In the Gospel of Matthew Chapter Three, we hear out of the Judean desert, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord …”
Of course, I’m talking about John the Baptist.
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Now this week I want to focus on another heresy that is so prevalent in today’s churches called “Lordship Salvation”.
John the Baptist said: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This is the false doctrine that teaches that you have to repent of your sins and turn everything over to the Lord Jesus in order to be saved.
Now that sounds great – it sounds really righteous – but it’s another damnable heresy and preachers like Ray Comfort and John MacArthur and sending people to Hell and murdering their souls with this false Gospel that I’m going to prove to you is promoting nothing but a works-based salvation.
Proponents of Lordship Salvation teach that you have to submit your will completely to God at the moment of salvation, turn from your sins, and perservere until the very end, or you can’t be saved!
They don’t believe in the eternal security of the believer, what we call “once saved always saved”. And the way they market this false teaching is by using very similar terminology to the real Gospel.
And I’m going to name names today, because the Bible says:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8
So let me just make it very clear what Lordship salvation is:
Lordship salvation teaches that before you can accept Christ, you have to turn (not just confess your sins and ask Jesus to forgive you) but to actually stop sinning before you can turn to Jesus Christ and be saved!
And a lot of this arises out of confusion about the word “repentance”.
There are preachers out there, who will turn away a genuine seeker who wants to put their faith in Jesus Christ and tell them to first go and stop sinning and then Jesus will accept them.
That’s what they mean when they say, “repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ”. They’re not just saying to confess your sins and know that you’re a sinner deserving of Hell and to accept Jesus Christ by faith. They’re actually saying, stop whatever sin you’re involved in, whether it’s fornication or drinking or smoking or whatever the sin might be and that you can’t be saved until you repent of those sins!
But how is that even possible? How can you stop all of your sins before you come to Jesus Christ?
That’s like saying that in order to be saved, you first have to follow the Law of God given to us through Moses; go and fulfill the ten commandments: stop fornicating, stop lying, stop cheating, stop bearing false witness, live a perfect line, turn over a new leaf, stop whatever sin you’re involved in – then and only then will Jesus accept you!
Now that’s a great message for people that are already saved. We need strong John the Baptist type preachers to convict us of Christian moral living and exhort us to turn from our sins and to try follow the commandments! But it has nothing to do with our salvation! Salvation is a free gift!
Salvation is by grace alone and the Commandments only reveal that we’re sinners in need of a Savior.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.
So then why are we expected to keep the law in order to receive salvation?
Many preachers came up with the idea of Lordship salvation as a response to carnal Christians living sinful worldly lives and not being as committed to Jesus Christ as we would like.
Look, I would love for every Christian to be 100% committed to Jesus and to go out and preach the Gospel and live a spotless life. But these preachers have blurred the lines between what we should strive to do after we’re saved with salvation itself.
What they say is this … Surrender all, or surrender none” or they say things like “Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all” – that’s their mantra. That making a decision to believe in Jesus by faith alone isn’t enough, that you have to be completely submit your will to His lordship and that the fruit of your life will reflect that submission. But Jesus is Christ is the Lord whether you accept or not.
And if you take this to its logical conclusion, it means that you will stop sinning and living a holy life while on this earth. But how is that even possible? Well, they somehow mix in other false doctrines, like Calvinism in order to make their heresies tenable. John MacArthur is a huge proponent of Lordship salvation. Here he is on his website:
“Repentance is a turning from sin that consists not of a human work but of a divinely bestowed grace” – this “divinely bestowed grace” that he’s talking about, goes hand in hand with his false teachings on limited atonement and that Jesus didn’t die for the world, but for a select few.
Lordship Salvation sounds great on the surface, but you can’t confused the moment of salvation with the commitment of discipleship. Salvation is simply by faith. Discipleship is doing your best to follow Jesus Christ. What Lordship salvationists want to do is blend salvation together with discipleship and thereby pollute the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
Look it’s so simple a child can understand it. Think about this: if you have to forsake all in order to be saved and to turn from all your sins and be completely obedient to Jesus Christ to obtain salvation, then no one is saved. And not only that, think about little children. Didn’t Jesus say Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
Can a child stop sinning? I look at my ten year old or my twelve and you know, they love Jesus and they’re saved – but they have not abandoned all to follow Christ. Does that mean they’re not saved? That’s what John MacArthur would have you believe.
