Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” 6 But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) 7 or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 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. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:1-13
Paul is speaking in this passage about his brothers of the flesh meaning the Jews. They had gone about seeking a righteousness of their own, and not the righteousness of God which is found in Christ. Today, we will confirm that salvation is by grace through faith – alone.
To do this, we will choose the supposed gospel message of two prominent preachers to show where their fault is, and that what they proclaim is actually quite different than what Paul speaks of here. The messages actually boil down to one thought, and one thought alone – self. Let us endeavor to keep “self” out of the equation, except where God allows such an insertion.
During the Reformation, one of the points which was raised was that of the Five Solas, meaning “Five Alones.” These were an obvious and open rebuke to the Roman Catholic Church which had, by their time, violated every precept of sound Christianity one could think of.
Roman Catholicism is a “plus” religion. But in God, there is no “plus.” What He decrees is fully sufficient in and of itself, and we need go no further than what He conveys to us to know if our state before Him is acceptable or not. The Five Solas, these “Five Alones,” are –
Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”): The Bible alone is our sole authority for knowing God’s intent for His people. We need nothing more to know our standing before Him.
Sola Fide (“Faith Alone”): We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, and that alone. Nothing else that we do can add to our salvation, and nothing else can make us “more” saved.
Sola Gratia (“Grace Alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone. Nothing apart from God, and what He has done in Jesus Christ, can add to our salvation. The things we do may be in obedience to His word, such as being baptized, but they add nothing to the grace which is imparted to those who demonstrate faith.
Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ Alone” or “Through Christ Alone”): A priestly class of mediators is unnecessary. We are saved through Christ’s work, He is our One Mediator between us and God, and there needs to be no intermediate to go before the Lord on our behalf. Jesus Christ alone is our Door of Salvation, and He is the Way to and through that Door as well. And once we are saved, He continues to be our only needed contact with the God of the universe.
Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone, and we give no glory to any other being apart from God.
Everything that is good, right, and holy concerning these Five Solas is obliterated by the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism adds to each of these. For them, it is Scripture “plus” the church Canons, councils, edicts, and papal bulls. For them, it is faith plus works. For them it is grace, plus cooperation to obtain greater graces. For them, it is Christ plus Mary, Christ plus the pope, Christ plus the priests, and so on. And for them, glory is to be ascribed to Mary, it is ascribed to the pope, it is ascribed to the church, and it is ascribed to the saints. Reverence, prayer, petition, and even worship are given to these lesser “gods” which are no gods at all.
For each point, Roman Catholicism adds – plus, plus, plus, plus, and plus. The soundness of the faith, given to us by God through Jesus Christ, is utterly ruined and worthless in the presence of such “plusing.” In its place is a chaotic stream of man’s invention and a rejection of the purity of what is conveyed to us in the pages of Scripture.
Text Verse: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9
Of these points, most people who fall under the general umbrella of Protestantism accept that the doctrine of these Solas is sound, and there is – at first – a high degree of agreement in the general thought of what is being conveyed. Indeed, if almost anyone is asked, “Do you believe in “Sola Scriptura?” The answer will inevitably be, “Yes, of course.”
But for the large part, this is then immediately violated in their teachings. It is one thing to cite a rabbi, the Talmud, John Calvin, or Charlie Garrett, and it is a completely different thing to cite them as equal in authority to what is written in Scripture. But this is as common as oranges in Florida at harvest time.
For example, what is taught concerning the Feasts of the Lord, by almost every single person who has taught on the subject, injects countless Jewish traditions which are not even hinted at in Scripture, holding them up as authoritative.
Because of this, there is almost no understanding of the correct meaning of these feasts by the vast majority of Christians. Indeed, the number of those who truly “get” what is conveyed there is probably less than one percent of one percent of those who have even heard of them.
In the same manner, if you ask someone, “Do you believe in Sola Fide and Sola Gratia?” The answer will be “Of course! That is what the Bible teaches. I completely reject the Roman Catholic notion of such things.” And yet, what they say very well may not be true at all.
