No Lordship Is a Misleading Label
For Free Grace Theology
Some Lordship preachers call the Free Grace position “no-lordship.” For example, in just three pages John MacArthur rails against our position calling it “no-lordship teaching,” “no-lordship doctrine,” “the no-lordship error,” “the no-lordship definition of faith,” “no-lordship salvation,” and “the no-lordship partisan” (Faith Works, pp. 37-39).
This is grossly unfair. We believe that Jesus is Lord, and we call believers to follow Him. That we don’t condition eternal life upon commitment to Him in no way suggests we deny His Lordship. Indeed, as I will argue below, it shows we submit to His Lordship.
What if we spoke of “no-grace teaching,” “no-grace doctrine,” “the no-grace error,” “the no-grace definition of faith,” “no-grace salvation” and “the no-grace partisan”? We don’t do that because that would be both ungracious and unfair.
MacArthur picked a great title for his show: “Grace to You.” Even if his theology doesn’t always match his show’s title, we’ve never suggested it should be called “No-Grace to You.” We haven’t done so because he is entitled to call his show whatever he wants and we respect that.
I think Lordship Salvationists should respect our position and call it what we call it: the Free Grace Position, or the Grace Position. After all, we graciously call their position Lordship Salvation. That is what they call their position and so we honor that.
Free Grace Theology Submits
to the Lordship of Christ
In reality, the Free Grace position is the true Lordship Salvation position.
Since the Lord proclaimed that all who simply believe in Him have everlasting life that can never be lost (e.g., John 6:35), we submit to His Lordship when we believe and proclaim what He said. It is not submitting to His Lordship to reject what He said and substitute it with a message that is more appealing to us.
Actually, pointing this out can be a helpful witnessing technique. Let’s say you are talking with someone who says, “If all a person has to do is believe in Jesus Christ and he’d have everlasting life that can never be lost, then why wouldn’t he go out and live like the devil? That makes no sense. We have to submit and commit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. If we persevere in a life of submission and commitment, then we will make it to heaven.” We can then turn the tables on them.
I agree we must submit to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. So the question is, what did He say we must do to be saved? If He had said that we had to give $1,000,000 to the poor to be saved, then to submit to Him we’d give and give to the poor until we finally gave a million dollars and did what He asked. But If He said that to be saved we simply have to believe in Him, then to suggest it takes more than believing in Him is to reject His Lordship and authority.
What Works Must We Do?
The Lord Jesus actually addressed this question. We might do well to point concerned legalists to His answer. Here is a possible reply to the objection raised above that believing in Jesus is too easy and that it can’t be right:
Let’s look at John 6:28-29. There Jesus is speaking with orthodox Jews. These people were certainly submitted and committed to what they understood God to be saying. So they ask Jesus a question about what they should do to please God and ultimately make it into the kingdom: “What works shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (John 6:28). Their question is similar to the Philippian jailer’s question (Acts 16:30), but with a twist. Notice they speak of works, plural. They are thinking in terms of submission and obedience to the commandments, plural. Jesus’ answer is not what they thought it should be: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). Jesus speaks of work, singular. That work, or action, that God desires, is believing in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Not works, plural. Work, singular.
Of course, Jesus isn’t implying that God doesn’t care whether people obey His commands or not. His point is that obeying God must start with believing in His Son. The person who thinks he can’t make it into the kingdom simply by faith in Jesus is not submitting to God. He is doing what he thinks is right in his own eyes.
If you saw in the Bible that God actually says that whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life that can never be lost, apart from any works he ever does, would you believe that? Would you submit? Or would you reject what God said and keep on saying that one must work the works of God?
Free Grace Salvation is Lordship Salvation. They are one and the same. Those who say one must commit, obey, and persevere hold not to Lordship Salvation but I-Did-It-My-Way Salvation. They are very much like modern day Pharisees, well intentioned, but sadly very misinformed in their understanding of Scripture.
We should have great compassion for such people. I was one of them before I came to faith. So were most of you who are reading this. Try to remember what it was like. It is helpful if we put ourselves back in their shoes.
God the Father said at Jesus’ baptism and at His transfiguration, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”1 At Jesus’ transfiguration the Father added, “Hear Him!” (Matt 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22). God the Father confirms Jesus’ statement that the work that God requires for anyone to have everlasting life is to believe in His beloved Son (see also John 5:36-40).
A Leading Military Man Submits to Instructions
That Seem Way Too Easy for His Salvation
(2 Kings 5:1-19)
Naaman was a leading Syrian military commander during the days of Elisha. He heard a report that the king of Israel could heal him. The king of Syria sent Naaman to the king of Israel for healing. Elisha heard about it and sent for Naaman. When Naaman arrived Elisha told him to do something that didn’t make sense to him: dip in the Jordan River seven times. That’s it. No money. No waving of a hand or a magic wand. No incantation.
Naaman was furious. He started to head back to Syria and to reject what Elisha had said. If He had, he would have been rejecting the only way for him to be saved from his leprosy.
But his servants talked sense into him. They knew Naaman would have done whatever hard thing Elisha had asked: “If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13). This passive dipping in the Jordan didn’t make sense to him. Still, they talked sense into Naaman and he submitted and was healed (2 Kings 5:14).2
The same is true when it comes to the new birth. If the evangelist would tell someone something hard to do, like live a righteous life from now till death, then the person is ready to submit. But if the evangelist says that one must only believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the listener is offended and is, like Naaman, initially unwilling to submit to this seemingly crazy idea. But God might use us to be like Naaman’s servants. We might be able to talk some sense into them. If they are willing to do something really hard, why not be willing to do something that isn’t really hard except that it seems foolish to them?
Once people becomes willing to believe, then God is ready and willing to open their eyes so that what just before seemed foolishness to them now makes perfect sense (Acts 16:14; 2 Cor 4:4). We can show people that submitting to something that seems too easy is still submission. It doesn’t matter how hard it is. What matters is that we do what is required to be saved. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). That is true Lordship Salvation.
1. By comparing the Gospel accounts we can see that the Father said to John the Baptist and the crowd, “This is My beloved Son…,” (Matt 3:17) and directly to Jesus, “You are My beloved Son…” (Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
2. Admittedly dipping seven times in the Jordan River is not identical to believing in Jesus. I am not suggesting that the correspondence is exact. However, what does correspond precisely is that the condition for deliverance in each case is far easier than seems reasonable to people. People naturally think that in order to be delivered from something terrible (like leprosy or eternal condemnation) one should be required “to do something great.” Today people decry easy believism. Naaman thought what he was being told was, likewise, too easy.