Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steve Lawson - It Will Cost You Everything

The doctrine of Lordship Salvation (LS) has certainly made great in-roads in evangelicalism over the last two decades. The writings and sermons of John MacArthur and his numerous disciples have, to many, become the theological standard whereby biblical orthodoxy is assessed. This is in spite of the fact that LS theology is riddled with antinomies and contradictory assertions. Perhaps nowhere is this more on display than in the LS assertion that the bible makes no distinction between sonship, or eternal salvation; and discipleship, which is walking in obedience. The fundamental issue with the LS assertion that there is no distinction between eternal salvation and discipleship is brought to light when one considers the bible’s testimony that eternal salvation is by grace and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), alongside the bible’s testimony that discipleship comes with great personal cost (Luke 14:26-27).

Arranged for your consideration below are a number of biblical statements regarding sonship (eternal life) and discipleship (personal obedience) that serve to clearly differentiate the two:

Sonship (Eternal Salvation)                       Discipleship (Personal Obedience)
- Is free (Romans 5:15-18)                             - Is expensive (Luke 14:26)
- Is not of the will (Romans 9:16)                   - Requires willingness (II Corinthians 8:12)
- Is not of him that runneth (Romans 9:16)     - Requires effort (Luke 13:24)
- Is to those without strength (Romans 5:6)     - Exercises strength (Luke 13:24)
- Is by the obedience of one (Romans 5:19)    - Is by the obedience of two (John 15:10)
- Taught of God (John 6:45)                           - Taught about God (Matthew 28:19)

Perhaps the greatest of the distinctions is that Sons are born of God, whereas disciples are made by the baptism and teaching of men. The new birth, wherein the Sons of God are spiritually quickened, is an immediate act of God alone (John 3:8). In contrast, the Lord commands his disciples to make disciples through baptism and teaching. Teaching, however, presupposes a living subject. The aforementioned observations summarize the compelling reasons why right division of the word of God requires that one maintain a clear distinction between sonship and discipleship, and establishes the core thesis of this blog post:

Because Lordship Salvation fails to distinguish between sonship and discipleship,
 it teaches a doctrine of salvation that is synergistic, unscriptural, and logically untenable,
and is therefore FALSE.

So with that I bring you Steve Lawson’s It Will Cost You Everything along with my commentary.

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT / COMMENTARY -------------------------------------------------------
"You need to weigh in on the cost factor and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It will cost you popularity. It will cost you promotion perhaps at times. It will cost you an easy life. You will have to discipline yourself. You will have to buffet your body. You will have to say “no” to temptation. You will have to say “no” to this world. You will have to break with the crowd. You will have to be willing to stand alone for Christ. You will have to be willing to walk to the beat of a different drummer and to step out of the crowd. Even if no one follows after Jesus Christ, you’d be willing to stand if you were the only person in the world for Jesus Christ. That’s the cost factor. You would have to be willing to suffer persecution for Christ, and let me tell you it will come. It might even cost you your life. He is not coming to play games. He is not coming to be docile. He is coming to dominate and he is coming to slaughter. He is the King of Kings and he is the Lord of Lords and at the end of this age he will bolt out of heaven on a white steed and his garments are dripped in blood, the blood of his own enemies, and he is coming back to conquer and to damn." (Steve Lawson)
Of critical importance in this passage (Luke 14:26ff) is that the Lord Jesus Christ is talking about discipleship. He is not talking about how one obtains eternal life. The reasons for this will become more apparent as we take-in more of Lawson’s sermon.
"You need to make terms of peace with this coming king or you will be subjected in damnation forever." (Lawson)
Here Lawson asserts that “you need to make terms of peace.”  This he follows with…
"And Jesus Christ has made terms of peace." (Lawson)
So who has made the terms of peace? Did Christ make them or do we need to make them? This is double-speak. Read on. 
"You need to settle out of court with him." (Lawson)
Our eternal salvation was determined in a “courtroom” not made with hands (Hebrews 9:24), our justification being accomplished by Christ for us in absentia. It was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ and we were not even in attendance. Man did precisely nothing to assist, approve, effectuate or otherwise improve the “settlement.” Any who claim otherwise are positing the necessity of human works and therefore not preaching salvation by grace, because repentance is undeniably a work of righteousness that we do, and is thus strictly forbidden from having anything to do with the work that brought us eternal salvation. (Titus 3:5, II Timothy 1:9)  This is the inevitable fruit of LS’s “yea and nay” gospel. (II Corinthians 1:18-19)
"You do not want to go into that final day of conflict with Christ, for he will be ruthless in the execution of his justice, but he offers you mercy today." (Lawson)
"He offers you mercy today?" With this statement we reach the first illogical impasse in the Lawson’s Lordship Salvation theology. Lawson claims to be a Five Point Calvinist.  In so doing, he correctly affirms the doctrine of Limited Atonement. This doctrine embraces:
  1. That Christ died for the elect only (John 10:11,26)
  2. That his death was efficacious in procuring the salvation of his people (Romans 8:30-39)
To Lawson and all others promoting a salvation-by-offer-soteriology I can only say: It is unscriptural and illogical to believe in both particular redemption, and the well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity. Because the bible teaches that the atonement was both particular (John 10:11,26; Matt 1:21) and utterly effectual (Romans 5:19, 8:30ff, Hebrews 9:12, 10:14) it is therefore impossible to extend a well-meant (or sincere) offer of salvation to all of humanity. Since the atonement is particular, there is no way to offer salvation to all of humanity because the atonement does not cover all of humanity (John 10:26, Hebrews 10:29). Any such offer would be no less than the very definition of insincerity. Moreover, if by “offer” one means ‘to present another with a take-it-or-leave-it-eternal-life-deciding-proposition,’ because the atonement was utterly effectual, there is no way to “offer” eternal salvation – even to God’s elect.  If the atonement was effectual, it got the job done, whether someone believes it or not. (Mark 16:14) 

