Lordship Salvation Refuted

By Pastor A. Ray Stanford (1916-2012)

"But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew... But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak." Mark 14:68,71

       The following excellent rebuttal of the heresy of Lordship Salvation is from Dr. Ray Stanford's classic book titled, “Personal Handbook Of Evangelism,” pages 45-49...

CHAPTER VII — “Lordship Salvation”


Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of mankind there is. "There is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). When He was born, the angel declared, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2: 11). The prophet Isaiah quotes God as saying, "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside Me there is no Saviour" (Isaiah 43: 11).

The Scriptures are emphatic that God took on flesh in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, and became man's Saviour (John 1:1-3, 14, 29).

Man's belief or lack of belief in the Saviourship of Jesus does not change the fact that Jesus Christ is truly the Saviour. However, when a man recognizes that Jesus Christ is truly the Saviour and trusts Him to be his Saviour, then-and only then-does that man receive the benefits of Christ's saving power.

Christ died and rose again for all (Hebrews 2:9; I John 2:2), but He saves only those who trust Him. That is to say, even though He is the "Saviour of the world," He saves only those in the world who personally and individually receive Him by faith. God invites "whosoever will" to trust in His Son, but it is an amazing truth of God's Word that men can forbid the Saviour to save them. Such men die without a Saviour, though One was available to them all the time (John 3:16-18; I John 5:10-12; Revelation 22:17).


What we have seen about Christ being the Saviour also applies to His Lordship. He IS the Lord, whether men believe it or not. Whether or not a man allows Christ to be his Lord is something else again.

Jesus Christ is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator and Controller of the universe. Colossians 1:16 says, "All things were created by Him and for Him." Verse 17 adds, ". . . by Him all things consist . . . (or, are held together)." God led Paul to write that Jesus Christ is the "blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (I Timothy 6 :15 ) . The One who was crucified on Calvary was none other than the Lord of Glory (I Corinthians 2:8).

Some may ask if Jesus was really LORD when men "by wicked hands crucified" Him. Absolutely! For He said, ". . . I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again . . ." (John 10:17, 18).

Is He Lord now, though some men refuse to let Him rule in their lives? Certainly! The Bible says, ". . . know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Messiah)." The time is coming when EVERYONE will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11).


Just as you receive the Saviour by faith and He becomes YOUR Saviour, when you allow Christ to control your life, He becomes YOUR LORD. There is an increasing number of "evangelicals" today who are preaching that in order for a man to be saved he must not only receive Christ as his Saviour, but also must make Him absolute Lord and Master of his life.

This doctrine has been termed "Lordship salvation" and has absolutely no support from the Word of God. It is, in fact, another subtle way Satan has invented to get Bible-believing men to add works to salvation without, perhaps, their realizing it, and to do it in such a way that it sounds spiritual and good.

What could SOUND more spiritual or honoring to the Lord than statements like: "Either Christ is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. And if He is not Lord then He is not your Saviour. You are lost. You must turn over all the strings of your life to Him-then He will save you. Give your life to Him if you want to be truly saved." This is what is taught.

The truth of the matter is that salvation is not a "give" proposition at all; it is a "take" proposition. We don't give our hearts, lives, wills, or anything else to God in order to get Him to save us. This would be a form of bribery, a way of meriting or deserving to be saved-but God says salvation is "NOT OF OURSELVES"-and especially, it is not offering anything to God.

Salvation is receiving! We simply receive His Son. John 1:12 says, "But as many as RECEIVED Him, to them gave He power (the right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name." God does the giving. We do the receiving.

God GAVE His Son (John 3:16).

God GIVES eternal life to those who trust His Son (John 10:28).

God GIVES believers everything they need through His Son (Romans 8:32).

Christ didn't come to have us sacrifice, or minister, or give our life to Him . . . but He came to be OUR sacrifice, to minister to US, and to give His life a ransom payment for OUR sin. "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

God offers to save us as sinners and doesn't require us to stop sinning and start obeying Him before He saves us. "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." I John 1:8 tells us that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." No one can say that he stopped his sinning and THEN the Lord saved him. It is impossible. Be careful not to ask a person to do the impossible. Remember, God did not require it of you either. It is only after a person is saved that the Holy Spirit will give him the power to control his old nature and live a life pleasing to the Lord (Philippians 2:13).

"Lordship salvation" is sometimes preached by men who are sincerely sick of the low spiritual level of the "average" Christian. So these men begin preaching a message they hope will bring more lasting and noticeable results. We can sympathize with these preachers. The spiritual condition of believers is often deplorable. But even a casual reading of the New Testament reveals that the early church had the same problems. See I Corinthians 3:1-4; 5:1-5; Galatians 4:8-11; Hebrews 5:12 14; and II Thessalonians 3:6-15.

