Dr. Harry Ironside DIDN'T Teach Lordship Salvation

By David J. Stewart | October 2013 | Updated November 2016

       I recently heard Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr. speaking on the radio (his sermon tape, The Call To Repentance). MacArthur quoted Pastor Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) in an attempt to support his damnable heresy of Lordship Salvation. MacArthur states...

Heretic, Dr. John MacArthur, who denies the efficacy of Jesus' literal, physical blood; denies once saved, always saved; teaches Lordship Salvation; and is a hardcore Calvinist.Let me quote from the book he wrote entitled 'Except Ye Repent.' He was a champion for repentance and rightly so. He wrote this, “The doctrine of repentance is the missing note in many otherwise orthodox and fundamentally sound circles today.” This is not a new battle. This is an old battle. People today are preaching a gospel that says, “Well, look, just believe, don't worry about your sin, don't worry about your past, just believe and that will all come later.” Ironside fought that battle in 1937.

Further he said this, he spoke of, quote: “Professed preachers of grace who like the antinomians of old decry the necessity of repentance lest it seem to invalidate the freedom of grace and that was the core issue.” There were some who said if you call for repentance you're invalidating the freedom of grace and grace is so gracious and so free you don't have to do anything but just believe. Ironside recognized in his day the dangers of an insipient easy believism.

SOURCE: The Call to Repentance  -  John MacArthur

John MacArthur deceitfully picks and chooses quotes by great men, twisting their words, in a malicious attempt to support his false teachings. This has been the deceitful, lying tactic incorporated by the entire Lordship Salvation crowd. However it shows the fatal flaw and weakness of their perverted theology. They cannot use the Bible, so as a secondary authority, “great men of the past” are being erected as straw-men to bolster their false Gospel. Pastor Harry Ironside DIDN'T teach Lordship Salvation, as Mr. MacArthur wickedly claims, he simply taught that Biblical repentance was necessary for salvation, which is evidenced in the following precious quote by Pastor Ironside...

“Repentance is the very opposite of meritorious experience. It is the confession that one is utterly without merit, and if he is ever saved at all it can only be through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, 'who gave himself a ransom for all.' Here is firm footing for the soul who realizes that all self-effort is but sinking sand. Christ alone is the Rock of our salvation.”

SOURCE: Harry A. Ironside; Except Ye Repent, pg. 36

Clearly, Dr. Ironside taught a Free Grace view of the Gospel, and not the damnable heresy of Lordship Salvation.

False prophets like John MacArthur take excerpts carefully chosen from archived sermons, twisting them out of context, well suited with the error of Balaam, to deceive the Church. So now we have Satan’s new gospel (actually the same old lie) for our modern day. These men are motivated by the flesh, so it is not strange they will use the sins of the flesh (lying) to exalt the flesh. Sadly, they believe that they are spiritual! They do not fully understand true GRACE and Christ’s imputed righteousness. How can a person truly be saved and follow the perverted gospel of Lordship Salvation? There are really only TWO religions in the world—salvation by human works or by God's Grace alone.

It is apparent to me that ministers like Ray Comfort, Paul Washer and John MacArthur are all trying to maintain a middle-of-the-road position on the issue of Free Grace versus Lordship Salvation. Pastor John MacArthur is clearly the modern-day godfather of Lordship Salvation, as was Charles Finney (1792-1875) and John Calvin (1509-1564) before him. The Bible teaches Free Grace. Eternal life is obtained by receiving, not giving. Salvation is a TAKE proposition, not a GIVE proposition.

Consider further the following awesome quote by Harry Ironside (which John MacArthur would NEVER share with you)...

“The Gospel is not a call to repentance, or to amendment of our ways, to make restitution for past sins, or to promise to do better in the future. These things are proper in their place, but they do not constitute the Gospel; for the Gospel is not good advice to be obeyed, it is good news to be believed. Do not make the mistake then of thinking that the Gospel is a call to duty or a call to reformation, a call to better your condition, to behave yourself in a more perfect way than you have been doing in the past …

Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all.”

SOURCE: Harry A. Ironside, from the sermon: What Is The Gospel?

I highly suggest that John MacArthur actually read Dr. Ironside's books before making any more naive quotes, because he's really making a fool out of himself. I'm not trying to be unkind, but MacArthur is trying to make a case where there is NONE.

Read what Dr. Ironside said in his Gospel tract, ANOTHER GOSPEL? ...

“When anyone comes promising salvation to those ‘who make full surrender' of all that they have to God, and who 'pay the price of full salvation' he is preaching another gospel, for the price was paid on Calvary's cross and the work that saves is finished. It was Christ Jesus who made the full surrender when He yielded His life on Calvary that saves us, not our surrender in any way to Him.

