Lordship Salvation aka Progressive Sanctification? High fashion, yes, but not for Christians.

jesus is your sanctification

Grant Swart

I needed to jot down just a few more recent thoughts concerning the subject of (progressive) sanctification, as I have seen it gaining in popularity as a subject for discussion in certain circles, particularly I suppose, in the social media. This is additional to my most recent article on the subject at SANCTIFICATION: Why & how can God accept sinners into His Presence?

As a subject, I don’t believe that progressive sanctification should be handled with much kindness. It is a hideous and potentially fatal religious proposition. The highest possible price was paid for it, it belongs to God’s people exclusively, and it should not be allowed to become a plastic accessory to be worn by fashionistas of the commercial free-will religious order.

Free-will, works religion, also known as Arminianism or various forms of synergism, is the highly fashionable religion being practiced by great numbers of churchgoers in these times. Followers of this religious form of worship, under the guise of Christianity, now crowd the pews of the great majority of what were once, Biblical and God-fearing churches.

In these shiny new will-worshipping theatres are man-made pavilions with many steps leading upwards, each step representing a higher level of self-righteousness and perceived holiness on which proud men stand and display their shame before other men, as witness to them worshipping their own efforts and abilities (Col. 2:23).

In order to solicit more support, in the great eagerness of their own driven will, they have named this system of will worship. Some call it “Lordship Salvation”. Even more ostentatiously they might call it “progressive sanctification” and deluded men heap wondrous praise and elevated prestige onto those who put great effort into achieving improved righteousness. These great congregations, having placed themselves under the spiritual governance of the powerful hierarchies and church councils which they have elected for themselves to serve under, often find themselves becoming the victims of their own ill-begotten belief systems when the whip of contrived church discipline inevitably turns on them.

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In another setting and apart from Lordship Salvationists and those who believe that Jesus Christ is not quite enough in sanctification, are a few Christian worshippers remaining in sound evangelical churches, who know God and how He saves sinners by His Almighty free Grace through the finished work of Christ, without any additional effort from the sinner. They know that God does not save righteous, obedient or good men, He saves lost sinners like themselves.

They know that the greater their own efforts are at pleasing God or making themselves more valuable or acceptable to Him, the less their faith will be in the finished and perfect work of Christ. They know that it was for them, that Jesus prayed to His Father in John 17:9, “ I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”

To these few, Jesus Christ is truly Lord and Saviour, not through their own devices, but because God sacrificed His beloved Son for them and caused them to believe in Him.

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Great masses, streaming multitudes of our people are being deceived into thinking that they have salvation, eternal life and acceptance before God because they made a “decision for” Jesus. In tragic desperation they actually believe that salvation is theirs because they responded to an altar call, decided to “allow” Jesus into their life, or because they repeated the words of a prayer, or simply said, “I want salvation.”

It is evident that they have no understanding of the teaching of Holy Scripture that faith is a gift and the sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:8-9). This gift can in no way be earned, it is produced in the hearts of the chosen, redeemed sinners by the revelation of Christ in them (2 Cor 4:4-6, Gal 1:15-16), by them having heard the Truth of the Biblical Gospel.

Lordship Salvation, in the current fashionable and religious sense, is the invention of those who need to proclaim a works-based salvation in order to protect their soaring popularity, business interests or to sooth their screaming consciences. It has no part in the Christian life. It is a product of will-worshipping, proud and boastful men. Progressive sanctification is not biblical, it is neither progressive nor is it sanctification. A believer does not gradually become more sanctified, less sinful or more holy in the sight of God. There are no varying degrees of holiness or sin in the sight of God. Holiness is either perfect, or it is unholy and sinful. Partial or progressing perfection never was, or ever will be holiness, it is always sin.

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There is only one holiness that saved sinners can have and it is that which was purchased by the Blood of Christ and which God gives freely to all believers in Christ; and it is perfect holiness and complete sanctification. When we are born again, we have the holiness of Jesus Christ implanted in us. We become partakers of His Holy Nature. That is sanctification. It is not progressive, it is complete in Christ.

Jesus Christ is our holiness, we are fully sanctified by His holiness. Jesus Christ in us is our complete sanctification before Holy God. He is not only our justification, He is our complete sanctification. Am I repeating myself? Good, it was my intention to.

Only those who doubt that the sacrifice of our Precious Lamb the Lord Jesus could have been sufficient to pay for all of our unholiness, and for our complete sanctification, believe that it needs to be improved upon.

