What the Bible Says About a Saving Faith. Bernard Koerselman. Chandler, AZ: Berean Publishers, 1992. 304 pp. Paper, $11.95.
The author is a lawyer who gave up his practice in mid life to go into full-time Christian work. Rather than attend seminary, he chose to study the Bible intensively on his own. He did so without the use of the commentaries because, like his decision against formal education, he felt God had told him to do it that way (p. 1). Koerselman holds to a very strong form of Lordship Salvation. In this book he advances most of the common Lordship Salvation arguments (e.g., we must buy salvation by giving up everything, all true believers persevere, good works are indispensable for assurance).
On the positive side, the author clearly has a zeal for holiness and a love for God’s Word. This lends a charm and appeal to the book for anyone who shares his zeal and love, even for Free Grace people who strongly disagree with his theology.
In addition, he repeatedly evidences a lack of theological sophistication that is actually somewhat refreshing. We don’t find him quoting the Westminster Confession of Faith or the Synod of Dort. He doesn’t quote Reformed writers. And, he is unafraid to make statements which are the logical result of the Lordship Salvation position and yet which more sophisticated writers would never make.
Commenting on Rom 10:9-10 for example, Koerselman actually says, “Note two things we must do to be saved. We must confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead” (p. 107). A few paragraphs later on the same page he continues, “God requires us to make public the fact that Jesus is our Lord. To confess Jesus is Lord is not simply to repeat those words. It is a personal confession, not only that Jesus truly is Lord and that he is Lord of all, but that he is my personal Lord.” Two sentences later, he comments on the present tense, “He must be and continue to be our Lord. That’s exactly what Paul told the Colossians: we are reconciled to God if we continue in the faith.”
Two things a person must do to be saved? Believing is not enough? Public confession must be made? And this confession must continue throughout one’s life? While those things are clearly what Lordship Salvation teaches, rarely have I seen it stated so baldly.
For Koerselman, obedience (not assurance!) is of the essence of saving faith. He cannot conceive of a disobedient Christian. He actually entitles one section, “No Continuing Sin in the Life of One with a Saving Faith” (p. 137). Of course, he does admit that Christians do sin (see p. 138); yet he fails to explain what the difference is between sinning and continuing in sin.
It is difficult to determine if the author believes that those who fail to persevere were never saved in the first place or if they lost their salvation. In a section entitled “Trust Him As Lord,” he begins by quoting Rom 8:38-39 and saying that the early church “knew they were secure in the power of their Lord and that no force or power in heaven or on earth could pry them out of the hand of God” (p. 41). That sounds like an affirmation of eternal security (though I could find no place where the author used that expression, and it does not appear in the index). Yet he immediately goes on to cite Matt 6:25-34 and then to say, “Jesus gave us a conditional promise. The condition is that we are to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first. If we do that, Jesus promised, our food, clothing, and shelter will be given to us as well as God’s kingdom and his righteousness (p. 42, italics added). Note that the italicized material makes it clear that the author believes that continually seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness is an ongoing condition of eternal salvation! (See also p. 184 where he says, “our only requirement to remain in his love is to obey what Jesus has taught us.”)
I get the feeling from reading the book that the author lacks a thorough understanding of the Free Grace views of many of the various passages and issues which he discusses. I would not be totally surprised to some day see another book by him renouncing his former views and adopting a Free Grace view of the Gospel. I certainly hope and pray that this is the case.
On a personal note, I was disappointed to see Dr. Joe Aldrich’s glowing endorsement of the book (p. iii). When I taught at Multnomah School of the Bible, he told me personally that he didn’t believe in Lordship Salvation. I’m sorry to learn that he now apparently does believe in it.
I recommend this book for the well-grounded person who would like to see Lordship Salvation presented in a less sophisticated and more open fashion. Pastors will find a lot of material here for sermon illustrations!
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society