It is our duty to pay attention to what is being said as we listen to others who convey their idea about such things. In the end, we should be well-versed enough to know where error has crept into someone else’s theology. This error may not be heretical, but it is simply incorrect.
Incorrect implies the need for correction. Let us ensure that we stick to the basics given by God – meaning those things which are irreducible in their simplicity, and which convey only the truth of what He has delivered to us. Such truths are right there waiting to be found in His superior word, and so, let’s both turn to and contemplate that precious word once again, and may God speak to us through His word today. And may His glorious name ever be praised.
I. The Way of the Master
How many of us have listened to Ray Comfort evangelize someone on the street? He does a great job of it, doesn’t he? His ministry is called, “The Way of the Master.” The reason for this is that when Jesus spoke to people, He would get right to the heart of the matter.
He was able to discern what was amiss in someone’s idea of what they needed to do in order to be right with God. Some people that He spoke to were so broken that He would simply give them grace, they would receive it, and they would go away restored in mind and soul.
We might think of a person who is completely down in heart and soul, he understands that he is as vile as any man who ever lived, but he doesn’t know what to do about it. “Oh God, I am wretched and naked, and I can’t find a covering for my sin.”
Such a person does not need the weight of the law cast upon him. He already has that burden weighing him down. Jesus wouldn’t walk up to such a person and say, “Yes, you are vile, but now I’m going to show you how truly vile you are. Not only did you commit adultery, but you also failed in the following 427 points of the law since you woke up this morning…”
Rather, He brought them grace, and they took the package, opened it, and through tears of joy and release, they went away full, clean, and satisfied. Here is an example for you to see this from Luke 7:44-50 –
Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
This sinful woman went away forgiven, free, and filled with the hope that only Christ can provide. On the other hand, when someone would come to Jesus with a streak of greed, pride, or idolatry in his heart, He would bring it right out to the surface.
From there, He would either break that streak and then give him grace, or the person would be so caught up in what trapped him that he would leave without any conversion at all. Maybe he would even leave loving God less than before. An example of this is found in Mark 10 –
Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”
20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22
Jesus knew the heart of the man before the first question was asked of Him. Instead of giving him grace, He gave him the law. “Here, this is what you need to do.” In an act of pride in the law, he responded as one under law would be expected to respond – “I’ve done all those things.”
But Jesus then got to the heart of the matter. The same God who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
The man loved his possessions, and quite possibly his personal obedience to the law – pick and choose as it may be – more than he loved the Lord his God.
This is The Way of the Master. Look at each individual, evaluate what they need, and then give that to them. If they need grace, why would you give them the law which negates grace? If they think they don’t need grace – “Well, I’m a good person,” then give them the law.
Once they see the weight of the law, and once that weight and burden terrifies them, then give them the grace that they thought they didn’t need, but which they now realize they desperately need. And what is that grace? It is “Grace Alone” as we have already seen.
Ray Comfort does a great job of sending someone down the right path for most of the way that he sends them. He can get them right to the point where they realize they need GRACE! And then… he fails to give them what the Bible offers.
The problem with Ray’s approach isn’t the approach. It is the failure to make a distinction between what happened before Jesus was crucified, and what happens now.
Jesus never told anyone that they could violate the Law of Moses. These people needed to repent, or change their mind, and turn from their violations of the law. This is what John the Baptist proclaimed, and it is what Jesus continued to tell the people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Unfortunately, Ray Comfort continues with this in a completely different dispensation. The dispensation of the Law was only a tutor to lead people to Christ Jesus. Until Christ was crucified, the grace of God which saves through Jesus Christ could not be granted. Instead, people observed the law, repented when they failed, and looked for mercy through the sacrificial system.
With the coming of Christ, the grace of God is revealed. It is a revelation which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
To understand what this means, that God’s salvation is a gift and that it comes through faith, one must simply understand what this gospel message is. Paul declares it in 1 Corinthians 15 –
“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Paul then tells us how this is appropriated –
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 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. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:8-10
Paul calls this gospel “the word of faith.” He then says that it is obtained through confession with the mouth, something which is not – by the way – a work, as is preposterously claimed by some. One believes and confesses. We’ll talk about that more later. In this, they are saved. From there, Paul tells what this means to the believer –
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13, 14
This, then, is the gospel message, it is the process of receiving it, and it ends in the stated result. It is a process of belief leading to salvation. And so, what is wrong with Ray Comfort’s message? His message adds to this simple process given by Paul, and which is in accord with the other apostles.
