Had it been possible for you to have had salvation without sanctification, it would have been a curse to you instead of a blessing. If such a thing were possible, I cannot conceive of a more lamentable condition than for a man to have the happiness of salvation without the holiness of it; happily, it is not possible. – C.H. Spurgeon
Lordship salvation is one of the most hotly debated topics in the evangelical church today. The dividing line is generally made along the lines of monergism and synergism, which house the set of beliefs of Calvinism and Arminianism, respectively.
Monergism is the biblical view that regeneration (our being born again) is the work of God alone. There is nothing that we do to add to this work of the Holy Spirit, lest we be contributors to our salvation. Therefore, because our rebirth into new creations is a work of God alone, God alone may get the credit for our salvation, thus making no room for anyone to boast (Ephesians 2:9).
Synergism, on the other hand, is the non-biblical view that man’s will cooperates with God’s will in the work of regeneration. It assumes that God’s sovereign work of redemption is ultimately limited by man’s sovereignty of his own “free will”. Therefore, man can boast in his salvation as having done something (believing by his own will and ability). This view posits that God wants to save all but can’t, and he wants to make them holy but can’t.
Simply put, monergism declares salvation is for the glory of God alone (Soli Deo Gloria), while synergism puts man in a position to share the glory with God.
With this basic foundation laid, we can now move forward into the doctrine of sanctification and its relationship with justification in this series titled, What Is Wrong with NON-Lordship Salvation?
In his article posted at Bible Prophecy Blog titled What Is Wrong with Lordship Salvation?, Dr. Andy Woods of Sugar Land Bible Church argues that lordship salvation proponents – that is, biblical Gospel proponents – blur the lines of justification with sanctification. In his fourth argument, Dr. Woods wrongly suggests,
Fourth, Lordship Salvation confuses sanctification with justification.
To be clear, justification is the judicial decision of God to declare sinners not guilty in His holy courtroom. Because of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ, which is to say He is the only righteous man to walk the earth having perfectly kept the Law of God, He was fit to be a substitute on our behalf to atone for our sins against God (2 Corinthians 5:21). The theological term for the unblemished Lamb of God taking our punishment for us is substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24, 3:18). When sinners turn to God in repentant faith, having trusted in the Person and finished work of Christ alone, they are immediately declared righteous before the throne of God (Romans 3:21-26). This righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus Christ whereby God looks at the saved sinner as though perfect in His eyes because they are clothed by Christ’s righteousness having been justified freely by His grace. This is justification and it comes by faith alone (Romans 5:1).
Sanctification means to be set apart, to be made holy. When we are justified by faith, we are immediately sanctified positionally (1 Corinthians 6:11). This means we are set apart by God as a holy new creation born of Himself (1 John 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:17), having been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14, 22; 1 John 1:7). This positional sanctification means we have been eternally separated unto God as a holy people (1 Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 10:10, 14).
Neither justification or sanctification can occur without regeneration. As mentioned in Part 2, sinners are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13). They can no more make themselves alive or raise themselves from the dead than Lazarus could have raised himself from the dead (John 11:43-44). Jesus called the dead man Lazarus to come forth, and he did. So it is with every sinner who is spiritually dead, who cannot possibly please God (Romans 8:7), who cannot discern the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), that must be called forth from the spiritual grave by the voice of the Son of God (John 5:25). Without Jesus calling sinners forth, they cannot be made alive (Ephesians 2:5), and every single sinner He specifically calls forth, will hear and live. This is the authority given to Him by the Father (John 17:2). When Jesus calls us forth and the Holy Spirit makes us alive, this is what it means to be born again (John 3:3-8). And as we can see in John 1:12-13, being born again is not something we do by a decision to choose God and believe:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
and it is according to the mercy of God:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, – 1 Peter 1:3-5
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:5
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” – John 6:63-65
It is important to explain each of these elements of salvation (regeneration, justification, and sanctification) because it becomes clear that salvation is a work of God alone for His glory alone (Ephesians 1:3-14). We can no more choose or cause ourselves to be born again than a baby can choose or cause himself to be born from his mother’s womb. We can no more choose to become adopted children of God than orphaned babies can choose their adoptive parents. This is therefore imperative to understand when deconstructing a position such as Dr. Andy Woods’ position against lordship salvation.
