Considerations on “Cheap Grace” vs “Lordship Salvation”

What is cheap grace and lordship salvation? Are they different than Christ’s grace illustrated and taught in the Bible?

When I rededicated my life to Jesus Christ at age thirty-one I began to read. I began to read theology and I have been reading ever since. Theology, apologetics, even some philosophy. One of the most meaningful books I read was John MacArthur’s, The Gospel According to Jesus.

Some theologians and teachers have posited the notion that The Gospel According to Jesus is “works” salvation and christened it lordship salvation. But is that really the case?

Cheap Grace

The Christian Church (universal) today is in trouble. Too many “preachers” are not; they’re sophist propagandists. 1

Nevertheless as disciples of our Lord we need to try to be preemptive and work to impede the Church’s ruinous slide.

At the same time we must understand that, ultimately, we will fail. Why because God’s sovereign plan is still working–we are in the “last days;” thus it should not surprise the “studied Christian” who knows God’s Word (Heb. 1:2).

Also Paul wrote this to Timothy:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

And Jesus Himself told his disciples:

See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many (Mt. 24: 4-5).

But when we speak of “cheap grace” what exactly are we talking about? Where do we find this cut-rate grace?

The martyr for the faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day [sic] for costly grace.” 2 He goes on to posit;

Cheap grace means grace as doctrine, a principle, a system. . . . Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God . . . grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

As Christ prophesied in these last days heretical teaching is streaming from the arenas and pulpits of the false teachers. Teachers like Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick, Pope Francis, and Joyce Meyer, along with a myriad of others teaching heretical, non-biblical doctrines. Some of these “teachings” are clearly antithetical to the Word of God; others are more subtle.

Then there are the various health and wealth gospel preachers. Their faulty precepts are that good health, healing, and wealth are intrinsic elements of redemption in Jesus Christ. Yet, all the apostles die d horrific deaths; only John was not martyred.

Lordship Salvation

What is lordship salvation anyway?

According to the critics it is the addition of “working” to make Christ Lord of one’s life. In other words, to them when one accepts Jesus one only needs to accept Him as Saviour, without following His commands.

Yet we discover in the Gospel accounts that Jesus commanded twenty-one times; twenty-one, that His disciples follow Him. 3

They attack MacArthur’s book as proclaiming salvation by works. However J. I. Packer states:

. . . in fact it [lordship salvation] is no more, just as it is no less, that the mainstream Protestant consensus on the nature of justifying faith, and the real novelty is the position of those who coined this name for the view they reject and who break these unities in their own teaching . 4

Another strong affirmation of this position and MacArthur’s book comes from James Montgomery Boice:

In The Gospel According to Jesus, MacArthur is not dealing with . . . issues external to the faith, but with the central issue of all, namely, What [sic] does it mean to be a Christian? His answers address themselves to what I consider to be the greatest weakness of contemporary evangelical Christianity in America. . . . It is the idea . . . that one can be a Christian without being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis mine). 5


It is the case that lordship salvation, so-called, is the only salvation allowed by God.

No man chooses by his own will to come to Christ. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit any man becomes a follower of Christ. When we give the Gospel message to someone and they accept Christ on the spot, it is nothing to with us; it is totally the work of the Holy Spirit

Jesus Himself declared “You did not choose Me but I chose you . . . (John 15:16).”

If, as one of the elect, you are prompted to receive Christ as your Saviour, then at the instant of justification you are also brought under His Lordship.

If the latter statement is not true then the former statement is also not true and you are still lost in your sins.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. . . . The cross is laid on every Christian.” 6 Or as Jesus proclaimed it “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me (Luke 9:23).”

  1. Interestingly enough the committee of Roman Catholic cardinals are called Propagandists. They are in charge of “propagation” the Roman Catholic Faith.
  2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 43.
  3. See Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24, Matthew 19:21, Mark 1:17, Mark 2:14, Mark 8:34, Mark 10:21, Luke 5:27, Luke 9:23, Luke 9:59, Luke 9:61, Luke 18:22, John 1:43, John 10:27, John 12:26, John 13:36, John 21:19, John 21:22.
  4. J. I. Packer quote from his Forward in The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1989), ix.
  5. Ibid., xi.
  6. Bonhoeffer, 89.

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