A Lordship Salvationist’s Prayer for His Prodigal Son

By our friend, John

(Note: the following article is a PARODY of Lordship “salvation” through the lens of a hypothetical father, who believes in LS, as he prays for his son, who has received eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is meant to demonstrate that Lordship “salvation” is not just another slant on the Gospel. Rather it is disbelief in the Gospel. Each of the false Lordship “salvation” beliefs indicated in the prayer is referenced, with explanatory footnotes provided).

Heavenly Father, I come to you today heavy-hearted. I asked my son today why he wasn’t going to church anymore. He told me it was because he hadn’t found a church in his community that he was comfortable with.

I asked what he meant, since there are plenty of Southern Baptist churches (SBC) in his area. He responded that my church (and the SBC) teaches a false gospel of works that can’t save anyone. He was raised in SBC churches, and I can’t fathom who ever put that idea into his head.

So, I asked what he meant by “false gospel of works.” He said that salvation is “by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” (he quoted Ephesians 2:8-9). He seemed to think that most churches add something to that – such as “turn from sins for salvation”, or “surrender your life to Christ for salvation.” He said some churches seem to be free grace, but then look to changed behavior as evidence of salvation – which is, by implication, teaching salvation by works.

My son said that those add-ons had been a barrier to him understanding the gospel and accepting Christ. He said that now that he has become a believer in Christ alone for eternal life, he doesn’t want to have anything to do with churches that “frustrate grace” (he referred to Galatians 2:21: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”).

Father, I know that Christ died for my sins, was buried and was raised from the dead. That’s the gospel! A lot of unsaved people believe that too, but they’ve never repented of their sins, nor surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. They’ve never trusted in Christ to change their lives.1 Like James 2:19 says – “even the demons believe, and they tremble”!2

I repented of my sins, surrendered my life to Christ, and accepted Christ as my Savior when I was in high school. I have tried to live a life consistent with my faith. I know I haven’t been perfect, but I’ve tried to be a faithful steward of everything with which you have entrusted me – including raising my children in a Christian home, making sure they attended church regularly, and teaching them the plan of salvation that I was taught.

Father, my son made his profession of faith in Christ when he was a child. He was always a difficult child. He told me when he was in his twenties that he “gave his life to Jesus.”3 I was overjoyed, but his commitment to Christ didn’t last very long. I know he has drifted, and has not ever really been a consistent churchgoer. Father, only You know whether my son ever truly surrendered his life to You, sincerely repented of his sins, and trusted in Christ.

Father, my prayer to you today is this: I pray that you would deliver my son from his deception. I pray that you will convict him of his error. I pray that you will reveal to him that there is more to receiving eternal life than simply believing the gospel and accepting Christ as Savior.4 That you would let him know that there is no eternal life without discipleship.5 I pray that you will convince him that repentance in salvation includes at least a willingness to turn from his sins.6

Father, I pray that my precious son will turn from his mistaken belief that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.7

Amen

Explanatory footnotes:

1 Repenting of one’s sins”, “surrendering one’s life to Christ”, and “trusting in Christ to change one’s life” are not conditions for receiving eternal life. (Romans 5:8 Romans 6:23)

2 James 2:19 is often used by Lordship “salvationists” as a proof-text that believing in Jesus is not enough for receiving eternal life. This is not true. Demons are not eligible for receiving salvation, nor does this passage say that demons have faith in Christ.

3 One who is clear on the Gospel would know that expressions such as “giving one’s life to Christ” are not a proper response to the Gospel. The only proper response to the Gospel is belief. (John 3:16)

4 The son is not in error or deceived. The father is. There is absolutely nothing more to receiving eternal life than believing the Gospel and accepting Christ as Savior.

5 Following Jesus in discipleship will not result in eternal life, nor is a discipleship a condition for receiving eternal life.

6 “Willingness to turn from one’s sins” is not a requirement for receiving eternal life.

