarantee the subjective submission of His subjects. Finally, Lawrence’s comment is insightful:

The sovereignty of a Messiah cannot save. According to the Old Testament, Yahweh saves, and, as Jonah averred, salvation belongs to Yahweh (Jonah 2:9). Unless Jesus was Yahweh, it would do no good to depend on His name for salvation. For this reason, Lord in Acts 2:36 must refer to Jesus’ deity. 46   Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 70-71.

That Jesus is Lord certainly has moral implications. It is desirable that all people submit to Jesus as Ruler at the point of initial salvation, as well as after salvation. But it cannot be shown from this passage that submission to His rulership is a condition of salvation. 47   Acts 5:31 is sometimes cited by Lordship advocates in much the same way as 2:36 (See MacArthur, The Gospel, 217; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68), though the term kurios is not used but _Archg_n, or “Prince”. The sovereign rule of the Messiah seems emphasized. However, the same argument applies as with 2:36. The assertion of Christ’s position is no proof of a demand for individual submission as a condition for salvation.

Acts 10:36

The Lordship argument from this passage is much the same as from 2:36. 48   See MacArthur, The Gospel, 217; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.In preaching to Cornelius, Peter speaks of “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.”It is inferred from this that Peter made submission to Christ’s rulership a condition of Cornelius’ salvation.

Three observations dispute this claim. First, the text does not show explicitly that Peter demands Cornelius’ submission, but only that Peter makes an objective statement about the Lord. Rather, his explicit invitation is “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (10:43). 49   Lordship supporters might counter that Peter meant Cornelius must believe on Him as Lord of one’s life. Yet contextually, the nearest acclamation of Christ is the preceding verse (v. 42) which says He was “ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” To be consistent, Lordship supporters should also demand that one submit to Jesus as Judge, yet this is never heard.Second, Peter’s interjection “He is Lord of all” is contextually significant and should not be isolated. The evangelization of Cornelius marks a pivot point in the book of Acts as the gospel now goes from Jews to Gentiles. God’s acceptance of Gentiles is a major motif of the narrative.The universal nature of God’s salvation is emphasized in the vision (v 15), in Peter’s initial explanation to Cornelius (v 28), and in the sermon itself (vv 34-43).In the sermon, Peter explains that God shows no partiality (v 34) but accepts those from every nation (v 35).Then in verse 36 Peter argues that the initial Jewish destination of the gospel (“which God sent to the children of Israel”) is, through Jesus Christ, intended for all because “He is Lord of all.”Thus the sermon concludes with a universal promise for “whoever believes,” whether Jew or Gentile. 50   Haenchen, Acts, 352; Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 191; Jacques Dupont, Nouvelles Itudes sur les Actes des Ap^tres (Paris: Les Iditions du Cerf, 1981), 323-25; Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 73.

The third argument that weakens the Lordship interpretation is one that has already been stated.The acclamation of Jesus as Lord is an acclamation of His sovereign position as God over all and not a demand for individual submission.The objective truth must be distinguished from the subjective requirement.

Acts 16:31

The Apostle Paul’s answer to the Philippian jailer’s question “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (16:30) is concise: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (v 31).Lordship teachers insist this condition not only demands faith in Christ as Savior, but also submission to Him as Ruler of one’s life.MacArthur claims this passage proves that the lordship of Christ was a part of the gospel to be believed for salvation:

All these passages [Acts 2:21; 2:36; 16:31; Rom 10:9-10] include indisputably the lordship of Christ as part of the gospel to be believed for salvation.We saw that Jesus’ lordship includes the ideas of dominion, authority, sovereignty, and the right to govern…[I]t is clear that people who come to Christ for salvation must do so in obedience to Him, that is, with a willingness to surrender to Him as Lord. 51   MacArthur, The Gospel, 207. In agreement is Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:69.

Likewise, Stott asks, “Why does Paul tell the Philippian jailer that he must believe in ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ to be saved if he must only believe in Him as Savior (16:31, cf. 11:17)?” (emphasis his). 52   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; also Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.

However, the Lordship argument from this verse depends on an unprovable inference.The title “Lord” may denote Christ’s authority, but nothing is said of submission as an issue here.Lordship advocates might respond that submission is inherent to the concept of “believe,” but it has already been argued that this is untenable. 53   See chapter two, especially pp. 44-45.

By pointing the jailer to “the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul is identifying the person who is the object of faith.He is called “Lord” because that is the title which most easily denoted deity to a Gentile.Bruce writes,

When the message of Jesus was carried into the Gentile world, the designation “Messiah” did not have the same relevance as it had for Jews, and Christ (the Greek equivalent of Messiah) came more and more to be used as a personal name and no longer as a title.But its synonyms “Son of God” and “Lord” not only retained but enhanced their relevance…The title “Son of God” bore witness to Jesus’ divine being, and so did the title “Lord.” 54   F. F. Bruce, The Message of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972), 112-13. The fact that Paul and Silas are also called “lords” (Kurioi) by the jailer out of respect (v. 30) shows the bearing of context on the meaning of this term. It would be absurd to suppose the jailer was submitting or promising to submit his life to Paul and Silas as his masters.

Indeed, verse 34 says that the jailer “rejoiced, having believed in God.”Deity naturally denotes ability to save.

This is no mere Jewish man whom the Philippian jailer is being asked to believe in for his eternal well-being.Instead, He is the Lord, with all the power and resources which this illustrious title implies. In the realm of salvation, He can deliver what it takes to meet the sinner’s need (emphasis his). 55   Hodges, Free!, 170. Also, see Bock, “Jesus as Lord,” BSac 143:150.

Furthermore, He is called “Jesus” because that was His human name that literally meant “Savior” (Matt 1:21; Acts 13:23). Finally, He is called “Christ” because of His role as the one anointed by God to bring salvation, or possibly, as Bruce suggests, simply as part of His name. 56   Bruce, Message of the New Testament, 112-13.

In Lordship reasoning, the jailer would have to comprehend and concede to the implications of not only Jesus’ lordship, but the humanity of Jesus as well as Jewish messianic theology in order to be saved.Of the latter concept in this verse, Ryrie asks,

Incidentally, why is it that those who teach that you cannot receive Jesus without receiving His personal mastery over the years of one’s life do not also insist that we must receive Him as Messiah (the meaning of Christ) with all that the concept of Messiah entails?That would mean, for starters, that in order to be saved one must believe that Jesus is Israel’s promised deliverer, the One who fulfills many Old Testament prophecies, and the One who is the coming King over the earth.Is the acknowledgement of all that Messiah means part of the necessary content of faith for a genuine salvation experience? 57   Ryrie, Salvation, 106.

Thus what Lordship adherents argue through implication does not encompass all that Christ is in the title “the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It should also be apparent that to ask a pagan Gentile soldier to comprehend, much less submit to, the implications of Jesus Christ’s Lordship could be considered unreasonable and theologically flawed.Submission of one’s life is expected of believers on the basis of an understanding of God’s grace (Rom 12:1; Titus 2:11-12).The jailer, as any unbeliever dead in sin, was incapable of making such a mature decision.

2 Corinthians 4:5

This verse is included because it is a description of the apostolic proclamation.Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”Gentry says of this, “the apostolic church directly affirmed their preaching was in the vein of Lordship preaching.” 58   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68. See also Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18-19, and ten Pas, Lordship, 7.

Whether translated “Christ Jesus the Lord,” (KJV, NKJ) or “Christ Jesus as Lord” (NASB, NIV, RSV), the words Criston Ihsoun K?rion may simply refer to Jesus Christ by His divine title. 59   It is helpful to note that kurios is a predicate accusative in apposition to Criston Ihsoun. Robertson, WPNT, 4:225; Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1963), 965; Rudolf Bultmann, Der Zweite Briefe an die Korinther, Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neuen Testament (G`ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1976), 109. To preach Jesus Christ is to preach Him as deity.Since neither translation determines the gospel’s content or demands, it appears that Lordship proponents argue by implication that rulership is in the gospel’s content and demands.

There are other significant nuances to Paul’s preaching of Jesus as Lord.First, Paul is simply affirming that, in contrast to the false apostles, he and his cohorts do not advertise themselves, but Jesus Christ.He had said as much to the Corinthians in his first letter to them.There, he said, “we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:22) and “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). Thus Paul was intent on keeping the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the focus of his preaching and refuting the charges of egotistical motives. 60   So Ralph P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, WBC (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986), 79; Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 130-31; Bultmann, Korinther, 109; Friedrich Lang, Die Briefe an die Korinther (G`ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), 278.Paul declares that when they do speak of themselves, it is as servants.Moreover, to preach “Jesus Christ the Lord” or “Jesus Christ as Lord” is simply another way of saying the apostles preach the gospel. 61   So Lenski, Corinthians, 966; William Herbert Smith, Jr., “The Function of 2 Corinthians 3:7–4:6 in Its Epistolary Context” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Seminary, 1983), 135.

Second, the emphasis on Christ’s lordship in the context forms a contrast with “the god of this age” who keeps men from salvation (4:4) 62   Maurice Carrez, La Deuxième Épitre de Saint Paul aux Corinthiens, Commentaire du Nouveau Testament (CNT), deuxieme serie (Genève: Labor et Fides, 1986), 109.and the inadequacy of the apostles themselves to effect salvation (3:5; 4:6-7). The title “Lord” signifies Christ’s deity, and as such, His authority in salvation.Plummer comments, “To ‘preach Christ as Lord’ is to preach Him as crucified, risen, and glorified, the Lord to whom ‘all authority in heaven and earth has been given’.” 63   Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1966), 118.Therefore, it is not a demand for personal submission but a statement of His exalted position and consequent authority to save.

The Lordship argument from Acts and 2 Cor 4:5 does not seem viable. Only implication can make submission to Christ’s lordship a condition for salvation.However, such a serious implication cannot be validated exegetically. Harrison’s conclusion appears accurate: “A faithful reading of the entire book of Acts fails to reveal a single passage where people are pressed to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their personal Lord in order to be saved.” 64   Everett F. Harrison, “Must Christ Be Lord to Be Savior–No,” Eternity 10 (September 1959): 16. So also, S. Lewis Johnson, “How Faith Works,” CT 33 (September 22, 1989): 25.

The Confession of Jesus as Lord

Several passages associate, or appear to associate, confession of Jesus as Lord with salvation.The word translated “confess” (@omologew) means “agree, admit, declare, acknowledge” 65   BAGD, s.v. “@omologew,” 571. or literally “to say the same thing” or “to agree in statement.” 66   Otto Michel, s.v. “@omologew,” in TDNT 5 (1967): 200.Lordship teachers also understand “confess” in a religious sense as “to make a solemn statement of faith” or “to confess something in faith.” 67   Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 61-62. He cites Michel, s.v. “@omologew,” TDNT 5:209, as support.Thus it is argued that one is saved by religiously confessing or swearing loyalty to Jesus as the Lord of one’s life. As Irvin writes,

To really confess that Jesus is Lord and to call upon Jesus as Lord is to respond with our hearts and lives to one who is all the name “Lord” signifies that He is.To confess that Jesus is Lord is to respond to Him as very God to be trusted, as the supreme Master to be obeyed and as the exalted One to be worshiped (emphasis his). 68   Irvin, “His Name,” AW, 5.

The chief passage—indeed a key passage for the entire Lordship Salvation debate—is Rom 10:9-10. 69   So Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66; Harrison, “No,” Eternity 10:14; Blauvelt, “Lordship Salvation?” BSac 143:38.To some degree, John 20:28 and 1 Cor 12:3 are also used and will therefore be discussed.

Romans 10:9-10

This passage states the condition of salvation:

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.

Around this passage much controversy has swirled. Both the Free Grace position and the Lordship Salvation position find some areas of agreement, as indicated by Stott:

To confess Jesus as Lord, which in Romans 10:9 is so clearly made a condition of salvation, means more than “subscribing to the gospel announcement that a living Lord attests an efficacious death.” It is that.It is also an acknowledgement of the deity of Jesus (emphasis his). 70   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18.

However, Stott also shows that interpretations part company over the issue of Christ’s lordship in relation to the one believing. He continues, “But it implies as much that Jesus is ‘my Lord’ as that He is ‘the Lord'” (emphasis his). 71   Ibid.Enlow states, “To confess Jesus as Lord surely means more than to admit that He is Lord: it means to submit to Him as one’s own Lord.” 72   Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 3-4. This understanding is representative of Lordship proponents. See also, MacArthur, The Gospel, 28, 199, 207-8; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 17-18; Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 60ff.; Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 59ff.; ten Pas, Lordship, 6. Stott also equates confession with public baptism. 73   Stott, Basic Christianity, 117. Such an interpretation of confession in Rom. 10:9-10 is disturbingly open ended, as Stott shows when he goes on to say, “But the Christian’s open confession does not end with his baptism. He must be willing for his family and friends to know he is a Christian, both by the life he leads and by his spoken witness. . . . At the same time, he will join a church, associate himself with other Christians . . . and start seeking by prayer, example and testimony to win his friends for Christ.” It is difficult to not consider this an intrusion of works into salvation.

The Free Grace position offers two different interpretations to refute the Lordship view.Each will be explained in relation to its interpretation of the meaning of salvation, confession, and “Lord.”

Confession for eternal salvation

Those of the Free Grace position who agree that this passage speaks of eternal salvation include Ryrie, Harrison, and Chafer. 74   Ryrie, Salvation, 70-73; Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” in EBC (10:1-171): 112, and “No,” Eternity 10:16; Chafer, Theology, 3:379-80. However, their view differs from Lordship Salvation in that the concept of confession does not include personal or subjective submission.Its meaning here is closer to acknowledgment or agreement that something is true; 75   This possibility is found in BAGD, s.v. “@omologew,” 571. Cf. 1 John 4:15.“It is simply an admission of fact.” 76   Harrison, “No,” Eternity 10:16.This definition is supported by Wuest who writes,

The word “confess” is @omologew, made up of homos, “same” and leg_, “to speak,” thus “to speak the same thing,” thus “to agree with some person with reference to something.” To confess the Lord Jesus means therefore to be in agreement with all that Scripture says about Him, which includes all that these two names imply. 77   Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1944-55), 1:177-78. See also Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967), 341, and the word study and conclusion of Wesley L. Uplinger, “The Problem of Confession in Romans 10:9-10” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), 26-37.

Along with this understanding, some propose that the confession is silent to God, as opposed to a public display. 78   H. A. Ironside, Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, 131; Howard, “Is Faith Enough?” BSac 99:91. Howard writes, “The heart believes but this faith is directed not toward man but toward God. Who then shall say the confession is not also God-ward? How can we introduce a thought foreign to Paul’s concern of a heart confessing its faith to God and say that this is a confession before men? It is rather the transaction of a believing heart with God.” This seems to be the sense of 1 John 1:9, also.Confession to God is seen in 14:11 and 15:9.

More importantly, confession is considered identical to faith, not distinct from it. 79   So Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuw,” TDNT, 6:209; Nygren, Romans, 383-84; Morris, Romans, 386; William G. T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary upon the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1879), 318; Howard, “Is Faith Enough?,” 92; Paul L. Dirks, “The Biblical Doctrine of Confession” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1955), 32; Uplinger, “Romans 10:9-10,” 50-51.It is inconceivable that after arguing for the exclusive nature of faith alone for salvation (3:21— 4:25) Paul would suggest another condition.Moreover, faith is prominent in the immediate context (10:4, 6, 11, 14, 17).The unexpected mention of confession is due to the previously quoted passage from Deuteronomy 30:14 which speaks of the word “in your mouth and in your heart” (10:8). The initial @oti in verse 9 shows that the quotation in verse 8 is being explained. 80   Cranfield, Romans, 2:526.Verse 10 then shows support (gar) for the reference of mouth and heart to confession and faith in verse 9. 81   Ibid., 2:530.The inverted order (belief—confession) from verse 9 (confession—belief) shows that in Paul’s mind faith and confession were identical. 82   Ibid., 2:527.The figures of mouth and heart are used to speak of obtaining salvation in verse 9, yet are melded back into one response of faith in verse 11, and again in the idea of calling upon the Lord in verses 12-13. 83   The verb epikalew, “call upon,” signifies the act of faith as confession. So Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1988), 518-19; Heinri/ach Schlier, Der R`merbrief, Herdersf theologischer Kommentar zum Neun Testament (Frieburg: Herder, 1979), 248; Hans Asmussen, Der R`merbrief (Stuttgart: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1952), 215-16; Uplinger, “Romans 10:9-10,” 46-48.Contrary to the sense often given this passage by those of the Lordship Salvation perspective, the response of the heart and mouth are both used to represent the simplicity of faith as opposed to the strenuous effort required by those who try to establish their own righteousness (cf. v 3). 84   Langevin notes that Deuteronomy 30:14 quoted in verse 8 answers Deuteronomy 30:12-13 quoted in verses 6-7 which may have been a proverb used to express something that is impossible. This writer believes this is a strong argument against the Lordship view that one’s salvation must be “confessed” by a righteous lifestyle if it is to be considered genuine. Like ancient Israel, Lordship Salvation appears to seek a salvation that is hard. But Moses and Paul both assert the simplicity and availability of faith. See P. E. Langevin, “La Salut par la foi. Rm 10, 8-13,” Assemblées du Seigneur (AS) 14 (1973): 51-52.

The main argument of this first Free Grace interpretation of Romans 10:9-10, however, is the significance attached to the content of the confession, “Jesus is Lord.” 85   The phrase Kurion Ihsoun is variably translated “The Lord Jesus” (NKJ), “Jesus as Lord” (NASB), or “Jesus is Lord” (KJV, NIV, RSV). The anarthrous construction favors the latter two. The fact that “Jesus is Lord” was the central confession of the early church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, WBC [Dallas: Word Books, 1988, 607; Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 61) argues for the last translation.Whereas the Lordship position holds that this indicates one’s personal submission to the rulership of Christ, this Free Grace view argues forcefully that it primarily denotes the deity of Christ. “Jesus is Lord,” as used by the early church, spoke of Jesus Christ’s position, not His work. Harrison notes,

[T]he creedal statement before us pertains to the person of Christ rather than his redeeming work. “Jesus is Lord” was the earliest declaration of faith fashioned by the church (Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 12:3). This great truth was recognized first by God in raising his Son from the dead…an act then acknowledged by the church and one day to be acknowledged by all (Phil 2:11). 86   Harrison, “Romans,” EBC, 10:112.