Now look, when I first got saved, I believed in Jesus Christ completely and I was willing to die if necessary to know the truth and to follow Him all the days of my life. And even today, if God were to tell me to sell my house and to leave everything behind and to go where He tells me, I would do it, by God’s grace. I pray daily, Lord, your will be done, not mine. But is that the experience of every saved believer? And did that kind of dedication come at the moment of salvation or after? Obviously it came after. When I first got saved, I was still doing some crazy things for a good while. But I was still saved!
Now, Jesus IS the Lord of my life; He is my Master; but that doesn’t mean that I’m a good and obedient servant all the time! That’s what Lordship salvation would have you be: a perfect and willing servant, one who is so submitted to Jesus Christ as Lord that he will stop sinning and live a pure and holy life.
But the Bible says that’s not possible!
1 John 1:8-9
8 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.
So salvation is confession and acknowledgement of our sinful condition. It is asking Jesus to forgive us, knowing that we cannot stop sinning as long as we live in this earthly temple.
The most succinct Bible verse on grace in the Bible is:
Ephesians 2:8-9 states:
For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
Saying that you have to surrender all or to stop sinning before you can be saved creates a dangerous grey area within the Gospel that says believing in Jesus Christ and putting your faith on Him to save you from your sins, is not enough! And that’s what many are preaching today!
Ray Comfort is a perfect example of this. And it’s so disappointing because he’s so good at pointing out to normal, every day people that they’ve broken God’s commandments and that without Jesus Christ they’re on their way to Hell.
But he actually says that knowing you’re a sinner and confessing your sins to God and putting your faith on the Lord Jesus is not enough! That you have to turn from you sin and believe in Christ.
Here’s Ray Comfort in his own words, from his website, LivingWaters.Com:
Merely being sorry for your sins, or confessing them to God won’t help you. You must turn from sin (repent), and your faith must be in Jesus Christ alone.
Ray Comfort expects you to follow the Law and the commandments before you can be saved. He wants to put you under the heavy burden of God’s Law before you can put your trust in Jesus Christ!
But Thank God, that Jesus says, “… my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:30
The list of offenders is surprisingly long. We’ve already covered Ray Comfort. Add to this list his side kick Kirk Cameron, who I’ve seen in church by the way when I used to live in CA, and I was so excited that the guy from Growing Pains was a believer – that my childhood friend from TV got saved and is on our side! And then I found he’s preaching this left behind nonsense and lordship salvation.
Others on the list include favorites like John MacArthur and his army of MacArthurites who practically worship him, Chick Publications, Billy Graham, John Piper, JI Packer, Paul Washer, and many more. Now if you’ve never heard Paul Washer preach, he preaches the devils words with the fire of John the Baptist.
John MacArthur though seems to be one of the stronger and more subtle forces behind “lordship salvation”. In 1988, he brought the controversy to life with a book, called, “The Gospel According to Jesus”. Now, I already think the title is seriously blasphemous! We already have four perfect Gospels … Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – and those are the only Gospels we need.
A Pastor in Texas named Paul Holloway, summarizes John MacArthur’s book, in which he says:
“MacArthur writes that faith ‘encompasses obedience,’2 and that obedience is ‘an integral part of saving faith. ’3 Indeed, obedience is bound up in the very ‘definition of faith,’ 4 being a constitutive element in what it means to believe.’
5 Thus any ‘concept of faith that excludes obedience’6 must be rejected because obedience is ‘indivisibly wrapped up in the idea of believing.’7 In fact, ‘the character of true faith’ is nothing less than the ‘higher righteousness’ of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-11.8
Did you get that? He’s saving that if you are not obedient to Christ you are not saved.
How obedient exactly do you have to be? Where’s the line drawn?