Jesus Christ IS our holiness before God. He alone is holy, and God sees only His holiness in the saved sinner. While we are in this world, our flesh, our deeds, our thoughts and our efforts remain sinful and they cannot become progressively more sanctified or valuable by means of our efforts at improving the Perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Saved sinners will grow in love, knowledge of God and His Word, knowledge of Jesus Christ, faith and hope. But, saved sinners have complete sanctification in Christ, it cannot get better than that.  Those who do not have complete sanctification, by the nature of that position, do not have the complete Christ.

There will be many who disagree, and I have made mention of their opposing views. We leave them to climb the steps of their pavilions toward progressive carnality. I hope they don’t stumble or lose their footing on a wet day, as they are relying on their own muscle power, in complete denial of the fact that Jesus Christ did it all perfectly on their behalf.

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I have written in more detail on the subject of Biblical sanctification here: https://fortheloveofhistruth.com/2013/04/04/sanctification-why-how-can-god-accept-sinners-into-his-presence/

13 thoughts on “Lordship Salvation aka Progressive Sanctification? High fashion, yes, but not for Christians.

  1. Hi Grant, Your comment of “Great masses, streaming multitudes of our people are being deceived into thinking that they have salvation, eternal life and acceptance before God because they made a “decision for”Jesus.” There are a few things to consider here,1st of all can you say none of thease people in the “streaming multitudes” were saved? Do you know what they heard in the message that was preached? Do you know their heart or what the Holy Spirit was doing in their life at this time? 2nd What does a response to the gosple look like? We see many excamples of responses in the book of Acts, one is found in chapter 2:36-41 at the end of Peters message in v36 many responded in v37 by asking “Brothers what shall we do” NIV. Peter told them in what to do in v38-39. The result v41 “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” The point is they “accepted” the message. A point I have posed with you in the past is: cannot our mighty God use any means to draw or save the lost that He wants including alter calls? In Acts 1:21-26 they cast lots to pick the next apostle. Is casting lots man made? Just because someone uses the term “allow” or “I want salvation” does this mean God will not save them? See Acts 2:37,16:29-32. Thease are just simple excamples of people responding to the gosple message Eph 2:8-9. PTL it still happens today at different times and in different ways.

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    • Hi Dave. Thank you for commenting and asking again. I am so very pleased that God has placed these questions in your thoughts.

      1st of all can you say none of thease people in the “streaming multitudes” were saved? Do you know what they heard in the message that was preached? Do you know their heart or what the Holy Spirit was doing in their life at this time?

      Any person who believes that they have been saved because of a decision they themselves made, and not because of God’s will and God’s free gift of grace toward that person, is not saved.
      (Ephesians 2:4-9):
      4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
      5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
      6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
      7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
      8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
      9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

      Those within the multitudes who have relied on their own decisions to save themselves, are not saved. If any of those within the multitudes are saved, they are saved because God caused them to be saved. No person will ever want to be saved unless God places that longing into the “heart” and conscience of that person.
      (Rom 3:10-11)
      10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
      11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.

      The content of the message being preached would be irrelevant unless God enables the listener to understand and believe it. The message cannot save the sinner, it is God who saves the sinner and who enables the sinner to understand the Gospel message.
      (1Co 2:14) The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

      …The point is they “accepted” the message

      Of course they accepted the message. They accepted the message because God, by means of His Holy Spirit, enabled them to receive, believe and understand and accept it in their hearts. Do you think they could have over-ruled God’s will and refused to? Could the Apostle Paul have refused to accept God intervening in his life when God struck him with blindness and instruction? Read carefully in verse 41:

      ACTS 2:41

      So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (ESV)

      Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (KJV)

      So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand [a]souls. (NASB)

      Then those who gladly[a] received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (NKJV)

      Clearly there were more people present, but only those who received His word went on to be baptized. Those present whom God did not call, to whom God did not give His Holy Spirit, did not receive His word, and could not accept His word. They were there in the crowds, they were part of the multitudes, but God did not give to them His Holy Spirit. They left that place as unsaved heathen, but those whom God had chosen, were baptized as saved believers.

      A point I have posed with you in the past is: cannot our mighty God use any means to draw or save the lost that He wants including alter calls?

      Yes, you have mentioned this point, and I have responded in kind with much detail. My series of three articles regarding altar calls should also make the position clear. God does not use men, material means, or the inventions of men to draw or save His people. Altar calls are not Biblical prescripts, they are religious shows, God would not use such institutions to save His faithful sheep. God does not require anything from men in order to save His people. Christ is all.

      In Acts 1:21-26 they cast lots to pick the next apostle. Is casting lots man made?

