Friday, March 7, 2008

A Theological Dia-logos

An acquaintance of mine started a theological dialog with me on Facebook (yes, I do have a Facebook account, rarely used though), so I thought I would share the discussion here. First are his questions, followed by my initial responses. Please join in the "conversation" if you like.

Q: Are you ready to start some theological conversation? Can I begin with a with a broad question and narrow the focus a little? How would you define Lordship? What is your understanding of Lordship and its relationship with salvation (Lordship Salvation)? And lastly, do you believe that repentance is necessary for Salvation? I would love to get your thoughts on these matters as I wrestle through them in my educational and personal studies.

A: The term "lord" simply means master or ruler. The common term in OT Hebrew for lord is adonay (except where we see LORD, a translation of the Hebrew name for God, YHWH), in the NT Greek it is kurios. Both mean master or ruler. They are applied to God, and to Jesus Christ, in recognition of His being the rightful sovereign master and ruler of all creation. Therefore, "lordship" is not something we as creatures ascribe to Christ, but rather an aspect of Him as a person of the Godhead that we recognize. No one "makes Jesus their Lord", He simply is Lord. Lordship, as it pertains to the believer in Christ, is the recognition of this truth and a proper response to it and to Him, namely submission and obedience.

I think it is significant that Jesus is referred to as Lord far more often in the NT than He is called Savior. It would seem that the gospel as proclaimed by the apostles and by Jesus Himself implicitly and explicitly contains a call to recognition that Christ is Savior precisely because He is Lord. Consider some of Christ's statements, where He says that if we love Him we will keep His commandments. Or Matt 11:28-30 where He gives a call to come to Him for salvation and rest, coupled with submitting to His yoke of Lordship. Nearly every proclamation of the gospel in the NT contains an element of submission to Christ as Lord, it's inseparable from receiving Him as Savior.

"Lordship salvation" is an intentionally derogatory term that was invented by certain theologians and teachers as a response to Dr John MacArthur's book "The Gospel According to Jesus" around 30 years ago, where MacArthur sought to point out the Biblical inseparability of Christ being Savior and Lord in the life of a believer. There are those who call themselves "Free Grace" theologians, like Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie, who take issue with this Biblical view and argue that submission to Christ as Lord is a meritorious work and therefore can't be a condition of the Gospel. But as Jesus and the NT writers define Lordship, and as MacArthur explained it, recognition of Christ as both Savior and Lord is not a condition or work to merit salvation, but rather the proof of the reality of that salvation. The "Free Grace" view even came up with a new, non-Biblical category to support their position, the so-called "carnal Christian." I see nothing in the Bible that allows for this.

Is repentance necessary for salvation? Let's define repentance first. In the NT the Greek is metanoia, literally meaning a change of mind or a turning. So to repent means to turn from one thing and to another. In the case of salvation, it is to turn from my sin and to turn to Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Is repentance a necessary part of salvation? Absolutely. What did Jesus say when starting His earthly ministry? "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" It seems absurd to think that one could turn to Christ for forgiveness of sin, while still holding onto those sins. So what does true repentance look like? A life that turns to Christ in faith and from sin in holiness. Not perfect, but directional. Repentance is a one-time act in saving faith in Christ, that has long-term effects and fruits in the life of the believer.

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