MacArthur even suggests that obedience is ‘synonymous with’ faith.9 And he quotes with approval … the dictum, ‘To believe’ is ‘to obey.’10”
Now in fairness that’s a paraphrase of John MacArthur’s book.
But here he is in his own words from his own website.
First John MacArthur quotes Jude 4:4 “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of Master and Lord, MacArthur, and this is in his own words: “Both words are extremely powerful. They were part of the vocabulary of slavery in New Testament times. They describe a master with absolute dominion over someone else — a slave owner. His subjects are duty-bound to obey their lord’s directives, not merely because they choose to do so but because they have no rightful liberty to do otherwise.
Wait a minute … I thought salvation was a free gift?
Remember, Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
But … according toe MacArthur, it’s not really free.
Maybe if John MacArthur was reading from the Holy Bible, the King James version, instead of his MacArthur study bibles, he would realize that Jesus Christ calls us “servants” not slaves. There is a difference. We are the servants of the Mighty God, but imperfect servants … the latchet of whose shoes we are not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
Turn to Galatians 3 and let’s see what Paul the apostle had to say about first turning from your sins and following the Law of God before you could be saved. And don’t be deceived, these same preachers will tell you that you that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, but they speak out of two sides of their mouth. They’ll turn around and tell you that you have to follow the commandments to be saved. Now they don’t tell you that you have to follow the Commandments perfectly. But think about this. Take it to its logical conclusion. What else does it mean to tell some that you have to first stop sinning before you can be saved?
Doesn’t the Law and the commandments reveal our sin?
Jesus said: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” So in order to stop sinning … in order to be saved, according to Ray Comfort and John MacArthur, is to not only stop your own personal sins against God, but to love your neighbor perfectly. Otherwise, have you really stopped sinning? Where is the line drawn? You see, it creates a great, grey area.
In fact, if you can follow Ray Comfort’s Gospel and stop sinning. Then why would you need a Savior? You would already be perfect.
1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
THAT SHOULD END THE SERMON RIGHT HERE & NOW!
But there are still people out there who muddle the Gospel of grace with works. That’s what Lordship salvation is: it’s a hybrid of works salvation and grace, a dirty, muddy version of the Gospel, and Pastors like Ray Comfort and John MacArthur are caught between a Gospel of works and grace.
But you say, John the Baptist said, “repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
Jesus said: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
But let’s look up the word “repent” by doing a short word study and get our definitions from the Bible itself using the Bible’s own built-in dictionary.
The first time a word appears in the Bible, it defines itself. Now this doesn’t always work with the modern corruptions, but it does always work with the King James version of the Bible.
The first mention of “repent” in the Bible is found in the very first Book of Genesis, chapter 6, verse 6.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
So the first mention of “repent” is in relation to God repenting … not man. And it isn’t repenting from sin, but regret that God had made man. There’s no mention of sin whatsoever, as God of course cannot sin!
The next mention of repentance in the Bible is Exodus 13:17
And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although thatwas near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:
Repent = to change the mind, the regret, to change course, or to turn from …
So the question must be asked: WHAT ARE WE TURNING FROM, WHAT ARE WE CHANGING OUR MIND ABOUT?
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
REPENT = God not changing his mind; not going against His own word, since he does not lie.
A believer should repent of sin and try to live a Godly life as the Holy Spirit enables.
I repent every day. And then I sin again. I haven’t stopped sinning and neither have you.
Paul didn’t stop sinning! Look at Romans 7:18-20
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
AGAIN REPENT = GOD NOT CHANGING HIS MIND
So repentance means to change your mind!
We see that the word “repent” is not automatically associated with sin, but any behavior or thought or belief system that you are turning from.
And there’s many more, if you take the time to do a Word Study on repentance.
In Acts 19:4, Paul gives us the answer and clearly explains what John the Baptist meant by repentance.
Paul spells it out for us.
“Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
Look also at Acts 16:30
Paul & Silas are locked up in prison for preaching the Gospel … and at midnight they prayed and sang praises unto God and a great earthquake shook the prison’s foundations and they were set free!