How does Ray Comfort add to the message? Listen to his presentation on one of a thousand videos he has posted. He consistently tells his hearer, “You must repent.” He then explains that as, “you must turn from your sin.” He says it again and again. And he is causing damage to the gospel, and to the hearer of his false gospel, each time he says it.
Although this is a truth for Christians, it is not the gospel of their salvation. It is an addition to it, and thus, it is not the gospel of their salvation. It is a false gospel of faith plus works, which is different than Roman Catholicism only in order and type.
First, the Greek word for “repent” is metanoeó. It simply means “to change one’s mind or purpose.” Paul never uses the term in conjunction with salvation or the reception of the Spirit – never. The closest he ever gets to this is in 1 Corinthians 7:10, where he says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
Paul does not mean that repentance is necessary for salvation. He is saying that godly sorrow for one’s state in life will lead them to seek out the salvation found in Christ. It is a changing of the mind. It must be remembered that salvation is based on faith in what Christ did, not on works.
One cannot be saved by merely repenting from sin. If a drunk gives up drinking and yet has no faith in Christ, he will never be saved. Paul’s words cannot be used in and of themselves to say, “repentance leads to salvation.”
But that is how Ray Comfort presents his message – “You must do this in order to be saved.” If someone does give up his sins, based on what Ray Comfort says, it does not mean that he is any closer to God than before giving them up.
Instead, it is the grace of Christ which saves. The repentance of a sin may lead to faith in Him, or it may not. Either way, it is only by grace through faith that one is saved.
On the other hand, there is a sorrow of the world that Paul also writes about. There are many types of sorrows in the natural world. If we are sorry over losing a bank account full of money, that doesn’t lead us to God. Instead, it just leads us to frustration and bitterness. If we are sorry over losing our girlfriend, that hasn’t helped us in our spiritual life at all. Instead, it is simply a sorrow which is natural and of this world.
For the drunk who gives up drinking. If he is sorry for being a drunk because it led him to lose his job, he may change his mind (repent), give up drinking, and get his job back. In this, he may become proud and say, “Look at what I have done.”
This sorrow then only produced death in him because of the sin of pride. Ultimately, through such sorrow there can only be regret. In the end, it produces nothing concerning salvation, but it continues to produce death in the unbeliever. But this is what Ray Comfort adds to his gospel. As he says, “You must repent, turn from your sin, and come to Jesus.”
Those words are not found in the gospel which we read earlier in 1 Corinthians 15, and thus they are an addition to the gospel. As there can be no addition to the gospel, then it is a false gospel. Always be careful when handing out tracts that the Ray Comfort false gospel is not a part of the tract you are handing out.
For example, the tract “How Can We Know We’ll Go To Heaven,” written by Randy Alcorn, and which follows the Ray Comfort model says –
We cannot pay our own way. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf, God freely offers us forgiveness.
To be forgiven, we must recognize and repent of our sins. Forgiveness is not automatic. It’s conditioned upon confession: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The author of this tract does not understand either the meaning of grace, nor does he understand the gospel as the Bible proclaims it. He further has taken a verse from 1 John out of it intended context. When we believe the gospel, and accept it as our payment for sins, we are forgiven – wholly and completely – past, present, and future.
Without giving a minute analysis of 1 John 1:9, suffice it to say that it is strategically placed between two antithetical proclamations –
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10
The premise of coming to Christ is that a person is acknowledging he is a sinner. There is no other need to call on Christ. Thus, a person who does so is admitting he has sin – exactly as 1 Corinthians 15 states. Further, confession is not the same as repentance, or “changing one’s mind.”