So what then do we make of the role of faith in the life of a child of God? Faith, is not the effectuating grace that the LS camp would have one believe that it is. Rather, the bible states that it is an evidence (Hebrews 11:1), a fruit (Galatians 5:22), and a gift (Philippians 1:29). It does not effectuate the atonement for any particular individual, rather, the atonement provides faith to God’s children whereby they are enabled to accept the preexisting truth of their justification in Christ, even as Paul taught: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." (Galatians 4:6) Notice carefully how this verse establishes belief on the footing of regeneration, and regeneration on the footing of sonship (election). So faith is not a condition of the covenant of salvation; it is a provision of the covenant of salvation.

Most who are in the LS camp describe their view of the atonement with the phrase: Sufficient for all but efficient for the elect. In such theological circles, the mere recitation of this “truism” sends heads-nodding and elicits pious affirmations, as though all within earshot had just entered into the veritable Holy of Holies of Christian doctrine. So universally-esteemed and highly-regarded is this statement that seemingly no evangelical, whether Arminian or Calvinist, dares to question its claim as the absolute truth of the atonement.  On this point I want to be abundantly clear: "Sufficient for all but efficient for the elect" theology is manifestly self-contradictory because if the atonement is only efficient for the elect, then it is insufficient for the non-elect, for want of efficiency. It is therefore false.

An accurate statement regarding the atonement of Christ would be represented by the following statement: Insufficient for all, by its efficiency for the elect only. Stated another way, any monergistic work that lacks efficacy is insufficient, because it does not get the job done, and because there is no other agent at work wherein efficacy might be found. Stated another way: Since the atonement of Christ is born of God's PURPOSE in saving his people (Ephesians 1:11), and since God's PURPOSE evidently DID NOT involve the salvation of all of humanity (Matthew 25:41), it follows that the atonement of Christ is INSUFFICIENT for the salvation of all of humanity for want of PURPOSE. 
"He will agree to terms of surrender. He will agree to terms of peace. But they are his terms of peace, not ours. And his terms of peace are very simply this: You must hate your own father and mother and brother and sister and even your own life more then [sic] me, or you cannot be my disciple and you must take up a cross and follow me or you cannot be my disciple and if you do not you will meet me in the final judgment and it will glorify God in your destruction." (Lawson)
Again, Jesus is talking about discipleship not the “terms of peace” for obtaining eternal life. Eternal salvation, which is described in the bible as free to man, cannot be described in terms of its cost to that same man, without destroying the original assertion that it was free to begin with. The NeoCalvinists love to use this type of language. Spurgeon, for example, loved to speak of the "parallel truths" of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in the salvation of sinners, which only intersect beyond our grasp, before the throne of God. I hate to pour cold water on that bushel-basket of cotton candy, but the moment those lines cross, they betray their claim to parallelism and defeat Spurgeon's original premise. The teaching of nonsense styled as lofty, pious spiritual truth is the calling card of the modern Calvinist and Lordship Salvationists, and God's people should not be made to endure such under the false premise of "teaching the truth."
"He is pressing you for a decision. He will not be put off. You cannot hit the mute button any longer in your heart. You must answer to him. Verse 33, 'so then,' conclusion, 'none of you can be my disciple.' He’s saying none of you can be a true Christian, none of you can be in my Kingdom, none of you can be in right relationship with me or the father, none of you can be my disciple, who does not give up all his own possessions." (Lawson)
Let’s take a closer look at Lawson’s assertions:

