Dependence for salvation must be only in Christ. Easy-believism is a misunderstanding, and though this error (believing about but not on Jesus) has brought many to an acknowledgement of Christ and nothing more, it is not the only misunderstanding that obscures salvation truth. Another erroneous position, one opposed to easy-believism, has claimed a measure of acceptance as an alternative to the “acknowledgement-only” error.

Countering easy-believism, some have overreacted and embraced the view that has come to be known as “lordship salvation.” It is important to note that the issue is not whether Jesus is Lord. All sides of the debate within orthodoxy maintain the lordship of Christ. The issue revolves around what constitutes the “condition” of salvation.

Standing against easy-believism, the lordship salvation position mistakenly goes beyond the volitional transfer of trust to Christ alone to an infringement on the finished work of Christ. For example, to say as some proponents maintain that believing involves one’s commitment to Christ to turn (or be willing to turn) from sin would then make the person a part of the object of faith. Believing, however, is not one’s commitment to Christ; it is one’s dependence on Christ.

The word commitment keeps the person making the commitment in control and, therefore, still depending upon himself (his commitment). By contrast, the word dependence reveals the helplessness of the person depending because he is transferring his dependence to another. Galatians 3:24 clarifies this: “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law shows man he cannot meet God’s standard of perfection and so brings him to Christ who met the standard for him. The law is a tutor, not to bring man to reformation (self-dependence), but to Christ (God-dependence). Sin is the problem, but not sinning is not the solution—Christ is. Unwittingly, the Lordship-Salvation position errs in a subtle way by adding man’s commitment to the object of dependence.

Some object, maintaining that believing involves surrender. This is only true if by surrender you mean a yielding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit about sin, righteousness, and judgment so that one depends on Christ as Savior. Surrender must be viewed as dependence on Christ to accomplish that which is impossible for man. True surrender in salvation is the obedience of faith.

The obedience of faith for salvation is a cessation from a wrong object of dependence as one casts his dependence on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:16 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” In this context obeyed is explained as believed. The obedience of faith for salvation is believing on Christ.

However, although faith is obedience, faith is clearly not a work. Scripture states that faith is the antithesis of works. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith . . . not of works.” Faith is not a work; it depends on the worker—Jesus. Faith is something man “does,” but it is not a work. The Scripture is explicit on this point. If faith is made a work, it is no longer faith. Romans 4:5 affirms by saying, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly.”

To add one’s commitment to live righteously to the transaction of salvation is to confuse “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Christ is the only one who saves, and He does all the saving. When Christ saves, He indwells the believer by His Spirit. The Spirit then leads the new believer to live right and empowers the believer as the believer trusts to obey.

Having considered the word believe, in the next part of this series we will consider the word repent. It seems there is more confusion surrounding this word.

John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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