Ryrie cites the agreement of those not usually amenable to the Free Grace position that deity is the focus of the confession< 87   Ryrie, Salvation, 72. and notes a similar meaning here as in Acts 2:36:

Jesus the Man had been proved by the resurrection and ascension to be Lord, God, and Christ, the Messiah. They had to put their faith in more than a man; it had to be in One who was also God and the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. 88   Ryrie, Balancing, 175.

Agreement also comes from Morris who says the phrase “Jesus is Lord” “points to the deity of Christ,” 89   Morris, Romans, 385. and Cranfield who notes, “Paul applies to Christ, without—apparently—the least sense of inappropriateness, the kurios of LXX passages in which it is perfectly clear that the kurios referred to is God Himself (e.g. 10.13; I Th 5.2; 2 Th 2.2). 90   Cranfield, Romans, 2:529. See also, Wuest, 1:178; R. V. Foster, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Nashville: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1891), 294; Robertson, WPNT, 4:389; Clifton Joe Barrow, “An Exegetical Consideration of the Doctrine of Lordship in Salvation from Three Passages: John 11:25-27, Acts 16:30-32, and Romans 10:9-10” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977), 43-46. For an excellent extended discussion, see Paul-Émile Langevin, “Sur la Christologie de Romains 10,1-13,” Laval Theologigue et Philosophique 35 (January 1979): 35-54, especially 48-53.Even Stott agrees that “Lord” here denotes Jesus is God. 91   John R. W. Stott, “Jesus Is Lord,” Tenth (July 1976): 3. Further support is found in the quotation of Joel 2:32 in verse 13:”whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.” The translation “LORD” represents the name of God, Yahweh, used by Joel.A Lordship advocate agrees: “Clearly they called Jesus “Lord” because they saw Him as God come from heaven to bring real salvation.” 92   Irvin, “His Name,” AW, 5.

It should be noted that though Rom 10:9-13 has universal application (“whoever,” v 11, 13; “Jew and Greek,” “all,” v 12), confession of the deity of Christ had special significance to the Jews, who were the primary subjects in view. 93   See the argument of Blauvelt, “Lordship Salvation,” BSac 143:39-40. Jesus’ deity was particularly offensive to them, not His mastery (John 5:18; 10:33). To admit His deity was to acknowledge His identity as Messiah, Savior, and King of the Jews.

It seems only by implication that Lordship Salvation teachers find the condition of submission here. 94   For example, in defending MacArthur’s understanding of Rom. 10:9-10 Kent says, “After all, for a believer to trust Jesus Christ as God surely implies also an acknowledgement of his responsibility to his God” (Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:69). While this may be a true statement, it does not support MacArthur’s view that this passage explicitly demands submission.As already acknowledged, rulership is implied in Christ’s deity, but so are many other functions. Harrison properly notes that the distinction must be maintained between the objective position of Jesus as Lord, and the subjective response to Him as Ruler of one’s life:

Paul’s statement in vv 9, 10 is misunderstood when it is made to support the claim that one cannot be saved unless he makes Jesus the Lord of his life by a personal commitment.Such a commitment is most important; however, in this passage, Paul is speaking of the objective lordship of Christ, which is the very cornerstone of faith, something without which no one could be saved. Intimately connected as it is with the resurrection, which in turn validated the saving death, it proclaimed something that was true no matter whether or not a single soul believed it and built his life on it.< 95   Harrison, “Romans,” EBC, 10:112.

Confession for temporal deliverance

A different view of Rom 10:9-10 is held by some contemporary Free Grace supporters led by Hodges. 96   For a full presentation of this view, see Hodges, Free!, 193-99; Gordon Andrew Brunott, Jr., “An Interpretation of Romans 10:1-15 and the Problem of Faith and Confession” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975); William LeGrange Hogan, “The Relation of the Lordship of Christ to Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1959), 36-42; Robert N. Wilkin, “Has This Passage Ever Bothered You? (Romans 10:9-10),” GESN (September 1987): 2.In it, the concept of salvation is key.It is argued that “salvation” in vv 9-10 is not justification (signified by “believes to righteousness” in v 10), but deliverance from the power of sin and its consequence of God’s temporal wrath.They apply here the general meaning of swthria/swzw which is often used of temporal deliverance in the Bible. 97   See the discussion in Brunott, “Romans 10:1-5,” 25-32. Indeed, in 5:9-10 there seems to be a distinction between positional justification and practical deliverance from wrath in the believer’s life.It is “through Him” that those who have been “justified by His blood” can be saved from wrath (5:9), or literally “the wrath” (ths orghs) which includes the wrath being presently poured out on mankind (1:18).The life of Jesus provides the power to deliver from sin and its effects (5:10). 98   The aspect of present salvation finds some support from other commentators. On Rom. 5:9-10 see Nygren, Romans, 202-06; W. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), 13. On present salvation in Rom. 10:9-10, see Langevin, “Rm 10:8-13” AS 14:48-49. On present salvation in the book of Romans as a whole, see Daniel C. Esau, “Paul’s Concept of SWTHRIA in Romans” (Th. M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1969).This seems to anticipate exactly the theme of chapters 6-8.The power of sin is overcome in the believer’s life by the resurrection life of Jesus Christ (6:5, 8, 11, 23; 7:25; 8:2, 10-11).

This idea of present salvation is then applied to Rom 10:9-10. While recognizing that faith brings God’s righteousness here, confession brings deliverance, or “salvation” in the sense of God’s help from some problem or danger.Confession and belief are thus two separate activities.In verses 12 and 13 calling upon the Lord is the same idea as confession. It is public identification with Him, living by faith in Him, and calling to Him for help or deliverance. 99   Hodges, Free!, 193-95.This seems to be supported by the reverse progression of v 14.One calls on the Lord after believing in Him. 100   Hodges (Free!, 193-94) and Brunott (“Romans 10:1-15,” 57-58) cite Acts 9:14, 21; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:22; and 1 Pet. 1:17 to show this is a Christian activity.

In conclusion, both interpretations of Rom 10:9-10 are convincing in their argumentation and attempt to be responsible in their handling of the Scriptures. However this writer prefers the first interpretation. 101   One reason for this is that the separation of faith and confession does not seem warranted for the reasons given on pp. 108-09. Another reason is that though the “Confession for Temporal Deliverance”view appears correct in finding some temporal significance for salvation in 5:9-10 and chapters 6-8, the salvation of 10:9-10 apparently has eschatological meaning in chapters 9-11 (cf. 9:27; 10:1, 13; 11:11, 14, and 26-27 where it is associated with New Covenant forgiveness). Also, in 13:11 Paul declares, “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” The righteousness of God and Israel’s failure to attain it due to unbelief seems to be the emphasis of chapters 9-11 (cf. 9:30-33; 10:3-6; 11:5-6, 20, 23). Still, Hodges’s interpretation is persuasive and deserves further consideration and response. Thus far there has been no response from Lordship teachers other than a cursory treatment by Belcher (Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 83-86). Still, both offer an answer to the Lordship interpretation which argues from implication that personal submission is demanded of the unbeliever.If there is any hint of submission, it is seen in Romans 10:3 which states that the Jews “seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” Thus the issue of submission is related to the question of one’s righteousness, not how one’s life is lived. 102   The verb @?potassw in v. 3 has the basic sense of “subject oneself, be subjected” and in this sense implies obedience (BAGD, s.v. “@?potassw,” 855). This may explain the phrase “not all obeyed the gospel” in 10:16. The Jews did not submit to God’s demand to receive His righteousness through the gospel. When one believes in Jesus as the Lord Who secured and offers salvation, that person is trading personal righteousness for God’s, and in this way submits to God’s righteousness.

1 Corinthians 12:3

This warning to the Corinthians from Paul is also used by the Lordship Salvation position. 103   MacArthur, The Gospel, 95, 203, 209; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18.Paul says, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”The Lordship argument takes this to mean that only a true Christian will confess that Jesus is ruler of his life.Gentry’s argument is two-fold:First, the anarthrous construction Kurion Ihsoun is “qualitative” in the sense “Jesus is realized qualitatively as Lord or Master only by those indwelt by God’s Spirit.”Second, the pronouncement that Jesus is “accursed” points to those who would not have Jesus as their Master and are therefore unsaved. 104   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68. Mueller also argues from the context that “Verses 4-6 demand that the term Lord connote sovereign direction.” 105   Mark Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18.

It seems doubtful that this warning is given by the Apostle Paul as a test of salvation.It appears in the context of spiritual gifts, especially tongues, and the problem of their misuse in the congregation.Evidently, the undisciplined and undiscerning fervor of some Christians in the church congregation allowed the influence of other spirits which cursed Jesus in other tongues, a possible carry-over from idol worship (cf. v 2). 106   So Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 579-81; Grosheide, Commentary on The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953), 279-80; as well as Lordship advocates John MacArthur, Jr., 1 Corinthians, MNTC (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 278-81, 284-85; and Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 66-67. Paul warns that there are two contrary spiritual sources for this supernatural speech. Only the Holy Spirit can say “Jesus is Lord.”Thus the issue is not mastery of one’s life as a test of salvation, but the spiritual authenticity of one’s worship experience.

Furthermore, if the anarthrous construction does indicate a qualitative meaning, it seems more likely that it would denote the more fundamental quality associated with kurios, i.e. deity. 107   For kurios as an ascription of deity here, see Fee, 1 Corinthians, 581-82; MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, 286; W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in EBC (10:173-297): 261. It could be said that “Jesus is Lord” denotes both humanity and deity 108   “The confession includes the acknowledgment that he is truly God and truly man.” Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 241. and all that is included, such as saviorhood and rulership. Indeed, “This brief formula expresses the whole Christian faith of the early Church.” 109   Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, transl. Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A. M. Hall (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959), 216. Here, it is the recognition that Jesus is God, and Lord, and Savior, and Ruler, and all that He is, in contrast to the false security of false gods and “dumb idols” (v 2). Thus certainly vv 4-6 connote rulership in that Jesus as God is the sovereign ruler who directs His church, but there is no hint of personal submission demanded in this confession.

John 20:28

After seeing the resurrected Christ and being convinced of His reality, Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” MacArthur argues against the view that Thomas is simply ascribing deity to Jesus: “He was not saying, ‘My God and my God’; he was affirming that Jesus is both God and Master.” 110   MacArthur, The Gospel, 208. So also, Marc Mueller, Syllabus,” 17; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 61.

Again, it must be observed that the passage is not soteriological, for the disciples who were present had already been saved (John 2:11; 13:10; 14:7; 15:3; 16:27; 17:6-16) and had been taught as Christians (John 13-17). Thomas’ exclamation only proves that he came to a fuller realization of Jesus’ ministry after the resurrection. The personalization “my” may indicate the subjective submission of Thomas to the resurrected Christ as Lord, but this meaning comes through the pronouns “my” not the titles themselves. 111   Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:10. Warfield recognizes the subjective response of Thomas, but concludes, “the two terms express as strongly as could be expressed the deity of Jesus.” 112   Warfield, Lord of Glory, 182. “Lord,” in particular, is a confession of the uniqueness of the resurrected God. 113   Siegfried Schulz, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (G`ttingen: Vandenhoech & Ruprecht, 1983), 246. Boice, a Lordship advocate, agrees that kurios here denotes Yahweh. 114   Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:4. Thus “Lord” denotes both deity and the positional rulership which is included, but in the term itself is no demand for submission.

A Biblical Understanding of Christ’s Lordship

Though much has already been offered in response to the Lordship Salvation understanding of Christ’s lordship in relation to salvation, more positive arguments can be developed.The arguments concern the issue in salvation, the subjective nature of submission to Christ, the distinction between the objective and subjective aspects of Christ’s lordship, and examples of saved biblical characters not surrendered to Christ as Lord.

The Issue in Salvation

The greatest need of the sinner is salvation from the penalty of sin: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15); “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10). The function of Jesus as Savior offers this and effects this when the sinner trusts Him as such.This in turn makes possible deliverance from the present power of sin through the function of Jesus as Master as the believer learns to submit to Him. 115   It is puzzling why a Lordship teacher like Stott would speak of his own salvation in terms of “a personal acceptance of Him as my Savior” (emphasis his; Stott, Basic Christianity, 123), yet demand of others submission to Jesus as Ruler.

As argued above, Christ’s salvation is effectual because of His position as divine Lord.But His function as Ruler does not save anyone in itself. Hypothetically, Jesus can be Ruler and all men could go to eternal hell.

The crucial recognition for a prospective believer is not the lordship of Christ, but the deity of Christ. Lordship is only a subset of deity. God is always a master, but a master is not always God.Christ is the only master anyone can have, who is also God. 116   William Johnson, “Jesus Is Lord,” Signal (March/April 1987): 17.

The theology of salvation must not be based upon titles. Jesus is Lord, but He is also called Messiah or Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, and many other ascriptions. It would be absurd to ask the sinner to recognize and submit to the implications of each of Jesus’ titles. 117   See the logical arguments of Paul Holloway, “Evaluation of Some Evidences for ‘Lordship Salvation’,” JOTGES 2 (Autumn 1989): 28-32. Also, Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 181. For example, Ryrie points out that the name “Jesus” focuses on the Savior’s humanity which is important as an example for living, yet not even Lordship preachers focus on His example of life when preaching the gospel. It would be arbitrary to emphasize the role of Jesus’ humanity in His saving work but not emphasize His humanity as an example for living. 118   Ryrie, Balancing, 176-77. So also, it can be argued about His functions, for not only is He Savior and Lord, He is Creator, Teacher, Judge, Prophet, King, and more.Though each may have implications to the work of redemption, Jesus as Savior is the object of faith that saves. This could be no clearer than in the commission of Luke 24:46-47:”Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. . .” Here the gospel proclamation is summarized in terms of man’s response (repentance) and God’s provision (remission of sins), which was accomplished by Christ’s saving work.

The record of Acts bears this out, not only presenting Jesus as Lord, but as the Christ who saves.In Acts 8:5, it is said that Philip went to Samaria and “preached Christ to them.” 119   Cf. also Phil. 1:15-18. This title sufficiently denotes Jesus’ saving work as the Messiah.Furthermore, Philip brought the Ethiopian eunuch to faith by explaining the soteriological meaning of Isa 53:7-8 (Acts 8:32-35).Green notes, “Indeed, often enough the gospel is referred to simply as Jesus or Christ: ‘He preached Jesus to him’.” 120   Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 150. Likewise, Saul “preached the Christ—that He is the Son of God” (9:20). His concern was to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (9:22; 17:3; 18:5, 28), which implies they must accept Him as such, not surrender to Him as Ruler of their lives.In what seems quite contrary to Lordship thinking, Paul also preached the gospel saying, “through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins” (13:38; cf. 17:31). 121   Cf. Luke 23:41-42 (UBS text) where the thief on the cross referred to Jesus as “this Man” and by His human name “Jesus.” In Acts, therefore, the many uses of the title “Lord” are expected because that is who Jesus is and because that was a popular way of respecting His person and position.

Thus rulership is not the issue in salvation; it is the issue in sanctification.Showers states it clearly:

The functions of a “savior” and a “master” are not the same.A savior saves, but a master rules.When it comes to the issue of being saved from the penalty of sin and divine wrath, a person needs Christ’s function as Savior, not His function as ruler over all areas of a person’s life. 122   Renald Showers, “The Trouble with Lordship Salvation,” Word of Life: 1990 Annual 6 (1990): 19.

Much is said in the epistles about submission and surrender to the rulership of Jesus, but this was written for Christians. 123   E.g., Rom. 6; 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:5; 10:5; Eph. 6:5-6; Phil. 2:5ff.; Col. 3:17, 23-24; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 4:2; 5:6. Christians are told to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Pet 3:15). Therefore, the unsaved receive salvation as a result of believing in Jesus as Savior.

The Subjectivity of Submission

When one’s focus is taken off of the person and work of Christ as the object of salvation and placed on the degree of one’s own submission, the certainty of attaining salvation falls victim to the subjectivity of human experience. Some Lordship advocates speak of only the willingness to submit, 124   E.g. MacArthur, The Gospel, 87, 139-40. but this brings the same fate.When does one ever know when he has submitted enough, or is willing enough?Thus Stott teaches,

We must surrender absolutely and unconditionally to the lordship of Jesus Christ.We cannot make our own terms.What will this involve? In detail I cannot tell you.In principle, it means a determination to forsake evil and follow Christ (emphasis added). 125   Stott, Basic Christianity, 128.

If Stott cannot tell what must be surrendered in the life of another, one wonders how he can in his own, and how he will know that he has surrendered fully.

The Distinction between the Objective and
Subjective Natures of Lordship

It has been suggested that the weakness of the Lordship argument for submission to Christ as Ruler of one’s life is the failure to distinguish the objective position of Jesus as the divine Ruler of all from the individual’s personal recognition of that position. One can agree with Stott who says,

[Jesus Christ] can only be our Savior because he is Lord. It is from that position at the Father’s right hand that he justifies the believing sinner and bestows the Holy Spirit upon us; because he has the authority to do so (emphasis his). 126   John R. W. Stott, “The Lordship of Jesus Christ,” Decision 27 (May 1986): 26.

But it is saying more than can be biblically validated to claim that the use of the title “Lord” in salvation accounts or in reference to the gospel proclamation is therefore a demand for personal submission. Harrison argues,

When a convert proclaimed with his lips, “Jesus is Lord,” he was subscribing to the gospel announcement that a living Lord attests an efficacious death (Rom 4:25).This is the objective aspect of Jesus’ lordship. 127   Harrison, “No,” Eternity 10:16.

