Volume 2, Issue 7:
The Lordship Controversy
In recent years, the evangelical world has been shaken by a controversy about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Can a person become a Christian by receiving Christ as Savior, and not as Lord? This controversy is one for which we can be truly thankful; Christians have begun to openly challenge the idea that a man can be saved from Hell without being saved from his sins. It is always good news when Christians identify and oppose heresy. But as you will see below, the heresy is not a new one.
Naked faith is no faith.
- Thomas Adams
The course of thy life will speak more for thee than the discourse of thy lips.
- George Swinnock
...God, who 'will render to each one according to his deeds': eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil...
- Romans 2:5b-9a
Faith justifies the person, and works justify his faith.
- Elisha Coles
As the apple is not the cause of the apple tree, but a fruit of it: even so good works are not the cause of our salvation, but a sign and a fruit of the same.
- Daniel Cawdray
Good deeds are such things that no man is saved for them, nor without them.
- Thomas Adams
The saints of God are sealed inwardly with faith, but outwardly with good works.
- John Boys
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
- James 2:17
God loves adverbs better than nouns; not praying only but praying well; not doing good but doing it well.
- Thomas Brooks
The object matter of all religion is reduced to credenda and agenda (Respectively, "things to be believed," and "things to be done." - ed.).
- Thomas Goodwin
Faith is full of good works. It believes as if it did not work, and it works as if it did not believe.
- Thomas Watson
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil...
- 1 John 3:7-8a
We must first be made good before we can do good; we must first be made just before our works can please God.
- Hugh Latimer
We are too apt to rest in a bare profession of faith, and to think that this will save us; it is a cheap and easy religion to say, `We believe the articles of the Christian faith;' but it is a great delusion to imagine that this is enough to bring us to heaven.
- Matthew Henry
Easy Chairs/Hard Words, Part 4
By Douglas Wilson
Pastor Spenser shifted easily in his seat while I carefully thought over my next question.
"Some of my friends at my church have figured out that I have been coming to see you," I said.
Pastor Spenser nodded, and waited.
"Naturally," I said, "they are somewhat concerned."
"Naturally. About what?"
"Well, they say that Christians who believe in the exhaustive sovereignty of God are setting themselves up."
"For the temptation which says that because God controls everything, then the way I live doesn't really matter."
"I see. In other words, if I am elect, then my sins won't damn me, and if I am not, then all the good works in the world
won't save me. Is that it?"
"Yes. That is exactly it. If the whole thing was settled before the world began, then why bother? My friends know that
there are true Christians who believe this, but they think that, because of this theology, these Christians will tend to become careless
about how they live."
"Why should we take responsibility for our actions after we have embraced a theology which cuts the nerve of
"Right. If God controls everything, then what room is there for personal holiness?"
Pastor Spenser thought for a moment.
"The problem is not with your friends' concern for personal holiness. That is admirable. All Christians should set their
faces against carnal living on the part of professing Christians. But it does no good to oppose carnal living with carnal reasoning."
"What do you mean?"
"When someone is whooping it up down at the bars, or sleeping with their girlfriend, why do we say it is sin?"
"Is this a trick question?"
Pastor Spenser grinned. "You might say that. Why do we call such things sin?"
"Because the Bible does."
"Exactly. So this carnal living we have been talking about is a lifestyle that is not in submission to the clear teaching of
the Word of God."
"Well, sure. But I still don't see where you are going with this."
"Now if carnal living is a lifestyle that does not submit to God's Word, then how should we define carnal reasoning?"
"The same way, I suppose?"
"Right. It is not enough to submit what we do externally to God; we must also submit
the way we think. Your friends are trying to defend God's standards for living by abandoning His standards for thinking. It cannot be successful."
"Is there a passage where this point is clear?"
"Yes, in Philippians. Chapter 2, verses 12 and 13."
I turned to Philippians and read. "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but
now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to
do for His good pleasure." I looked up.
"What does the passage say God is doing?" Pastor Spenser asked.
I looked down again. "It says that He is working in the Philippians, both in willing and doing, and that the result is His
"And what would carnal reasoning do with that?"
"Well, the response would be that if God is doing the willing, and if God is doing the doing, and the result is whatever
He wants, then there is no reason for me to put myself out. It is going to happen anyway."
"Right. The reasoning says that if God is going to do the work, then why should I have to?"
I nodded, and Pastor Spenser went on.
"But what application of this truth does Paul command the Philippians to obey?"
I looked at the passage again. "He tells
them to work out their own salvation, with fear and trembling." I glanced
down further. "And in the next verse he goes on to specific ethical instruction - to avoid murmuring and disputing."
I sat and thought for a moment. "But my friends would say that the application they are making is obvious - common sense."
"Well, it certainly is common. But is it biblical?"
"Why do so many Christians fall for this line of reasoning then? It seems like a trap that is extremely easy to fall into."
"Well, yes, it easy to fall into. But it is also easy to drink too much, not watch your tongue, lust after women, and so forth.
And these are things which the church recognizes as sin, and warns the people against. But carnal reasoning is also easy, and almost no
one warns the people."