7 The son is not mistaken in his belief. The father is. Salvation is by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. If one is not saved that way, he is not saved at all. By trying to add to the finished work of Christ, one is not trusting in Christ as his Savior, but only as his helper. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5)

17 responses to “A Lordship Salvationist’s Prayer for His Prodigal Son

  1. John, that was excellent…So tragic. You did such a good job, especially footnoting too, it really stirred my heart.

    It made me think of a letter from the free grace person’s/child’s perspective. Not that this is all true, my dad is not Lordship, but much of it is sadly, and I just keep praying and sharing the gospel, and telling people what they must do to be saved…

    Dear Lord, please open my father’s eyes to the truth of Your Word. He talks to me about Your Sovereignty in salvation on one hand, and yet when he preaches the “gospel”, it’s all about their part, what they have done. They say faith is the gift spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9. So why do they question others about whether they have “really submitted themselves”? Or ask those who say they believe if they have “put You on the throne”, or whether they have “turned or stopped sinning” and suggest if not, they have not been saved. When you ask them how much sin, or how long, or what is acceptable, they have no answer… or get angry and accusatory. How does someone “totally abandon self” as Master theologian John MacArthur preaches?… Does he think he has done this some how?

    Father, I am so concerned. I am so terribly thankful You showed me from Your Word that I could not participate in my salvation. It’s a good thing, because I was without strength and even though I tried, I kept failing. I couldn’t do it. All I knew is I believed and I needed You to save me, and You did according Your Word. I said, “Help me”, and You have been faithful to teach me as I spend time in Your Word and prayer.

    I know my parents look at me and wonders why I don’t attend church regularly. They think it’s because I’m not Yours. I try to explain, and they tell me “nobody’s perfect”… ironic… They don’t seem to understand that I can’t partake with these people who are teaching a false gospel. I am looking Lord, but You know this… In the meantime, thank You for my Christian friends who are faithful and my small Bible study that is true to You Word. Thank You for the way You have made to allow me Christian fellowship.

    Father, why won’t they take You at Your Word? Why do they stand daily accusing the brethren, likening us to the False Prophets you warned about? Why don’t they see? Why do they ignore these Scriptures? I am afraid I already know the answer and it scares me for them.

    Dear Father, please save my earthly father…and so many of my friends that have been deceived and bewitched and think they can finish in the flesh or even worse, begin in the flesh. Please show my other family members the truth of these teachers. Protect my children from these errors, these teachers…

    I pray for those who even shun me now because I brought up some errors of Billy Graham’s teaching. They think I am terrible. Or the teacher that called me to caution me about speaking any further about it. Told me that people would leave our study if I spoke again about him…And when I did come back, those who stopped speaking to me, even to the point of not responding when I said Hello. Father, forgive them.

    I am so concerned about all these people’s attitudes, when I try to share the truth. They call me sinful, or suggest I am licentious, or that I want to live a sinful lifestyle and I am just using You to get to heaven. I fail, I sin, but never is that my intent. I love You.

    I weep for them as they rail against me. Please never let me wrongly convey Your gospel to anyone. Let me be faithful to Your Word alone… Because I know Your gospel is the power of God unto salvation. I don’t know if they’ve been deceived, or worse, if they never believed. Help them Lord… before it’s too late, life is so short.

  2. Holly, you said: “They call me sinful, or suggest I am licentious, or that I want to live a sinful lifestyle and I am just using You to get to heaven. I fail, I sin, but never is that my intent. I love You.”

    My comment: One of the things that makes God’s grace so amazing, is that He grants it to the believer in Christ, even if ALL of the above accusations are correct.

    Even if a believer is sinful (we all are, to some extent) and even if a believer is licentious, and even if a believer wants to live a sinful lifestyle, and even if a believer is believing in Christ solely to gain eternal life, the believer is still saved.

  3. A very helpful illustration, John. Thank you for writing it.

  4. Absolutely John… it is His grace that enables us to live… Some of those accusations I have met just out in public as we defend the gospel, contend for the faith once delivered. Without knowing you (I am sure you have experienced this), that is usually the first accusation. Sadly the worst part is the young ones that get discouraged by the supposedly more mature Christian…

    You know where I saw some of the saddest comments? When I was looking up book reviews on Amazon for some of these people… Some were looking for a better relationship with God, bought one of those ‘discipleship’ books and got totally despondent… All the things they ‘should’ be doing, and people just give up. They need the Word and these wolves of course are tearing them apart. Thank you very much for writing it, lots of different portions of my life, whether part me, or part other’s stories came up there.

