Does Jesus save us if we do not honor Him as Lord? Another way of asking the question is: can we accept Jesus as Savior and not submit to Him as Lord?
This is not a new question, although it recently became a hot-button item among evangelicals. Several authors argued that a person can be saved by receiving Christ as Savior without ever repenting of sin and confessing Christ as Lord. John MacArthur entered the debate with a couple of huge books, including his THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS. John argued that Christ is not Savior where He is not also Lord.
I also took up the debate with the publication of my 1993 released title LORDSHIP: WHAT DOES IT MEAN (Broadman). I said that the “easy believism” and “only believism” that ignores the New Testament call for repentance and a spiritual transformation by the Holy Spirit is not what Christ or the Apostles taught us. I was also concerned to support my conviction by references to the preaching and teaching of noted and worthy evangelical scholars and pastors.
It is not hard to find quotes from some of the great thinkers of Christian history that speak to this issue. Of course, since we believe in the authority of the Bible and not the authority of the scholar, quotes are used simply as examples and not as ultimate authorities. Our view that Lordship and Saviorhood are indivisible is not a new view; we find it in the books and sermons of the great thinkers of the past.
Take for instance the following words of Joseph Alleine (1634-1668), found in his classic book An Alarm to the Unconverted:
“All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert. . . . The unsound convert takes Christ by halves. He is all for the salvation of Christ, but he is not for sanctification. He is for the privileges, but does not appropriate the person of Christ. He divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error in the foundation.”
Alleine’s phrase, “He divides the offices and benefits of Christ,” describes what many are attempting to do. They want to accept part of Christ, His salvation, without also accepting His sanctification. They want His Saviorhood but not His Lordship. They want Him to be Priest but not Prophet and King.
It is my understanding of the New Testament that, regardless of how weak our faith at the time of conversion, we will not negotiate with God about the terms of salvation. We cannot divide Lordship and Saviorhood. We cannot receive His Priestly forgiveness without also accepting His Prophetic teaching and His Kingly rule. He is Priest, Prophet and King; all or nothing.
Jude warned those teachers who would pervert the doctrine of grace and use it for an excuse for sin: “For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4 (HCSB)
Paul taught us that grace is transforming and is not a cloak for sin:
“For the grace of God has appeared, with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12 (HCSB)
Grace does not merely provide forgiveness; it also provides instruction and transformation. We are saved by faith alone; but faith that saves is never alone. It is always accompanied and characterized by a life of commitment to Christ.
The saving confession is not “Jesus is Savior”; it is “Jesus is Lord.” Paul put it this way: “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.” Then he added, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9 &13 (HCSB)
William Borden (1887-1913) gave up his family fortune and prepared to go to China to tell the Kansu Muslims about Jesus. He finished Yale and Princeton Seminary, and then sailed for China. On the way he went to Egypt to study Arabic. While there he contracted spinal meningitis and died at age 25. His life was a study in passionate commitment to Jesus.
He wrote a pamphlet titled WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN? Note his emphasis on Lordship:
In the New Testament we find that Christ was not looked on as Saviour alone, but also as Lord. It was the Lord Jesus Christ whose name they bore, and that meant that He had absolute jurisdiction over them. This followed logically, and is nowhere more clearly brought out than in 1 Cor. 6:19,20. “Ye are not your own: ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.” And what Paul taught others was but the vital truth that gripped his own heart and made him exclaim, “For me to live is Christ.” That is what it meant to the disciples to be a Christian. Does it mean that to you? It should, but oh, how many there are enrolled on church lists as Christians who, as they are read by their friends and neighbors, do not tell of Christ, but of self! Christ has sacrificed Himself for us; we should sacrifice ourselves for Him even as it is written, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” For a Christian is not merely one who trusts in Christ for salvation but one ‘who also strives earnestly to please Him in all things great and small.
We gladly acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. We confess Him as Lord because we know that He died for us and purchased us. We do not belong to ourselves; we belong to Him. Our lives are wrapped up in Him. Our hopes are immersed in Him. Our future is inextricably linked with His everlasting life, and our eternity is just as certain as His eternity. He is our life. He is our Lord. Therefore, He is our Savior. Bless His holy name.
(copyright 2009, Alan Day, http://www.fbcedmond.org/pastor)
Alan Day (1948-2011): Dr. R. Alan Day was pastor of First Baptist Church, Edmond, for 25 years. He also previously pastored churches in Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. A prolific writer, Day is the author of two books, Lordship . . . What Does It Mean? and Family First, and a contributing author for Baptist Theologians. He served the Baptist Messenger as a columnist for several years, writing a weekly Baptist Doctrine series from 1999-2002, then an “I’m Glad You Asked” column in 2005.
Alan Day tragically passed away in February 2011 following a motorcycle accident.