      Nothing exists that was not made or allowed to be made by God. (John 1:3) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. If all things were made by Him, surely casting lots is also a part of all things?

      God chose Matthias, so God caused the lot to fall to Matthias, it was not a matter of the luck of the draw. The apostles present asked God to specifically show them whom He had chosen (Acts 1:24) And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen. Matthias did not apply for the newly vacant position of twelfth apostle, and the apostles did not choose him: God chose him from eternity according to His sovereign will and for His pleasure.

      PTL it still happens today at different times and in different ways.

      Throughout all eternity there has only ever been one way that men are saved: the Messiah, Jesus Christ. There is only one way that men are able to respond to the Gospel: through God’s grace. Salvation is by the Grace of God alone. Grace enables sinners who are called by God to believe and to have faith. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Faith is a gift, we cannot have faith unless God gives us the gift of faith, which is why we cannot decide by ourselves to choose Jesus.

      Which brings us back to what I said, and what you queried: “Great masses, streaming multitudes of our people are being deceived into thinking that they have salvation, eternal life and acceptance before God because they made a “decision for” Jesus.” No person who has ever been saved has made a decision “for” Jesus. God has always made the decisions. Jesus paid the price for our sins and He intercedes on our behalf.

      So, lets summarize:
      God hates sin. Right?
      All men are born in sin. Right?
      Death is the penalty for sin. Right?
      Because all men are born in sin, all men are dead. Right?
      How can a dead man respond or decide to choose Jesus? He cannot.
      How can a dead man atone for his sin? He cannot.
      What can we do then? Nothing
      So, how do we get life? Jesus paid for our sin and Jesus gives life to those who have Him.
      Who are those who have Jesus? Those whom God decides to save.
      What happens to those who try to make a decision for Jesus? They go to hell.
      What happens to those who God decides to give to Jesus? They will be forever in His presence.

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  2. As J C Philpot wrote he called it : The Vain Dream of Progressive Sanctification
    “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
    (John 3:6)

    There is no promise made that in this life, we shall be set free from the indwelling and the in-working of sin.

    Many think that their flesh is to become “progressively holier and holier” — that sin after sin is to be removed gradually out of the heart — until at last they are almost made perfect in the flesh.

    But this is an idle dream, and one which, sooner or later will be crudely and roughly broken to pieces!

    The flesh will ever remain the same — and we shall ever find that the flesh will lust against the Spirit. Our fleshly nature is corrupt to the very core. It cannot be mended. It cannot be sanctified. It is the same at the last, as it was at the first — inherently evil, and as such will never cease to be corrupt until we put off mortality — and with it the body of sin and death.

    All we can hope for, long after, expect, and pray for — is that this evil fleshly nature may be subdued, kept down, mortified, crucified, and held in subjection under the power of grace. But as to any such change passing upon the flesh — or taking place in the flesh as to make it holy — it is but a pharisaic delusion, which, promising a holiness in the flesh, leaves us still under the power of sin.

    The true sanctification of the new man of grace — which is wrought by a divine power — is utterly distinct from any imagined holiness in the flesh — or any vain dream of its progressive sanctification.

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    • Philpot’s words ring true to Scripture, however, they are out of fashion. Modern men and professing Christians have a great need to know that they are in control. And, why shouldn’t they? Is this not what is taught to them from pulpits and in the religious media? I have even been told by a will-worshipper, that it is not wise to say that God is in control, because according to that religion, it could be off-putting to the unbeliever and thereby discourage them from repenting!

      It is unsettling to encounter even in “reformed” circles, the proliferation of Lordship Salvation teaching, which makes for a greatly confused miss-matched theology. As confusing as it may be, nevertheless it is highly fashionable, it makes really good money, it keeps seekers interested and feeling in control of their eternal destiny, it fills churches and makes the preachers look really good.

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  3. Oh how the church is divided today…every one calls the other one names and that they are false..true that there are false teachers and false churches out there some obvious some a nifty work of of deception.so if there is a true church out there which is it?
    If there is one man out there who is a man of God sent to God’s people who is he/she.
    WHO are the true people of God.
    From what i have observed ,the church today is not the church that the apostles started.
    Churches today give themselves names and shut themselves from the world, who will take good news to the world?
    This Am sure about:John 3:16 (KJV)
    16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    We hear we are convicted, we believe then we make a choice to follow or not to follow Jesus Christ.
    Lets not discourage people by saying their choice doesn’t count, rather Lets urge them to pray to the LORD that he finds favor in them and save them.
    John 6:37-40
    King James Version (KJV)
    37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

    38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

    39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

    40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
    But also its is most important that we know that it is not our choice that saves us but God who by his grace and mercy gave us the choice though Jesus Christ our LORD to live.
    Grace is not given unto us so that we may sin and be forgiven.It is given that we may be forgiven when we sin.
    God knows the heart of men and can tell the sheep from the goat.
    Lets ask God to forgive us ,to keep us on our knees, to humble us and keep us from temptation and sin.
    Every soul will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and give account of life on earth.
    GOD BLESS YOU.