SOURCE: Harry A. Ironside, from the Gospel tract, Another Gospel.

In your face MacArthur! Harry Ironside just contradicted everything MacArthur teaches concerning salvation. In sharp contrast to Harry Ironside, here are some of MacArthur's foolish unbiblical teachings from his book, The Gospel According to Jesus (Zondervan 1988). In MacArthur's own perverted words, he states:

Saving faith is “unconditional surrender, a complete resignation of self and absolute submission” (page 153).

“Salvation is for those who are willing to forsake everything” (page 78).

“Saving faith is a commitment to leave sin and follow Jesus Christ at all costs. Jesus takes no one unwilling to come on those terms” (page 87).

“Eternal life brings immediate death to self” (page 140).

Is this true? Absolutely not. Read again the preceding quotes I shared with you from Dr. Harry Ironside. These two men are diametrically opposed to each other theologically on the subject of Biblical repentance and salvation. John MacArthur is of the Devil and his Calvinistic doctrines are demonic!!! There is no way possible to reconcile the beliefs of Harry Ironside with those of John MacArthur, and only a wicked person would try. MacArthur clearly teaches that no one can be saved unless they are willing to UNCONDITIONALLY SURRENDER and FORSAKE EVERYTHING. If you didn't visit the link I provided earlier, please do so now, where John MacArthur adds 7 unbiblical requirements to the Gospel to be saved. This is not what the Word of God teaches.

Also, please Read: Dr. John R. Rice Refutes Lordship Salvation

Now let me quote to you again the great man of God, Dr. Ironside...

“Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never be saved at all.”

SOURCE: Harry A. Ironside, from the sermon: What Is The Gospel?

Salvation is a gift, paid for by Jesus' literal, physical, precious blood (1st Peter 1:18,19; 1st John 1:7; Hebrews 9:12; Revelation 1:5). We are saved by HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Matthew 6:33; Romans 10:3,4; 1st Corinthians 5:21); and not our own willingness to do better (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5; Romans 4:5,6,22).

Here is one of the best quotes that I've found on repentance, by Dr. Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951):

“Which comes first, repentance or faith? In Scripture we read, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel.' Yet we find true believers exhorted to 'repent, and do the first works.' So intimately are the two related that you cannot have one without the other. The man who believes God repents; the repentant soul puts his trust in the Lord when the Gospel is revealed to him. Theologians may wrangle over this, but the fact is, no man repents until the Holy Spirit produces repentance in his soul through the truth. No man believes the Gospel and rests in it for his own salvation until he has judged himself as a needy sinner before God. And this is repentance.” (Except Ye Repent, p. 16) [emphasis added]

Amen! We don't give up our sins TO BE saved, we give up our sins because WE ARE saved, and that requires time to grow in God's grace (1st Peter 2:2). Ephesians 2:10 says that believers are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works,” not by good works.

John MacArthur is a False Prophet

Heretic, Dr. John MacArthur, who denies the efficacy of Jesus' literal, physical blood; denies once saved, always saved; teaches Lordship Salvation; and is a hardcore Calvinist.The false repentance which MacArthur promotes is entwined in self-effort. John MacArthur teaches a false gospel which corrupts "the simplicity that is in Christ" (2nd Corinthians 11:3,4). In MacArthur's audio sermon, The Call To Repentance, he exploits Charles Spurgeon, Harry Ironside, and others in an unscholarly attempt to support his erroneous position on Lordship Salvation

As with other false prophets, MacArthur fails to properly exegete the Scriptures, and rests heavily upon manipulating the quotes of great men. 

MacArthur wrongly accuses opponents of Lordship Salvation (such as myself) of teaching that repentance is not necessary for salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation... "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). However, repentance unto life is not what John MacArthur says it is...

“That's exactly what James said. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. You are either the friend of the world or the friend of God, not both... that's repentance.”

SOURCE: The Call to Repentance  -  John MacArthur

MacArthur teaches that in order to be saved, a person must forsake the sinful world and stop living in sin. He falsely defines this as repentance. In sharp contrast, the KOINE Greek in which the New Testament is written defines the word repent simply as "a change of mind" (Greek: metanoia). 

Forsaking the sinful world is a fruit (i.e., result) of genuine repentance; but all that God requires for salvation is that a person acknowledge his or her guilty condition as a sinner, thus renouncing the world in their heart, and trust upon the Savior to be eternally forgiven... "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43).