    Great reading!

  5. By the way, lest I sound like I wasn’t one of those that the load-shippers would gleefully say was going to hell… I was probably one they would have tsked tsked at…in fact, with their stringent test of total commitment, absolute abandonment, radical discipleship, complete surrender, I’d still be lost according to them…

    But, I believed. I just was getting no fellowship, and no time in His Word, and the believers I did meet could have been mini Paul Washer’s. I am acquainted with the despair of those who feel they can never measure up. I gave up, but that was a good thing… :) Eventually I turned to His Word and prayer asking Him to help me do both, and He did. I don’t know how I ever went that long, but I guess it’s why it’s important to me to speak out about it too.

    God bless you guys, all of you, women here too, so thankful for others who will stand for His truth, and will not give place even for an hour to the lawkeepers….

  6. Glenn McCombe

    John that was a great article. And now after reading it who do I find commenting but my main fb mentor. She recommended “Secure Forever” and I just this minute finished reading that marvelous book. I can see you and Tom Cucuzza are on the same page. Loved you article.

  7. Welcome Glenn!

    Thanks for joining our grace fellowship today.

    Yes, I second your praise of John’s new article. Interesting angle on things—really makes one think!

  8. Excellent article! Most of the churches I’ve attended in my life have had some components of this theology. Many pastors put conditions on it, and they hint at or outright preach those conditions nearly every service, confusing and causing doubt in the person who has believed on Jesus by faith alone. Perhaps this is one of Satan’s greatest tools against the gospel and the believer in Jesus. Very sad that LS has crept into so many churches all over the US.

  9. Angela,

    Welcome and thanks for your discerning note. You are here with many other free Grace friends whom we appreciate.

    Yes, it is a shame so many churches of all sorts are ignorantly (or maybe on purpose) falling for the LS/Calvinist lie. But we are so thankful that there are some like you who recognize the error and don’t mind speaking out against it — and boldly proclaiming that “ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 1:3b) The Gospel of our salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

    Please come back often.

    In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

  10. Welcome Glenn – great to see you here…! Wow, you just devoured that book. I really appreciated it too, wished I had gotten in hard copy vs. kindle, except I like the highlighting capabilities. “Secure Forever! God’s Promise or our perseverance?” Great book by Thomas Cucuzza, highly recommend.

    There are some free articles by Tom on this site too!

  11. Angela – I sure could not have put my finger on it years ago when attending a Billy Graham crusade. I remember wondering why, why, was I not getting it, like all the others? Just didn’t sound right, and it didn’t resonate with me, but I was too naive to know back then. Too many places teaching it, not my church, but it sure sounded “off”, I just could not say what it was…

  12. good morning,

    Great site – every once in a while I chime in with 2 cents.

    Point #2 – even the devils believe and tremble. James didn’t say that at all. Go back to verse 18 – ye a MAN may say…..James has created an imaginary MAN who said verses 18 and 19. In verse 20 – James responds to the MAN,—v20 – but wilt thou know O vain MAN.

    It is human vain-ity to think we have anything to offer God for salvation.

    At least; that’s my interpretation.

    God Bless,

    Preston

  13. Preston, thank you for your excellent insight!

    i interpret this the same way you do – an imaginary man.

  14. Preston, John

    I’ve never seen those verses interpreted that way. Great insight!

  15. Jesse, I first read that interpretation at Clear Gospel Campaign. It is an interpretation I agree with, not original thought on my part. See excerpts below:

    “There are two clauses offered in verse 18. In them, the “Fool” (the imaginary disputer of James) invokes a debate with “you,” The term “you” may refer back to James (as if the disputer is debating with James), or the imaginary disputer may be creating his own imaginary disputer (“Disputer 2″)…

    Firstly, it appears that these are the words of the fool, since it is not until the next verse that James resumes his reply, which begins by addressing the fool. The words of a fool are hardly the foundation on which to build a doctrine of eternal salvation.

