Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 4:8; 10:13)
There is always danger in trying to condense deep theological concepts into catchy phrases. Such is the case with the title of this article. “Lordship salvation” is a nebulous term that means different things to different people. Some may consider that it implies a “works” based salvation where the individual has to make Jesus “Lord” by following some undetermined regimen of “good works” in order to earn one’s salvation. Such an idea is ludicrous when measured against Scripture. The Bible is clear that “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3; 53:3; Romans 3:10). The fact of the matter is that the lost person is incapable of making such a choice of his own volition. As the Psalms suggest, they are fools (Psalm 14:1; 53:1) because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Obviously any recognition of Christ’s deity necessarily implies His Creatorship and Sovereignty over His creation, including individuals at the individual level. Thus, to “confess” that Jesus is LORD” involves a voluntary acceptance of the reality that He is the Master of all creation, including me. (JJSJ)
On the other hand, the Bible does teach that Jesus must be Lord of your life otherwise you cannot be saved. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “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” (Romans 10:9). This does not give a long list of things that must be done to earn salvation, but there seems to be no option other than to “confess” (i.e., profess/proclaim/acknowledge) Jesus Christ as Lord. That word “confess” is the compound Greek word homologeō: homo meaning “same,” and logos, meaning “something said.” So in essence, “confess” means to agree with what is said, i.e., that Jesus is Lord.
[A] saving belief/affirmation/acceptance (recognizing Who the Lord Jesus Christ really is, in relation to me, a sinner) is not the same thing as thinking that a “service commitment” (i.e., a promise to serve/surrender) to Him is being exchanged for “salvation” – any such “deal” would be an attempt to gain (or keep) salvation by human efforts/deeds/works/commitments/discipleship/etc., which is a losing formula soteriologically speaking. Sinners do not qualify themselves for salvation by promising to serve Christ – that would be exchanging salvation for a (promised) life of service/worship, negating the Biblical doctrine of redemption as a divine gift of pure grace. (JJSJ)
Paul in his letter to the Philippians says, “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). Paul expresses lordship salvation this way: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). To the Philippians he writes:
10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)
That is Paul’s picture of “lordship salvation” – to die to self and live for Christ. He does not have to live his life that way in order “to be saved,” but rather because he “is saved,” and Jesus has “apprehended” him. He lives this way because “Jesus is Lord,” and Paul recognized that fact and subjected himself to the Lordship of Christ.
Romans 14:8 sums it up pretty well: “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” Jesus Christ is Lord, whether we submit to His Lordship or not. But salvation is by grace alone. There is nothing one can do to earn it (Ephesians 2:8-9), but once we are saved we submit to His Lordship “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
 Dr. James J. S. Johnson is Chief Academic Officer for the Institute for Creation Research School of Biblical Apologetics and my good friend.