Is Lordship Salvation Biblical? :: By Paul Kocourek

The following is about a debate over what is called “Lordship salvation.”
We are to believe the gospel in order to be saved from our sins and receive eternal life.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Paul the Apostle defined for us what the gospel is.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures”(1 Cor. 15:1-4).

The gospel needed to save us is that we believe Jesus Christ:

1) died for our sins according to the scriptures
2) was buried
3) rose again the third day according to the scriptures

The word “Lord” is not found in this “three-point” passage.

On the other hand, there is a viewpoint called “Lordship salvation” that says we cannot simply believe in Jesus as our Savior, that we must also acknowledge that He is Lord. Supporters of this viewpoint cite the following Scripture passage as proof that we must accept Jesus as Lord:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10, KJV).

Another version puts it this way:

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom. 10:9-10, NASB).

So, those who see the gospel defined in 1 Cor. 15 say there is no mention of the word “Lord” in those three points of the gospel, and so there is no need to clutter the gospel with adding additional conditions, like requiring that people say that Jesus is Lord when the gospel definition does not include the word “Lord.”
On the other hand, those who support Lordship Salvation say we MUST believe that Jesus is Lord!

So, which is correct?

I believe the answer is that BOTH sides are falling short of the truth!

If your mouth is hanging open at this moment, bear with me as I show from Scripture what is really being taught in Rom. 10:9-10 (a favorite passage for Lordship salvation proponents). The first rule for understanding the Bible is the rule of Context, as in what people group or what subject is being addressed?

Let us look more closely at that chapter now.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites followed God whose revealed name in Hebrew is יְהֹוָה, or in English, YHWH, often translated Jehovah or Yahweh. That sacred name, YHWH, is translated in English Bibles as the word “LORD” (all capitals).

In the Rom 10:9-10 Lordship salvation verses (the context of which is speaking to the children of Israel, Rom 10:1), let us look at the entire context of those verses by looking also at the verses following:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9-13).

Note carefully vs. 13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is a quote the children of Israel would know well because it came from an Old Testament prophet of Israel, Joel:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call” (Joel 2:32).

Notice the word “LORD” is all capitals? That means that in the Hebrew it is designating the holy name of God, יְהֹוָה, or in English, YHWH, translated Jehovah or Yahweh.

What is the significance of this? The answer is that when Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-10, believe in Jesus as Lord, when tied together with Rom 10:13, it means that Paul is not merely identifying Jesus Christ as “Lord” in the sense that He is master, but it is saying that Jesus is יְהֹוָה/YHWH/Jehovah/Yahweh God!

Both sides are arguing over the inclusion of the word “Lord” (not all capitals), but both sides are short-changing who Jesus really is (“LORD” all capitals). It is certainly true that the gospel definition given in 1 Cor. 15 does not use the word “Lord,” but it DOES twice say “according to the Scriptures.” In those Scriptures, Jesus is identified as God numerous times. He is Immanuel, God with us (Isa. 7:14). He is the ruler from Bethlehem, whose goings-forth are from eternity (Micah 5:2). In Isaiah 9:6, He is given several names, two of which are “The mighty God, The everlasting Father.”

So, yes, Jesus is LORD, meaning, God Himself!

We cannot believe the three points of the gospel defined in 1 Cor. 15 without also believing that Jesus is the Son of God. We cannot be saved if we do not accept His Deity.

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

When we believe that Jesus is God, there is no need to say “Lord” (not all capitals), because that comes automatically with the territory of being the almighty Son of God. When we believe He is almighty God, then we bow to His mastery or Lordship over us in all things.

Likewise, when Lordship salvation says we must believe Jesus is Lord (not all capitals), it is actually shortchanging who Jesus really is. To insist that we have to believe in Jesus as Savior AND Lord (not all capitals) is actually diminishing His glory, demoting Him to “only” a master. There are many masters, but there is only one God.

Yes, we DO need to believe that Jesus is LORD (all capitals), meaning Yahweh, God in the flesh, Immanuel, God with us. But, it confuses the gospel to emphasize the Lordship of Jesus (as in we owe obedience to Him in all we do) AS A CONDITION OF BEING SAVED. Until we have been saved, we cannot render to Him that kind of obedience. Truth is, even after we have become believers, we cannot obey absolutely in all things.

Why? Because we still sin.

As we spiritually grow as believers, we will learn to turn away from sin. It is a lifelong process that will never be finished this side of eternity.