It seems likely that if submission was a requirement of salvation then the examples of apostolic preaching would declare it always and in no uncertain terms.But as has been shown, this is clearly not the case.That there is nothing inherent in the term “Lord” that demands personal submission is obvious from its use in Heb 1:10 where God the Father calls the Son “Lord.”

The distinction between Christ’s objective lordship and the subjective submission of the believer to that lordship corresponds to the positional relationship of the believer as under a new Master (God) and the more subjective practice of serving God as a slave. This is shown in Romans 6 where verses 1-10 declare the believer’s positional union with Christ and his freedom from sin in principle (6:2, 5-7, 11).But this is immediately followed by the imperatives which seek to bring out this truth in experience.Thus Paul says, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (6:12) and “so now present yourselves as slaves of righteousness” (6:19). Though no time element is indicated, the logic of the passage demands that submission should begin at the start of the Christian life.Yet the fact that it is commanded implies the possibility that it may not. Therefore Paul must say later to these same Christians, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1). 128   See the discussion of Rom. 6:17 and context on pp. 23-24.

While it may be conceded that recognition of Jesus as Savior and/or Christ carries an implicit recognition of his deity and sovereign rulership, this is far from making submission to His rulership an explicit condition of the gospel. One might go so far as to argue that placing faith in Jesus as Savior is implicitly a “lordship” decision in that the sinner is recognizing and submitting to Jesus’ authority in this issue of personal salvation, an authority that must logically be God’s.As Bock correctly argues,

…what one confessed was that Jesus was the Lord in that He was the divine Mediator of salvation with the total capacity and authority to forgive sins and judge men.He is the Lord over salvation to whom men come to find salvation because they have turned away from themselves or their own merit to the ascended Lord.He is the divine Dispenser of salvation. 129   Bock, “Jesus as Lord,” BSac 143:151.

Nevertheless, it remains that the explicit focus of faith is salvation and the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-12), not the subsequent life of the Christian.Besides, it is difficult to see how a commitment to submit to Jesus as Master could not be seen as a meritorious work that earns salvation. 130   Lordship proponents would of course deny any merit in submission, as MacArthur states, “Surrender to Jesus as Lord is no more a meritorious human work than believing on Him as Savior. Neither act is a good deed done to earn favor with God. Both are the sovereign work of God in the heart of everyone who believes” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 209). His error, of course, is that the issue in salvation is faith not surrender. The 150 uses of faith or believe to describe the condition of salvation should supersede use of the unbiblical term “surrender.” Elsewhere, MacArthur appropriately chides those who use unbiblical terms to describe the condition of salvation saying it dilutes the gospel (e.g., “ask Jesus into your heart,” “accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” “invite Christ into your life”; MacArthur, The Gospel, 21, 106).

The Example of Uncommitted Believers

In response to Lordship Salvation, it will not do to simply argue that believers can be guilty of less than full submission. Lordship adherents agree that they can be.However, Lordship Salvation advocates would deny that a person can be less than fully or consciously committed at the time of salvation.

Against this view is the example of the Ephesian believers who burned their magic books up to two years after they had believed (Acts 19:10-19). 131   The perfect tense in verse 18 indicates the Ephesians had believed before the occasion of book burning, most obviously during Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus. Ryrie observes,

It might be possible to imagine that the very earliest converts in Ephesus did not realize that Ephesian magic was incompatible with Christianity. But it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to say that someone who was converted twelve or fifteen months after Paul had been ministering and teaching there would not have known that if he became a Christian he should do away with amulets and books of magic.And yet apparently many did become genuine believers in Christ knowing that it was wrong to continue to depend on and be guided by their books of magic. 132   Ryrie, Balancing, 172.

Other examples have already been considered in relation to their expressions of faith in Christ.The believers in John 2:23-24 were not worthy of Jesus’ confidence. It is also obvious that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea delayed the public confession of their faith (John 19:38-39).Furthermore, Simon the Sorcerer appears to have been saved in spite of his moral flaw of greed and selfish ambition (Acts 8:13ff.). 133   See the discussion of “spurious faith,” pp. 45-51. The same seems to be true of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). There is also little hint that Peter ever fully surrendered his self-will (cf. Acts 10:14).

Need more be said other than “Jesus saves sinners”? He saves sinners from the penalty of sin and in spite of sin.Then as believers they learn to overcome sin and grow in holiness as they submit to Jesus as Master.

Conclusion

Based on the study in this chapter, it is concluded that Lordship Salvation arguments about Christ’s lordship do not prove a sinner must submit, or intend to submit, to the mastery of Jesus in order to be saved. Lexically and biblically the evidence appeared lacking.

One can see that there is agreement on a number of things between those who hold to Lordship Salvation and those who take a Free Grace view. Both sides agree that Jesus is God and that because He is God, He is also able to be Savior.Both sides agree that the term kurios denotes deity and that deity denotes rulership.Furthermore, both sides agree that as Lord, Jesus Christ has the position and authority to bestow salvation, and that one who comes to Christ for salvation implicitly submits to that authority in the issue of salvation.The division comes over whether the position and authority of Jesus as Lord demands submission of the sinner to Christ as the Master of the rest of his life as a condition of salvation.

In the lexical study, it was concluded that kurios denotes rulership, but only because it first denotes deity.As deity, kurios also denotes many other functions of Christ. The Lordship argument that insists on rulership as a condition of salvation to the exclusion of the other functions of Christ as God is inconsistent with the biblical data which also call Him Judge, Son of Man, Creator, Savior, Christ, etc.

But the main flaw of the Lordship argument is its insistence that the use of the title “Lord” in salvation passages demands the unbeliever’s personal submission of every area of life.The leap from the objective significance of the term to the subjective is insupportable from the passages studied in this chapter.Jesus is Lord whether knees bow or not.

It is concluded that the passages that speak of Jesus as both Lord and Savior do not justify the subjective demand of a personal submission to Christ’s lordship.Jesus must be the Lord positionally (as sovereign God) if He is also to be the Savior.Neither does the evangelistic proclamation of Jesus as Lord constitute a demand for the submission of one’s life.It may simply refer to His title, or polemically to His deity, or to His sovereign authority to save. Likewise, the confession that Jesus is Lord can be a recognition of His deity and authority to save, but without explicit reason does not demand submission of one’s life for salvation.

When a sinner trusts in Jesus as Savior, it can be affirmed that he implicitly submits to the authority of Jesus Christ to forgive sin. Thus it is not denied that the logical and biblical implications of trusting in the divine Savior for salvation should lead one also to submit to Him as divine Master.However, the issue in salvation remains salvation, not mastery.


 References:

1  Tozer, Heresy!, 18-19.

2  MacArthur, The Gospel, 210

3  James Montgomery Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10 (October 1980): 9.

4  Stott, Basic Christianity, 114.

5  MacArthur, The Gospel, 28; Chantry, Gospel, 60; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:54; ten Pas structures his entire Lordship Salvation argument around the issue of Christ’s Lordship (ten Pas, Lordship, 3-18).

6  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:63.

7  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 17; Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 59.

8  Gottried Quell, s.v. “kurios,” in TDNT 3 (1965): 1058.

9  Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 59.

10  Ibid., 59-60. See Hans Bietenhard, “kurios,” in NIDNTT 2 (1976): 512.

11  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:64.

12  Ibid.

13  William D. Lawrence, “The New Testament Doctrine of the Lordship of Christ” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), 43.

14  Ibid., 43.

15  For example, Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 60; Maurice Irvin, “His Name: Lord,” AW 112 (September 7, 1977): 3-4. Interestingly, Carson comments, “In Jesus’ day it is doubtful whether ‘Lord’ when used to address him meant more than ‘teacher’ or ‘sir.’ But in the postresurrection period, it becomes an appellation of worship and a confession of Jesus’ deity” (D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in EBC (8:1-599): 192).

16  In John 9:36 the healed blind man obviously uses “Lord” as a title of respect because He did not yet realize that Jesus was the Son of God. When Jesus discloses that He is the Son of God, the man then says, “Lord, I believe!” and worships Him (v. 38). Contra MacArthur, the man’s exclamation proves no necessary element of personal submission. He worships Christ because he now sees Him as God the Son (vv. 35-37). The issue is clearly his belief (“Do you believe?” [v. 35] ), not submission. See MacArthur, The Gospel, 75-76.

17  So Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 55.

18  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66.

19  Nigel Turner, Christian Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981), 257-58.

20  J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1921), 308.

21  Benjamin B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), 226.

22  Ibid., 95.

23  Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:3. Other Lordship teachers agree: See John R. W. Stott, “The Sovereignty of God the Son,” in Our Sovereign God, ed. James M. Boice, 17-27 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), 17-18; Irvin, “His Name,” AW, 4.

24  Ryrie, Balancing, 175.

25  T. Alan Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord (Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1982), 70.

26  MacArthur, The Gospel, 27. MacArthur accuses dispensationalists with an obsession for dividing the Scriptures and feels this is the result. As a dispensationalist, this writer would contend that “dividing” the Scriptures to get at the truth is not in itself wrong, but biblical (2 Tim. 2:15).

27  So Darrell L. Bock, Proclamation from Prophecy and Pattern: Lucan Old Testament Christology, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, supplement series 12 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987), 81; Godet, Luke, 81; Marshall, Luke, 110; Geldenhuys, Luke, 111; FranHois Bovon, Das Evangelium nach Lukas, Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (Zhrich: Benziger Verlag, 1989), 125-26. Boice also recognizes the title “Lord” here to denote Jesus’ deity (Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:4).

28  William F. Arndt, Luke, Concordia Classical Commentary Series (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), 82. William F. Arndt, Luke, Concordia Classical Commentary Series (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1956), 82.

29  Warfield, Lord of Glory, 144.

30  Those who see this as a confession of both saved and unsaved include Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959), 105; Jac. J. Mhller, The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955), 88; John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, transl. T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), 252.

31  Calvin, Philippians, 252.

32  Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 30. Mueller also recognizes that in this passage “Christ’s Lordship extends far beyond the realm of just the ‘saved,'” yet in the same paragraph he argues that “Lordship in the New Testament, as it applies to Christ, clearly means Sovereign Ruler, Master, etc., evoking the attendant nuances of obedient service and submission” (Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 19). He either fails to see the flaw in his logic or fails to explain how the unsaved willingly render obedient service and submission.

33  MacArthur, The Gospel, 205.

34  Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 61. Such logic must lead to the implausible conclusion of Barth’s that even the evil powers finally submit in voluntary humility and obedience. See Gerhard Barth, Der Brief an die Philipper, Zhricher Bibelkommentar (Zhrich: Theologisher Verlag, 1979), 44.

35  See Rich Wager, “Lordship Salvation: Another Gospel?,” Signal (November/December 1986): 12.

36  So Michael Green, The Second Epistle General of Peter and the General Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 86; Hodges, Free!, 230-31.

37  Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 55.

38  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66; See also, Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.

39  See MacArthur, The Gospel, 217; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:67-68; ten Pas, Lordship, 5; Chrisope, Lordship, 33-37; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18.

40  MacArthur, The Gospel, 217.

41  Especially pages 77-79.

42  C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Psalms, Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 185.

43  Ryrie, Salvation, 95-96.

44  Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles, NINCT, 96. So also, J. C. O’Neill, “The Use of Kyrios in the Book of Acts,” Scottish Journal of Theology (SJT) 8 (March 1955): 161; Darrell L. Bock, “Jesus as Lord in Acts and in the Gospel Message,” BSac 143 (April-June 1986): 148, and Lucan Christology, 273.

45  Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18.

46  Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 70-71.

47  Acts 5:31 is sometimes cited by Lordship advocates in much the same way as 2:36 (See MacArthur, The Gospel, 217; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68), though the term kurios is not used but _Archg_n, or “Prince”. The sovereign rule of the Messiah seems emphasized. However, the same argument applies as with 2:36. The assertion of Christ’s position is no proof of a demand for individual submission as a condition for salvation.

48  See MacArthur, The Gospel, 217; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.

49  Lordship supporters might counter that Peter meant Cornelius must believe on Him as Lord of one’s life. Yet contextually, the nearest acclamation of Christ is the preceding verse (v. 42) which says He was “ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” To be consistent, Lordship supporters should also demand that one submit to Jesus as Judge, yet this is never heard.

50  Haenchen, Acts, 352; Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles, TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 191; Jacques Dupont, Nouvelles Itudes sur les Actes des Ap^tres (Paris: Les Iditions du Cerf, 1981), 323-25; Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 73.

51  MacArthur, The Gospel, 207. In agreement is Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:69.

52  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; also Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.

53  See chapter two, especially pp. 44-45.

54  F. F. Bruce, The Message of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972), 112-13. The fact that Paul and Silas are also called “lords” (Kurioi) by the jailer out of respect (v. 30) shows the bearing of context on the meaning of this term. It would be absurd to suppose the jailer was submitting or promising to submit his life to Paul and Silas as his masters.

55  Hodges, Free!, 170. Also, see Bock, “Jesus as Lord,” BSac 143:150.

56  Bruce, Message of the New Testament, 112-13.

57  Ryrie, Salvation, 106.

58  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68. See also Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18-19, and ten Pas, Lordship, 7.

59  It is helpful to note that kurios is a predicate accusative in apposition to Criston Ihsoun. Robertson, WPNT, 4:225; Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1963), 965; Rudolf Bultmann, Der Zweite Briefe an die Korinther, Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neuen Testament (G`ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1976), 109. To preach Jesus Christ is to preach Him as deity.

60  So Ralph P. Martin, 2 Corinthians, WBC (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1986), 79; Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 130-31; Bultmann, Korinther, 109; Friedrich Lang, Die Briefe an die Korinther (G`ttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), 278.

61  So Lenski, Corinthians, 966; William Herbert Smith, Jr., “The Function of 2 Corinthians 3:7–4:6 in Its Epistolary Context” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Seminary, 1983), 135.

62  Maurice Carrez, La Deuxième Épitre de Saint Paul aux Corinthiens, Commentaire du Nouveau Testament (CNT), deuxieme serie (Genève: Labor et Fides, 1986), 109.

63  Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1966), 118.

64  Everett F. Harrison, “Must Christ Be Lord to Be Savior–No,” Eternity 10 (September 1959): 16. So also, S. Lewis Johnson, “How Faith Works,” CT 33 (September 22, 1989): 25.

65  BAGD, s.v. “@omologew,” 571.

66  Otto Michel, s.v. “@omologew,” in TDNT 5 (1967): 200.

67  Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 61-62. He cites Michel, s.v. “@omologew,” TDNT 5:209, as support.

68  Irvin, “His Name,” AW, 5.

69  So Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:66; Harrison, “No,” Eternity 10:14; Blauvelt, “Lordship Salvation?” BSac 143:38.

70  Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18.

71  Ibid.

72  Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 3-4. This understanding is representative of Lordship proponents. See also, MacArthur, The Gospel, 28, 199, 207-8; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 17-18; Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 60ff.; Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 59ff.; ten Pas, Lordship, 6.

73  Stott, Basic Christianity, 117. Such an interpretation of confession in Rom. 10:9-10 is disturbingly open ended, as Stott shows when he goes on to say, “But the Christian’s open confession does not end with his baptism. He must be willing for his family and friends to know he is a Christian, both by the life he leads and by his spoken witness. . . . At the same time, he will join a church, associate himself with other Christians . . . and start seeking by prayer, example and testimony to win his friends for Christ.” It is difficult to not consider this an intrusion of works into salvation.

74  Ryrie, Salvation, 70-73; Everett F. Harrison, “Romans,” in EBC (10:1-171): 112, and “No,” Eternity 10:16; Chafer, Theology, 3:379-80.

75  This possibility is found in BAGD, s.v. “@omologew,” 571. Cf. 1 John 4:15.

76  Harrison, “No,” Eternity 10:16.

77  Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1944-55), 1:177-78. See also Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967), 341, and the word study and conclusion of Wesley L. Uplinger, “The Problem of Confession in Romans 10:9-10” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), 26-37.

78  H. A. Ironside, Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, 131; Howard, “Is Faith Enough?” BSac 99:91. Howard writes, “The heart believes but this faith is directed not toward man but toward God. Who then shall say the confession is not also God-ward? How can we introduce a thought foreign to Paul’s concern of a heart confessing its faith to God and say that this is a confession before men? It is rather the transaction of a believing heart with God.” This seems to be the sense of 1 John 1:9, also.

79  So Bultmann, s.v. “pisteuw,” TDNT, 6:209; Nygren, Romans, 383-84; Morris, Romans, 386; William G. T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary upon the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1879), 318; Howard, “Is Faith Enough?,” 92; Paul L. Dirks, “The Biblical Doctrine of Confession” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1955), 32; Uplinger, “Romans 10:9-10,” 50-51.

80  Cranfield, Romans, 2:526.

81  Ibid., 2:530.

82  Ibid., 2:527.

83  The verb epikalew, “call upon,” signifies the act of faith as confession. So Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1988), 518-19; Heinrich Schlier, Der R`merbrief, Herdersf theologischer Kommentar zum Neun Testament (Frieburg: Herder, 1979), 248; Hans Asmussen, Der R`merbrief (Stuttgart: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1952), 215-16; Uplinger, “Romans 10:9-10,” 46-48.

84  Langevin notes that Deuteronomy 30:14 quoted in verse 8 answers Deuteronomy 30:12-13 quoted in verses 6-7 which may have been a proverb used to express something that is impossible. This writer believes this is a strong argument against the Lordship view that one’s salvation must be “confessed” by a righteous lifestyle if it is to be considered genuine. Like ancient Israel, Lordship Salvation appears to seek a salvation that is hard. But Moses and Paul both assert the simplicity and availability of faith. See P. E. Langevin, “La Salut par la foi. Rm 10, 8-13,” Assemblées du Seigneur (AS) 14 (1973): 51-52.

85  The phrase Kurion Ihsoun is variably translated “The Lord Jesus” (NKJ), “Jesus as Lord” (NASB), or “Jesus is Lord” (KJV, NIV, RSV). The anarthrous construction favors the latter two. The fact that “Jesus is Lord” was the central confession of the early church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3; James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, WBC [Dallas: Word Books, 1988, 607; Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 61) argues for the last translation.