What did the early apostles do to combat this problem of spiritual weakness? Did they change the gospel message from "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, give up sin, and let Him rule over all the details of your life, and thou shalt be saved"? Of course not! That isn't the gospel! God doesn't give the Holy Spirit in response to a "grace plus works" message for salvation.

What did the apostles do? They emphasized the proper doctrines to meet the needs of the people. Such great life transforming truths as the Holy Spirit of God indwelling the believer, Christ's at-any-moment return, the eternal destiny of the lost, and the fact that "every one of us must give account of himself to God"-these were brought to bear on the children of God, and the Holy Spirit did His work of convicting and changing lives.

The problem does not lie with God's message of salvation. That is eternal and unchanging. It will always be sufficient to do what it is intended to do-to save souls. The problem is that God's people have not had the great Biblical truths applied to their lives, and so they are living at a spiritually low ebb.

If a person has to make Christ Lord of his life to be saved, why are most of the New Testament epistles filled with commands, warnings, exhortations, and pleas for the child of God to yield to Christ's Lordship?

If "Lordship salvation" were true, these people wouldn't even be children of God! But it is apparent that they are, for throughout the epistles they are called "brethren," "saints," "believers," etc.

Now since it is obvious that God DOES exhort His own children to ALLOW Him to control them, to be their Lord, then it is just as obvious that they did not HAVE to make Him Lord in order to be saved. Consider these passages where God pleads with His own children to allow Him to control them: Romans 6:12, 13; 12:1, 2; Galatians 5:16; 3:1-3; Ephesians 4:1-3; 6:10-17. When the pastor FEEDS his sheep they will not lack knowing how to be spiritual (Jeremiah 23:4, 28; Acts 20:18-32; II Timothy 4:2).


This is the primary verse used to try to prove the teaching of "Lordship salvation." The King James translation reads, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." A more literal rendering of part of this verse is, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord . . . thou shalt be saved." This is where the advocates of "Lordship salvation" get their basis for the doctrine.

However, notice several things about the context of this verse. First of all, Paul is writing primarily of unbelieving Israel. From a human standpoint, the Jews had a very real part in crucifying Christ; see Acts 2:22, 23, 36; 4:10-12. Had they realized that Jesus was God Himself, they certainly would not have had a part in His death (I Corinthians 2:7, 8). Therefore, unbelieving Jews (and anyone else who wants to be saved) must own up to the fact that Jesus is the Lord- that He is God Himself-and all who call upon Him this way are saved (Romans 10:9, 10, 13). The emphasis here is not upon making Jesus Lord of someone's life, but rather on recognizing His true identity-that He is God! In John 8:24 we find that if a person doesn't believe Christ is God, he will die in his sins.

Notice, too, that nowhere in the entire chapter of Romans 10 are our lives in view. Instead, the emphasis is on His person. The issue here is not so much what l do, but who He is. The question is not one of service but of salvation. Never confuse the two. Salvation becomes ours when we trust Christ to SAVE us. Effective service is ours through OBEDIENCE. Salvation primarily involves the spirit and our eternal destiny; it is a gift ( John 5: 24). Service involves the body and our present earthly life; it is labor for which rewards are given (Romans 12:1, 2; I Corinthians 3:8-15; Luke 10:2).

The late Dr. M. R. DeHaan realized the importance of keeping salvation and service separate and said so well: "There is a vast difference between coming to Jesus for salvation and coming after Jesus for service. Coming to Christ makes one a believer, while coming after Christ makes one a disciple. All believers are not disciples. To become a believer one accepts the invitation of the Gospel. To be a disciple one obeys the challenge of a life of dedicated service and separation.

Salvation comes through the sacrifice of Christ, but discipleship comes only by sacrifice of self and surrender to His call for devoted service. Salvation is free, but discipleship involves paying the price of a separated walk. Salvation cannot be lost, because it depends upon God's faithfulness, but discipleship can be lost, because it depends upon our faithfulness."


1. It contradicts Scripture; therefore, it cannot be true. This one reason should settle the matter completely. If a doctrine is contrary to what God says, then it should be discarded immediately. See Rom. 3:4; Titus 2:7; Gal. 4: 16.

2. It causes confusion and frustration to the unbeliever because it leaves the impression that salvation is by works. Therefore, the lost person often puts off accepting Christ until he is "ready" to turn his entire life over to the Lord. If the truth were presented to such a person, that salvation is free, but that after we are saved the Lord would work in our lives, perhaps he would trust Christ. Because of a "grace plus works" message he might NEVER trust Christ (I Cor. 14:8,9).

3. This message CANNOT SAVE. If anyone gets saved during such a message, it will be because God has honored a portion of His Word IN SPITE of the unscriptural teaching brought into the message (Rom. 4:5; Gal. 5:1-4; Rom. 11:6; Isa. 55:8-11; Rom.10:17).