When Dr. Woods makes the unbiblical claim:
After coming to Christ, God issues another call for His children to pursue practical sanctification or discipleship,
he does so with a synergistic understanding of Scripture. What Dr. Woods means by practical sanctification, at least in the biblical sense, is the working out of our positional sanctification into every day holiness. But Dr. Woods considers such practical sanctification an option for the professing believer and not necessarily something that is guaranteed to follow justification. This is what we know from Scripture:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13
There are some who take verse 12 to mean we must work to keep our salvation, but that is not what the text is saying at all. Looking to verse 13, we see that it is God who is working His good pleasure through us according to His will. Paul is telling us to be submitted to the will of God and yield to the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. Our sanctification is a cooperative effort with the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s will for our lives – our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) – and the works we do are the works God has predestined us to work (Ephesians 2:10). Most assuredly, these plans of God (His will for us) cannot be stopped:
“I know that you can do all things,and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” – Job 42:2
So to assert as Dr. Woods that sanctification or discipleship is second-tier Christianity or an optional second calling of God for us to become practically righteous and holy is to fundamentally misunderstand that
he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
and that Jesus is
the founder and perfecter of our faith… – Hebrews 12:2
Even Dr. Woods at some level understands this by his contradictory Position Statement #6 that “…salvation in Christ will result in a changed life (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 Cor. 6:11).” Why? Because God is the author of our faith and He is the perfecter of our faith, which is to say He makes us alive to hear the Gospel to respond in repentant faith to be conformed to the image of Christ to finally be glorified with Him in heaven (Romans 8:29-30).
Moving along to the remainder of Dr. Woods’ argument, he tells us concerning discipleship:
For example, those whom Christ called to be His disciples, like Peter, were already believers (Matt 16:24-25). We see the same salvation pattern at work through Old Testament Israel. First, the nation was redeemed through the Passover Lamb and then, sometime later, the nation was put under the Mosaic Law for purposes of sanctification (Exod 19:1ff). Thus, submission to Christ’s Lordship is prerequisite for this second step of sanctification rather than for the initial step of justification. Therefore, the Scripture teaches Lordship Sanctification rather than Lordship Salvation. Lordship Salvation confuses this two-step approach by reading the principles for sanctification back into what is required for justification. In other words, what is the result of salvation mistakenly becomes the initial requirement for salvation. This mistake is tantamount to putting the cart before the horse.
Hogwash, Dr. Woods! Every born again Christian is a disciple from spiritual birth! The very goal of evangelism is to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). There were many people following Christ at the time He gave the call to be disciples (believers). The crowd had gotten so large (Luke 14:25) that Jesus turned to them and said,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26-27, 33
Not everyone in the crowd is a believer. In fact, 85% of Americans profess the Christian faith, but how many of them actually live as though they are disciples of Christ? A mere profession of faith is absolutely worthless in spiritual matters. The one who has not counted the cost to follow after Christ with what has been revealed to them, yielding to His Lordship, cannot be His disciple. This is why Jesus actually upped the ante because He knew there were many just following the crowd.
Just as it was then, there are many today who follow the crowd through their easy-believism because of empty promises of a temporally rich life, to buy fire insurance, to add Jesus as a fad or accessory, to be part of a “church” social club, or any other number of reasons that church or religion might appeal to them. But these people could care less about pursuing holiness, loving God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength through obedience, and following Christ at all costs. These are those who Scripture refers as living as enemies of the cross, whose god is there belly, and who have their minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:18-19). These are false disciples who consider the cost of discipleship too high and are not willing to follow Christ (John 6:66).
This, therefore, is the biblical view of sanctification:
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. – 1 John 3:2-3
Do you see that? Because we are children of the Most High, we will purify ourselves as He is pure. We are being transformed into the glory of the Lord by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), which means we will increasingly manifest the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The spirit He has given us is one of love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7), enabling us to become holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:14-16), holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
It is with these promises that we see there is no gap between justification and practical sanctification. The same God who works grace in us to believe is the same God whose grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldliness (Titus 2:11-14). Lost people are carnal people, and when they are consumed by the grace of God, they are promised to become increasingly less carnal as they increasingly become more holy. That is why carnality as a stagnant state for the Christian is a myth, and it is why Dr. Woods’ argument that there are second level Christians who have yielded to “Lordship Sanctification” is blasphemous to the sovereignty and reputation of God Almighty.
From the moment of salvation, God continues to work His salvation in us through the new desires He has planted in our hearts (Psalm 37:4; Ezekiel 36:25-27). And just as the grave clothes were removed from Lazarus giving him freedom to walk in newness of life, our spiritual grave clothes will be removed as we obey the Lord Jesus Christ to put off the old self and walk in newness of life:
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:20-24
This takes us into the final argument from Dr. Woods against lordship salvation, which he suggests destroys the assurance of salvation for the born again believer. Having thus covered saving faith, biblical repentance, the myth of the continuously carnal Christian, and God’s work of sanctification in this article, it will become clear why it is so important to examine oneself whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) by studying Scripture to ascertain biblical assurance of salvation. Please then continue to Part 6.
In the meantime, I invite you to add the following message from Paul Washer to your mp3 player as he preaches on true conversion: Paul Washer: True Gospel – Conversion
Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He who is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and a new principle and always lives a new life. A regeneration, which a man can have and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture. – J.C. Ryle