86  Harrison, “Romans,” EBC, 10:112.

87  Ryrie, Salvation, 72.

88  Ryrie, Balancing, 175.

89  Morris, Romans, 385.

90  Cranfield, Romans, 2:529. See also, Wuest, 1:178; R. V. Foster, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Nashville: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1891), 294; Robertson, WPNT, 4:389; Clifton Joe Barrow, “An Exegetical Consideration of the Doctrine of Lordship in Salvation from Three Passages: John 11:25-27, Acts 16:30-32, and Romans 10:9-10” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977), 43-46. For an excellent extended discussion, see Paul-Émile Langevin, “Sur la Christologie de Romains 10,1-13,” Laval Theologigue et Philosophique 35 (January 1979): 35-54, especially 48-53.

91  John R. W. Stott, “Jesus Is Lord,” Tenth (July 1976): 3.

92  Irvin, “His Name,” AW, 5.

93  See the argument of Blauvelt, “Lordship Salvation,” BSac 143:39-40.

94  For example, in defending MacArthur’s understanding of Rom. 10:9-10 Kent says, “After all, for a believer to trust Jesus Christ as God surely implies also an acknowledgement of his responsibility to his God” (Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:69). While this may be a true statement, it does not support MacArthur’s view that this passage explicitly demands submission.

95  Harrison, “Romans,” EBC, 10:112.

96  For a full presentation of this view, see Hodges, Free!, 193-99; Gordon Andrew Brunott, Jr., “An Interpretation of Romans 10:1-15 and the Problem of Faith and Confession” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975); William LeGrange Hogan, “The Relation of the Lordship of Christ to Salvation” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1959), 36-42; Robert N. Wilkin, “Has This Passage Ever Bothered You? (Romans 10:9-10),” GESN (September 1987): 2.

97  See the discussion in Brunott, “Romans 10:1-5,” 25-32.

98  The aspect of present salvation finds some support from other commentators. On Rom. 5:9-10 see Nygren, Romans, 202-06; W. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), 13. On present salvation in Rom. 10:9-10, see Langevin, “Rm 10:8-13” AS 14:48-49. On present salvation in the book of Romans as a whole, see Daniel C. Esau, “Paul’s Concept of SWTHRIA in Romans” (Th. M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1969).

99  Hodges, Free!, 193-95.

100  Hodges (Free!, 193-94) and Brunott (“Romans 10:1-15,” 57-58) cite Acts 9:14, 21; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:22; and 1 Pet. 1:17 to show this is a Christian activity.

101  One reason for this is that the separation of faith and confession does not seem warranted for the reasons given on pp. 108-09. Another reason is that though the “Confession for Temporal Deliverance”view appears correct in finding some temporal significance for salvation in 5:9-10 and chapters 6-8, the salvation of 10:9-10 apparently has eschatological meaning in chapters 9-11 (cf. 9:27; 10:1, 13; 11:11, 14, and 26-27 where it is associated with New Covenant forgiveness). Also, in 13:11 Paul declares, “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” The righteousness of God and Israel’s failure to attain it due to unbelief seems to be the emphasis of chapters 9-11 (cf. 9:30-33; 10:3-6; 11:5-6, 20, 23). Still, Hodges’s interpretation is persuasive and deserves further consideration and response. Thus far there has been no response from Lordship teachers other than a cursory treatment by Belcher (Belcher, Layman’s Guide, 83-86).

102  The verb @?potassw in v. 3 has the basic sense of “subject oneself, be subjected” and in this sense implies obedience (BAGD, s.v. “@?potassw,” 855). This may explain the phrase “not all obeyed the gospel” in 10:16. The Jews did not submit to God’s demand to receive His righteousness through the gospel.

103  MacArthur, The Gospel, 95, 203, 209; Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; Marc Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18.

104  Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68.

105  Mark Mueller, “Syllabus,” 18.

106  So Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987), 579-81; Grosheide, Commentary on The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953), 279-80; as well as Lordship advocates John MacArthur, Jr., 1 Corinthians, MNTC (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 278-81, 284-85; and Chrisope, Jesus Is Lord, 66-67.

107  For kurios as an ascription of deity here, see Fee, 1 Corinthians, 581-82; MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, 286; W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in EBC (10:173-297): 261.

108  “The confession includes the acknowledgment that he is truly God and truly man.” Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 241.

109  Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, transl. Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A. M. Hall (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1959), 216.

110  MacArthur, The Gospel, 208. So also, Marc Mueller, Syllabus,” 17; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:68; Miller, “Christ’s Lordship,” 61.

111  Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:10.

112  Warfield, Lord of Glory, 182.

113  Siegfried Schulz, Das Evangelium nach Johannes (G`ttingen: Vandenhoech & Ruprecht, 1983), 246.

114  Boice, “The Lord Christ,” Tenth 10:4.

115  It is puzzling why a Lordship teacher like Stott would speak of his own salvation in terms of “a personal acceptance of Him as my Savior” (emphasis his; Stott, Basic Christianity, 123), yet demand of others submission to Jesus as Ruler.

116  William Johnson, “Jesus Is Lord,” Signal (March/April 1987): 17.

117  See the logical arguments of Paul Holloway, “Evaluation of Some Evidences for ‘Lordship Salvation’,” JOTGES 2 (Autumn 1989): 28-32. Also, Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 181.

118  Ryrie, Balancing, 176-77.

119  Cf. also Phil. 1:15-18.

120  Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 150.

121  Cf. Luke 23:41-42 (UBS text) where the thief on the cross referred to Jesus as “this Man” and by His human name “Jesus.”

122  Renald Showers, “The Trouble with Lordship Salvation,” Word of Life: 1990 Annual 6 (1990): 19.

123  E.g., Rom. 6; 12:1; 2 Cor. 8:5; 10:5; Eph. 6:5-6; Phil. 2:5ff.; Col. 3:17, 23-24; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 4:2; 5:6.

124  E.g. MacArthur, The Gospel, 87, 139-40.

125  Stott, Basic Christianity, 128.

126  John R. W. Stott, “The Lordship of Jesus Christ,” Decision 27 (May 1986): 26.

127  Harrison, “No,” Eternity 10:16.

128  See the discussion of Rom. 6:17 and context on pp. 23-24.

129  Bock, “Jesus as Lord,” BSac 143:151.

130  Lordship proponents would of course deny any merit in submission, as MacArthur states, “Surrender to Jesus as Lord is no more a meritorious human work than believing on Him as Savior. Neither act is a good deed done to earn favor with God. Both are the sovereign work of God in the heart of everyone who believes” (MacArthur, The Gospel, 209). His error, of course, is that the issue in salvation is faith not surrender. The 150 uses of faith or believe to describe the condition of salvation should supersede use of the unbiblical term “surrender.” Elsewhere, MacArthur appropriately chides those who use unbiblical terms to describe the condition of salvation saying it dilutes the gospel strong(e.g., “ask Jesus into your heart,” “accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” “invite Christ into your life”; MacArthur, The Gospel, 21, 106).

131  The perfect tense in verse 18 indicates the Ephesians had believed before the occasion of book burning, most obviously during Paul’s two year stay in Ephesus.

132  Ryrie, Balancing, 172.

133  See the discussion of “spurious faith,” pp. 45-51.

Discipleship and Salvation – Chapter 5 


The subject of discipleship enters the Lordship Salvation debate through different interpretations of its meaning in relation to salvation. It becomes an important concept because of its significance for both salvation and sanctification. Though often taken for granted, the meaning of discipleship is considered by some elusive or unclear, which has elicited calls for further study. 1   Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:75; C. Peter Wagner, “What Is Making Disciples?” Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) 9 (Fall 1973): 285; Schnackenburg, Moral Teaching, 53; J. Dwight Pentecost, Design for Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 11.

The purpose of this chapter is to consider the controversy over discipleship in relation to salvation and evaluate the arguments of the Lordship position. After an evaluation of the lexical and biblical arguments the chapter concludes with a proposed biblical understanding of discipleship.

The Issue

Disagreement between the Lordship Salvation and Free Grace positions focuses on what is meant by the terms “disciple” and “follow” in reference to one’s relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. Adherents to Lordship Salvation generally consider discipleship synonymous with salvation in the sense that to be saved is to be a disciple in every sense of the biblical understanding. 2   E.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 29-30, 196-98; Boice, Discipleship, 13-23; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:76. This view will sometimes be referred to as discipleship-salvation in this study. As such, the term “disciple” emphasizes the obedience and “costliness” of salvation in contrast to the “cheap grace” 3   Bonhoeffer’s term “cheap grace” is frequently used by Lordship advocates in the discussion of the meaning of discipleship. He described it thus: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.” The opposite of “cheap grace” is, of course, “costly grace.” Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, 47. purportedly found in “easy believism.” Likewise, the term “follow” denotes a commitment to faithfulness and obedience which identifies all true believers. 4   E.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 196-97, 202; Boice, Discipleship, 16-23.

These claims of Lordship Salvation are stated clearly by their proponents. MacArthur states, “The gospel Jesus proclaimed was a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience.” 5   MacArthur, The Gospel, 21. See also pp. 29-31, 198. Likewise, Merritt asserts,

The fact is, Jesus sought more than a superficial following; he sought disciples. In short, the evangelistic call of Jesus was essentially a call to repentance and radical discipleship. 6   James G. Merritt, “Evangelism and the Call of Christ” in Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century: The Critical Issues, ed. Thomas S. Rainer, 145-52 (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1989), 145.

Stott also writes,

Jesus never concealed the fact that in His religion there was a demand as well as an offer. Indeed, the demand was as total as the offer was free. If He offered mankind His salvation, He demanded their submission. Jesus gave no encouragement whatever to thoughtless applicants for discipleship. 7   Stott, Basic Christianity, 109.

It follows that faith is therefore submissive obedience:

The response of faith always embraces the call of discipleship, the call to show forth the reality of a new life and freedom by following in obedience to Christ. The call to faith and to discipleship are the same and cannot be separated. 8   Wallis, “Many to Belief,” Soj, 21.

A neglect of emphasis on the demands of discipleship is considered a weakness of the Free Grace position and the contemporary church.< 9   See Dallas Willard, “Discipleship: For Super-Christians Only?” CT 24 (October 10, 1980): 24-25, 27. The Lordship interest in costly discipleship is a response to the growing number of people who profess to be Christians but who do not live up to their profession. Poe states, “The concern for discipleship did not emerge as a theoretical concept in an academic setting, rather it resulted from the phenomenon of people claiming to be Christians who have no interest in the things of Christ.” 10   Harry L. Poe, “Evangelism and Discipleship,” in Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Thom S. Rainer, 133-44 (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1989), 136. This problem can be solved by demanding that sinners pay a price for their salvation, the price of submission and obedience:

In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness. In common honesty, we must not conceal the fact that free forgiveness in one sense will cost everything. 11   Packer, Evangelism, 73.

To support their view, appeal is made to the meaning of two New Testament terms, “disciple” (maqhths) and “follow” (akolouqew), and to a number of Bible passages. Both these areas of argument will now be evaluated.

An Evaluation of the Lexical Arguments

Crucial to the argument of the Lordship position is what is encompassed by the term “disciple” and what it means to “follow” Jesus Christ. As will be seen, the Lordship argument does not appeal to the etymology of the words themselves as much as to New Testament usage. The Lordship position will be studied below, along with a brief consideration of the words involved and a study of their biblical usage.

The Meaning of “Disciple”

The word “disciple” translates the noun maqhths, which is found 264 times in only the Gospels and Acts. 12   Dietrich Müller, s.v. “maqhths,” in NIDNTT 1 (1967): 486. The noun has the basic meaning of “a pupil, apprentice, adherent.” 13   BAGD, s.v. ” maqhths,” 486-87. The verb form, maqhteuw, means “be or become a pupil or disciple,” 14   BAGD, s.v. “maqhteuw,” 486, the intransitive meaning. and occurs only four times in the Gospels and Acts (Matt 13:52; 27:57; 28:19; Acts 14:21).

The term “disciple” has nothing in and of itself that would clearly distinguish between all believers or more committed believers. The concept of “pupil” is somewhat relative and can denote those who learn of salvation or learn of something more than salvation. The Lordship argument cites passages in Acts which seem to equate disciples with Christians (Acts 6:1-2, 7; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 19:10), especially 11:26, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” 15   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:70; MacArthur, The Gospel, 196; Price, Real Christians, 54. Thus Gentry concludes, “Those who distinguish believers into two groups must arbitrarily decide when maqhths is used of the average believer and when it is used of the superbeliever.” 16   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:70. His term “superbeliever” disguises the real issue, which is whether some Christians are more committed than others. Certainly, all would agree that there are varying degrees of commitment among Christians. Why then must the issue of discipleship be framed by the possibility of two clearly defined groups?

The meaning of maqhths, however, is not decided arbitrarily when the biblical context is consulted. When this is done, a number of usages emerge. First, it should be noted that the term is never explained or defined for the readers in the Gospels and Acts, which indicates the readers understood its basic meaning in relation to rabbinic or Greek practice. Found in both realms is the same basic idea of a learner or pupil. 17   K. H. Rengstorf, s.v. “maqhths,” in TDNT 4 (1967): 415-41; Richard D. Calenberg, “The New Testament Doctrine of Discipleship” (Th.D. diss., Grace Theological Seminary, 1981), 20-40.

The Gospels speak of disciples as followers or learners of various people. The Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28), evidently because Moses gave the law which they followed (John 1:17). The Pharisees also had their own disciples (Matt 22:16; Mark 2:18). In addition, there were disciples of John the Baptist (e.g., Matt 9:14; 11:2; 14:12; Mark 2:18; Luke 11:1; John 3:25). These examples show that the relationship of teacher to pupil is essential to the understanding of discipleship.

In regard to those who follow Christ, “disciple” maintains the basic idea of a learner, but the commitment of the learners to Christ varies. In its most general sense, it is used of the multitudes who follow Christ. In Matt 5:1 (cf. Luke 6:17) “disciples” seems interchangeable with the “multitudes” (oclous). 18   Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 66. They are committed enough to come from great distances (4:25) and to be taught (5:2), but it is unclear here whether they are saved. Likewise, in John 6 the multitudes are not distinguished from the disciples (John 6:2-3). However, many of these disciples did not actually believe in Christ, and at the first indication of hardship they deserted Him (6:60-66). This shows that the term in its most general sense can be used of unbelievers who followed Christ, but were not really committed to Him in any way.

From within this large group in John 6, a smaller group of people emerges who clearly express faith in Christ as the Messiah (6:67-68; cf. Matt 16:13-20). The term “disciples” is used most frequently (in the Gospels) to speak of the smaller group of twelve chosen by Christ (Matt 10:1; Luke 6:13). However, believers called “disciples” are elsewhere numbered at seventy (in addition to the Twelve; Luke 10:1, 17, 23) indicating that all true believers were considered disciples in that they had learned of Christ and continued to do so.

Later in His ministry, Jesus taught conditions which would further define and develop the meaning of disciple (e.g., Matt 16:24-27/Mark 8:34-38/Luke 9:23-26; Luke 14:26-33). It will be shown later in a discussion of these conditions that they were given primarily to those who were already considered disciples in the various ways described above. 19   See the discussion of oclos later in the chapter. The conditions he taught seem to denote a deeper, more intimate relationship between learner and teacher. The nature of the conditions show that the one who is to be a disciple of Christ in the fullest sense must be one who is fully identified with Christ, fully committed to Him, and fully submitted to Him. 20   See the discussion of these conditions later in the chapter.

This survey of the Gospels shows that a follower of Christ can be committed to Him in various degrees and yet be designated a disciple. Calenburg cites two good examples of the flexibility of the term. First, he cites the example of Joseph of Arimathea, who was called “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly” (John 19:38) and concludes:

It was possible to manifest faith in the Messiahship of Christ and be considered a part of a group of “disciples” and yet not meet the stringent demands of discipleship laid down by Christ (Luke 19:37; John 19:38).

Calenburg also cites as an example that group called “disciples” in John 6:60-66, which definitely included unbelievers. 21   Calenburg, “Discipleship,” 67-77. While Gentry makes no mention of this passage, MacArthur does say in a footnote,

It is apparent that not every disciple is necessarily a true Christian (cf. John 6:66). The term disciple is sometimes used in Scripture in a general sense, to describe those who, like Judas, outwardly followed Christ. 22   MacArthur, The Gospel, 196, n. 2.

However, such an admission is never harmonized with Lordship Salvation’s requirements for costly discipleship-salvation, thus it seems a cautious acknowledgment that the meaning of maqhths indeed depends on the context. 23   Kent, who holds a Lordship understanding of discipleship, nevertheless acknowledges the use of maqhths in John 6:66 and concludes, “Thus the term itself merely means ‘a follower.’ The nature of that discipleship must be derived from the larger context.” It is thus inconsistent when, without appeal to uses in context, he states, “Those who have separated discipleship from salvation have not done us any service.” Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:75. It can be concluded from a study of the Gospels that overall biblical usage shows the flexibility of the term “disciple.”

At this point, it can be admitted that in Acts disciples are assumed Christians and vice versa. 24   So Everett F. Harrison, s.v. “Disciple,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 166. It is one of several terms used to refer to Christians and is thus used more technically than in the Gospels. But this use of maqhths should be considered in light of the commission at the end of Christ’s ministry in which He commanded His disciples to “make disciples (maqhteuw) of all the nations” (Matt 28:19), for the book of Acts records their obedience to this command. Before discussing the use of maqhths in Acts, a discussion of Matt 28:19 is necessary.

Matthew’s commission is used by Lordship Salvation teachers to equate discipleship with salvation. Gentry insists that Matt 28:19 is simply a “fuller account” of the commission in Mark 16:15 (“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”): “The preaching of the gospel summarized in Mark is the making of disciples in Matthew.” 25   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:70. See also, Boice, Discipleship, 159-169; Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:75.

