What can we learn about “Lordship salvation” from Abraham?

That “Lordship salvation” is false.

Abraham’s salvation is good to examine when discussing Lordship salvation because his imputed righteousness (Gen. 15:6) is mentioned in the New Testament as an example of our salvation. We find his salvation, on the one hand, as a proof of righteousness by faith without works (Rom. 4:3-6). Yet, we find the same imputed righteousness, on the other hand, used to demonstrate the need for faith and works (Jas. 2:20-24). Therefore, Abraham should be the perfect example for Lordship salvation, since Lordship salvation teaches the unmerited gift of eternal life while requiring the Christian to manifest his righteousness by works.

Abraham was, indeed, a great man of faith (Heb. 11:8-19), even called by God, “the father of all them that believe,” (Rom. 4:11). His great display of that faith came when he willingly offered up Isaac to the Lord (Gen. 22:1-14). So, we are certainly not trying to take anything away from the greatness of “the Friend of God,” (Jas. 2:23). But a little closer examination of some of the other events in Abraham’s life will reveal that there were numerous times when the Lord was not “the Lord of all” of Abraham.

You see, the doctrine of Lordship salvation teaches that if “the Lord is not Lord of all, he’s not Lord at all.” In other words, you must be totally surrendered to God in all areas of your life or else you are not saved. If that teaching were true, then poor old Abraham would have failed the standard of righteousness for Lordship salvation, because he took back control of his life on several very important occasions.

For instance, after righteousness was imputed to Abraham in Gen. 15:6, he worked out a deal with Sarai to have a baby by Hagar, his handmaid (Gen. 16). The consequence of this faithless blunder was the birth of Ishmael, who was born when Abraham was 86 years old. Because of this lack of faith, God did not appear to Abraham again until he was 99 years old (Gen. 17:1). That cost him 13 years of fellowship with his friend.

When God promised Abraham that Sarah would bear his child, he “fell upon his face, and laughed,” (Gen. 17:17). He even asked God to accept Ishmael instead, questioning in his heart whether Sarah would really have a baby. He wasn’t surrendered to God here.

Then after God had opened her womb, Abraham took Sarah down to Gerar (Gen. 20). He lied about his wife, calling her his sister, and let King Abimelech take her to his house. He had already tried this trick down in Egypt (Gen. 12), so he was acting just like he used to before having righteousness imputed to him. He couldn’t even trust God enough to keep him alive for Sarah to conceive (Gen. 20:11). God had to providentially intervene to keep Abraham’s scheme from messing up the promised seed (Gen. 20:6, 18).

Finally, after Isaac was born, Sarah said it was time for Ishmael to go. But Abraham was so grieved about having to kick Hagar and Ishmael out of the house that God had to tell Abraham to get over it and let them go, “for in Isaac shall thy seed be called,” (Gen. 21:9-12).

So, you see that while Abraham is a splendid example of imputed righteousness for a New Testament Christian, he doesn’t make a very good example of Lordship salvation, after all. There were too many incidents in his life where he was not surrendered wholly to the Lord. The Lord was not “the Lord of all.” The whole time, Abraham had imputed righteousness, but his outward works didn’t always manifest it. In fact, they often manifested the life of a lost man.

If these modern Lordship salvation preachers had been around in Abraham’s day, they would have been trying to preach him back under conviction about his soul so they could get him saved. They would have been saying, “You can’t tell me that a man can be saved and do the things that man is doing (e.g., sleeping with another woman, laughing at and questioning God, lying about his wife and letting her go live in another man’s house, and so forth).”

Hence, the trouble with Lordship salvation is that it causes ordinary Christians who struggle with sin in certain areas of their lives to believe that they are lost when they are really saved. It keeps them and others judging their salvation by their actions. And the actions don’t always reveal the true condition of the heart.

Hope this helps,

Pastor Bevans Welder