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    • Pearson

      Thank you for your considered comment. I would like to comment briefly on a few of the points you made.

      Oh how the church is divided today…

      I firmly believe that it is men who are divided among themselves, on issues that they regard as important. Pride, an affliction which affects all men, is always present and causes division among men. I do not believe that there is any division in the church. In fact I would like to meet the man who has the power to divide that which God has unified in His Son.

      so if there is a true church out there which is it?

      There is only one true church, the universal church of all believers in Jesus Christ. It has no name given to it by men, It is not defined by any man-made denomination, creed, confession, nation, religious system or tradition. The members of the church have all been added by the Lord alone, not by men who have made a decision to join. (Acts 2:47b) … And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

      WHO are the true people of God.

      Over and over, the Word of God is very clear on this matter. Those who are God’s elect, those whom it has pleased God to save, they are the true people of God.

      From what i have observed ,the church today is not the church that the apostles started.

      If we understand that the true church is the universal church of all believers, saved by God’s sovereign grace, then it stands to reason that the church has remained unchanged since the days of the apostles. The churches which man has tried to create throughout the years do not resemble the early church, but the church which is the Lord’s church, has remained and will always remain, unchanged. Any visible church which claims to be the true church, and contains members who are unsaved, is not the true church of our Lord.

      …we believe then we make a choice to follow or not to follow Jesus Christ.

      If that decision and choice was left up to man, heaven would be empty. We do not choose God, God chooses us. No man seeks God, because no man understands. No man has the ability to make a decision for God, because that would simply mean that God is reliant on man. It would mean that Jesus Christ failed to save those who decided to reject Him, and all men reject God, unless He enables them to come to faith in Him.

      Lets not discourage people by saying their choice doesn’t count,

      It is best not to lie to people by telling them that their choice does count. We should not be telling people that God does not have the power to save those whom He has chosen. We should not sell people the story of an impotent and false religious god who is begging people to repent of their sins and choose to come to him. If we tell people such lies, we place them under the false belief that they are saved by the choices they make, and we leave them thinking that they are saved by their own goodness and works, rather being saved by Grace.

      But also its is most important that we know that it is not our choice that saves us but God who by his grace and mercy gave us the choice though Jesus Christ our LORD to live.

      There is nothing in Scripture which supports that God gave us the choice to live or die, by choosing or rejecting Jesus Christ our Lord. We do have the choice to commit sin, or not to commit sin, but we do not have the choice as to whether we are saved or remain lost.

      God knows the heart of men and can tell the sheep from the goat.

      Yes, praise the Lord that He saves His sheep. God created the sheep for His kingdom and He also created the goats for perdition. Or did someone else also have the power to create the goats? If someone else created the goats, then why would they choose to follow God? The heart of all men is wicked, only those whom God calls to faith in His Son have been declared righteous in Him. What did Jesus say about the heart of man? See here (Mark 7:21-23) For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

      Lets ask God to forgive us to keep us on our knees, to humble us and keep us from temptation and sin.

      Amen. With that I can agree.

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    • I would favour the use of the term “imputed” (to ascribe or attribute something to someone), over implanted and infused. However, I guess that, unless someone had a specific penchant for grammatical and linguistic flawlessness, all of these terms could be applied in conveying the message. “Implant” seems to better describe Biblical imputation as it indicates a complete and immediate attribution or allocation of the righteousness of Christ to the believer, whereas infusion seems to allude to a slower, refining or polishing process which might or might not reach completion or perfection and would therefore be contrary to Scripture.

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  4. Five honest questions to the adherents of Progressive Sanctification/Lordship Salvation.

    How do you prove or measure that you are progressing in sanctification?

    Is it something that your church, yourself or society determines?

    Do you compare your personal holiness with others who ho;d the same beliefs?

    If you find that you are not progressing in sanctification, is it up to yourself or God to improve on it?

    At which point have you achieved sufficient sanctification to be saved or to retain your heavenly rewards?