Gentry’s conclusion has major ramifications for salvation and must be evaluated. It does not appear that the aorist imperative maqhteusate translated “make disciples” should be so quickly equated with Mark’s khroxate to euaggelion. As Lenski comments,

The heart of the commission is in the one word maqhte_sate. This imperative, of course, means, “to turn into disciples,” and its aorist form conveys the thought that this is actually to be done. The verb itself does not indicate how disciples are to be made, it designates only an activity that will result in disciples. It connotes results not methods and ways (emphasis his). 26   Lenski, Matthew, 1172.

The circumstances and means by which disciples are made is indicated by three participles: poreuqentes, baptizontes, and didaskontes. Set off from the other participles, the aorist participle of poreuomai can be understood either as “having gone” or “as you go” denoting a presupposed or simultaneous activity. 27   So Robert D. Culver, “What Is the Church’s Commission?: Some Exegetical Issues in Matthew 28:16-20,” BSac 125 (July-September 1968): 243-53; Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, 8:595. It denotes the “going” activity of those who preach the gospel and parallels Mark’s expanded expression poreuqenteskhr?xate to euagelion, “As you go… preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15), which is the preliminary step to disciple making. 28   So Wagner, “Making Disciples,” EMQ 9:286-87. The first step in making disciples is going out to preach the gospel in order to get them saved. While Mark’s commission stops with gospel proclamation, Matthew records Christ’s words which have in view more than making converts. Hendriksen agrees: “‘make disciples’ …is not exactly the same as ‘make converts,’ though the latter is surely implied.” 29   William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1973), 999. Sheridan explains the emphasis on discipleship in Matthew from the gospel’s purpose:

For Matthew, the comprehensive charge to his followers by Jesus is “to make disciples of all nations.” Teaching others to observe what Jesus had taught them is the way to achieve this. In a sense, Matthew’s gospel is a manual for discipleship, and we may expect to find in the lengthy discourses to the disciples not just instruction for the twelve limited to their historical mission but essentially what they are to pass on in their efforts to make disciples. 30   Mark Sheridan, “Disciples and Discipleship in Matthew and Luke,” Biblical Theology Bulletin (BTB) 3 (October 1973): 240-41. See also Michael J. Wilkins, The Concept of Disciple in Matthew’s Gospel (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1988), 221-22; Wolfgang Trilling, Das Wahre Israel: Studien zur Theologie des Matthäus-Evangeliums, 3d. auflage (München: Kösel-Verlag, 1964), 21ff. Trilling begins his Matthean theology with this passage and its emphasis on discipleship.

The two participles translated “baptizing” and “teaching,” though having some imperatival significance, primarily denote the “how” of maqhteusate. 31   Culver, “Matthew 28:16-20,” BSac 125:244-53; Barclay M. Newman and Philip C. Stine, A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew (New York: United Bible Societies, 1988), 913-14; Pierre Bonnard, L’Évangile selon Saint Matthieu, CNT (Neuchatel, Switzerland: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1963), 419. After evangelization, baptism is the first step of obedient discipleship and demonstrates one’s salvation. Next, teaching obedience to the commands of Christ comprises the means by which Christians develop as disciples. If Matt 28:19 only expresses the same meaning as Mark 16:15, then it must be concluded that baptism and being taught to obey are required for salvation. Since such a conclusion mixes works into the requirement for salvation, Gentry’s understanding of Matt 28:19 cannot be correct (cf. Eph 2:8-9).

In light of the commission in Matt 28:19-20, it is natural that Christians should be called disciples in Acts. Acts is a history of the carrying out of Christ’s commission. Since Christ spoke optimally and not minimally when he spoke of making disciples, Acts assumes that converts will also be disciples. Indeed, this is evidenced throughout the book as all believers are baptized and continue in the Apostles’ teaching with but rare exceptions. 32   Exceptions would be Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), Simon the sorcerer (8:13ff.), and the Ephesian sorcerers (19:10-19). Yet the accounts of Simon and the Ephesians lead one to believe that they will probably continue in the Apostles’ teaching. The general historical description of the early believers was that of a new community following the Christian Way with diligence and in one accord (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 5:12-16; 9:31). These characteristics are the marks of a true disciple. 33   Compare the continuation in the Word in Acts 2:42 with John 8:31, the display of love in Acts 2:42 and 4:32 with John 13:34-35, and the detachment from that which is worldly gain in Acts 2:45 and 4:32-35 with Luke 9:24-25. Noting this, Calenberg also observes that the stringent conditions of discipleship preached by Christ were not preached by the disciples and thus concludes,

The sermons of Acts seemed to reaffirm the distinction between conversion by faith in Christ and committed discipleship. The general use of the term “disciple” for all believers and the practice of many new converts implied [that] committed discipleship to Christ was the common and expected response to His will as taught by the Apostles. 34   Calenberg, “Discipleship,” 238-39. See also 197-200.

That the first Christians were committed as disciples is no surprise in light of the hostile Jewish cultural context. For a Jew to become a Christian was ipso facto to bear the cross of Christ’s suffering through certain persecution or isolation.

This understanding harmonizes with the absence of the word maqhths in the Epistles. There mimhths (“imitator”) 35   BAGD, s.v. “mimhths,” 524. The verb mimomai has the meanings “imitate, emulate, follow” (ibid., s.v. “mimomai,” 523). appears to replace maqhths as the word that is closest conceptually to disciple. 36   So W. Michaelis, s.v “mimomai,” TDNT 4 (1967): 673; Hans Dieter Betz, Nachfolge und Nachahmung Jesu Christi in Neuen Testament (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1967), 137-89; Hans Joachim Schoeps, “Von der imitatio dei zur Nachfolge Christi,” in Aus Frühchristlicher Zeit: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1950), 286-301. Calenberg’s conclusion relates the significance of this to discipleship:

A study of the Epistles revealed that “following Christ” was communicated in the terms and practice of imitating Christ. This imitation was seen to be developmental in nature and involved conscious reproduction of the behavior and attitudes of a worthy person. The factors involved in such imitation were similar to the conditions of discipleship, namely, observation, attachment, motivation, submission to authority and obedience. The result of such imitation of Christ was observed to be the very goal of discipleship—Christlikeness. 37   Calenburg, “Discipleship,” 239.

Thus, in the New Testament, maqhths appears to begin as a general term in the Gospels denoting various degrees of commitment to Jesus Christ. In Acts it becomes more focused on those who were Christians in general because as a whole they followed in the Apostles’ doctrine and thus followed Christ. What it means to follow Christ is examined next.

The Meaning of “Follow”

The verb akolouqew is translated “follow” and occurs over sixty times in the Gospels in reference to following Christ. 38   Christian Blendinger, s.v. “akolouqew,” in NIDNTT 1 (1975): 481-82; Gerhard Kittel, s.v. “akolouqew,” in TDNT 1 (1964): 213-14. When used of individuals, it denotes the beginning of discipleship in the sense of a pupil who subordinates himself to a teacher. 39   Blendinger, s.v. “akolouqew,” NIDNTT, 1:482. A parallel thought is expressed by the phrase “come after” (opisw elqei) in relation to Christ. 40   The expression opisw elqein, “come after,” as used in passages like Matt 16:24 and Luke 9:23 signifies the same as “follow” in relation to Christ; that is, a life of surrendered discipleship. See Johannes Schneider, “ercomai,” in TDNT 2 (1964): 66; Wolfgang Bauder, s.v. “opisw,” in NIDNTT 1 (1975): 492-93. Both expressions signify discipleship, and like the word maqhths in and of themselves they do not distinguish between salvation and something more.

It is clear that the Gospels speak of following Christ in a general sense much the same as was true of maqhths. Large crowds followed Him, 41   E.g., Matt 4:25; 8:1; 12:15; 21:9; Mark 10:32. but there were also the individuals called to a more intimate relationship of discipleship. 42   E.g., Matt 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; Mark 2:14; 8:34; Luke 5:27; 9:23.

Still, Lordship proponents understand the command or invitation of Christ to “follow Me” as an invitation to salvation. In doing so their argument is not so much lexical as it is from usage. For example, Boice argues from several incidents where Christ said “follow Me” and concludes,

…the command to follow Jesus was not understood by Him to be only a mere physical following or even an invitation to learn more about Him and then see if one wanted to be a permanent disciple or not. Jesus understood it as turning from sin to salvation. 43   Boice, Discipleship, 17.

John 10:27-28 in particular will be discussed because it is used by both Boice and MacArthur to argue that “follow Me” signifies obedience which secures salvation. 44   Boice, Discipleship, 166-67; MacArthur, The Gospel, 178. Here Christ said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

While it is agreed that Christ’s use of “follow Me” seems to be in a salvation context, some observations must be made. First, these two uses are used descriptively of what the subjects are doing, not imperatively of what Jesus demands that they do for salvation.

Also, these uses are the first strictly metaphorical uses in the New Testament, both occurring within larger metaphors, which must influence their interpretation. John uses metaphors frequently, especially in relation to salvation, as Turner has well noted. 45   George Allen Turner, “Soteriology in the Gospel of John,” JETS 19 (Fall 1976): 272-73. Turner notes that John sometimes uses other synonyms for faith which denote action or doing. Cf. “come” (John 5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37); “enter” (10:9); “eat” (6:51-58;); “drink” (4:14; 6:53-56; 7:37); “accept” (1:12; 5:43). John here, as also in 8:12, uses “follow Me” in a metaphorical sense to picture faith in Christ as Savior. The picture, however, more accurately focuses on the natural response of faith which is obedience. Faith itself seems to be indicated by the sheeps’ hearing of Christ’s voice in John 10:27. But for sheep, the only assurance that they have heard and trust their shepherd’s voice is in their following. Given the metaphor, it is hard to picture faith in any other way but in the following of the trusted voice. The metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep inherently lends itself to the activity of following:

…[the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so. A sheep’s instinctive fear of strange voices lies of course in the background of this metaphor (see 10:4, 5), so that the decision to follow is after all an act of trust. 46   Hodges, Gospel Under Siege, 44-45.

The same could be said for John 8:12 where Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Following the light represents the response of faith in the light. 47   Blendinger, s.v. “akolouqew,” NIDNTT 1:483.

Thus “follow Me” in these metaphorical contexts is ultimately a metaphor for faith or trust in Christ. 48   So Bultmann, John, 343-44. Bultmann contrasts the metaphorical use of “follow,” equivalent to “believe” in these two passages, with its meaning of discipleship in other passages in John. See also Ernst Haenchen, John 2, transl. Robert W. Funk, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 26, on the soteriological significance of “follow” in 8:12.

Both Boice and MacArthur have gone too far to claim that “follow Me” in John 10:27 pictures only Christian obedience. This ignores not only the metaphorical use, but also the context. In v 26 Jesus rebukes the Jews, saying, “You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.” The contrast of unbelief with belief is obvious. Also, in v 28 Jesus states that the result of following is “eternal life,” the usual result of faith in John.

The Lordship argument that uses John 10:27-28 as proof that the term “follow” signifies an obedient lifestyle that secures salvation actually does little more than show how crucial the context is in understanding the significance of the term. That the term is not always used as a requirement for salvation is clear from John 21:22 where Jesus tells Peter, “You follow Me.” Peter was certainly saved at the time, thus the invitation to follow Jesus was an invitation to a continuous post-salvation commitment.

Lordship Salvation’s lexical argument and appeal to Scriptural usage are not enough to determine the meaning of the terms “disciple” or “follow Me.” This must be determined from a study of its use in other Bible passages.

An Evaluation of Key Bible Passages

The Lordship interpretation of discipleship in relation to salvation summons its strongest argument from a number of passages in the Gospels. First, it appeals to the passages in which Jesus enumerates the conditions for discipleship. Second, it argues from some narrative accounts; chiefly the account of the rich young ruler, but also the accounts of the calling of the first disciples. Jesus’ teaching in the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl is also cited by Lordship advocates.

Discipleship as Costly

The teachings of Jesus Christ make it plain that discipleship is costly. The matter to be determined is whether the passages which enumerate the price of discipleship speak of initial salvation or a post-salvation commitment to Jesus Christ. Most conditions of discipleship given by Christ are congregated contextually between His prediction of death and resurrection and His transfiguration (Matt 16:24-27/Mark 8:34-38/Luke 9:23-26). The focus of this section will be largely upon this pericope. Another condition occurs in Matt 10:37 and Luke 14:26 in contexts which repeat some of the conditions of the post-prediction pericope.

Matthew 16:24-27/Mark 8:34-38/Luke 9:23-26

Before the conditions themselves are studied, a consideration of the background will be valuable.  The occasion and audience will help determine the purposes of Jesus’ hard sayings about discipleship.

The background

The Lordship interpretation of Jesus’ teaching about discipleship assumes an evangelistic occasion. 49   E.g., see MacArthur, The Gospel, 30. Consideration of the context shows that the occasion of these sayings is significantly linked to the prediction of Christ’s passion and resurrection and the rebuke of Peter. Matthew and Mark’s account record Peter’s rebuke of Christ and Christ’s response: “Get thee behind Me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt 16:23/Mark 8:33).

Jesus’ rebuke is understandable after He predicted His suffering and death. He was demonstrating to the disciples that He “must” (de_) suffer and be killed as part of God’s will for the Son of Man (Matt 16:21/Mark 8:31/Luke 9:22). There was, for Christ, a price to be paid in following God’s will to completion and His own glorification. Peter’s rebuke of Christ essentially denies that God’s will requires such a price. Jesus’ subsequent rebuke categorizes this perspective as satanic.

The conditions of discipleship then follow contextually 50   Matthew denotes the continuity with Tote, “then” (Matt 16:24). So Lenski, Matthew, 642. as the price which must be paid to follow the will of God to completion and share in Christ’s glory. 51   See Ridderbos, “Matthew,” transl. Ray Togtman, The Bible Student’s Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 312. In view of the Lord’s imminent death and departure, 52   That the transfiguration occurs immediately after these pronouncements about discipleship in all three accounts reinforces the idea of the completion of God’s will which brings glorification. Jesus’ glorification looks forward to His consummate glory in the kingdom, achieved by His costly obedience. these conditions enumerate the way by which the will of God can be fully realized. The explanatory gar (Matt 16:27/Mark 8:38) introduces the reason for the conditions: Jesus will soon be glorified. 53   So Plummer, Matthew, 236.

The audience is also significant. Matthew indicates that Jesus addressed his sayings to none other than the twelve disciples (Matt 16:24). Mark says that Jesus “called the people (oclon) to Him, with His disciples also” (Mark 8:34). The “people” are not specifically identified, but in Mark’s use of oclos, when there is enough evidence to determine their disposition, the crowd that follows Jesus is presented as more than curious. They are enthusiastic followers, are teachable, exhibit faith in their midst, and sometimes seem totally sympathetic to Christ as if they were believers. 54   Sometimes oclos is used by Mark with little clue as to the crowd’s spiritual orientation other than that they show great enthusiasm for Jesus (3:20; 7:14, 17; 9:14, 25; 10:46; 12:41). A number of uses show a crowd that at least has a good disposition towards Him (6:33, 45) or contains those with faith to believe in Jesus for healings (2:5 [cf. v. 5]; 3:9 [cf. v. 10]; 5:21, 24, 27; 7:33 [cf. v. 32]; 9:17). In 8:1-2 there is more than curiosity, because the crowd went without food for three days. The crowd is shown as teachable (2:13; 4:1; 6:34; 10:1; 12:37 [cf. v. 35]) and sometimes assumes the customary sitting position of pupils before their master (3:32; 8:6). Moreover, there are some uses in which the crowd is presented as in total sympathy with Christ. In 3:34 Jesus calls the multitude sitting at His feet “My mother and My brothers” who are those that do His will (3:35). In 6:34 they are pictured as sheep over whom Jesus assumes the role of Shepherd. In 11:18 and 12:12 the crowd is so supportive of Jesus that the Jewish leadership fears to harm Him. Finally, 12:37 pictures a crowd being taught in the temple (v. 35) who seem to acknowledge Jesus’ messianic claim. Of the thirty-eight uses of oclos by Mark, only four are negative towards Christ. These come after Jesus’ arrest and describe the crowd on the side of the Jewish leaders who were against Jesus (14:43; 15:8, 11, 15). Lane comments on Mark 8:34:

By calling the crowd Jesus indicates that the conditions for following him are relevant for all believers, and not for the disciples alone¼The common address of these sober words to the crowd and the disciples recognizes that there is no essential difference between them when confronted with the sufferings of Christ; both alike have very human thoughts uninformed by the will of God (8:33), and it was imperative for them to know what it means to follow Jesus. 55   William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, NICNT (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 306-7.

Luke records that Jesus spoke “to them all” (Luke 9:23), the nearest antecedent of which is the Twelve (Luke 9:18), 56   The parallel conditions of Matthew 10 are stated to the Twelve (Matt 10:5), while a different pericope, Luke 14:26ff., is addressed to the “great multitudes” who “went with Him” (Luke 14:25). but possibly He spoke to the Twelve and the multitudes. 57   Plummer remarks, “The pantas represents Mk.’s ton oclon s?n tois maqntais. The necessity of self-denial and self-sacrifice was made known to all, although for the present the supreme example of the necessity was a mystery revealed gradually to a very few” (Plummer, Luke, 248). The portrayal of the multitudes in general in Luke is very similar to Mark’s although a few times Luke shows Christ’s antagonists associated with the term oclos (cf. 3:7 [but see v. 10] ; 5:29; 11:14-15; 12:54-56). Interestingly, Luke sometimes shows that there was a large number (oclos) of “disciples” (6:17; 7:11). In Luke 12:1 Jesus is described as teaching His disciples “first” (prwton) in the presence of an “innumerable multitude” (ton m?riadwn tou oclou). It therefore seems reasonable to assume that in the Synoptics, when Jesus spoke to the multitudes (who to various degrees were followers), He was first teaching His twelve disciples.

