What Is Wrong with NON-Lordship Salvation? – Part 3

Posted on March 25, 2011


I’m thankful that Christ saved me, but I’m not ready to obey Him. Jesus is my Savior, but I do not love Him enough to hate my sin and flee from it. Jesus died for me and I appreciate that, but demanding that I follow Him is a little too much right now – maybe later. I love God with all of my heart, but I still love my sin. That’s ok, right? I believe God is in control of all things, except me – that’s why I want to retain control of my life and do things the way I want to do them. God’s will for my life is nice, but my will still be done, at least for now. Jesus came into my heart, but I’m not ready for Him to teach me yet. Christ forgives me because I believe, but thirsting for righteousness and being holy is for disciples. I’ll be a disciple one day, but for now I’m happy with just being saved – after all, obedience is for “super Christians”. In short, I will not bow to Christ, at least not yet – but praise God for grace, yes? – John “no-lordship” Doe

Ridiculous, isn’t it? This is the implication for those who reject so-called “lordship salvation”. These are the things they allow with the position that one only has to believe, but not follow the Lord Jesus Christ in obedience and love for the cross and the person of Christ. Such a person is Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church who was recently featured on the Bible Prophecy Blog with the article, What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation?

In Part 2 of this series titled, What Is Wrong with NON-Lordship Salvation?, I addressed the matter of saving faith. Dr. Woods teaches that all one needs for salvation is an intellectual assent to facts about Christ and His work on the cross. He also believes the following words are synonyms of each other: belief, faith, trust, confidence, and repentance. So with that, let’s tackle the differences between Dr. Woods’ definition for repentance and biblical repentance.

Part 3 – Repentance

Dr. Woods begins his second argument against lordship salvation with the following:

Second, Lordship Salvation places an impossible requirement upon the unsaved. The unsaved person is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and thus incapable of doing anything of spiritual value, such as obey, submit, forsake, etc…By making these other things the conditions of salvation rather than simply believing, obstacles are placed in front of the unbeliever that he or she is incapable of fulfilling.

Perhaps Dr. Woods is referring to Jesus, when He said:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. – Luke 14:26

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. – Luke 14:27

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. – Luke 14:33

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. – Matthew 10:37

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. – Matthew 10:38

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 10:39

Impossible? Absolutely – for the carnal mind:

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. – Romans 8:7

Who then can be saved? Who then can meet these impossible demands of Christ?! The disciples asked Jesus these very questions after they witnessed the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 walking away from Christ because he was not willing to forsake all that he was and all that he had for the Kingdom of God. He loved his riches more than he loved God. They were his idols and he was not willing to forsake them. But Jesus answered them in Matthew 19:26,

With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Oh but for the sovereign grace of God, none would be saved! It is indeed utterly impossible for the flesh to submit to the authority of Christ, but by grace, we are willing to do so – and will do so.

Continuing, Dr. Woods says:

The lost are capable of doing only one thing that is pleasing to a holy God: trusting in His provision for salvation.

No, Dr. Woods, the lost are not even capable of doing that. It is because we are dead in our trespasses as carnal men that we can do nothing but rebel against God. We cannot please Him, period (Romans 8:7). So, even our faith, even our trusting and the ability to do so is a gift of God, lest we should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Finally, on the doctrine of repentance, Dr. Woods suggests:

What then shall we make of the numerous biblical commands for the lost to repent (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2 Pet 3:9)? The Greek word translated repent is metanoeō. It comes from two Greek words meta and noeō. Meta means change, as in metamorphosis. Noeō means “to perceive.” From the word noeō we get the English word notion, which refers to an idea emanating from the mind. Thus, repent or metanoeō means to change one’s mind about Christ rather than to change one’s behavior in order to come to Christ. In this sense, repentance is a synonym for faith. Position Statement #6 captures this idea when it says, “With respect to salvation, repentance is a change of mind regarding the Person and work of Christ.”

From my experience in learning of the non-lordship salvation position, the two major points of contention are the sovereignty of God (sovereign grace creating saving faith) and the definition of repentance. Dr. Woods has echoed what most contend from his position that repentance is nothing more than a change of mind about who God is and what Christ has done. Further, they misrepresent true repentance by asserting that Gospel preachers and teachers teach that repentance means to change one’s behavior before coming to Christ. On the first hand, Dr. Woods definition is biblically insufficient. On the second hand, biblical repentance does not mean to change one’s behavior before coming to Christ, but biblical repentance always results in changed behavior.