And finally, the idea of repentance, as laid out in this tract, or as given by Ray Comfort, is not what the biblical idea of repentance actually means. Their implication is that a person must first turn from his sin in order to be saved. That is not a part of the gospel, and thus it is a false gospel.
Nobody who needs to go to the doctor says, “I need to get myself better so I can go see the doctor.” That is putting the Ray Comfort Cart of Works before his horse. Instead, one goes to the doctor, is given the cure for his ills, and then – in faithful obedience to the salvation he has obtained, goes about in Christ’s sufficient power correcting his many deficiencies – hopefully.
But just as a person may or may not continue in the antibiotics given by the doctor, so a person may not continue to heal in his pursuit of the Lord. The Bible instruction we receive, after being saved, will determine the health of our walk. But it does not affect our arrival at the end. That was accomplished through a judicial act of Christ, justifying us – once and for all – when we received the grace of His gospel through faith.
The use of the word, “repent,” as given by Ray Comfort, is both misleading and it is harmful, because it presents giving up one’s sin as a necessary part of salvation. It is a false gospel. But… you may say, “Paul may not have said that you must repent in order to be saved, but Peter did. It’s right there in Acts 2:38.”
This is a doctrinal problem that has nothing to do with the gospel. First, the book of Acts is a descriptive account of the establishment of the church. Outside of a very few verses from Jesus in Chapter 1, it prescribes almost nothing.
Secondly, the context of Acts 2:38 does not apply to any living person today – Jew or Gentile – who has never heard the gospel. And thirdly, Peter’s message of salvation through Christ is exactly the same as Paul. Paul confirms this while speaking of Peter and the other apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:11 –
“Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
Acts 2:38, where Peter was speaking to the Jews alone, says –
“Then Peter said to them, ‘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.’”
Why did he say this to them? It is because they had just, within the past short period of time, rejected Jesus, nailing Him to the cross. In this, they had to repent, or “change their mind.” He wasn’t telling them to repent of anything else except their rejection of Christ. That is why a verse, preceding Peter’s instructions, said, “therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
If someone has, in his life, rejected the gospel, then – by default – he must repent of that. If he doesn’t change his mind about his previous rejection of the gospel, then he has not accepted the gospel. 1 + 1 will always equal 2 in theology, and for someone who has never heard the gospel, there is no repentance necessary in order to be saved.
He hears the word of faith, he has faith and confesses, and he is saved and sealed. The deal is done. No works were involved, and the sin-debt is paid for. Now, only now – after this act – can a person turn from his sin and be a fruitful member of the body of Christ.
With what will you come before the Lord?
What will you present for the sin of your soul?
What will bring you the great reward?
On what thing will you, your sins roll?
Shall you accomplish a great and noble deed?
Claiming it is worthy of His praise?
Shall giving up a wicked life or one of greed…
Bring your honor, blessing, and eternal days?
Rather, come to your God in faith of His grace
Come to Him with hands empty of any pride
By grace through faith alone will you see His smiling face
And through that alone will you in heaven reside
II. Lordship Salvation
Many have heard of John MacArthur. He is well known, articulate, and a great presenter of the Bible. However, he – at least at one time and maybe still – taught what is known as “Lordship Salvation.”
It is certain that if you ask John MacArthur if he believes in Sola Fide and Sola Gratia – Salvation by faith and salvation by grace as conveyed by Paul in Ephesians 2:8, 9 – he will certainly say, “Yes.” Only a fool would not do so, and he is not a fool.
But if he still teaches Lordship salvation, then – like Ray Comfort – he proclaims a false gospel which adds to the three simple sets of verses we cited above, meaning from 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 10, and Ephesians 1. Putting what he says side by side with Paul’s gospel, as we now will, then shows us the problem with his theology.
First, the question must be asked, “Is it sufficient to only believe in Christ according to the gospel in order to be saved, or is it also necessary that He is accepted as Lord in order to be saved?”
In this, there is the obvious secondary question of “What does ‘Lord’ mean?” The Lordship view of salvation, as taught by John MacArthur, says that in order to be saved one must accept Christ as Lord (meaning Master), as well as Savior from sin, in order to be saved.