A:  Eternal salvation (being a Christian) is by free and sovereign grace. We know this by virtue of Lawson’s profession of Calvinism.

B:  Being a Christian, being eternally saved and discipleship are all the same. (Substantiated by the bolded claim above.)

C:  Discipleship has a cost that includes transfer of ownership, total complete surrender of your life, supreme allegiance and loyalty, taking a step of faith, etc. (As above.)

Following Lawson’s reasoning, wherein A = B, and B = C, then C of necessity MUST equal A. Stated more plainly, since Lawson makes no distinction between eternal salvation and discipleship (point B above) he is left with the nonsense assertion that eternal salvation is both "free" and "costs everything."
"What is our Lord saying? He’s not backing off. He is increasing the commitment that he is calling for with every line of this section. He’s not saying that you have to buy your way into the Kingdom of heaven, for none of us have enough gold and none of us have enough silver to ever remove the stain of sin that has defiled our inner soul." (Lawson)
While Lawson avoids the crass assertion that silver or gold can pay the cost of eternal life, he none-the-less asserts that “total commitment” is both a cost and a requirement for obtaining eternal life. Is it not obvious that if salvation is free, and that if in Luke 14 the Lord Jesus is talking about “counting the cost” of something, that Jesus is therefore NOT talking about eternal salvation. The Lord is talking about the cost of discipleship, not the cost of obtaining eternal life. 

This is a very important point: If there is no distinction between discipleship and eternal salvation, as Lawson and his comrades of antinomy-Calvinism assert, I submit to you that salvation is NOT by sovereign grace, but by works, because Jesus clearly teaches that discipleship has a cost that is paid by the disciple himself. Moreover, I would also assert that if there is no distinction between sonship and discipleship, the doctrine of salvation is an unknowable, illogical mystery – an unrevealed thing.  This is because such a view would require that one "believe" clearly contradictory statements (cost = no cost) and that is nonsense. Can one established the confusion of which God is not the author (I Corinthians 14:33) be of a sound mind? (II Timothy 1:7) This in turn undermines the bible’s own assertion that the Gospel reveals truth to us. If the domino of distinction falls, it takes the bible itself down with it and relegates Christianity to sheer mysticism.
"What is he saying? 'who does not give up all of his own possessions'? Well this must be taken in context with other texts of scripture, and let me just cut to the bottom line of the bottom line. You must transfer the ownership of all that you are and all that you have to all that he is. That’s what he’s saying. Your life is no longer your life it is now his life. Your time is no longer your time it is his time. Your possessions are no longer your possessions they are his possessions. Your future is no longer your future it is now his future. Your treasure is no longer your treasure it is now his treasure and you have transferred all that you are and all that you have to all that he is. That’s what it is to meet his terms of peace." (Lawson)
Does Lawson honestly believe that man must totally commit himself in order to obtain eternal life? Can such an arrangement be considered salvation by free grace? This is utter nonsense. What if I were to say that I was going to give you a new car by free grace based on no merit on your part, and then followed that by saying that the cost was that you had to “transfer the ownership of all that you are and all that you have to me.” Would you regard such an arrangement as “obtaining a car by free grace?”

