“The Lordship Controversy Revisited Pt. 2”
– Straw Men –
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
In last month’s letter I explained my understanding of God’s work in our salvation. Simply put;
1) Salvation is by grace alone. 2) Repentance is a work of God that occurs in conjunction with genuine salvation. 3) Genuine salvation involves a spiritual transformation. 4) This transformation is increasingly reflected in the life of the individual as he matures in his daily walk with the Lord. 5) Jesus is Lord. This clarification is necessary because in the ongoing debate concerning the “Lordship Controversy” it has become common to erect “Straw Men” arguments to bolster one’s position. In his book “So Great Salvation” (a book that opposes the Lordship position) Charles Ryrie states, “Differences of opinion often create straw men. The reason is simple: Straw men are easy to demolish. According to the dictionary, a straw man is a “weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily confuted.” These “Straw Men” arguments continue to distort the position of those who hold to the Biblical view of the “Lordship of Christ” and hinder a serious Biblical discussion on the nature of genuine transformation in the life of a believer.
I would like to briefly discuss a few of the “Straw Men” arguments erected by those who are “Non-Lordship”.
1. Those who hold to a “Non-Lordship position will often accuse us of “Front-loading” the gospel with human works. This argument states that we call men to repent of their sins prior to and as a means of obtaining salvation. In other words, we require men to change their lives and start living in obedience to the truth as a means of securing salvation. All of the “Lordship” authors I am familiar with have stated unequivocally that they believe, according to God’s word that salvation is by grace alone, apart from any human effort (Eph. 2:8,9; Rom. 5:1). Even repentance is granted by God to those whom He is saving (Rom. 2:4; II Tim. 2:25). Since God has made us new creatures in Christ and has called us to be holy and blameless and beyond reproach, we believe that works will follow conversion and are the fruit of genuine transformation (Jas. 2:17; Eph. 2:10). Those who still cling to this “Straw Man” argument do so because of their own willful disregard of what has been clearly explained by those with whom they disagree. “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8) “And without faith it is impossible to please Him,…” (Heb. 11:6)
2. Another “Straw Man” oftentimes erected by those attempting to refute the Lordship position is that we require a person to fully understand the Lordship of Christ and its implications in their life as a prerequisite for genuine salvation. In his book, “So Great Salvation” Charles Ryrie attempts to mock those who would hold to a biblical view of the Lordship of Christ by referring to their position as “The Lordship/discipleship/mastery gospel.” Again, the authors who hold to the Lordship of Christ have, to a man, made it clear that no one can understand all of the implications of the Lordship of Christ at the moment of salvation. God’s word exhorts us all to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord.” (II Pet. 3:18) This is a lifelong process. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years and am still learning about the significance of the Lordship of Christ in my life. The issue is not that we must master perfectly the Lordship of Christ in order to be saved, the issue is that we cannot come to the cross to be saved from our sins by Jesus and, at the same time, deny that He is also our Lord.
3. A third “Straw Man” states that Lordship salvation requires believers to maintain their salvation through good works. The Bible warns us about those who will make a profession of faith and even manifest some of the qualities associated with a genuine believer for a short period of time following their conversion. But after time, the fruit evaporates and they live a life with no evidence that a genuine transformation has taken place. We believe that those who are genuinely born again will produce fruit in one degree or another over the course of their life. Scripture is clear that we are saved by grace and we stand in grace. Our entire life is possible only by the grace of God. Yet, to deny the ongoing fruit of genuine transformation is to trivialize the new life that God has created in the saint. When the fruit of genuine salvation is not evident, it is our responsibility before God to exhort this individual to examine his profession of faith. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? ” (2 Cor. 13:5). To say that this concern is somehow a requirement for people to maintain their salvation through good works is indeed a “Straw Man” that misrepresents what those who hold to the “Lordship” of Christ have clearly maintained over the years. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. ” (1 Corinthians 15:10) “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. ” (2 Cor. 3:5-6)
4. A fourth “Straw Man” teaches that “Lordship Salvation” keeps people living with doubts concerning their salvation. It is interesting to note that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to give assurance to the individual concerning their salvation. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, ” (Rom. 8:16). Those who hold to the “Non-Lordship” position would have us give an individual assurance of his or her salvation based upon a decision they made in the distant past, even though there is no evidence of a spiritual transformation. Such thinking seeks to usurp the role of the Holy Spirit. We believe, that our role is to simply hold forth the truth of the gospel including the ongoing process of sanctification and then acknowledge the Spirit to either convict or condemn. God is clear in His word that He wants His children to be secure in their position with God through faith in Christ. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”(1 John 5:13 ) “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Rom. 5:10)
5. The fifth and last “Straw Man” that we will mention is that those who hold to “Lordship Salvation” seek to judge the genuiness of others’ salvation. This statement calls into question the motives of those who hold to a biblical view of the Lordship of Christ and clearly disregards their stated concerns. No man can ever judge another man’s heart. It is the Lord and He alone who will examine each man’s motives and His heart condition at a day, yet in the future. It has never been our desire to sit and pass judgment on another man’s soul. Rather, motivated by a concern that the weakened gospel presented today in many churches has produced false converts, we want all men to understand and appreciate the gospel as proclaimed by our Lord and His apostles. We believe that the souls of men are at stake. We are concerned when professing Christians cannot even articulate the gospel. We are concerned when we see those same individuals living lives no different from those who have rejected Christ. We are not judging men’s hearts, rather we are agreeing with Scripture that warns of tares being sown among the wheat (Mt. 13:36-43). A.W. Tozer stated, “It is my opinion that tens of thousands of people, if not millions, have been brought into some kind of religious experience by accepting Christ, and they have not been saved.” Mt. 7:21 establishes that concern as valid. In that passage, our Lord warns the disciples , ““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mat. 7:21). We cannot judge the condition of a man’s soul, but neither should we pamper the presuppositions of one who has responded emotionally to a weakened gospel and is now living a life that contradicts his profession of faith. The truth faithfully proclaimed will not offend a believer and is the only tool given to us by God to confront the sinner. This is not judging another’s soul!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church