John MacArthur says Lordship salvation is “the view that for salvation a person must trust Jesus Christ as Savior from sin and must also commit himself to Christ as Lord of his life, submitting to his sovereign authority” (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, pp 33-34).
This is not the gospel. The gospel is clear and has been presented already. Several problems with what MacArthur says involve – as many such false teachings do – a misunderstanding of the context of what the Bible is presenting.
When Jesus said, for example, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46), who was He speaking to? He was speaking to Israel. It was Israel, still under the law, and prior to His crucifixion. The plan of salvation was not complete.
To mix what is said in the synoptic gospels with what is said in the epistles will inevitably – not just maybe or sometimes – lead to faulty doctrine. Jesus was instructing Israel under the law. The law was a tutor to lead the people to Him.
What Jesus says in that context may apply later in another context, or it may not. But if it conflicts with the epistles, then it obviously does not. But the context of pre- and post-crucifixion/resurrection is not the same, and the intent of the words spoken during those different times, those different dispensations, falls under those different contexts. An example would be Luke 21:36 –
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
When one comes to Christ, he is saved. There is no need to pray beyond that to be counted worthy. The believer is imputed Christ’s righteousness and is made worthy, not because of himself or what he will do, but because of Christ and what He has done. Rather, Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12 –
“Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul doesn’t pray that we will be worthy to stand before Christ, but that we will be worthy of the calling with which we have been called. The deal is done, but the state of the person in his new position is ongoing. John MacArthur fails to make this distinction. Some of the problems with Lordship salvation are:
1) Salvation and discipleship are confused. One cannot make Christ Lord until one knows what that entails, which is not a provision of the simple gospel which we have already stated. Further, if one never gets a Bible and has no Bible teaching after his salvation, he can never, be obedient in this way. Never.
We are so heaped up with Bibles and supposed experts of the Bible, that we think our way is the way it always has been and the way it is everywhere. But this is not the case. Without a Bible, which includes almost all Christians of history – until the rather recent past, and which continues in most of the world today – we can have no idea what we are expected to do.
2) It places the necessity of doing works (which accompany submitting to Christ’s Lordship) as a condition of receiving the gift of salvation. This is something which is not required according to the gospel. It is contrary to the gospel, and thus it is a false gospel. A gift cannot be earned; hence, the term “gift.”
3) It mixes what is implicit in having, and growing in, faith (such as obedience) with what is explicitly necessary to be saved. It adds to the simple gospel, and thus, it is a false gospel.
4) Like Roman Catholicism, it overstates the connection between faith and works by elevating works to being a part of the gospel, claiming there is an inevitable connection between them – which there is not, as is seen, for example, in 2 Peter 1–
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9
This same logic is not unique to 2 Peter, and it dispels the false notion of the false gospel of Lordship salvation presented by John MacArthur.
5) It stereotypes the Bible’s view of grace, which is unmerited favor (how can grace be anything but free?), by labeling it “easy believism.” But the apostles taught that one is saved by belief. Call it whatever you will – easy believism, apple pie, or the path to restoration, it doesn’t change what the Bible says. John MacArthur attacks the true gospel with name-calling in order to promote his false gospel.
6) It fails to recognize that there is a distinction between justification and sanctification. Each has its place and one is not exclusive of the other.
7) Lordship salvation makes faithfulness to Christ to the end, meaning perseverance, a condition of knowing that one is saved. 1 Corinthians 3 and 5, and 2 Corinthians 5 (which deal with rewards and losses and earthly punishment) explicitly dispel any notion of this false concept.
Further, it calls into question the sovereign decrees of God by saying that they can then change or be revoked. In other words, if a person is sealed with the Holy Spirit upon belief as a guarantee, and then that is revoked, it means that 1) God has changed His sovereign decree, 2) He has made an error in the first place, and 3) His guarantee of eternal life is not a guarantee at all. In short, it portrays God as not all-knowing, that He is vacillating, and that His word is not to be trusted.
8) Despite point 7, it inconsistently admits that a true and saved believer can be a “secret” believer and even be “backslidden” for an extended period.