As he endeavors to rightly divide the word, Lawson should keep the following fundamental precept in memory: If something is free, it must have NO COST to the one for whom it is free. If eternal salvation is free, and discipleship has a cost, it is therefore evident that eternal salvation is not discipleship.  Having eternal life is not the same as walking in obedience. Sonship is not discipleship. For want of this critical distinction, Lordship Salvation collapses into an acerbic pile of self-contradictory nonsense that confuses law with grace, and drives its adherents into either despair or deception. It stands upon the ludicrous premise of defining words by their own antonyms and phrases by their opposites–

Free = Costly
Jesus Paid it all = You must also pay your all

Such statements are so manifestly illogical that it staggers the mind to believe that such twaddle is promoted among God’s people as deep and pious truths of the Christian faith.
"Yet the exchange is not bartered or bought with real money, but it is purchased with the total, complete surrender of your life to Christ.  That’s what saving faith is." (Lawson)
The notion that “saving faith” is defined by “total, complete surrender of your life to Christ” is completely rejected by the testimony of the bible itself.  Consider the following explicit refutation:
  • Peter said, “Thou art the Christ.” (Matthew 16:16)
  • The Lord Jesus Christ affirmed this good profession and identified God as it's source. (v17)
  • This proves that he was born again and in possession of eternal life – “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1, Ephesians 2:1)
  • Peter said, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” (Matthew 26:35) What is this statement, if not Peter’s prideful and short-sighted affirmation of his own “total commitment” to Christ?
  • Peter subsequently denied the Lord. (Matthew 26:69ff) What is this act if not indisputable evidence of Peter's lack of total commitment? Was Peter "hating his own life" or trying to save his own life by denying Christ? (Luke 14:26) The answer is obvious.
The preceding sequence of events completely undermines Lawson’s definition of “saving faith” by proving that Peter had “saving faith” in Matthew 16 and demonstrating that he was not “totally committed” in Matthew 26. It follows that “saving faith” is not total commitment.

This brings up another issue with the Lawson’s position. When Lawson uses phrases like “total commitment” and “complete surrender” as prerequisites to becoming a disciple (becoming saved) he runs headlong into the clear teaching of the scriptures regarding the remaining sin that exists in the lives of believers (I John 1:8-10). Since sin is an unassailable evidence of a lack of total commitment to God, it follows that if believers sin, they are not “totally committed” and thus they are neither disciples nor eternally saved based on Lawson’s own definitions. 

Lawson’s assertions regarding “saving faith” paint him into a corner. On the one hand, if he sticks with his insistence that “total commitment” is required to be a disciple and that discipleship and eternal salvation are one and the same, he is logically unable to avoid the doctrine of sinless perfection as a requirement for eternal salvation. On the other hand, if he allows for remaining sin in the lives of believers (which I feel certain he does) then he must define “total commitment” as “partial commitment” and “complete surrender” as “incomplete surrender.” Such tactics are as embarrassing as they are evidentiary that Lawson’s original assertion is false. One might well ask:  If “total commitment” means “partial commitment,” why the strident insistence upon the term “total?”

