by Phil Johnson
You'll notice from the link in our right-hand sidebar that the current theme on the Pulpit blog is "lordship salvation." We're not going to entertain a debate on that subject here at PyroManiacs. Our friend Antonio and others who want to engage me on that subject can take it over to Pulpit. There's no point in letting it spill over here.
Here's why I have so little patience with hard-core advocates of no-lordship doctrine: I've spent a number of years dealing with this issue, and I am tired of going back to square one with people who haven't really studied the doctrine in earnest. The careful arguments that have been made against Zane Hodges' system have never really been answered by him or his devotees. The current wave of interest in no-lordship doctrine does not, in my opinion, stem from any serious or careful reflection on the issues. All it seems to signify is that there is a new generation of young antinomian zealots who have not yet seriously considered the overwhelming mass of biblical evidence against their position.
Anyway, I'm sure all that ground and more will be thoroughly covered over at Pulpit. Here at PyroManiacs, I want to make a brief series of posts simply describing my own involvement in the lordship debate and recounting how I came to be involved in it. This is part 1:
was converted to biblical Christianity during my final semester in high school. I had grown up in an extremely liberal United Methodist Church, where I had no exposure whatsoever to evangelicalism. Frankly, I don't remember ever hearing anything about the gospel in all those years in the Methodist church.
I always assumed "salvation" was a Baptist idea, irrelevant to a born-and-bred Methodist like me.
From my junior-high years on, I also got the distinct impression from most of my Sunday-School teachers that all religions are basically valid and that the Bible is not to be taken seriously.
My involvement with Christianity was cultural rather than personal. I had no concept of my need for personal salvation and no true awareness of my own sin. I had occasionally heard Christians talk about being "born again"but I had always associated that sort of conversion experience with derelicts and religious fanatics. As far as I know, we didn't have a single person in our Methodist church who ever claimed to be "saved" from anything, much less redeemed from sin's condemnation.
So my own conversion came as a great surprise to me.
It occurred one night when I was feeling particularly dastardly about something I had done, so I decided to do something religious to make up for it. Since it was already after 10:00 PM and everyone in the household was in bed, the only religious thing I could think to do was read my Bible.
That was something I never did. I doubt I had ever read more than a verse or two of Scripture at a time. I usually just flopped the Bible open and read a couple of verses at random, figuring whatever my eyes lit on must be the message God had for me at the time. That was the only way I knew to use the Biblepretty much the way people use the astrology column in the daily newspaper.
I suppose that also explains why the Bible never seemed to make a great deal of sense to me.
Anyway, on that particular night, April 15, 1971, I happened to flip open to the first page of 1 Corinthians. And since I was feeling especially in need of a significant act of penance that night, the thought occurred to me that I might actually try to read the entire epistle.
I had never read a full book of Scripture. So I checked it, and since it was less than 30 pages, I decided I could probably handle that much in one night.
Thus, feeling quite pleased with myself for the magnitude of the religious deed I was about to do, I started to read.
The first thing that happened was that my pride was repeatedly trampled by things I read in the first few chapters. I started encountering statements like this: "It is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent" (1 Corinthians 1:19).
Now why would God say that? I wondered. Why doesn't He condemn the foolishness of the world instead? Then I saw this:
The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence (1 Corinthians 1:25-29).I remember thinking, I'm in deep trouble.
But 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 completely pulverized me: "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."
I remember suddenly realizing for the first time that I was utterly condemned before Godnot only because of the bad things I had done, but because He hated even the best things about me. I had always thought my own goodness would make me acceptable to God. I considered myself an enlightened personmorally upright (basically); politically conservative (which was unusual indeed for teenagers in my era); and spiritually savvy (after all, I had gone to Sunday School almost every Sunday of my life so far).
So I was shocked and crushed to read in Scripture that God hates worldly wisdom. Even though I was not familiar with Isaiah 64:6, it suddenly became very clear to me that "we are all as an unclean thing, and [even] our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."
I know today that it was the Holy Spirit who illuminated those truths for me. He used the Word of God to grip my heart and wring it until I despaired of all hope. And I still remember vividly the sheer misery I felt that night, realizing the awful truth that I was condemned before God, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself out from under His condemnation.
Now, 1 Corinthians is probably one of the last books you would recommend to an evangelistic prospect, but the Word of God is a powerful discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And as I read on, it was as if God used what little I could understand of that epistle to open my eyes and show me the Christ revealed in Scripture for the first time in my life.
I continued reading until I reached these words in 1 Corinthians 12:3: "No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3).
I didn't understand the full meaning of that text at the time, but I knew that whatever else was wrapped up in it, it meant that Jesus is Lord. And I understood that that meant I needed to acknowledge His right to rule my life and yield to Him as my Lord.
In my heart that very night I turned, left my own plans and ambitions behind, and followed Christ. My life has never been the same, and I have never wished to return to the way things were before Christ saved me.
Stay tuned for more...