However, this DOESN'T mean that a person who is unwilling to stop drinking booze, stop gambling, or stop shacking-up with a girlfriend, cannot be saved. Please read Evangelist John R. Rice's rebuttal of Lordship Salvation. To say otherwise is to pervert the simplicity that is in Christ and to corrupt the gift of God, which is eternal life (Romans 6:23). Salvation is receiving; not giving. God only requires that a lost sinner acknowledge their guilt of sin (Romans 3:19), and turn by faith to Jesus Christ to be forgiven of their sins (John 3:16). 

If one's repentance is genuine, then there has been an initial change of heart (2nd Corinthians 5:17), and hopefully it will ultimately lead to a life of soulwinning, holiness and commitment to God; BUT, many believers are carnal (1st Corinthians 3:1), have been choked by the cares and pleasures of this world (Luke 8:14), have been overtaken by faults (Galatians 6:1), have not committed their lives to God (Romans 12:1), are more concerned about worldly things than the things of God (1st Corinthians 7:32,33), and some even live for Satan (1st Corinthians 5:5). 

Refuting Errant Pastors On Lordship Salvation

Kindly, another Calvinist heretic polluting America's pulpits is Pastor Charles Lawson of the Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Pastor Lawson teaches in his sermon on “Repentance” that if you believe the Gospel, but don't have the attitude that you want to turn away from your sins, you cannot be saved. Dr. Lawson says this is the reason why the churches are filled today with fornication, sodomy, adultery and pedophilia, because churchgoers who have never repented from their sins are not saved. He says they “believe” the Gospel, but have never repented, and so he says they are not saved at all. This is heresy! That's not how God's plan of salvation works. The problem is not false conversions; but rather, a lack of hard Bible preaching against sin from America's pulpits! Brother Lester Roloff (1914-1982) is right, who said: “America was 'great' when she was good, and she was good when she had great churches!” Brother Roloff said this is his classic sermon titled: “THE TITANIC.”

Dr. Lawson says: “Repentance changes something.” No, the indwelling Holy Spirit changes a man. 2nd Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The Bible doesn't say: “if a man repents, he is a new creature.” No, it says “if a man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Amen! It is Jesus Christ that makes the difference, not a person's personal desire to clean up their life, reform and turn away from their sins. Dr. Lawson is woefully ignorant of the Scriptures on the matter of repentance, as is John MacArthur, Paul Washer and other proponents of the heresy of Lordship Salvation. A changed life produced by human effort is mere reformation, not the regeneration of the Holy Spirit of God.

We read in Matthew 27:3b that Judas “repented,” but it was mere human reformation, not regeneration (i.e., the new birth)! Judas returned the 30 pieces of silver, sorry for what he had done to betray the innocent blood of Jesus! Being sorry for sins is not Biblical repentance unto the Gospel. The way a person gets saved is by “BELIEVING” the Gospel (i.e., the 'GOOD NEWS') of Christ crucified on the cross, buried and bodily resurrected the third day (1st Corinthians 15:1-6). Repentance is necessary for salvation, but to “repent” simply means to “change your mind” from what you want to do to get to Heaven, to what God says you must do to get to Heaven, which is to trust (receive by faith) Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. John 1:12-13, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” I marvel that in lieu of the hundreds of Bible passages which teach us to simply “BELIEVE” on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved (e.g., Acts 16:30-31), that wicked false teachers add all sorts of additional requirements, embellishing the Gospel of free grace!!!

Pastor Charles Lawson humbly admits that he has difficulty defining what repentance is...

“So what is it? It's hard to define what repentance is.”

SOURCE: Repentance - https://youtu.be/0o60CCxYFg0?t=17m6s - Dr. Lawson

Well, I understand it! Repentance concerning salvation is the Greek noun “metanoia,” which means, “a change of mind.” The verb form is the Greek word, “metanoeo,” which means “to think differently.” Dr. Lawson is wrong to teach that “repentance is far more than simply 'a change of mind.'” No, it doesn't! What Biblical basis does Dr. Lawson provide for saying that the Greek meaning of metanoia means something more than what it actually does? The Great Meaning Of The Word “METANOIA”!

Conclusion of the Matter

May I quote the words of Harry A. Ironside once again...

Harry A. Ironside“Repentance is the very opposite of meritorious experience. It is the confession that one is utterly without merit, and if he is ever saved at all it can only be through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, 'who gave himself a ransom for all.' Here is firm footing for the soul who realizes that all self-effort is but sinking sand. Christ alone is the Rock of our salvation.”