"Sheep are hungry because shepherds don't feed them. Shepherds don't feed them because shepherds don't have
food." Pastor Spenser leaned forward in his seat. "The shepherds don't have food
because they don't study their Bibles."
"You think it is obvious in the Word?"
"Certainly. When the apostle Paul magnified the prerogitives of the sovereign God, he fully anticipated the response
of carnal reasoning." Pastor Spenser leaned back, closed his eyes, and quoted, "You will say to me then, `Why does He still find fault?
For who has resisted His will?'" A modern pastor, in the unlikely event that someone asked
him this, would say that it was a good
question, and that he wrestles with it often himself. Paul tells the questioner to shut up and sit down. `But indeed, O man, who are you to
reply against God?'"
"Paul doesn't answer the question then?"
Pastor Spenser opened his eyes. "Oh, he does. It just isn't the answer carnal reason wants."
"So what is the answer?"
"The answer is God - the same answer that is given at the end of the book of Job. Carnal reason doesn't see a real answer
there either. But believe me, it is a real answer. The answer is the ground of reality; the answer is
"What happens at the end of the book of Job?"
"The questions raised in the book are conducive to carnal reason; indeed, even non-Christians are attracted to the first
part of the book of Job. As they would put it, `It addresses the human condition.' But then, at the end of the book,
God comes in, with glory and thunder. And do you know what? He doesn't answer any of the impertinent questions; rather, He poses some sobering
questions of His own. `Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you,
and you shall answer Me.'"
I nodded. "And He asks where Job was when the universe was created."
"The question is not irrelevant. It is the heart of the matter. Discussions of God's sovereignty and human responsibility
very rarely display any understanding at all of Who the
"But my friends would say that you are making God responsible for evil, and that
they are concerned to protect God's honor and glory."
Pastor Spenser looked at me intently. "It is true that the affirmation of God's total control over all things causes some
to blaspheme. But your friends need not be concerned for God's glory; man's slanders and blasphemies do not touch Him. Such
slanderers are pelting the sun with wadded-up balls of tissue paper."
"They are stumbling over
"They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed."
"Now, see? Why do you have to put these things so
strongly? Doesn't that cause people to react to what you are
teaching? They were appointed to stumble?"
"That wasn't my choice of words. I was quoting 1 Peter 2:8."
"Your friends are concerned that God be seen as
good. But seen as good by whom? Those who believe the Word of God
will know that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Of course He is good -
by definition. And those who do not believe the
Word of God will persist in thinking that there is a tribunal or court somewhere in which God will one day be arraigned. On the day
of judgment, their folly will be apparent to all - even to them."
"So how do we bring this back to the original point?"
"The original point was the concern that the doctrine of God's sovereignty would be made into a cushion for sin. My
answer to this is that we must, in all things, recognize God
as God. We must do so in how we live holy lives, but we must also do so in
why we live holy lives. We are to live in a holy way because
God has commanded it."
"But you would also say that what God has
commanded the believer He has also
given the believer."
"I honestly see why carnal reason has a problem with this."
"And I honestly see why carnal men want to lust after beautiful women. But what does the Bible say?"
"What do you mean?"
"What is the greatest
"That we love God."
"And what is the first fruit of the Spirit?"
"Love." I said. "I see."
"What do you see?" Pastor Spenser asked.
"This takes us back to Philippians. We are commanded to work out what God works in."
"Right." he said. "Nothing less."
Says one, 'Do you find fault with good works?' Not at all. Suppose I see a man building a house, and he were fool enough to lay the foundation with chimney pots. If I should say, 'I do not like these chimney pots to be put into the foundation,' you would not say I found fault with the chimney pots, but with the man for putting them in the wrong place. So with good works and ceremonies. They will not do for a foundation.
- Charles Spurgeon
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor catamites, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
On the contrary, where zeal for integrity and holiness is not vigor, there neither is the Spirit of Christ nor Christ Himself; and wherever Christ is not, there is no righteousness, nay, there is no faith; for faith cannot apprehend Christ for righteousness without the Spirit of sanctification.
- John Calvin
Another proof of the conquest of a soul for Christ will be found in a real change of life. If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is a fiction.
- Charles Spurgeon
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
- Galatians 5:19-21
When we have thus taught faith in Christ, then do we teach also good works. Because thou hast laid hold upon Christ by faith, through whom thou art made righteous, begin now to work well. Love God and thy neighbor, call upon God, give thanks unto him, praise him, confess him. Do good to thy neighbor and serve him; fulfill thine office. These are good works indeed, which flow out of this faith.
- Martin Luther
We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do any thing out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man.
- The Belgic Confession
And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
- Matthew 7:23
Credenda/Agenda is sent free of charge to all who would like to receive a copy. It is a publication of Canon Press, which is the literature ministry of Community Evangelical Fellowship, located at 110 Baker Street, Moscow, Idaho, 83843; the phone number is (208) 882-2034, or 1-800-488-2034; Douglas Wilson is the editor. If you would like information about our other publications, please contact us.