Radical Grace Versus Lordship Salvation
“That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” C.S. Lewis
Recently it has been brought to my attention, that there is a new war raging among the evangelicals in the religious world of America. The two parties in this debate are those that call their teaching “radical grace” and the other is referred to as “Lordship salvation”. After making a quick survey of this debate, I think the whole thing falls into the area of wrangling about words and lining up behind men instead of Christ. To this writer, it sounds like the Corinthian church of America is fighting over who is most spiritual and who is the greatest in the kingdom of God.
What does the Bible say about this question? Well, here’s the rub; the Bible does not make any distinction nor does it contrast salvation by grace or salvation by accepting the Lordship of Jesus. However, if we go to Paul’s definition of a Christian, he seems to put the emphasis on accepting the Lordship of Jesus.
“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom 10:9-10). If you were to make a survey of the sermons in the book of Acts, this emphasis seems to be supported (Acts 2:22-38, 10:34-43).
Why would anyone believe that Jesus died for their sin unless they had already accepted that he was the living (resurrected) Son of God and Lord of heaven and earth? Accepting his Lordship always comes before accepting him as Savior. However, let us not try to separate the inside of the skin from the outside of it, lest we kill the patient.
The part of this debate that both sides fail to take into consideration, is the audience that Paul and the other biblical writers are speaking to and the needs of the audience.
In his epistles, Paul is often addressing problems in the local church. He is not writing a doctrinal dissertation on theological issues. It seems that biblical writers would often emphasize a certain aspect of the gospel that would meet the needs of their audience; or the author would address a problem in the local churches. They surely would not have pitted one aspect of the gospel against another, which to me is pure madness.
For example, in the book of Romans Paul is trying to explain to Jewish believers that no one can be justified before God by the works of the Mosaic Law. At that time, Jewish believers thought that you had to believe in Christ and keep certain aspects of the Law of Moses. Paul’s whole letter was written in great detail to show the Jewish Christians that salvation was absolutely through Christ and had nothing to do with Judaism. Therefore the book of Romans (or for that matter any of the writings of Paul) had nothing to do with the controversy between the radical grace movement and the so-called Lordship salvation response.
The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so no man can boast” (Eph 2:8-9). The question is what is the faith that saves? It is obvious, that not all who believe are saved, for the devil believes there is a God and is not saved. So, what exactly is saving faith? I personally believe that it is a faith that accepts Jesus the Christ as Savior and Lord. It is a faith that trusts in His grace and submits to His Lordship. How can the two be separated? In scripture, faith is a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ that encompasses trusting God’s promises and obeying his word.
What kind of ‘works’ is Paul referring to in the above passage “not by works”? They are the works that go along with adherence to the Mosaic Law or more specifically the works of religion, rituals plainly performed in order to earn salvation. Surely, the Apostle Paul does not mean the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. Failure to strive to keep the commandments of Christ would seem to indicate a lack of true faith.
In Romans 1:5 the apostle Paul speaks of an obedience of faith or the obedience that comes from faith. The book of Romans is a book that talks about two kinds of obedience, one that comes through hand me down tradition with the pressure of religious conformity and second, the obedience that comes from trusting in Christ. Whether or not an action will fall into the category of good works done for salvation totally depends on the attitude of the person performing them. If you do something thinking you are going to earn your salvation or in some way obligate God to save you through doing it, you are doing good works to be saved. These actions are worthless in regards to salvation, though they may be beneficial in helping others. If you do good works because you believe it is the will of God for you in Christ, or out love for Christ, God will reward you for it (Heb 11:6).
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Rev 14:13).
Brothers we can have confidence that He will reward our labors of love and our works of faith. “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1: 3).