    Secondly, demons can’t be saved since Jesus never died for their sins. Those who seek to apply this verse to eternal salvation seem to be unaware of the role that the death of Christ played in our redemption. Faith’s inability to save demons is not due to the sinfulness of demons, but that Jesus did not pay for their sins through his death. He paid for the sins of Adam’s race. Jesus never died for the sins of any demon.

    Thirdly, Scripture teaches that to redeem someone, the redeemer must be a kinsman of the redeemed. Mankind is a race. That is, we are all fallen descendents of Adam.

    Therefore, Jesus, by being born into Adam’s race, became the kinsman redeemer for all of Adam’s race. In this way, he was able to redeem all of mankind. In contrast to Adam’s race, angels and demons are not a race. They do not reproduce and have offspring. Each angel was a separate creation of God. They are unrelated by blood. Therefore, even if Christ were to decide to redeem fallen angels, he would have to take on the flesh of each demon separately, dying countless times for countless demons.

    Fourthly, since demons can’t reproduce, there is no way for Jesus to be born as a descendent of any demon. And without a kinsman redeemer, demons cannot be saved. In short, demons are beyond redemption.

    Fifthly, unregenerate minds who seek to formulate some bizarre argument for salvation by works from verse 19 clearly don’t understand the gospel…

    For at least these five reasons, only a fool would look to James 2:19 to formulate their doctrine of eternal salvation.”

  16. I just realised the point Preston made about the demons.

    James 2:18-20 says:

    18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

    19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

    20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

    Am I to assume to we can put quotation marks just before the Thou hast faith in verse 18, and then ending the quote at tremble in verse 19?

    If this is so, I’m still struggling with the point the imaginary man is making by bringing up the devils belief and trembling in verse 19.

    Why does the man make this point?

    Why is this relevant in the context?

    If someone can help me with this final piece of the puzzle, I’ll buy you an imaginary cupcake.

    It is the only part of this difficult text I can’t seem to ‘get’.

  17. Beholdason, I thought you might like the following from Clear Gospel (There are a couple of glitches in the text that I couldn’t iron out. And, the last paragraph is sarcasm – he is not praising John MacArthur):

    The second problem with verses 18-19 is that it is not clear from the Greek manuscripts exactly where the disputer’s words end and James’ analysis resumes. The quotation marks are added to the English text, but do not appear in the Greek language, and their placement is a matter opinion by any team of translators. It was a common form of rhetoric in classical Greek to invent a disputer, allow him to advance an argument, and then show the error of his reasoning. And in many classical examples, the words of the imaginary disputer continue until the writer again addresses him. If James were following this classical Greek style, the quotation marks would extend all the way to the end of verses 18-19, after which James again addresses the imaginary disputer. But the placement of the quotation marks remains uncertain. The disputer’s words could end after verse 18, where the quotation marks are usually found in most translations, or even after the first sentence of verse 18.

    Perhaps the difficulty in interpreting these verses is that theologians assume that some sort of logical argument is being advanced by the fool, and then refuted by James. But before we beat our brains out interpreting verses 18 and 19, it is important to remember that, whatever they may mean, in verse 20, James tells us that they are the hypothetical ramblings of an imaginary “fool”.

    Let us therefore look also at verse 19 and 20 and, based on that analysis, offer a paraphrase of these three verses as a unit.

    James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble!

    Whatever this verse means, it does not form a foundation for the doctrine of soteriology.

    Firstly, it appears that these are the words of the fool, since it is not until the next verse that James resumes his reply, which begins by addressing the fool. The words of a fool are hardly the foundation on which to build a doctrine of eternal salvation.

    Secondly, demons can’t be saved since Jesus never died for their sins. Those who seek to apply this verse to eternal salvation seem to be unaware of the role that the death of Christ played in our redemption. Faith’s inability to save demons is not due to the sinfulness of demons, but that Jesus did not pay for their sins through his death. He paid for the sins of Adam’s race. Jesus never died for the sins of any demon.

    Thirdly, Scripture teaches that to redeem someone, the redeemer must be a kinsman of the redeemed. Mankind is a race. That is, we are all fallen descendents of Adam.

