Book Review: “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ” by John MacArthur

Title: “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ”
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Pages: 139
ISBN: 978-1-4002-0416-8
Rating: 5/5 (with caveat)

I’m a little surprised there is any controversy over the doctrine of lordship salvation. I would think that 1 John and Matthew 7:15-23 and 12:33-37 make it very clear that a profession of faith is not the only sign of who is a believer. Faith is the only thing that justifies, but I think those passages of Scripture show that genuine faith shows itself in part by the actions it produces, such as repentance. This idea is the premise of MacArthur’s book. As he says very early on, “[J]ustification never occurs alone in God’s plan. It is always accompanied by sanctification” (4).

MacArthur spends a good deal of the book explaining this aspect of lordship salvation, that there is a problem when Christians look like the world. Such a lifestyle may demonstrate a failure to submit one’s life to Christ, which is one of the necessary components of salvation (Romans 10:9). He does a good job of explaining and defending that belief, but I want to reiterate here: lordship salvation is not salvation by works. Proponents of this doctrine are not saying that one gains salvation by doing their best to not look like the world. One does not lose salvation because one looks like the world. Rather, there is a good chance that one was not saved to begin with if one looks like the world or does not try to look different from the world.

The other main portion of this book is targeted at believers, urging them to willfully submit every area of their lives to Christ. MacArthur addresses the necessity of submission in suffering and evangelism and other areas of a Christian’s life, noting how those things make us more Christ-like. I am glad for these admonitions, because they remind me that the doctrine of lordship salvation is not just about determining whether or not people may be saved. Believers need to submit to Christ on a daily basis, putting to death the flesh and renewing our minds through washing by the Word.

Because of that, I would recommend this book to all believers. It is a good explanation of lordship salvation, showing how this belief is derived from the exposition of Scripture. It is easy to read and accessible–MacArthur’s tone is conversational, rather than academic. I would say, tongue in cheek, that his writing style here is almost too informal; he uses phrases such as, “No doubt you’ve heard a zillion devotionals on ‘taking up your cross'” (40). This informality can lead to some questions, such as when he states that “[w]e must remember that God is Lord of the universe, and He can do whatever He wants” (9). This is true, but I would have appreciated a bit of theology to explain that God’s character is such that He will not act unjustly because He cannot. This sentence, unexplained as it is, could be construed as support for a tyrannical God, which He is not. These issues, however, are minor, particularly when the brevity and audience of this book are considered.

One of the most helpful sections to me was the last one, which is about the assurance of salvation. Pastor MacArthur does an excellent job of showing how assurance is not a product of only objective knowledge or only subjective knowledge. Assurance is not only a result of being able to state promises in Scripture that we cannot be snatched out of His hand (John 10:29), nor is it only about internal assurances that only the individual can know. In this section he takes a look at the book of 1 John and gives a few criteria that the apostle John gives so that we may “know that [we] have eternal life” (5:13). This section makes for an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about the assurance of salvation: not lengthy enough to be overwhelming, but long enough to be complete.

Here is the caveat: This book may not be comprised of any new material. According to the copyright page, the book is

[c]ompiled from previously published material in The God Who Loves, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, The Vanishing Conscience, Hard to Believe, The Truth War, and The Gospel According to the Apostles.

Nevertheless, the material contained therein is coherently centered around the issue of grace and it is biblical and expository, and it is on those bases that the book receives its rating. I would recommend that you read this book and consider the lordship of Christ to what Scripture has to say. If you are looking for a short primer on lordship salvation, this is it. I hope you will be convinced of the commitment to Christ that Christianity requires.

(This book was provided free for review from BookSneeze®, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own. In the interest of full disclosure, John MacArthur is my pastor-teacher at Grace Community Church.)


2 responses to “Book Review: “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ” by John MacArthur

  1. You said ‘Faith (and repentance) is the only thing that makes someone a believer’. But John 3: 16 says it is by faith alone that we are born again, not by adding repentance! Also, faith doesn’t make one a believer because faith is actually belief; faith results in salvation!

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for pointing that out! Now that I read it again, that statement is indeed inaccurate, and thus unhelpful. What I meant to reflect was the necessity of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4, 1:15; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38), but I was mistaken in including that in that sentence. Moreover, you are right about what makes one a believer–regenerating grace is the only thing that makes someone a believer! To have faith is to be a believer. I was using it in the colloquial sense of “saved; Christian.” I’ll change that part of the sentence to “Faith is the only thing that justifies…” Thanks for bringing that to my attention! It’s a good reminder to me to aim for accuracy and clarity when I write.

      Merry Christmas!


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