And the keeper of the prison brought Paul and Silas out and said to them:
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And what did Paul & Silas say? Did they say, ‘repent of your sins’? Did they say be baptized? Did they say go away and stop sinning first? Did they say Jesus won’t accept you if you are still in your sin? But what did they same to him?
“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Matthew 9:2 = seeing their faith, forgave their sins.
And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.
Was there any call to repent from sins there? Did the sick man have to go and do anything? The Bible says, “JESUS SEEING THEIR FAITH said … thy sins be forgiven thee”. So we see that he had sins … but he didn’t have to turn from them …
SINNERS TO REPENTANCE
Now turn to Matthew 9:13b, This is a verse that people like to use to say that repentance means turning from sins. The second part of the verse, says:
“… for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Let’s go back and read the whole passage in context:
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard [that], he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what [that] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Jesus was being a bit of a smart-aleck.
He was throwing the Pharisees hypocrisy in their face.
He was saying, “You think don’t need me, you think you’re already righteous! You think you’re already perfect! You think you’re already without sin!
You don’t need a physician. You don’t need a Savior! I didn’t come to save people like you, I came to save poor, sick sinners like these.”
Jesus was being sarcastic … The Pharisees were not righteous!
JESUS also had this to say about the Pharisees:
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Matthew 23:33.
We all know Romans 3:23 …
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
The last encounter in the Bible I want to look at today is about Philip and The Eunuch from ACTS 8:26-38:
An Angel of the Lord directs Philip to go to Gaza, where he meets a Eunuch reading from portions of the Scriptures which referred to Christ from the book of Isaiah.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
… And Philip said …. “Repent of your sins and believe in Jesus”. Surrender everything, give your whole heart to the Lord, surrender all or surrender none.
Is that what Philip said? So then why is Ray Comfort saying that?
What did Philip say?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
By the way … baptism came after salvation … it wasn’t a condition of salvation either, as some claim. And we’re going to get more into that next time.
This is one of the greatest accounts of salvation in the Bible.
Yet the NIV takes removes the most important part of this passage. It removes putting your faith on Jesus Christ to be saved. Verse 37 is gone completely.
Here’s the Non-Inspired Version:
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”  [a] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.
According to the NIV, the eunuch didn’t even get saved. He just got dunked in water!
IN CLOSING …
Let me close with a few quotes without revealing until the end who said each, and I think you’ll be surprised.
QUOTE # 1 “Let us not then take refuge in our sloth or encouragement in our lust from the abused doctrine of the security of the believer. But let us appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end.” – John Murray, Protestant Evangelical Calvinist theologian.
#2 “The Scriptures repeatedly exhort us to persevere, to ‘hang in there.’ It is only the one who endures to the end who will be saved.” – Joseph Kindall (Roman Catholic).
#3 “Endurance in faith is a condition for future salvation. Only those who endure in faith will be saved for eternity.” –RC SPROUL, one of today’s best known Christian theologians.
# 4 We do not ‘earn’ our salvation through good works, but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life – “Pillar of Fire”, a roman book catholic book from Catholic Answers
# 5 “There is a deadly and damnable heresy being widely propagated today to the effect that, if a sinner truly accepts Christ as his personal Saviour, no matter how he lives afterwards, he cannot perish. That is a satanic lie, for it is at direct variance with the teaching of the Word of truth. Something more than believing in Christ is necessary to ensure the soul’s reaching heaven.” – AW Pink, another evangelical Calvinist.
#6 “… without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.'”] – Catechism of the Catholic Church, article #161
Now would you agree these all are pretty much in agreement in their doctrine?
Jesus said in Matthew 18:3:
… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel is so easy to understand and to receive that a little child could receive it. When I explain to my children that they have sin and all they have to do is ask Jesus one time to forgive them and put their faith on Him to receive eternal salvation, they get it.
But then you get these scholars and theologeans, these scribes and Pharisees, who complicate and confuse and turn the crisps, clear water of the Gospel into a muddy cocktail that no one can drink.