Dear Dr. Van Gelderen,
I have a question about the title of Lord in reference to Christ. I think my lack of complete assurance hinges on the different interpretations of what it means to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. Obviously this is where lordship salvation proponents get inside my head and cause me to doubt. I understand that Jesus has paid my debt, which is my punishment, for my sin. So since it’s already paid, to me salvation is a black and white issue: “Do you accept his payment or not?” I accept it.
However, lordship salvation proponents say that isn’t enough. You must be willing to obey Christ and not keep living in sin… But what does it mean to accept Jesus as Lord? And is that a requirement for salvation? Romans 6:23 says “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD.” Acts 16:31 says believe in the LORD Jesus Christ… Both those verses use the word LORD in reference to Christ. So I get how the lordship salvation proponents say it isn’t enough to just accept the gift – that we must also accept Jesus as our LORD. What exactly does it mean to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and how do we know whether or not that’s a requirement for salvation? I hope this question makes sense. I really do think the lordship salvation theology is what has robbed me of complete assurance and though my church does not teach it, I have sat under so many different theologians in our Baptist circle that I have heard enough of it to cause me to question it.
Hello M______ ,
Thank you for your excellent question! I have encountered this particular one often over the years. When emphasis is placed on the subject of faith (you), instead of the object of faith (Jesus), it is easy to see how many doubt their salvation. While there is much talk about Jesus as Lord, which sounds like emphasizing the object of faith, the real emphasis is on your commitment to obey Him as Lord. This is a subtle shift in focus to you as the subject of faith. But the key to faith is the object of faith, not the subject.
The debate is not whether or not Jesus is Lord. Obviously, Jesus is Lord. Both sides of the debate acknowledge that. The debate surrounds what is the condition to salvation. The Bible does not say to “believe in Jesus as Lord.” It says to “believe on the Lord Jesus.” Believing is not your commitment to obey or be willing to obey Jesus. That puts your dependence on yourself. Believing is simply depending on Jesus to save you. That puts your dependence on Jesus. Jesus is the Savior and He does all the saving. And He alone is the object of faith. The decision of faith reveals the Spirit has convinced of sin as the problem, judgment as the consequence, and Jesus as the Savior.
I trust this helps to clarify your thinking. It is liberating when the focus is put on Jesus alone as the object of our trust. Assurance comes from the sure word of God: when you “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” then “thou shalt be saved.” Assurance comes because the Bible says so!