If Jesus addressed primarily his twelve disciples, who were definitely saved (except Judas), 58   John 2:11 confirms that the early disciples had believed in Christ. More contextually relevant, the vicarious confession of Peter, which precedes the pericope under consideration, indicates the disciples’ faith in Jesus as the messianic Savior and the divine Son of God (Matt 16:16/Mark 8:29/Luke 9:20). and the crowds who were at least sympathetic or at the most contained many followers whose exact commitment to Christ is left undefined, then it is reasonable to assume these sayings should apply primarily to the issues of a deeper relationship with Him and not salvation. It would be pointless for the Synoptic authors (especially Matthew) to focus on the disciples if these were conditions of salvation. 59   One might argue that it is equally pointless to declare the conditions of discipleship to those already called disciples. However, this ignores the progression of revelation which accompanied and characterized Jesus’ ministry. Jesus consistently challenged His followers to a greater commitment to the will of God regardless of their present status (cf. John 21:22). The disciple was always becoming more fully a disciple. One would expect such conditions to be announced when the disciples first met Jesus. A brief examination of each of these conditions will demonstrate whether they apply more appropriately to the Christian life or to salvation.

The conditions

The conditions can and should be best interpreted in light of the preceding prediction of Jesus’ suffering and death. The revelation of His passion provided a meaningful setting and illustration for these sayings about the cost of discipleship. As will be seen, many times there is agreement with the basic Lordship Salvation interpretation of the condition itself. The focus of the discussion will be on whether these are conditions for salvation or a deeper commitment of discipleship.

Also, it should be noted that the requirements are for anyone who desires to “come after” Christ. As noted earlier, “come after” (opisw elqein) denotes discipleship. 60   See p. 127, n. 40. It clearly describes a process not an event; a committed life of following after Jesus rather than coming to Him for salvation. 61   In contrast, note how ercomai with pros, “come to [Jesus] is used for salvation in John (6:35, 37, 44, 45, 65; 7:37; 5:40 [negatively]). The conditions for those who would “come after” Christ will be considered individually, then collectively.

Deny himself“. This is best interpreted by what the disciples have just heard about Christ’s fate. Jesus will deny Himself His own desires and submit to the desire of God for Him—suffering and death. To deny oneself is interpreted contextually as being mindful of the things of God, not the things of man (Matt 16:23/Mark 8:33). In Stott’s understanding, “he must repudiate himself and his right to organize his own life.” 62   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18. Gentry explains the significance in relation to salvation: “A person who truly receives Christ as Savior is in effect denying himself and his wants as nothing and Christ as everything.” 63   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:174.

While Stott and Gentry understand the essence of the saying, their application of this condition to salvation does not coincide with the real issue in salvation, which is the forgiveness of sin and justification of the sinner. But in harmony with the context, Jesus is not addressing these issues here. He speaks of denying oneself that which would obstruct the fulfillment of God’s will in the course of following Him. Apart from passages that deal explicitly with discipleship, and in the passages that deal explicitly with salvation, there is no mention of self-denial, one’s “right to organize his own life,” or one’s “denying himself his wants” as a requirement for salvation. These are necessary for an obedient lifestyle, not the justification which is through faith alone (Rom 4).

Take up his cross“. Stott argues that to take up the cross is to make oneself as a condemned man, apparently in the sense of living for Christ instead of self. 64   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18. Boice sees cross-bearing as “saying yes to something for Jesus’ sake.” Specifically, Boice declares that cross-bearing involves prayer, Bible study, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, receiving strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, and witnessing. 65   Boice, Discipleship, 40. In light of the context, it appears that Jesus is expecting the disciples to suffer hardships in order to do God’s will just as He does by submitting to the cross. For He and the disciples, it meant they were as men condemned to die who carry their cross-beams to the place of execution in submission to a higher authority: “His followers must be prepared to die.” 66   Lane, Mark, 307-8. Green concludes that for the disciples “to take up one’s cross” publicly demonstrated submission to the authority against which one had previously rebelled. But this may read too much into the saying, for Jesus would shortly and literally take up His cross, yet He never rebelled against His Father’s authority, and His cross-bearing is the basis for this saying in the context. See Michael P. Green, “The Meaning of Cross-bearing,” BSac 140 (April-June 1983): 117-33. If this is applied to unbelievers, then the gospel message is an invitation to be willing to die for Jesus.

Stott’s interpretation and Gentry’s practical considerations may be correct, but that they refer to a condition of salvation for unbelievers is untenable, for then it would seem that salvation is by suffering, a willingness to die for Christ, or works. Boice’s particulars demonstrate the works orientation of such a view. This confuses and contradicts the Scriptures which speak of Jesus Christ who suffered and died so that sinners could be saved. 67   Cf. Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:23; Rom 5:6-10; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 13:12; 1 Pet. 1: 18-19; 3:18. The sinner’s suffering has no merit toward justification. The unbeliever has no cross in the sense of self-mortification (contra Stott), for he is already dead in sins (Eph. 2:1-2); nor do unbelievers, by definition, have a cross in the sense of Christian duties (contra Boice). The chief will of God for unbelievers is obedience to the command to repent and believe in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 3:23).

Furthermore, Luke adds the qualifier “daily.” This could not refer to salvation because it refers to something that is daily renewable. Stott is right when he declares, “Every day the Christian is to die. Every day he renounces the sovereignty of his own will. Every day he renews his unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ.” 68   Stott, Basic Christianity, 114. See also, Boice, Discipleship, 42; MacArthur, The Gospel, 202. But Stott speaks here of “the Christian.” 69   This is inconsistent with his application of this passage to unbelievers and confusing in the context of his discussion about salvation. See Stott, Basic Christianity, 114, and “Yes,” Eternity 10:18. If this characterizes saving faith and is made a condition for salvation, as Lordship proponents insist, one must decide to place faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord through surrender everyday without fail. Such an expectation is not found elsewhere in the Bible and makes both salvation and assurance impossible.

Follow Me“. As discussed earlier, this phrase speaks of discipleship and denotes the pupil/master relationship. Here Jesus invests the term with the significance of following Him by obeying God’s will, that is, by self denial and taking up the cross, as Stott agrees. 70   Stott, Basic Christianity, 114. Also, Marshall, Luke, 374. Because following another person is a process, a progression, and requires a lapse of time, 71   The present tense of akolouqew signifies habitual and permanent action. Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Mark (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977), 182. this condition cannot speak of entrance into salvation. This would make salvation secured by the imitation of Christ or by adherence to His example, which would be a works salvation. It is best taken as a term that describes a continuously committed lifestyle.

Loses his life.” An explanatory statement (gar) follows the three conditions. Jesus says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24; cf. Matt 16:25/Mark 8:35; and Matt 10:39). To lose one’s life explains in summary form what it means to deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow Jesus Christ after God’s will. The background of Jesus losing His life physically on the cross and thus metaphorically to the will of God has been observed in the previous context (Matt 16:21/Mark 8:31/Luke 9:22). So must those who are to be disciples also lose their lives to the will of God. This will involve the three conditions just mentioned: denial of one’s own desires, suffering in obedience, and continuous following of Christ in the will of God.

The denial of one’s own desires in order to obey the will of God is amplified by the following rhetorical question with explanatory force (gar): “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26; cf. Mark 8:36/Luke 9:25). If a man were to not deny himself and not pursue the will of God, but pursue his own selfish and worldly desires, he would lose his soul, or his life.

Here some will point to the phrase “save his life” (thn. . . y?chn autou swsai), the phrase “loses his own soul” (thn . . . y?chn autou zhmiwqh), and the consequence “destroyed or lost” (apolesas h zhmiwqeis, in Luke) in order to invest the passage with soteriological significance. 72   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:75; Boice, Discipleship, 38; MacArthur, The Gospel, 201-2. However, the verb “save” (swzw) is not automatically soteriological in meaning. It is probably used here in the general sense of “rescue, preserve from danger,” 73   So Lenski, Matthew, 645. i.e., saved from a life of self-denial and cross-bearing, 74   So M. F. Sadler, The Gospel According to Mark (London: George Bell and Sons, 1899), 175; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1964), 350. for this thought explains (gar) the impact of the previous conditions.

Likewise, “life” (y?ch) does not automatically refer to the eternal soul only. The parallel in Luke 9:25 replaces Matthew and Mark’s y?ch with eauton, “himself.” The noun y?ch is frequently used in Scripture in the sense of the essential life of man. Contra to other Lordship proponents, Stott recognizes this meaning. Speaking of the word y?ch, he correctly observes,

The word for “life” here means neither our physical existence, nor our soul, but our self. The y?ch is the ego, the human personality which thinks, feels, plans and chooses… the man who commits himself to Christ, therefore, loses himself, not by the absorption of his personality in Christ’s personality but by the submission of his will to Christ’s will. 75   Stott, Basic Christianity, 114. See also the NIV translation “self” in Luke 9:25

Furthermore, unless the context is clearly proved to be soteriological, the verbs apollumi and zhmiow should retain their respective general meanings of “ruin, destroy, lose” 76   BAGD, s.v. “apollumi,” 94-95. A majority of uses in the New Testament are clearly not soteriological and “suffer damage or loss, forfeit, sustain injury.” 77   BAGD, s.v. “zhmiow,” 339. Uses outside of these discipleship passages never speak of eternal destruction. One eschatological use refers to a believer who “suffers loss” yet is “saved” eternally (1 Cor. 3:15). When Jesus says “whoever loses his life for My sake” the sense is certainly not eternal destruction, for he says this one will then “find it,” which is something good. Conversely, it fits well that what one may lose when he tries to save his life (preserve himself from the hardships of self-denial and cross-bearing) is life in the essential qualitative sense, not the eternal soul.

The paradox Jesus used has great meaning. What He appears to be saying is essentially this: “Whoever desires to preserve himself from the hardships of God’s will of self-denial and cross-bearing will really only forfeit the essential quality of the life he is trying to preserve. On the other hand, whoever forfeits himself to God’s will of self-denial and hardships will discover a greater essential quality of the life he intended to forfeit.” This interpretation would therefore not describe initial salvation, but a higher quality of experience with God in this life, with implications for the eschatological life, as the next section will show.

Whoever is ashamed of Me.” Mark and Luke state a negative condition that if anyone is ashamed of Christ and His words, Christ will also be ashamed of that person at His coming (Mark 8:38/Luke 9:26). Matt 16:27 does not mention shame, but can be correlated with Matt 10:32-33 78   As Stott suggests. Stott, Basic Christianity, 117. where the condition is stated in terms of confessing and denying Christ, 79   Matthew’s use of arneomai, “deny” basically conveys little different meaning from Mark and Luke’s use of epaiscuomai, “be ashamed.” See Marshall, Luke, 377. and is claimed to be a condition of salvation. 80   Stott, Basic Christianity, 117; Boice, Discipleship, 117; MacArthur, The Gospel, 198-200.

The idea of being ashamed of Christ or denying Christ is clarified in some contexts more than others. In Luke the saying follows a warning about one who positions himself with the world for the sake of gain (Luke 9:25). The following v 26 is explanatory (gar) of the eschatological consequences which face those who desire the world. The same could be said of Mark 8:38, with the exception that Jesus adds the helpful phrase “in this adulterous and sinful generation.” The shame therefore seems to imply a denial of one’s identification with Christ in the face of the pressure to live for and identify with the world. The gar appears to connect v 38 with v 35 expanding the idea of one’s relation to this world and its consequences. Perhaps the greatest clarification comes from the parallel thought of Matt 10:32-33 where the context is developed more fully. There Jesus is giving the Twelve instructions before sending them out to preach the gospel (Matt 10:5ff.). He warns of rejection and persecution (Matt 10:16-25) and encourages them not to fear (Matt 10:26-31). Verses 32-33 are also followed by similar warnings about rejection (Matt 10:34-36). In vvs 32-33 Jesus is both encouraging and warning in the face of the fear of persecution. He wants the disciples to know that anyone who identifies with Christ will be rewarded, while anyone who shrinks from this will be denied by Christ before the Father. Matthew’s context seems a close parallel to that which is signified by Mark’s phrase “in this adulterous and sinful generation” (Mark 8:38).

The consequence facing someone who is ashamed of or denies Christ is more enigmatic. Do Christ’s reciprocal shame and denial of that person at His coming denote a denial of salvation? In correlating Matt 10:32-33 with 16:27, it is clear that the issue is some kind of recompense for one’s works. Matthew takes care to state that at His coming, Christ “will reward (apodwsei) each according to his works” (16:27). That Jesus makes works the basis of the recompense implies salvation is not the issue (Eph. 2:8-9). Also, the verb apodidwmi carries the idea of “recompense” with no inherent sense of whether it is good or bad, so it could speak of positive reward or negative judgment 81   BAGD, s.v. “apodidwmi,” 89-90. For clear examples of a good reward, see Matt 6:4, 6, 18. In Mark and Luke a negative recompense is suggested: It is the shame Christ will have for those who were too ashamed to identify with Christ. The effect of Christ’s shame is not specified, but one could surmise that for a redeemed and now fully enlightened believer, this would at least produce regret. In the parallel passage Matt 10:32-33, the idea of recompense is good (v. 32) or bad (v. 33) accordingly. 82   Recompense, and not salvation specifically, seems to be the context for Matthew’s mention of confessing Christ in 10:32-33. As discussed, the context warns of persecution and rejection (Matt 10:16-31; 34-36). In such persecution, those who shrink from confessing Christ will be denied the reward of Christ confessing them before the Father in heaven (10:32-33). Furthermore, the issue of one’s worthiness (10:37-39) implies the idea of merit which implies either reward or lack of reward. Jesus then spoke of rewards for those not ashamed of identifying with Him and His disciples (10:40-42; cf. 5:11-12). In vv 41 and 42 Jesus uses the word misqos, which in the majority of its New Testament usages, denotes a positive “wage” or “reward” (BAGD, s.v. “misqos,” 525). Christ’s confession (or lack of it) in heaven would not relate to final judgment, but to an acknowledgment (or lack of it) before the Father of the disciples’ unity or fellowship with Christ 83   For this idea see Robertson, WPNT, 1:83; A. B. Bruce, “Synoptic Gospels,” EGT, 1:167. which is recompensed in an unspecified but appropriate way.

Collectively, all the conditions studied thus far in this section are summarized by Lordship advocates as demands for submission to Christ as Lord for salvation. Stott summarizes them under the concept of following Christ:

Thus, in order to follow Christ, we have to deny ourselves, to crucify ourselves, to lose ourselves. The full inexorable demand of Jesus Christ is now laid bare. He does not call us to a sloppy half-heartedness, but to a vigorous, absolute commitment. He invites us to make Him our Lord. 84   Stott, Basic Christianity, 114.

Likewise, MacArthur concludes,

Faith is not an experiment, but a lifelong commitment. It means taking up the cross daily, giving all for Christ each day with no reservations, no uncertainty, no hesitation. It means nothing is knowingly held back, nothing purposely shielded from His lordship, nothing stubbornly kept from His control. 85   MacArthur, The Gospel, 202.

Plainly, the conditions understood by Lords/ahip advocates are absolute, all or nothing. 86   It is difficult to reconcile MacArthur’s statement that these conditions are “not absolute in the sense that it disallows temporary failures like Peter” (ibid.) with his intentionally absolutist choice of language in the preceding quote. In essence, there is little disagreement with the interpretations of the demands themselves, only with the application of them to salvation instead of the Christian life.

Lordship Salvation teachers object to the characterization of their position as works oriented. Some define the conditions as only attitudinal changes, as indicated by Gentry:

This is not to say that in order to be a Christian one has to perform certain prerequisite, meritorious works. It simply asserts that to follow Christ for eternal life meant having a real attitude of self-denial in looking in trust and hope from self to Christ as Lord. 87   Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:74-75.

Likewise, MacArthur says, “[Christ] wants disciples willing to forsake everything. This calls for total self-denial—to the point of willingly dying for His sake” (emphasis his). 88   MacArthur, The Gospel, 201. Thus, they hold that Jesus was teaching that to be saved, one must only be willing to do these things. But this does not seem to be a supportable conclusion, nor does it evade the charge of salvation by merit for the following reasons: 1) Jesus did not say that one must only be willing; 2) It is poor theology to demand from unbelieving sinners a decision that assumes an understanding of the full significance of Christ’s sacrifice, especially at this point in the Gospel narratives before His death (Would Jesus ask a sinner to be willing to die for Him?); 3) This would practically preclude anyone from being saved unless he understood the meanings of these phrases—meanings which can best be appreciated in light of salvation, not in prospect of it; 4) If one must be willing to do these things for salvation, then salvation is just as conditional and meritorious as if they were actual works, which negates the concept of grace (Rom 4:4); 5) The subjectivity of willingness makes salvation elusive, as Zuck notes,

Willingness to do something is not the same thing as actually doing it, and it 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? 89   Roy B. Zuck, “Cheap Grace?,” Kindred Spirit (KS) 13 (Summer 1989): 6-7.

Jesus’ teaching on discipleship took place well into His ministry and was addressed primarily to His disciples as a further revelation of the kind of commitment He desired of His saved followers. He explained these conditions against the background of His own commitment that would lead to His death in order to invest them with the fullest significance.

Matthew 10:37/Luke 14:26

In another setting, Matthew and Luke add another condition to those already considered. In Matthew’s account, Jesus says the one who “loves” (from filw) family more than Him are “not worthy” of Him. In Luke, Jesus says no one can be His disciple who does not “hate” (from misw) his family and his own life. This condition is troublesome for many whether it speaks of salvation or a deeper commitment.

Jesus was probably using a Semitic figure of speech as Beare asserts,

This is the more Semitic manner of speaking—Luke’s words are the literal translation of an Aramaic original; but the verb “hate” does not carry its full sense. It means no more than “love less”, and Matthew has turned this into the positive—not that they must love the immediate family less than Jesus, but they must love Him more. Loyalty to the Master must override even the closest family ties. 90   Francis Wright Beare, The Gospel According to Matthew (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1981), 250. See also, C. F. Evans, Saint Luke (London: SCM Press, 1990), 577; Arndt, Luke, 344; Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, 8:257.