The Blue Letter Bible features the 19th century Anglican Archbiship of Dublin, Richard C. Trent, to explain the different forms of repentance. Trent sums up biblical repentance that leads to salvation as follows:

It is only after metanoeō has been taken up into the uses of Scripture, or of writers dependant on Scripture, that it comes predominantly to mean a change of mind, taking a wiser view of the past…a regret for the ill done in that past, and out of all this a change of life for the better…μετανοεῖν and metanoeō gradually advanced in depth and fulness of meaning, till they became the fixed and recognized words to express that mighty change in mind, heart, and life wrought by the Spirit of God (‘such a virtuous alteration of the mind and purpose as begets a like virtuous change in the life and practice,’ Kettlewell), which we call repentance.

In other words, while metanoeō does technically mean “to change one’s mind”,its usage and context in Scripture is deeper than that. Biblical repentance, therefore, involves a change in the mind (intellect), in the emotions (heart), and the will (volition leading to changed behavior).

One such evidence of this can be found in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, where we see that only the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will see the Kingdom of Heaven. The poor in spirit recognize they have broken God’s Law and have sinned against a holy God. They understand their lost condition, and recognize their desperate need of a Savior. For having offended God, they are contrite in spirit and mourn over their sinful behavior against God (Psalm 34:18, 51:17; Isaiah 57:15, 66:2). This leads to a resolution to turn their back on the very thing that hung Christ on the cross, a changed attitude toward sin and a desire to obey the One who saved them. This kind of repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of the will. Please see Blessed Purity for further explanation.

Another piece of evidence for repentance that results in a change of attitude and behavior is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:9:

For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

What do we see in this passage? The Thessalonians turned to God, from idols, to serve God. In other words, they could not serve God unless they forsook their idols. Repentance, therefore, is a turning away from sin and turning to God to love Him and obey Him. To make this point even more clear that repentance is turning from sin to God in faith, we see in Acts 14:15 where Paul and Barnabas rebuke the men of Lystra for worshiping idols,

Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them,

Notice Paul did not charge them to only turn to God. He clearly tells them to turn from their idols and to turn to the living God. Those who teach that men do not have to forsake their sin are those who do not value the law of God. They often use Romans 7 to show that “even Paul” sinned and did not do what he wanted to do, but rather did the things he did not want to do. It sometimes comes across that they may be looking to minimize, excuse, or justify their own sinful behavior. However, what they fail to understand is that Paul hated his sin and saw himself as wretched:

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:24-25

And because the born again believer has the mind of Christ at the moment of conversion (1 Corinthians 2:16), he will go on to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). Martin Lloyd-Jones said of repentance:

Repentance means that you realize that you are a guilty, vile sinner in the presence of God, that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, that you are hell-bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you, that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form. You renounce the world whatever the cost, the world in its mind and outlook as well as its practice, and you deny yourself, and take up the cross and go after Christ. Your nearest and dearest, and the whole world, may call you a fool, or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference. That is repentance.

Interestingly enough, in his second argument Dr. Woods did not share the statement that follows “With respect to salvation, repentance is a change of mind regarding the Person and work of Christ.” Position #6 actually closes with:

That being said, we just as strongly maintain that salvation in Christ will result in a changed life (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Cor. 6:11).

Precisely, Dr. Woods, which is why your theology is a mess of contradiction. Why do you think it is that salvation will result in a changed life? It is only because salvation is a work of God alone from grace alone whereby He gives to us the gifts of faith and repentance (Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:25). The new heart He gives us, at conversion, is wrought with godly sorrow and a turning from sin (2 Corinthians 7:10), a saving faith (Matthew 13:23), and a love for His commandments (1 John 5:2-4).

In closing, Scripture is clear that not just any faith and not just any repentance (Judas, for example, had merely a repentance of the mind alone) is enough for salvation. Moreover, faith and repentance are not synonyms, but rather two sides of the same coin. What God requires is a repentant faith, which is only possible as a gift from God. This type of faith, or trusting in God, is a contrite faith, with a heart’s desire to obey in love the commands of Christ. It is love for the One who saved and delivered them from their sin, and it is love for the King, Ruler, Master, Sovereign, and Lord who rules over them, not with a rod of iron, but with pierced hands and feet.

Please continue to Part 4 that addresses the mysterious “carnal christian”.

For additional articles on biblical repentance, please see:

Do You Know This Repentance?

What Is True Repentance?

Godly Sorrow or Hopeless Repentance?

Is Christ Your Lord?

True Repentance

Spurgeon on Repentance