Topic Article #10: The Lordship of Jesus Christ
by Dr. Eugene Clingman, Executive Administrator
Copyright 2006, International Church Council Project
(This article may be freely distributed so long as it is not altered
and the above information remains intact.)
Topic 10 of the International Church Council Project is The Lordship of Christ. There are some within the Church, even some prominent pastors/teachers, who teach that one need not submit to Christ the Lord to be saved. They say that sinners can accept Christ as Savior and be saved, while at the same time, consciously reject him as Lord. They say that calling people to receive the whole Jesus Christ, the Lord, and Savior is preaching a “works-salvation.” We believe this division of Christ’s Saviorhood from his Lordship is a false, unbiblical notion extremely damaging to the truth of the Gospel.
The first article in this topic’s position paper reads:
I. We affirm that for the purposes of salvation, the Saviorhood of Christ and the Lordship of Christ cannot be separated.1
We deny that anyone can receive Christ as his Savior while he consciously rejects Him as Lord. This is deception.
1. Isaiah 55:6-7; Mat. 6:12; 7:21-27; 10:32-33; 11:28-29; Luke 18:18-30; 19:1-10; 24:46-47; Acts 2:37-38; 3:19; 5:31; 17:30; 16:31; 20:21; Romans 2:4; 4:23-24; 10:9; 2 Cor. 7:10; Heb. 5:9; 6:1; 1 Peter 1:2; Rev. 3:19
2. 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 John 3:6-8
With all true Christians we “maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). Yet the faith by which one is justified is a faith that bows the knee to the sovereign ruler, the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Scripture plainly says in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” The word “Lord” is the Greek word kurios and it means “Lord” in the sense of “Master,” and the English Bible often translates it as “Master.” Kurios was the title of Caesar at the time the New Testament was written, and so the early Church, who proclaimed Jesus as Lord, understood that a kurios is a sovereign ruler; the unbelievers also understood that the disciples were proclaiming Jesus as Lord, King, Master (Acts 2:29-36; 17:7).
Those who are proponents of the teaching against the biblical position (they call the biblical position “lordship-salvation”) say that a man can be genuinely saved even though he is not repentant and continues to live in rebellion and sin. Such a one, they say, can walk down to the altar, make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, and then continue in his unregenerate lifestyle of sin and rebellion, and yet be at the same time genuinely saved. What does the Scripture say? The Bible teaches that when one is saved, new life is imparted (2 Cor. 5:17; John 3:3-21); that a new heart is given which no longer walks in rebellion, but upon which is written the laws of God (Heb. 8:10-12; Jer. 31:33); those who have been given this new life no longer continue a lifestyle of sin and rebellion, but rather they have repented by acknowledging Jesus as the authority who sets the standards for life and conduct. These with this new life might sin, but they do not live a lifestyle of sin. Though they fall, and may fall many times, they are conscious they have sinned, and turn to the Lord whose standards they have violated, and cry out to him for forgiveness and for his transforming Spirit to change them. They recognize in themselves poverty of spirit; consequently they mourn over their sins, and hunger and thirst for righteousness. On the other hand, one who does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord lives by his own autonomous standards, and does not seek to repent, for he does not acknowledge the authority of Jesus the Lord, or if he acknowledges it, he refuses to alter his lifestyle on account of it.
Saints Obey God’s Laws
Those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord hear his commandment to love one another, and their neighbors as themselves. As they love, they fulfill the Law of God. For love’s sake they do not steal. For love they do not sleep with their neighbor’s wife, nor accuse him falsely, nor covet what belongs to him. Through love they fulfill the Ten Commandments. “For love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8-13). Those however who do not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, do not acknowledge his requirement to love. They therefore might steal if it is convenient and won’t get caught. They might sleep with their neighbor’s wife if they can justify it in their own mind, and the attraction is strong enough, and the circumstances inviting, and if they think they can avoid getting caught. They do not love either the one with whom they are committing adultery, for they are leading them into judgment (Heb. 13:4), nor do they love the husband/wife of the one with whom they commit this crime, for they take to themselves that which does not belong to them, and defile that which God has purposed shall be holy.