Finally, concerning this failed system, the words of Paul in Romans 10 cannot be used to justify Lordship salvation. There, as stated before, Paul says –
“…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.” Romans 10:9
That is not speaking of making Christ Lord of one’s life, in the sense of, “Master, I will obey every precept of Yours if you will save me.” This is speaking of an entirely different precept, the deity of Jesus Christ.
The word “That” is a conjunction being used to tie together this verse with the thought in the preceding verse, “the word of faith.” This “word of faith” is explained by Paul and is what he preached. It is the means of obtaining “the righteousness of faith” mentioned in verse 10:6.
From there, he says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus…” Confession is more than the audible words which occur with the mouth. To “confess” is synonymous with to “profess.” One can confess a lie, but one only professes the truth.
The word is homologēsēs and the concept of agreement is to be found within it. The audible confession stands because of the inward profession. This is why Paul said in verse 10:8 that “the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” It is as close to us as the air which enters and exits our mouth and fills our lungs, and it is both audible in tone and truthful to the heart.
The reason for the audible profession is obvious. No one would hide their true belief in the Lordship of Jesus. If He is in fact Lord, then He is alive. If He is alive, then He triumphed over the cross. If He did this, then He was without sin because “the wages of sin is death.” If He is without sin, then He is Lord, meaning Yehovah, and thus God because “all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God.”
As you can see by logically thinking this through, the incarnation of Jesus Christ – being the God/Man – is inextricably tied up in the confession of “the Lord Jesus.” One cannot deny His Lordship, meaning His deity, and be saved. This is the heart of what God has done in the stream of time for the redemption of mankind.
Therefore, confession “with your mouth” is the making of an open profession that Jesus is God, thus denying all other gods. This would have been particularly of note in Roman times when people within the empire were required to affirm the lordship of Caesar. For many, it was a life and death decision to call Jesus “Lord.” Most translations, rather than stating “the Lord Jesus” will say “Jesus is Lord.” This is to avoid confusion and to emphasize His Lordship; His deity.
Either way, one must make the confession which is a true profession as is seen in the words “and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.” Paul directly ties the resurrection to Jesus’ Lordship. One cannot honestly call on a dead savior and so acknowledging His resurrection returns us to the thought that He was sinless in His life and death. Peter explains this in his great discourse at Pentecost in Acts 2 –
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24
Peter says, it was “not possible” that death should hold Jesus because He is without sin, and death is the penalty for sin. To ensure we don’t miss the point, immediately before and after stating this, Peter turned to Scripture and spoke of the Lord (Yehovah) in a way which implied that Jesus is Yehovah.
Therefore, calling on Jesus is calling on Yehovah, but the reciprocal is not necessarily true. If one accepts the premise that Yehovah of the Old Testament is realized in Jesus of the New, then he has rightly called on the name of the Lord.
However, if such people stubbornly refuse to see what God has done through Jesus, fulfilling the Old Testament pictures related to Yehovah which pointed to Him, then they have not called on the Lord Jesus, meaning Yehovah. It is an important point which should not be missed.
And so, this belief in God’s raising Jesus from the dead is the crucial key to understanding His Personhood. It is a volitional act of the free-will, which itself is a gift of God.
Faith isn’t something which can be earned; it is something which is received from God and then exercised by man. This doesn’t mean God grants us the faith to believe and that we will then believe. It means that God grants us the faith to believe and we may believe.
This is no different than God granting us the ability to accomplish mathematical skills. We may choose to use this ability or not. Maybe a better example would be the ability to swim. Swimming is possible for any normally constructed person, but it does take a step of faith to actually exercise the ability.
The ability is given by God, but it doesn’t mean that the choice will be exercised. Faith is not earned, it is received, and then it must be put into practice. Once the faith is properly applied, “you will be saved.”
This follows through with the very idea of belief. There are different meanings to the word “believe.” One can know that Christians say Jesus is God, fully comprehending what that means, and simply not believe it is true. Jehovah’s Witnesses do this all the time.
