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Historic Baptist Doctrine, Receiving Christ as both Savior and Lord or the So-Called Lordship Salvation, and the So-Called Free Grace Gospel
What have Baptists historically believed about how a sinner receives the gospel? Have they thought that repentance and faith involve turning from sin to Christ and receiving Him as both Lord and Savior, or have they believed that one receives Him first as a Savior from the penalty of sin alone, only becoming free from the power of sin later at the time of a post-conversion consecration when one for the first time surrenders to Christ as Lord? Have Baptists boldly preached and taught that surrender to Christ’s Lordship is part of coming to Him for salvation, or have they denounced this idea as salvation by works? Let us see.
“Unfeigned repentance is an inward and true sorrow of heart for sin, with sincere confession of the same to God, especially that we have offended so gracious a God and so loving a Father, together with a settled purpose of heart and a careful endeavor to leave all our sins, and to live a more holy and sanctified life according to all God’s commands.” (The Orthodox Creed, Baptist, 1679)
“This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, does, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrancy, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.” (London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689)
“This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency; praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavor by supplies of the Spirit to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.” (Philadelphia Confession of Faith, Baptist, 1742; as illustrated here, many later Baptist creedal statements simply reproduce the statements found in earlier statements such as the London Baptist or New Hamphsire Baptist Confessions.)
“We believe that in order to be saved, sinners must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance and faith and newness of life . . . We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour. . . . We believe that sanctification is the process by which according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration . . . real believers . . . endure unto the end . . . their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors.” (New Hampshire Confession of Faith of 1833).
Baptists have historically taught that coming to Christ involved repentance, and repentance includes “a settled purpose of heart . . . to leave all our sins, and to live a more holy and sanctified life according to all God’s commandments.” They taught that “saving repentance” includes “a purpose . . . to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things.” They confessed that saving faith involves “receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as . . . King,” that “sanctification” begins at “regeneration,” not at a post-conversion crisis where one for the first time receives Christ as Lord, and that “real believers endure unto the end” in “their persevering attachment to Christ.” No Baptist statements of faith ever denounced these extremely widespread and widely adopted confessional statements as teaching works salvation, as front-loading works to the gospel, or anything of the sort.
Thus, it is very clear that Baptists have historically believed that coming to Christ for salvation involves receiving Him as both Lord and Savior. Baptists have, of course, also historically believed grace is free and undeserved, but the so-called “free grace” or anti-Lordship position invented in modern times is a historical deviation and corruption of Baptist teaching.
While the point of this particular study is a an examination of Baptist historical theology, not Biblical exegesis, the Baptist confessional statements above are entirely Biblical; they correctly define and defend repentance and faith, as the Biblical studies of these ideas here and here demonstrate.
Individuals and congregations that repudiate the historic Baptist doctrine that conversion involves receiving Christ as both Lord and Savior for the modern-day corruption of gospel in the so-called “free grace” movement ought to either repent of their sinful perversion of the gospel or ought to be honest and repudiate the designation “Baptist.” If you, dear reader, call yourself a Baptist, but you cannot give a hearty “Amen!” to the confessional statements above, you ought to repent of your error and return to the gospel proclaimed by your forefathers in the true churches of Christ. If you are unwilling to do so, but prefer to continue within the so-called “free grace” movement, please stop confusing people by calling yourself a Baptist. Either leave your Baptist church, or if the entire church has been infected with your views, please re-name your religious organization. Become “Another Gospel Assembly” or “New Teaching Congregation” or “Dallas Seminary Memorial Community Church” or “Ryrie and Hodges Memorial Chapel” or “Curtis Hutson Community Church” or “First Church of Hyles.” You aren’t a Baptist, and you don’t preach the Baptist gospel. Why pretend that you are what you are not? Admit that you have repudiated the historic Baptist and Biblical gospel, leave the true churches of Christ alone, and go on your own separate way in your new and false perversion of the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior.
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More Resources on Soteriology: The Biblical Doctrine of Salvation