SOURCE: Harry A. Ironside; Except Ye Repent, pg. 36)

Clearly, Ironside taught a Free Grace view of the Gospel. Dr. Ironside correctly recognized repentance as the confession that "one is utterly without merit" and that if one is “ever saved at all it can only be through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Salvation is without works of self-righteousness. Romans 4:5 plainly teaches that a man's faith is COUNTED for righteousness, i.e., the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to one's heavenly record by faith. 

“Repentance is the recognition of my sinnership—the owning before God that I am as vile as He has declared me to be in His holy Word.”

SOURCE: Except Ye Repent, by Dr. Harry Ironside, chapter 3

Repentance and faith are inseparable. The Gospel of John mentions the word “believe” 87-times; but the word “repent” is never mentioned even once. In genuine salvation, one who believes on Jesus Christ has repented, and one who repents has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. To teach “repentance” as sorrow for sins, turning away from sinful behavior, or anything other than turning away from hindrances that keep men from believing the Gospel is heresy! The goal of repentance is to BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, not to clean up one's life. Many pastors and theologians fail to grasp that a changed life is not the result of manmade repentance; but rather, the “fruit” of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:21-22-23). We don't repent AND believe, we repent TO believe!!! Any changes in the believer's life are the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-25), and not self-reformation as a requirement to be saved. Romans 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

One of my favorite quotes is from Evangelist Alexander Marshall (1846-1928), who correctly taught the Biblical meaning of repentance unto salvation as “a change of mind”...


What do you mean? “I am not sorry enough for my sins.”

And if you were very sorry, would God be more willing to save you than He is now? “I think so.”

Then you are completely mistaken.

“But does it not say, unless we repent we shall perish?”

Yes; but what do you think is the Scriptural significance of “repentance”? If you say “sorrow for sin” you are wrong. It does not mean sorrow for sin: it means a CHANGE OF MIND (Matt. 21:29). This change will doubtless produce sorrow; but sorrow and repentance are two very different things (Heb. 12:17. margin, and II Cor. 7:9). When God calls on you to “repent, and believe the Gospel,” He wishes you to lay aside your wrong thoughts, and believe the glad tidings that He proclaims to you. Formerly you may have imagined that you were required to feel very sorry before being saved. Change your mind. You may have supposed you must first “feel” some great change in order to know you were saved. Change your mind. First believe in God's great love to you, as revealed in His gospel, and you will KNOW that you have eternal life (John 5:24).

SOURCE: The Horrible Misrepresentation of Evangelist Alexander Marshall

Yes, that is excellent. Brother Marshall is 100% correct! Don't miss it! Biblical “repentance” is the Greek noun, metanoia, which means, “a change of mind.” Or in the beautiful words of Alexander Marshall, God wishes for us “TO LAY ASIDE YOUR WRONG THOUGHTS, AND BELIEVE THE GLAD TIDINGS THAT HE PROCLAIMS TO YOU.” Boy that's good stuff! This is true repentance unto salvation, which is a change of mind unto the Gospel itself. For a wonderful explanation of Biblical repentance, please read “THE GREAT MEANING OF 'METANOIA.'” Amen!

Repentance means, “TO LAY ASIDE YOUR WRONG THOUGHTS, AND BELIEVE THE GLAD TIDINGS (GOSPEL) THAT HE PROCLAIMS TO YOU.” Dr. Lawson wrongly understands repentance to mean “remorse, sorrow for past sins, turning away from sin.” This is the modern definition found in an English dictionary, but it is NOT the Greek Biblical meaning. The English dictionary has been influenced by the apostate Roman Catholic church.

Pastor Harry Ironside understood that a plan of salvation which fails to include an admission of sinnership is a false Gospel. No man has ever been saved who didn't admit that he is a sinner in God's sight. Yet, he also understood that Biblical repentance unto salvation simply means “a change of mind,” laying aside one's wrong thoughts to embrace the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Either extreme is heresy! A person absolutely must acknowledge that they are a guilty sinner in God's eyes to be saved, which is the purpose for which God gave His law to man (Galatians 3:24-26). Romans 3:19, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” My friend, if you see yourself a guilty sinner in the eyes of a holy God, and you receive Christ's sacrifice on the cross as full-payment for your sins, believing that Jesus was buried and bodily raised up three days later—YOU ARE BORN AGAIN!

This is the 'THE GOSPEL' (GOOD NEWS), which is our only hope for obtaining forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Do you believe?

Ye Must Be Born Again! | You Need HIS Righteousness! | Believe The Gospel

“As a blind man has no idea of colors, so we have no idea of the manner by which
the all-wise God perceives and understands all things.”
—Isaac Newton (1642-1727)