    Therefore, Jesus, by being born into Adam’s race, became the kinsman redeemer for all of Adam’s race. In this way, he was able to redeem all of mankind. In contrast to Adam’s race, angels and demons are not a race. They do not reproduce and have offspring. Each angel was a separate creation of God. They are unrelated by blood. Therefore, even if Christ were to decide to redeem fallen angels, he would have to take on the flesh of each demon separately, dying countless times for countless demons.

    Fourthly, since demons can’t reproduce, there is no way for Jesus to be born as a descendent of any demon. And without a kinsman redeemer, demons cannot be saved. In short, demons are beyond redemption.

    Fifthly, unregenerate minds who seek to formulate some bizarre argument for salvation by works from verse 19 clearly don’t understand the gospel. The great “shma”%u2014that “God is one” — is not a soteriological formula of the New Testament. The New Testament formula for salvation is that Christ died for our sins and arose again on the third day.

    For at least these five reasons, only a fool would look to James 2:19 to formulate their doctrine of eternal salvation.

    But I guess that’s the point James makes in the very next verse, isn’t it?

    James 2:20 “But do you not know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”

    From these facts, we offer the following interpretation or paraphrase of verses 18, 19, and 20.

    Verse 18: The fool, according to the majority of Greek manuscripts, argues that works are the automatic and certain result of faith. (A popular belief today as well.)

    Verse 19: The fool advances this argument by saying that demons believe, but do not have good works, and that this is how we know that demons are not really saved.

    Verse 20: James calls the man a fool for at least seven reasons. Firstly, the fool has tried to set up a logical alternative, but repeated the same proposition twice in verse 18. Secondly, works are not the “automatic” result of trusting Christ.

    If they were automatic, they wouldn’t be called “work.” Finally, the disputer’s “proof” of his argument (that demons are not saved), is not a proof, but a theologically idiotic statement for the reasons stated above in conjunction with verse 19. James calls him a fool.

    ANALYSIS

    Why does James, in the middle of a plea to help the poor, present an idiotic soteriological argument and then reject it as foolish? It is clear that James wants to stress the importance of charitable works, particularly in light of the distress in Jerusalem and the outlying areas. It is also clear that James wants to use irony to convey this passion. He may even be a little annoyed with the number of Christians that were so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good.

    But if James were to express any criticism toward the authentic gospel, he would be a self condemned heretic.

    And although he was enflamed with passion for the poor, he was also in love with Jesus Christ, and would never attack the gospel simply to help the poor.

    Perhaps the same heretical belief that permeates the church today, that faith automatically results in works, was present in the time of James. So, in one short passage:

    James presents, and then condemns, the warped “works are automatic” of the imaginary fool; James ensures that his ironic style was not taken to be an attack on the true gospel; and James avoids getting knee deep into a discussion of soteriology. Because James does not wish to divert his focus (the poor), he sets up a “straw man” of manifestly stupid theology. That way, he is able to simply dismiss the statements as the ramblings of a “fool,” and return to his foundational premise, that when the poor are starving in the streets, it is not faith that will save them. Faith without works is dead.
    ALTERNATIVE HUERISTICS

    Heuristic 1: James briefly raises the objection, dismisses it, and then returns to his theme . . . that faith without works is dead. Faith cannot deliver a cold and starving man from physical death if it does not have works, and all the philosophizing in the world won’t change that.

    Heuristic 2: James calls the disputer a fool for believing that works automatically follow faith. And then, James adopts this position himself, teaching works “automatically” follow faith, and that if one does not have works, they were “never really saved,” but simply had “dead faith.”

    Although Heuristic 2 should, by now, appear patently absurd to persons of average intellect, long after James’ death, it would go on to become a popular theological position.

    Eventually, that resourceful twentieth century expositor, John MacArthur, would go on to divine roughly 48 different varieties of faith in the passages of Holy Scripture, all from the single Greek root “pisteuo,” such as dead faith, living faith, professing faith, possessing faith, saving faith, faith that works, faith that claims to be authentic but does not have works, etc. etc.

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