Again all of this nonsense stems from failure to recognize the fundamentals: If something is free, it must have NO COST to the one for whom it is free, and Sonship is NOT Discipleship.
"It is coming to the end of yourself and completely and entirely entrusting all that you are and all that you have to all that he is. This is your eternal soul. This is the only life you will ever live. This deals with the only eternity you will ever have. And so he says, 'Salt is good, but, if even salt has become tasteless,' meaning it gives evidence of that it was never true salt to begin with, 'with what will it be seasoned?' And the answer is, 'Nothing,' verse 35, 'it is useless either for the soul [sic, 'soil'] or for the manure pile.' It’s just no good to anyone, not to God, not to Christ, not to the Kingdom, not to the movement. You’re just taking up a seat for someone else. There were other people who were trying to get into this.  It is useless even for the soil, you’re not even worth the toilet – spiritually speaking.  Because you have not come to the place of total surrender of your life and supreme legiance and supreme loyalty to Christ. You have not yet come under the Lordship of Christ and taken up a cross to follow after him. And then he says, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'" (Lawson)
It is interesting to note that Lordship Salvation, for all its many attempts to distinguish itself from the “easy believism” so prevalent in Christianity, ultimately ends up basing man’s salvation on commitment, even as Billy Graham, the patron saint of “easy believism,” does:
“This man was born again. He had a turnabout. He thought he was a Christian, but he had never personally made a commitment to Jesus Christ.” (How to be Born Again, Billy Graham, p.155, emphasis teth)
Ironically both the Lordship Camp and Billy Graham affirm that apart from a commitment on the part of the sinner, there is no eternal life. This assertion is to admit that Jesus Christ did not fulfill the covenant of salvation, and that man must commit to get the job done. Moreover, if commitment is commanded, as it clearly is, then man's commitment is an act of obedience. Paul taught that "by the obedience of ONE shall many be made righteous." Lawson's Lordship Salvation requires the obedience of TWO.
"You need to give strictest attention to what God has said in his Son. For God has spoken in his son to us in this conference. And God has brought every one of us to this place. Not a one of us is here by accident or by happenstance and it is the goodness of God and the mercy of God that has brought you to this place where you have heard of Isaiah 53. You have heard of the suffering savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who upon that cross became sin for us. Upon that cross he died to self that he might live for us and that he might bear our sins and iniquities upon that tree and purchase our salvation. And there is salvation in no other name, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Jesus said, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father but through me.' And he is calling out to you today, 'come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden' and I will take you in and receive you unto myself. 'Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and you shall find rest for your souls, for my burden is easy and my yoke is light.' It is. It is. You will have the weight of sin lifted off of you and you will have now the yoke of Christ upon you. And he gets into that yoke with you and he pulls with you. But it will require the total commitment of your life to him."(Lawson)
Here Lawson is addressing his well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity, all the while knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ did not die for all of humanity. In conversations with a number of NeoCals, I have inquired as to the single best verse of scripture that supports the notion of the Well-Meant Offer of salvation to all of humanity. I have repeatedly been given Matthew 11:28 in response. To that verse I can only say, that if the unregenerate man believes the things of the spirit of God are foolishness (I Corinthians 2:14) and has no thought of God (Psalm 10:4), can he possibly be the man that Jesus Christ has in mind when he refers to the “laboring and heavy laden?” 

To my surprise and to their credit, some of the NeoCals with whom I have had this conversation have admitted, albeit somewhat reluctantly, that not all men are laboring and heavy laden in the way the Lord has in mind in that passage. Inconsistently, they seem far less amenable to accepting the inevitable consequence of their admission, namely that it proves that Matt 11:28 (their “best text”) does not teach that the gospel is a well meant offer of salvation to all of humanity. Suffice it to say that: If Christ is the savior, and he did not die for someone, there is no basis upon which to offer them salvation.
"Oh how we ought to search our hearts here today. Have I come to this place of total commitment in my life? Have I yielded my life to the sovereign Lordship of him who died upon the Cross for me?" (Lawson)
This statement actually makes me shutter. I want to say this with brutal force so that there can be absolutely no misunderstanding: No man, save the Lord Jesus Christ himself, has ever totally committed his life to God. All men sin (Romans 3:23), and all Christians sin (I John 1:8-9), and sin reveals one’s lack of total commitment to obeying God (Romans 6:16) and lack of exercising faith in God (Romans 14:23). It’s just as simple as that. So far as I’m concerned, anyone who says that they are totally committed needs to be totally committed - to an institution. They are evidently so far removed from an understanding of their own sinfulness and so enamored of their own self-righteousness, that they see no beauty in the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ their savior which is the sum total of their salvation
"I want you to know that the gates of paradise have been swung open to you – the narrow gate is open – and if you will take a step of faith and come through this narrow gate and commit your life to him, despite the strength of his words, he also says, “him who comes unto me I will in no wise cast out. To take a step of faith and to come to him.  But if you come to him, don’t play games. You must surrender to Christ." (Lawson)
Brother Lawson, can a man take a “step of faith” if he does not have faith? Faith is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is an evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), namely, the election, redemption and regeneration of God’s people according to God’s plan. If a man has faith, he is already born again (I John 5:1), and if he is born again, he is already in possession of eternal life (Ephesians 2:1). 

“Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10)

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