Or, one can believe that Jesus is God, and not believe in Jesus as God – in other words, submit to that fact. A person could say, “I have done the study and I truly believe that the gospel is true, but I just don’t accept it for me. I want nothing to do with Jesus.”
Or, one can hear the word, believe it is true, and by faith appropriate that truth for himself. The difference between the second two comes down to willingness to believe and confess, as Paul says is necessary in Romans 10:9, 10. John gives us a case of exactly this difference in John 12 –
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42, 43
John uses the same word that Paul uses in Romans 10. Therefore, the confession is not a work, but a yielding to God. Without the confession, the grace of God cannot be appropriated, because the faith has not truly been exercised.
But this process has nothing to do with the MacArthur false gospel of making Jesus Lord, meaning “Master,” of one’s life and submitting to His sovereign authority. That is a step outside of the bounds of the one, true, and simple gospel of salvation by grace through faith.
This is why the term “easy-believeism” is such an offense. It is God who reads the heart. But proponents of MacArthur’s false gospel arrogantly place themselves in His place and head right back to the Roman Catholic model by indicating that you have to prove your faith (which God has accepted) to them. God reads the heart, and our submission to Christ will be in accord with our life after coming to Christ – whatever that life may be. The rewards and losses will be ours alone. But those things have nothing to do with the reception of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our obedience to Christ, after being saved, has nothing to do with the salvation that is provided. A wife may submit to her husband, or she may not. And indeed, every wife on this planet does so differently. But the wife is no less a wife based on her submission. She is a wife based on the proclamation made between the two. The categories are not to be mixed.
These two points of faulty theology, Ray Comfort’s “The Way of the Master,” and John MacArthur’s “Lordship Salvation,” are but two of the many faulty doctrines which claim they believe in Sola Fide and Sola Gratia, but which belie that confession through confused theology.
Turning from sin, and submission to Christ as Lord, are both precepts which are found in the epistles, but they are not conditions for salvation. Rather, they are precepts which should, but do not naturally, stem from salvation.
Those things fall under an entirely different category of doctrine – that of rewards and losses. Those are explained, in particular, in 1 Corinthians 3 and 2 Corinthians 5. In keeping our categorical boxes straight, we will avoid the error that these men of God fell into.
In future sermons, we will expand on something that was stated here today concerning the possibility or impossibility of one losing his salvation. The question is, “Is salvation eternal, or can one lose his salvation?” The answer is obvious, but it is one which is denied by countless strange teachings which normally arise by the simple mistake of taking verses out of their intended context.
Having said that, and to prepare you for our sermon next week on predestination and election, and then a coming sermon on security in salvation, we can at least say that the doctrine ties necessarily into what we have talked about today – that of salvation being of grace alone through faith alone. Why is that?
It is because if a person can lose his salvation, it is obviously not because of something God has done. He has sent Christ, He has provided the salvation, and it is offered freely, as a gift of grace. As grace is unmerited favor, then anything added to that cannot be considered grace.
Therefore, as losing one’s salvation cannot be because of something God has done, then it is something that the saved man has done. And if the man must do something to keep being saved, then he – by default – had to do something to be saved – which takes us right back to Ray Comfort and John MacArthur and their false-gospels. Therefore, to teach that one can lose his salvation is a denial of salvation by grace through faith.
In fact, it is the ultimate slap in God’s face. God sent His Son to die for all sins of man – past, present, and future. It must be so because God is outside of time. His decrees are sovereign and when they are made, they stand. To say that one must do some work to be saved or to keep being saved is to say that what God did was insufficient to save at all.
Let us never be found in such an unholy and pridefully blasphemous position in our walk before the Lord our God. Rather, let us have faith and trust in the grace of God for our salvation, and let us hold fast to the truth of Scripture, even if it means we may lose friends or family in the process.
It is better to stand on right doctrine, than to listen to the ear-tickling but false gospels which permeate society, and which call us away from the magnificence of what God has done for us through the giving of His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Closing Verse: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6
Next Week: God’s Predestination and Election in Christ (8th Doctrine Sermon)