4. This message is accursed of God. Any message, no matter how "good" it may sound, is condemned by God unless it is His own salvation message. HIS message is the only one that saves. All others are of satanic or fleshly origin and curse men to hell. Therefore, God curses such a message (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Galatians 1:6-9; II Corinthians 11:13 15; Galatians 3:1-3).

5. The person who preaches such a message is also accursed of God. Strong statement? Yes, but it is what God says. A man who preaches man's efforts have a part in salvation is leading people to hell, not heaven. Even if a man believes he is sincere, a wrong message still has the effects of the wrong message. Sincerity is no substitute for truth (Deuteronomy 27:18; Proverbs 17:15; 19:5; Jeremiah 23:1).

6. It, in effect, makes God a liar and the Bible untrue. If salvation really does come to those who turn over their lives to Christ, then God has been wrong all the time, throughout the entire Bible, because salvation is taught from Genesis to Revelation to come only through faith (Titus 1:2, 3; Romans 3: 4).

7. It causes even Christian preachers to further the error by thinking it might have some merit and preaching it themselves. One well-known Christian returned to America from some meetings he held in a foreign country and made a statement like this: "I really made it difficult for them to accept Christ over there. In America it's too easy to become a Christian, so I made it hard for them there. I told them accepting Christ meant turning from their sins, reading their Bibles, praying every day, giving up bad habits, and going to church regularly. And in spite of such a hard message hundreds made decisions for Christ."

WHAT A TRAGEDY! When people hear the true gospel after hearing this type of message, they are often unable to distinguish what is truth from what is error, and so many are left confused and unsaved.

8. The preaching of this error robs the one preaching it of reward. Paul said, "What is our . . . crown? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" The more we are able to win to Christ, the more souls will be in heaven, and so the more reward we will have. But those who preach a confused message hinder people from trusting Christ as their Saviour. Therefore, many souls are left unsaved, and so these preachers will not have the reward that they could have had (I Thessalonians 2: 19, 20; II John 8; I John 2:28; I Corinthians 9:18).

9. It confuses "laymen" believers and causes them to be ineffective in their witness. A girl recently asked, "I know that you are sincere and seem to have Scripture to back up what you teach, but my pastor is also sincere and teaches differently about salvation than you do. How do I know which one of you is right? How can I witness when I don't know what to tell people?"

A confused believer isn't going to be a faithful witness because he is going to be in constant turmoil over what to say. When he does try to witness, he will probably give out some mixture of "grace and works" that will not only confuse the lost person, but will also bring discouragement to the believer when he doesn't find people responding to his witness. When the gospel is given out, pure and simple, there will be results. The gospel is good news, and people respond to it.

10. It hinders the growth of the body of Christ. This is one of the results of the above (#9). When the believer's mouth is stopped (regardless of the reason), then the natural flow of fruit-bearing is stopped. Since Christ's body is composed of believers, the growth of His body is hindered when souls are not won (John 15: 8, 16) .

Incidentally, this will also stop the growth of the local church as well. It is so obvious when you stop to think about it. Why any preacher thinks this accursed "grace and works" message would in any way benefit anyone is a puzzle to me. Let's learn to THINK THINGS THROUGH!

11. It brings persecution to the believers who stand firm for the Scriptural message of "justification by faith." Those who are clear on the gospel are often accused of preaching "easy believism" or "cheap grace." Nothing could be further from the truth! Tell me, is a person ever saved by "hard" believism? Certainly no Christian I know believes in "cheap" grace! This is absurd. God's grace is precious. The blood of Jesus is precious. The price our Lord paid for our redemption was so high that nothing can be compared with its great value. Salvation is anything but cheap. It is free to us only because Jesus paid the full price. And that price was His precious life blood (I Peter 1:18, 19).

God has gone through so MUCH to provide redemption for us! When I think that Jesus even gave His life-died such a horrible death-in order to provide eternal life as a free gift to those who would accept His payment by faith . . . and then someone comes along who professes to be a child of God and wants to make salvation HARD for the lost person . . . how the heart of our dear Saviour must break!

"Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, where with he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" ( Hebrews 10: 29)

I doubt seriously if anyone could carefully read the Gospel accounts of what Christ went through to purchase our salvation and ever again speak glibly of "cheap grace." No one is ever saved by "cheap grace." They are saved by PRICELESS, AMAZING GRACE! Don't let Satan blind you to the fact that salvation REALLY IS FREE to man. Don't listen to him when he insinuates that "justification by faith" is a dangerous doctrine that will lead to "loose living." The greatest soulwinners who ever lived believed in salvation by grace through faith, and they preached it faithfully . . . and God blessed them and their ministry for it.

We have a miracle salvation-provided and preserved by God Himself! Let's give out the good news of this salvation simply and faithfully for His glory.

"But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1 :30, 31).

SOURCE: Dr. Ray Stanford, Handbook Of Personal Evangelism, chapter VII, pages 45-49.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." —John 3:16

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