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  5. Great articles on sanctification! I think I need to read them a few more times for it to completely sink in though. It’s hard to let go of some of those old teachings, sometimes I’m not even aware the remnants of some of those things are still in there till I am challenged to take a closer look at what I really believe in comparison to what the Word of God says. Thanks for the challenge.

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  6. Pingback: WILL WORSHIPPER | For the Love of His Truth

  7. Good morning. I would like to point out and get some clarification on something, because my brain is not wrapping around it. You mentioned that Lordship and Arminianism are the same? I’m currently trying to unwrap myself from teachers like MacArthur and his teachers from the Master’s Seminary, and other Lordship Salvationists like Comfort, Sproul, and Piper. However, having learned Predestination and Election from them, I would not say they are Arminiasts at all. They do preach a progressive sanctification process which I’m still researching and trying to understand from a biblical standing, but they don’t preach or teach free will. Also, when someone makes a decision for Christ it isn’t up to us to judge this as whether it is true conversion or not. That is God’s job. One of the things I hate about Lordship Salvationists is that they use their teaching on progressive sanctification to undermine what God may have done in a sinner’s heart. I agree not all are called among them, but some if not many, could be drawn to the Son and begin their walk. If I’m wrong, I’m teachable. But for sure I will save judging someone’s salvation to God for He alone is the Righteous Judge. He alone will say “Get away from Me, I never knew you”, not me and you shouldn’t either in my opinion. Anyway, thanks for any clarification you can give on the above mentioned Lordship/Arminianism teachings. 🙂

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    • Thank you for commenting.

      It is sad that the Lordship Salvation / progressive sanctification teaching was let loose on the unsuspecting part of the church. It certainly has been the root cause of a huge amount of pain, doubt, controversy and confusion. What adds to the weight of the matter, of course, is that it is has been endorsed and elevated by such prominent names such as those you have mentioned. Due to that fact, the false doctrine has been able to influence many other teachers and affect the faith of so many people. It effectively undermines and diminishes the Glory and Sovereignty of our Lord and makes salvation dependent on the efforts of mankind. It places God’s people back into bondage of law and fear, it imprisons again those who have been set free.

      Those prominent teachers you mentioned, have concocted a religious belief system from a mixture of grace and works, resulting in this so-called, Lordship Salvation. A part of what makes it so very confusing, is the fact that they base it on subtle adaptation of Scripture, and the added fact that they preach and write about it, with such a convincing argument. Included in that confusion, is that most of the Lordship Salvationists pose as Calvinists, yet the complete message is nothing other than works-based Arminianism. They have spent years expounding the five points of Calvinism and salvation by Grace, yet they have been able to configure it with an inclusion of progressive sanctification, and that simply cannot be upheld through Scripture. Yes, you are quite right in pointing out what Lordship Salvationists (a nice pseudonym for Will-worshippers), do with their doctrine. As I have said, and you have agreed, Lordship Salvation undermines God’s work in the salvation of the sinner.

      The teachings of the “big names” you have mentioned, (and others related to or products of the Master’s Seminary), on Predestination and Election are correct and mostly Biblically accurate. However, they are incomplete and they stop short of accurately describing salvation by Grace alone, through Faith alone, in Christ alone. I can only assume that it is their inability to set aside their own pride, self-importance and self-righteousness that compels them to insert works (results and outward attributes) into their teachings on grace. MacArthur’s stance on church discipline and his perceived role of the elders/pastor in that matter, is simply shocking and disgraceful and once read and understood for what it is, it brings a little additional clarification to the matter. I hesitate to say it, as it somehow seems an overly harsh criticism, but it certainly seems cult-like. He has become a slave to fame and fortune and he seems to speak proudly of his role as protestant pope.

      You are very close to the crux of the controversy when you mention God’s work in the sinner’s heart! You will notice how Lordship Salvation / progressive sanctification teachings cannot in point of fact allow for that work to be complete in Christ alone. By the very nature of the false doctrine, that work needs to proven by outward actions and tested for authenticity by men. That is simply not biblical and it is grossly heretical. If the work of God needs to be tested for efficacy, authenticity or scope by men, then the work of God must be regarded as subservient to the will of men. If the work of God in the heart of the sinner needs to be maintained by men in order for it to retain its effect, then it is no longer the work of a Sovereign and Almighty God, but the work of a weak and feeble god who in effect is nothing more than a man.

      The Lordship Salvation controversy seems to be a theological minefield and has become an intricate debate, when in essence, the answer is simple. Christ is ALL, salvation by grace alone in Christ alone is perfect and complete. It is that simple.

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