Jesus asks, “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus tells us that calling him Lord means doing what he says. Yet this is the opposite of what those with the unbiblical doctrine we oppose are saying. They say that calling Jesus “Lord” does not mean one needs to do what he says, but is only an expression of his Godhood, an acknowledgement of his divinity. But if you take a simple straightforward interpretation of what Jesus says here, it cannot be denied that Jesus expects you to do what he says if you call him “Lord.”
Those we oppose say that faith alone saves, and it is not necessary to obey Christ as Lord. We say, indeed, faith alone saves, but a faith that does not obey Christ is a dead faith that cannot save! The Bible tells us that saving faith is the kind that repents of sin and obeys Christ (John 3:36; Rom. 1:5; James 2:17-26). The demons have faith that acknowledges who Christ is, and what he has done (Luke 4:41; James 2:19). This faith does not save them, nor does it save any man, woman, or child, though they raise their hand at the altar call and walk forward and say the sinner’s prayer. Only faith that acknowledges Christ as Lord (Rom. 10:9, 10) can save. Yet we are also certain that neither a perfect understanding of Christ’s Lordship, nor a perfect obedience to it is required for salvation. For “…He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him…” (Hebrews 7:25). But those who will not repent are not drawing near to God; they are continuing contrary to him, pursuing a path away from him (Isa. 55:7; Rev. 22:15). But we who repent and truly turn to Christ, acknowledging him as Lord and Master, though we fall again and again, “If we confess our sins (sin is to miss the standard of Christ the Lord), he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If a man refuses Christ as Lord, he will not confess his sins, for he does not acknowledge that he has sinned against the standard of Christ’s righteousness. He interprets Scripture this way, “Since I don’t acknowledge Christ as Lord, I have no need to confess my sins.” Jesus says of him, “Your sin remains!” (John 9:41).
“…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15). Look closely at this verse. The “Gospel of God” includes “repent.” The Good News, the Gospel will do no good for those who do not repent, for a gospel that leaves off repentance is not the “Gospel of God,” but rather another gospel, and no gospel other than the “Gospel of God” has the power to save (Rom. 1:16).
When Jesus says, “repent and believe in the gospel,” he is saying there is another standard than the one by which you have been living; that standard is Me. Turn from your own standard, and acknowledge me as the right standard, bow yourself before this standard, for I alone, as Lord, Master, King, have the right to impose it upon you. Forsake all other standards. If father or mother, sister or brother, king or ruler, impose another standard on you, cast it off, you must obey me, for I am Lord of lords, Boss of bosses, Master of masters, King of kings (Mat. 10:34-39; Acts 5:29).
Nowhere does the New Testament teach there are those who will be saved who continue to live in rebellion against God (living an anti-lord lifestyle). Rather the Scripture plainly tells us, “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Paul says, “Do not be deceived.” Yet we declare that those who separate Christ’s Lordship and his Saviorhood are deceived. Paul says there are some who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Who are they? The “unrighteous.” Who are the unrighteous who will not inherit the Kingdom of God? They are those who continue as “fornicators,” “idolaters,” “adulterers,” “effeminate,” “homosexuals,” “thieves,” “the covetous,” “drunkards,” “revilers,” “swindlers,” etc. If people continue in these sorts of things, the Scripture plainly tells us they “will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (see also Gal. 5:19-24). Who then are those who are will inherit the Kingdom of God? They are those who have repented and who no longer live in these sorts of things. Paul says of them, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” These have repented; they are no longer doing what they used to do. They have bowed before Christ the Lord, and have forsaken that which he commands them to forsake. He says, “Such were some of you, but…” now things are different!
Again, the Bible teaches that those who are “reconciled” no longer live in “evil deeds.” “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Col. 1:21-23). Yet those we oppose say a man can be “reconciled” yet continue “engaged in evil deeds,” for, they say, he does not need to obey Christ the Lord in order to be saved.
Paul says to be saved, they must “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast…” What kind of faith is this they must continue in? It is a faith that has caused them to be no longer “engaged in evil deeds,” for they have repented by submitting to Christ the Lord.
Nowhere does the Bible suggest that the saints continue to live carnal, sinful lives (1 John 3:1-12). We boldly declare that the teaching that calls biblical salvation “lordship-salvation” or “works-salvation” is erroneous, it is another gospel.