The meaning is that Jesus must be the object of one’s supreme love and devotion if one is to be His disciple. In Matthew, the saying is in the context of a warning about those who would reject the disciples’ message about Christ. 91   See the preceding discussion on p. 136. Jesus indicates that because of the Gospel message family members will be divided over Christ (10:34-35) making a person’s enemies those of his own household (10:36). In such a situation, a person who is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah will have his ongoing loyalty tested by those in the family who disagree. This would present a great temptation to choose family ties and harmony over one’s identity with Christ.

Therefore, MacArthur rightly interprets the meaning of the idiom itself, “We must be unquestionably loyal to Him.” 92   MacArthur, The Gospel, 201. Stott and Boice have similar interpretations (Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; Boice, Discipleship, 117). However, this interpretation does not harmonize with salvation, for one learns love and loyalty on the basis of what Jesus has done in redemption and forgiveness. Salvation is brought to men by God apart from their love and loyalty to God (Rom 5:6-8; 1 John 4:10). Even thus softened (as a Semitic figure of speech), such a devoted love for God over blood relationships is an extraordinary demand for sinners who have had no experience of Christ’s redeeming love. Just as family love grows stronger with time and sharing, so also must one’s love for Christ.

Furthermore, it does not seem to speak of salvation because Matthew records that any loyalty before Christ makes or shows one to be “not worthy” (ouk . . . axios) of Christ (Matt 10:37). The statement about “unworthiness” seems to imply the converse, that one can be “worthy” of Christ. The unsaved are unworthy of Christ and His salvation because they are sinners, not because of one particular sin (i.e., loyalty to family before Christ). Conversely, no amount of loyalty to God or any other form of good deed makes a sinner worthy of Christ’s righteousness. It is hard to see how Lordship advocates can avoid the suggestion of salvation by merit. Boice does not try to reconcile his interpretation with righteousness by grace through faith alone, but says, “When [Jesus] said, ‘Anyone who fails to do so-and-so is not worthy of Me,’ He probably meant precisely what He says in Luke 14:26, namely, ‘He cannot be my disciple,’ which means, ‘He cannot be saved.’” 93   Boice, Discipleship, 117. Salvation is never a reward for one’s worthiness, for all men are unworthy of God’s righteousness. One can only be worthy for rewards.

Like the previous demands, this demand cannot speak of salvation. It is truth which brings believers into deeper commitment to Jesus as Lord through their loyalty.

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus gave this invitation after the nation rejected Him and His message which was preached in the gospel by the twelve apostles (Matt 10:5ff.; 11:20ff.):

Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

To Lordship Salvation teachers, this is exclusively an invitation to discipleship-salvation. Both Stott and MacArthur claim that this is Christ’s summary gospel presentation. 94   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:17; MacArthur, The Gospel, 108. Both focus on the metaphor of the “yoke,” which they claim signifies servitude and submission, and the imperative “learn” (maqhth) which indicates discipleship. 95   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18; MacArthur, The Gospel, 111-13.

There is disagreement over what the “labor and heavy laden” refers to. Boice sees this as “a sense of sin’s burden and the need of a Savior.” 96   Boice, Discipleship, 27. Stott, however, claims it is easily understood as the yoke of the Law of Moses, 97   Stott, “Jesus Is Lord,” Tenth, 6-7. while MacArthur finds both ideas. 98   MacArthur, The Gospel, 111. It is probably best to agree with Carson and Maher that what is burdensome is submission to the Pharisaical interpretations of the law, not the law itself or a sense of sin from it. 99   Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, 8:278; Michael Maher, “‘Take My yoke upon you’ (Matt XI. 29),” New Testament Studies 22 (October 1975): 97-103.

The significance of the yoke Christ offers is important to the Lordship interpretation. MacArthur teaches that the yoke denotes submission, discipleship, and obedience which are necessary for salvation:

The call to surrender to the lordship of Jesus is part and parcel of His invitation to salvation. Those unwilling to take on His yoke cannot enter into the saving rest He offers…It is a yoke that also implies obedience. Thus Jesus’ own invitation to sinners to “take My yoke upon you” argues against the notion that one can take Jesus as Savior but not Lord. He does not bid people come to Him if they are unwilling to receive His yoke and be in submission to Him. True salvation occurs when a sinner in desperation turns from his sin to Christ with a willingness to have Him take control. 100   MacArthur, The Gospel, 112-13.

Likewise, Boice defines the yoke as submission, work, and companionship (with others in Christ’s school) and also makes this necessary for salvation:

If a person has taken Christ’s yoke, which he does when he believes on Christ (there is no separating the two), he will work for Christ. Conversely, if he does not work for Christ, he clearly has not taken on Christ’s yoke and has not believed on Him or come to know Him savingly. 101   Boice, Discipleship, 31-32.

It is difficult to see how laboring under a yoke of servitude can evade the concept of works salvation. MacArthur and Boice appear sensitive to this and in their discussions affirm that they are not teaching salvation by works. 102   MacArthur, The Gospel, 113; Boice, Discipleship, 32. Stott merely dismisses the charge with this unclear statement:

Thus, taking upon us His yoke and His cross are involved in receiving His rest. The former do not of course merit the latter as a reward. God forbid! But the one is impossible without the other (emphasis his). 103   Stott, “Yes,” Eternity 10:18.

Still, all believe that assumption of the yoke of obedience, work, and submission is a necessary correlative of faith and therefore a necessary condition of salvation: “there is no separating the two.” 104   Boice, Discipleship, 32.

Jesus’ promise of an “easy” load and a “light” burden does not seem to harmonize with the Lordship teaching of strenuous discipleship-salvation. MacArthur sees the easiness as a comparison to the oppressive demands of the Pharisees and Scribes. 105   MacArthur, The Gospel, 113. Boice contrasts the easy yoke with “living a life of sin.” 106   Boice, Discipleship, 34. Either way, Jesus’ words do not reconcile with Lordship demands for costly grace and its stringent requirements for discipleship-salvation.

The passage must be considered in light of its context. Jesus speaks these words after recognizing rejection from the various cities of Israel (Matt 11:20-24). Yet He acknowledges the Father’s design that some in the nation would understand the Father’s revelation in Christ (11:25-27). The invitation to the nation and individuals in the nation follows (11:28-30). This precedes the episode of the Sabbath controversy and the blatant rejection of Christ by the nation in chapter 12.

The nation under the Pharisees forms a background for Jesus’ saying. The Pharisees claimed to be disciples of Moses (John 9:28). Moses gave the law, so those who submitted themselves to Moses also submitted themselves to the law. The Pharisees had their own disciples in a specific sense (Mark 2:18), but the nation as a whole, being under the law and the Pharisees’ interpretations of the law, were also disciples of the Pharisees (and Moses) in a general sense. Jesus is calling to Himself those under the oppressive legalism of the Pharisees (cf. Matt 23:4). He is showing them a way to find “rest,” and offering them a different discipleship which is His own. 107   See Pentecost, Discipleship, 23-25.

It seems salvation does appear in Matt 11:28-30, but it can be distinguished from discipleship. In v 28, “come” is Jesus’ familiar invitation to salvation, 108   Hendriksen, Matthew, 503. Cf. John 5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37. See Turner, “Soteriology in John,” JETS 19:272-73.and “rest” refers to the inner peace that accompanies the assurance of salvation unavailable under the Pharisaical system of righteousness. 109   Ridderbos, Matthew, 227; Hendriksen, Matthew, 504. Then the invitation of v 29 is to follow Christ in a deeper master/pupil relationship. The imperative form of airw used here is also used in the condition for discipleship “take up his cross” (Matt 16:24/Mark 8:34/ Luke 9:23). Furthermore, “yoke” was a common Jewish metaphor for discipline or obligation< 110   Plummer, Matthew, 171; E. López Fernández, “El yugo de Jesús (Mt 11,28-30). Historia y sentido de una metáfora,” Studium Ovetense 11 (1983): 65-118. and thus refers to submission to His teaching and authority as opposed to that of the Pharisees. 111   Allen, Matthew, 124; Plummer, Matthew, 169-70; Hendriksen, Matthew, 504; Pentecost, Discipleship, 25-29.In addition, to “learn” (from manqanw) from Christ is a clear term for discipleship activity 112   Müller, s.v. “maqhths,” NIDNTT, 1:486. explaining here how one submits to Christ’s yoke. 113   Pentecost, Discipleship, 28. His paraphrase helps one see the idea of submission: “let me teach you. . . .”But salvation and discipleship can be distinguished: “Come” is separated from “take . . . and learn” in the text in a logical progression (one must come to Christ before one can take something from Him) which shows the sequence of salvation before the submission to discipleship.

The contrast in Matt 11:28-30 is with the laborious yoke of legalism which the Scribes and Pharisees imposed upon the people. Their legalistic system neither provided the rest of righteousness nor the enablement to live an obedient and righteous life. Christ provides both the righteousness of justification and the example and enablement to live righteously. 114   So Plummer, Matthew, 170.Thus this passage is both an invitation to faith in Christ for salvation and to submission to Christ for discipleship as a desired response to salvation. Like the other passages considered in this section, this passage reserves the idea of “cost” for a deeper commitment of discipleship, not salvation.

Discipleship in Gospel Narratives

A couple of narrative accounts in the Gospels are used to support the Lordship claim that discipleship as submission is required for salvation. A major passage used by many Lordship proponents is the account of the rich young ruler. Sometimes the account of the calling of the first disciples is also used. The narratives about Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are sometimes used to argue that a discipleship commitment is required for salvation, but these were discussed in chapter three.

The rich young ruler, Matthew 19:16-21/
Mark 10:17-22/Luke 18:18-23

This story overlaps the previous discussions of faith, repentance, and Lordship, and is so used to support these respective Lordship arguments. However, the story is most often connected with Christ’s demands for discipleship, thus discussion has been reserved for this chapter.

Many Lordship advocates point to the rich young ruler account to support Lordship Salvation. 115   E.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 77ff.; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61, 75; ten Pas, Lordship, 5; Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4; Paul Fromer, “The Real Issue in Evangelism,” His 18 (June 1958): 5; Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:71; Wallis, “Many to Belief,” Soj, 21-22; Poe, “Evangelism and Discipleship,” Evangelism, 138. Chantry structures his whole Lordship presentation around the rich young ruler in his book, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?. Carson criticizes Chantry for trying to solve modern problems in evangelism with this text alone when there is no explanation of why this pericope is selected over others. This author agrees that this story is too often chosen as the exemplary gospel presentation when there is no justification given for doing so. See Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 110-11.Usually, the emphasis lies on the price demanded for salvation, a price the ruler was unwilling to pay.

If we could condense the truth of this entire passage into a single statement, it would be Luke 14:33: “So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions”…

…since he was unwilling to forsake all, he could not be a disciple of Christ. Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything. 116   MacArthur, The Gospel, 78.

Lordship writers often emphasize from the story other issues such as submission to Christ’s lordship 117   E.g., Fromer, “The Real Issue,” His 18:5; Kent, “Review Article,” GTJ 10:71; Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4; Price, Real Christians, 44. Beisner is very clear: “One of the most diabolical teachings in history is that Jesus can be Savior without being Lord. That He is not willing to save those not committed to His lordship is clear from his response to the rich young man, who sought only eternal life, but was met with a demand for obedience” (E. Calvin Beisner, “The Idol of Mammon,” DJ 7 (July 1, 1987): 10.or repentance from specific sins. 118   E.g., Chantry, Gospel, 47-56; Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61; Ernest C. Reisinger, Today’s Evangelism: Its Message and Methods (Phillipsburg, NJ: Craig, 1982), 36-37.

The encounter with the rich young ruler occurred near the end of Jesus’ ministry as He entered Judea for the last time. The ruler addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher” and follows with the question “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matt 19:16). 119   Matthew’s account will be used unless otherwise noted.

The ruler’s question indicates his belief that eternal life could be obtained or merited by doing some good deed. 120   So Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, 8:422; Toussaint, Matthew, 226; Plummer, Luke, 422; Lenski, Matthew, 746-47. For a fuller discussion of the common Jewish belief that eternal life was merited, see William E. Brown, “The New Testament Concept of the Believer’s Inheritance” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1984), 34-40.He was also assuming that he was capable of doing something good enough to merit eternal life, which implies he believed he was intrinsically good enough. In addition, his question shows that though he attributed significant authority to Jesus as “Good Teacher,” his conception of Him certainly fell short of the reality of who Christ was.

The Lordship understanding that the focus of the ruler’s question concerned the acquisition of eternal life, or salvation, should not be challenged. To “inherit eternal life” (zwhn aiwnion klhronomhsw; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18) was a Jewish idiom denoting the possession of God’s promises, specifically as fulfilled in the kingdom of God. This included eternal life and salvation. 121   Johannes Eichler, s.v. “klhros,” in NIDNTT 2 (1976): 300.Thus Matthew’s account phrases the issue as expressed by the ruler, “that I may have eternal life” (19:16). Also in Matthew, Jesus restated the ruler’s concern: “if you want to enter into life” (19:17). The other synoptists also record that Jesus later explained to the disciples that it is difficult for a rich man to “enter” the kingdom of God (19:23-24). Finally, the disciples framed the question as “Who then can be saved?” (19:25). Such language most clearly indicates a soteriological purpose to the ruler’s question.

Next, it is important to understand what Jesus makes the central issue by His responses. First, He responds to the ruler’s characterization of Himself as “good.” Jesus declares that only God deserves the description of “good” in order to confront the ruler with two truths. The first truth is that Jesus Himself cannot be good in the absolute sense unless He is God. The ruler had a deficient view of who Jesus was. The second truth is that God is the standard of what is absolutely good. The ruler also had a defective view of himself, for he thought that in his natural state he could “do” something good enough to merit salvation. Essentially, Jesus is asking two questions: “Do you know Me?” and “Do you know yourself?” 122   The UBS text of Matthew 19:16-17 does not alter this interpretation. It omits the MT’s “agaqe” (“Good”) after “Didaskale” (“Teacher”). But Jesus’ answer in the UBS text, though different from the MT’s, still directs the ruler’s attention to the standard of perfect goodness in God.The rich man did not answer, which indicates he did not understand the implications of the way he addressed Christ.

Jesus further amplifies the man’s defective view of himself by raising the issue of keeping the commandments. Jesus lists the specific commandments (Matt 19:18-19) to show the ruler that in order to have eternal life in the kingdom one must be as good as the law demands. The ruler’s affirmation that he has kept these shows not that he is lying, but that he lacks both a sense of God’s perfect standard and the realization that he has failed to reach that standard, for surely he had at least been untruthful, disobedient to his parents, or lacking in love in the past.

Jesus does not deny the man’s self-righteous claim to have kept the whole law. He proceeds without directly answering the man’s question about what he must “do.” The answer to that question is that one can “do” nothing, in the sense of a meritorious deed, to obtain eternal life except believe in what Christ has done. 123   See the discussion of John 6:28-29 on pp. 42.But the ruler was not ready for the message of faith because he did not see his need.

While in agreement that the ruler needed to be shown his need of salvation, and needed to realize his sinfulness, interpretations of the passage diverge with Jesus’ next pronouncement. To the man’s claim that he had kept the commandments, Jesus demands that he sell everything and donate the proceeds to the poor. Jesus’ intended meaning is the focus of much debate. The Lordship Salvation interpretation sees this as a test of obedience and a condition for salvation: “This is a test of obedience. Jesus was saying, ‘Unless I am the number-one priority in your life, there’s no salvation for you.’” 124   MacArthur, “Who then Can Be Saved?,” Grace to You (GYou) 2 (Winter 1988): 11.Often, the test is softened to mean that the ruler must only be willing to do this. 125   MacArthur, The Gospel, 87. However, Jesus said nothing of only willingness. 126   The literalness of Jesus’ demand is evident to other Lordship Salvation proponents (Gentry, “The Great Option,” BRR 5:61; Enlow, “Eternal Life,” AW, 4; ten Pas, Lordship, 5) and commentators. Swete, for example, comments, “The sale and distribution of his property were the necessary preparations in his case for the complete discipleship which admits to the Divine kingdom” (Swete, Mark, 226). See also C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel According to Saint Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 330; R. Alan Cole, The Gospel According to Mark, TNTC (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 162. Efforts by Cranfield and Cole to make this a unique demand that may not apply to all Christians shows their belief in its literalness and perhaps their discomfort with the theological implications of salvation by sacrifice. But the problem is not avoided whether this demand is for one man or many. If willingness was the issue, the ruler could just as easily have justified this in his favor, as he had the other commandments, and maintained his self-righteousness. His response of sorrow also indicates his belief in the literalness and strictness of Jesus’ demand.

It is best to interpret Jesus’ demand as a continuation of the discussion focused on the keeping of the law. Here Jesus is amplifying by application the fullest meaning of “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 127   This saying is appropriate in that it essentially sums up the law. Cf. Matt 22:39-40; Rom 13:8-10. Put into such a personal application, the ruler finally sees his moral failure to measure up to the law. It is also apparent that his attitude is not conducive to trust in Christ for eternal life. He evidently is trusting in his elevated position in life and his riches. In Mark’s account, there is good textual evidence for Jesus’ assertion that it is hard “for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24, KJV, NKJV). 128   In support of this reading is the MT. See the discussion in Hodges, Eclipse, 116, n. 7Thus, the issue clarified by Jesus is the object of one’s trust, 129   So Godet, Luke, 413. which in turn focuses on the attitude behind one’s trust. To trust in riches is to have pride in self. To trust in Christ is to humbly admit one’s need and receive His provision for that need.

Contextually, this fits smoothly with the preceding account of the children brought to Jesus in all three Synoptics. To “receive the kingdom of God as a little child” is to receive it by simple faith (trust) born of humility. 130   So Floyd V. Filson, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew, Harpers New Testament Commentaries (Harper & Brothers, 1960), 199; Hendriksen, Matthew, 688; Lenski, Matthew, 681; Godet, Luke, 205; Arndt, Luke, 382; cf. Matt 18:4. This theme is amplified further by Luke, who follows the rich young ruler account with the story of the Pharisee and the tax-collector which also illustrates the necessity of a humble faith. 131   See the discussion on pp. 83-84.Thus the “one thing” lacking is the humble attitude expressed by faith in Christ.

Though Lordship advocates use this passage to teach a hard or costly salvation, it is soon apparent this does not adequately interpret the text. If salvation is said to be “hard” only for those who are rich (Matt 19:23), most people are excluded. Indeed, trust can be particularly difficult for the rich, as Lawrence writes,

Why is it so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? Simply because it is all but impossible for him to assume an attitude of trust and dependence in anyone but himself and/or his riches. If he has earned the money, his confidence in himself and his ability to take care of himself; it he has inherited it, his confidence is in his money which has always taken care of him. In either case, it is extremely difficult for him to stop trusting his wealth and become dependent on Christ. 132   Lawrence, “Lordship of Christ,” 104.

On the other hand, some hold that Jesus was teaching that salvation was hard for the rich and therefore more difficult for everyone else. 133   E.g., Godet, Luke, 413. This is based on the Jewish perception that wealth indicated divine blessing not spiritual liability, 134   Lane, Mark, 369.thus the disciples in astonishment ask, “Who then can be saved?” (19:25). Either way, Jesus is not teaching a “hard” salvation, but more accurately an impossible one, at least from the human perspective, for He says, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (19:26). Jesus was teaching that salvation is beyond all human endeavor for all people; only by God’s miraculous grace is salvation possible at all. This grace is realized only through faith, thus the only possible difficulty for sinners is in the humility of faith for those with or without riches, not giving up of riches by any man.

Lordship advocates are correct that the invitation Jesus issues in the words “go, sell what you have and give to the poor” and “come, and follow Me” (19:21) is an invitation to discipleship, but it can be shown that this is not the same as an invitation to salvation. Jesus is raising the demands of discipleship in order to show the man his need for salvation. He does this by assuming, for the sake of argument, that the ruler has indeed kept the commandments as he professed. He is using the ruler’s sense of need that prompted the question “What do I still lack?” (19:20) to reveal his real need of salvation. By inviting the ruler to make the sacrifice necessary for discipleship and thus receive rewards in heaven, 135   That the rewards of discipleship are in view is clearly indicated by Peter’s understanding which caused him to ask later, “What shall we have?”, and the Lord’s answer about rewards in the future and in this life (Matt 19:28-29).Jesus will force the man to examine his heart. The refusal of the man to make the sacrifice for discipleship reveals a heart that had never really loved his neighbor so as to merit even eternal life, were that possible. The unique words of Matt 19:21, “If you want to be perfect (teleios), 136   The word teleios “denotes the good in all its implications and consequences” (Ridderbos, Matthew, 356).go, sell…”, respond to the ruler’s sense of need and imply that his obedience to the law was actually imperfect. 137   Robert L. Thomas “The Rich Young Man in Matthew,” GTJ 3 (1982): 257; MacArthur, The Gospel, 86.Thus Jesus demolished the man’s false illusion of self-righteousness. He is not only showing the ruler his unrighteousness, but He is showing him that there are greater riches available to those who have first responded in faith to Christ’s provision of righteousness. By inviting him to the greater commitment of discipleship, Jesus brought the man to see that his riches kept him not only from discipleship, but from keeping the law perfectly so that he could “merit” eternal life. For the first time in the exchange, the ruler sees his own moral failure and so retreats sorrowfully.

Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question about rewards for leaving all to follow Jesus (19:27) is also assumed by Boice to teach that eternal life is conditioned upon giving up everything to follow Jesus. 138   Boice, Discipleship, 149-57.When Jesus answered Peter, He indicated there would be the reward of judging the twelve tribes in the messianic kingdom (19:28), 139   See Toussaint, Matthew, 228-29.the reward of a hundred-fold return of family and real estate in this age (19:29), 140   Mark and Luke make it clear that Jesus referred to the present age. Matthew is taken the same way. Mark is the only one to say explicitly that the hundredfold refers to family and real estate.and what seems to be a reward: “inherit eternal life” (19:29). 141   Mark and Luke use the terms “receive . . . eternal life” (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30). Though some defuse the Lordship argument by arguing that “inherit salvation” refers to rewards or the enjoyment of eternal life in the eschaton (E.g. Hodges, Eclipse, 44-45), this writer agrees with Brown that this is simply another term for entering eternal life or salvation itself. See Brown, “The Believer’s Inheritance,” especially pp. 66-77. But Peter’s question does not spring from the discussion of eternal life or salvation. 142   As, e.g., MacArthur, The Gospel, 145-46.Rather, it reflects back to Jesus’ promise of “treasure in heaven” for the ruler if he would sell all he owned and give the proceeds to the poor (19:21). 143   So Lane, Mark, 371; Toussaint, Matthew, 228.It was argued above that Jesus’ promise referred to rewards for the sacrifice demanded of discipleship, not salvation. Here, Jesus promises rewards in the future age and in this age, yet to all is guaranteed the presupposed benefit of salvation. This makes Christ’s use of the term “inherit everlasting life” consistent with the rich young ruler’s usage (Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18). The possession of eternal life is assumed of all who will accrue rewards in the present life and in the age to come. 144   For a fuller presentation of this view, see Brown, “The Believer’s Inheritance,” 74-76. It is given to all regardless of the degree of sacrifice. 145   The parable of the laborers in the vineyard which follows (Matt 20:1-16) seems to substantiate the underlying teaching that the gift of eternal life is equally bestowed on all regardless of the degree of sacrifice made.

Thus, the account of the rich young ruler does not teach that to be saved the ruler must meet the demands of discipleship, surrender to Christ’s lordship in the area of covetousness and love for others, or repent of particular sins. The issue of riches was raised to show that the ruler had not fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law and that he was really trusting in the merit of his wealth and position. By using the demands of discipleship Jesus exposed the man’s real heart attitude, which confronted him with his need of salvation in a pre-evangelistic purpose. The forsaking of one’s possessions, or the willingness to do so is never made a condition of salvation in other evangelistic encounters in the New Testament. 146   Though MacArthur cites the account of Zacchaeus as an example of someone who sacrificed his riches and was saved, it should be noted that Zacchaeus gave only half of what he owned to the poor and yet was declared saved (Luke 19:8-9; MacArthur, The Gospel, 87). This contradicts the Lordship demand to surrender everything. Moreover, Zacchaeus’ sacrifice was not demanded by Christ as a condition of salvation, but was voluntary. His act should be viewed more as a gesture of restitution (cf. Luke 19:8) taken as further evidence of his faith. One also wonders who in the Lordship position can truthfully claim the fulfillment of this stringent requirement.

The calling of the first disciples:
Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11

Another occasion used (though sparingly) to argue for discipleship-salvation is that of Christ’s calls to the first disciples. Boice refers to Matt 4:18-22, which he parallels with Mark 1:14-20 and Luke 5:1-11. 147   Boice, Discipleship, 16.Merritt focuses only on Luke 5:1-11, but infers a parallelism with the other two accounts. 148   Merritt, “Call of Christ,” Evangelism, 146, 150, n. 11.

Boice uses these calls to argue that

…discipleship is not a supposed second step in Christianity, as if one first becomes a believer in Jesus and then, if he chooses, a disciple. From the beginning, discipleship is involved in what it means to be a Christian.

He finds that the command to follow Christ is the most basic explanation of what it means to be a disciple, and this command is found in the Synoptists’ accounts of the calling of the early disciples. 149   Boice, Discipleship, 16.Merritt begins with the thesis “the evangelistic call of Jesus was essentially a call to repentance and radical discipleship.” He adds, “the call of Christ to discipleship is a multi-faceted call which demands a singular commitment of faith and obedience.” Part of that obedience is shown from Luke 5:1-11 to be the evangelistic task. His inevitable conclusion from the passage follows his reasoning:

To be a disciple one must follow Jesus. But to follow Jesus, one will become a fisher of men. Therefore, “if you are not fishing, you are not following!” The call to discipleship is indeed a call to evangelism. 150   Merritt, “Call of Christ,” Evangelism, 145-46.

There is no dispute that in these passages Jesus is calling men to a further commitment of discipleship. The command “Follow Me” and the promise that they will be “fishers of men” and “catch men” correctly denote the obedience and submission essential to the fuller meaning of discipleship. However, both Boice and Merritt assume that these passages are parallel accounts of the Lord’s first encounter with Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, and John, and therefore apply to salvation.

There is much evidence that this was not Jesus’ first encounter with the disciples. Foremost is the conflicting record of John 1:35-42 where Jesus first meets Andrew (who later finds Peter) and another disciple. 151   Boice and Merritt do not mention John’s account. The unnamed disciple is most likely John, the author. So Godet, John, 321; Ernst Haenchen, John 1, transl. Robert W. Funk, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 158.The setting in John is not Galilee (1:43) as with the Synoptic accounts (cf. Matt 4:12, 18, 23; Mark 1:14, 16, 21; Luke 4:44; 5:1), but beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing (1:28). Neither is there any indication of a seaside setting or mention of fishing for men. Also, Peter is found and brought to Jesus (1:41-42) rather than already present (Matt 4:29-30; Mark 1:16; Luke 5:3-4). Furthermore, the response of Andrew in John’s account demonstrates faith in Christ: 1) He followed John the Baptist (1:35) and evidently believed John’s witness to Christ (1:36-37); 2) He followed after Christ (1:37, 39-40); 3) He believed Jesus was the Messiah (1:41); and 4) This faith was confirmed at the Cana wedding (John 2:11). Thus the Synoptic accounts imply the facts of John’s account 152   So Pink, John, 1:62; Godet, John, 1:330; Lenski, Matthew, 169-70; Plummer, Matthew, 48; Hendriksen, Matthew, 245-46; Ridderbos, Matthew, 77; Arndt, Luke, 156. and indicate that the Synoptic calls were not to salvation. “John tells us of the conversion of these disciples, whereas Mark (as also Matthew and Luke) deals with their call to service…” (emphasis his). 153   Pink, John, 1:62-63. In agreement are Hans Conzelmann, Jesus, transl. J. Raymond Lord (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973), 35; Ridderbos, Matthew, 77; and James Donaldson, “‘Called to Follow’: A Twofold Experience of Discipleship in Mark,” BTB 5 (February 1975): 69. The subsequent invitation to Philip to “Follow Me” (John 1:43) may have called him to discipleship based upon a previous salvation experience, as Hendriksen notes: “We may probably assume that Andrew and Peter had told their friend and townsman about Jesus” (Hendriksen, John, 1:108; See also John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: John (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 45; and Lenski, John, 161. It is also possible that Jesus simply meant “Accompany Me on this journey” (So Godet, John, 331) in much the same sense as he told the first two disciples “Come and see” (1:39).

If, as it seems, John’s account precedes chronologically that of the Synoptists’, and saving faith was evidenced in John, then the synoptic accounts are indeed calls to a more intimate relationship with Christ, not salvation. Furthermore, Luke’s account (Luke 5:1-11) is probably best separated from Matthew and Mark’s so that Peter’s act of repentance and submission to Christ’s lordship is subsequent not only to his salvation, but also to his initial call to discipleship. In comparing Luke to Matthew and Mark, it should be noted that there are obvious similarities such as the seaside setting and the response to Christ’s call. Lenski, however, notes the greater differences in his comment on Matthew’s account:

This scene is entirely different from the one described in Luke 5:1, 2. No multitude is here pressing upon Jesus, he is alone. He is walking along not standing. The fishermen are in the boat, busy throwing out their casting net, and have not disembarked to wash their nets. Already these differences show that Matthew does not want to record the same incident as Luke. 154   Lenski, Matthew, 168-69.

Plummer recognizes similarities, but also keeps Luke’s account distinct from Matthew’s and Mark’s:

Against these similarities however, we have to set the differences, chief among which is the miraculous draught of fishes which Mt. and Mk. omit. Could Peter have failed to include this in his narrative? And would Mk. have omitted it, if the Petrine tradition had contained it? It is easier to believe that some of the disciples were called more than once, and that their abandonment of their original mode of life was gradual: so that Mk. and Mt. may relate one occasion and Lk. another. Even after the Resurrection Peter speaks quite naturally of “going a fishing” (Jn. xxi. 3), as if it was still at least an occasional pursuit.” 155   Plummer, Luke, 147. See also Lenski, Matthew, 168-72, and Luke, 276-77; Arndt, Luke, 155-56; Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, revised ed., TNTC (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 124; Geldenhuys, Luke, 181; Hendriksen, Luke, 279-80.

This evidence indicates that the discipleship relationship between Christ and those called His disciples grew more intimate in stages. 156   A number of commentators teach a progression in the calls (e.g., Hendriksen, Matthew, 245-47; Geldenhuys, Luke, 181; Arndt, Luke, 156). For excellent presentations of this idea, see Alexander Balmain Bruce, The Training of the Twelve (n.p.: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), 11-12, and Bill Hull, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 48-49. This might also explain Matthew’s reaction when he was called to follow Christ (Matt 9:9-13/Mark 2:13-17/Luke 5:27-32). This incident was discussed in the chapter on repentance under the Lordship assumption that it refers to Matthew’s salvation (see p. 84). But an argument can be made that Matthew, a man who dealt with the public, surely had heard of Christ and His teaching (cf. Matt 4:24) and had either become a believer prior to Christ’s call to discipleship or believed and committed himself to follow Christ on the same occasion based on his acquaintance with Christ. See Plummer, Matthew, 138, and Kenneth S. Wuest, Mark in the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), 52.Jesus’ lessons were progressive: “It was one thing to call the four apostles, it was quite another thing to demonstrate to them the power of the gospel they were to handle as fishers of men.” 157   Lenski, Luke, 277.

There is no clear evidence that the calls of Christ to the first disciples in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, were calls to salvation. The call was, after all, to become fishers of men. There is no mention of eternal salvation.

Discipleship in the Parables

Though not done extensively, appeal is sometimes made to two parables of Christ to support and illustrate the Lordship understanding of discipleship-salvation. Here two key parables used to support the concept of a costly salvation will be discussed. The parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the pearl in Matt 13:44-46 should be considered together since they are used to teach the same truth by the Lordship Salvation position and are also presented in the closest proximity by the Lord Jesus Christ.

MacArthur combines his discussion of these parables in one chapter and his point is the same for both:

Both parables make the point that a sinner who understands the priceless riches of the kingdom will gladly yield everything else he cherishes in order to obtain it. The corresponding truth is also clear by implication: those who cling to their earthly treasures forfeit the far greater wealth of the kingdom. 158   MacArthur, The Gospel, 135.

This augments his belief that salvation is costly to the unbeliever:

Wise investors will not usually put all their money into a single investment. But that is exactly what both of the men in these parables did. The first man sold everything and bought one field, and the second man sold everything and bought one pearl. But they had counted the cost, and they knew that what they bought was worthy of the ultimate investment. Again, that is a perfect picture of saving faith. Someone who truly believes in Christ does not hedge bets. Knowing the cost of discipleship, the true believer signs up and gives everything for Christ. 159   Ibid., 141.

MacArthur’s interpretation assumes that these two parables concern “the incomparable worth of the kingdom of heaven and the sacrificial commitment required of everyone who would enter.” 160   Ibid., 135.However, problems with this view begin with a consideration of the argument and context of chapter 13.  This chapter contains the parabolic teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ after His rejection by the nation of Israel in chapters 11 and 12. 161   Chapter 11 mentions John the Baptist’s rejection by Israel in association with Christ’s rejection (11:11-19) and the rejection of Christ’s message by the cities where He ministered (11:20-24). Chapter 12 presents the Sabbath healing and controversy that precipitates a conspiracy for Christ’s death by the Jewish leaders (12:1-14), Jesus’ subsequent withdrawal (12:15-21), the Pharisees’ blasphemy (12:22-37), Christ’s refusal to give a sign other than “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (12:38-45), and His turn away from those physically related to Him to those related by faith (12:46-50). All these events indicate the final rejection of Christ by Israel, and prepare for the new emphasis in Christ’s ministry found in chapter 13. The stated purpose for the use of all these parables is to hide truth from unbelievers and reveal truth to believers (13:11-17). The subject of the parables themselves is “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (12:11). 162   It is this writer’s opinion that “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” refers to heretofore unrevealed truth about the present age in light of the postponement of the kingdom of God. Jesus is describing characteristics of this age in which the kingdom is in its spiritual form, a mystery not revealed in the Old Testament. For an expanded presentation of this view, see John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 95-97, and J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 213-14.The recurring formula “The kingdom of heaven is like” (@omoia estin; vv. 31, 33, 44, 45, 47) indicates the kingdom is being described in its characteristics by the main point of the whole parable. 163   Jeremias calls this the “introductory dative” and gives it the sense “It is the case with . . . as with.” This helps shift the focus from the particulars of the parable to the real point of comparison. Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, transl. S. H. Hooke, 2nd revised ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972), 100-2. See also, Lenski, Matthew, 541; Bonnard, Matthieu, 207.

If one interprets the two parables as illustrations of the value of the kingdom and the cost required, then the explanation of Jesus in 13:11-17 is disregarded in two respects. First, Jesus indicated the parables were intended for those who had believed, not those who remain in unbelief. According to MacArthur, Jesus would be teaching the requirement for salvation to those who were already saved instead of the unsaved who needed to hear it. Second, by calling these parables the “mysteries” of the kingdom, Jesus indicated He was revealing truth hidden up to that point. Assuming MacArthur’s interpretation, Jesus had already taught that salvation was costly (as MacArthur claims He had), 164   MacArthur, The Gospel, 134-36.thus there was nothing “mysterious” about these two parables. MacArthur suggests Christ is only illustrating His previous teaching, 165   Ibid., 135. but Jesus clearly indicates this is new revelation.

In spite of MacArthur’s criticism of the view that the treasure in the first parable is Israel and the pearl in the second is the church, there is much to commend it. He opposes comparing the field in v 44 with the field in v 38 (both agros), which is said to be the world. He appeals to the parable of the soils where he says, “the field…represents a cultivated heart,” but the word for “soil” or “ground” in that parable is ghn not agros. It would be more reasonable to interpret agros in v 44 by the nearest use of agros (v. 38) rather that a different word u