Straw Men and Salvation, Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #6)

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

No one was more able to reflect on this transformation than Paul who switched from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ. He was in Christ (a phrase Paul used repeatedly in his epistles to speak of a believer’s spiritual relationship to Christ) because he believed the message of the gospel and was identified by faith with Christ. To be in Christ is to be a new creation. This new creation is brought about by the Holy Spirit, the Agent of regeneration and the Giver of divine birth. God’s new creative work, begun in each one who believes in Christ, will one day be consummated on a universal scale. The old life of slavery to self and sin has gone. The new life of devotion to Christ means that one has new attitudes and actions.

Today’s quote is from Frederick W. Robertson. He said: “Every natural longing has its natural satisfaction. If we thirst, God has created liquids to gratify thirst. If we are susceptible of attachment, there are beings to gratify that love. If we thirst for life and love eternal, it is likely that there are an eternal life and an eternal love to satisfy that craving.”

Our topic today is titled “Straw Men and Salvation (Part 1)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

Differences of opinion often create straw men. The reason is simple: Straw men are easy to demolish.

According to the dictionary, a straw man is “a weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily refuted.”

In the contemporary discussion over the meaning of the Gospel and areas related to it, a number of straw men have been created. In reality these are spurious arguments often raised by proponents of a lordship salvation. Such arguments against those straw men seem more devastating. Realize that a straw man usually is not a total fabrication; it usually contains some truth, but truth that is exaggerated or distorted or incomplete. The truth element in a straw man makes it more difficult to argue against, while the distortion or incompleteness makes it easier to huff and puff and blow the man down.


The first straw man deals with the role of the intellect and knowledge in salvation. Simply stated, it is: The Gospel is a sterile set of facts to which we need only give intellectual assent in order to be saved.

This is the accusation leveled against those who do not hold to so-called lordship/discipleship/mastery salvation. They are accused of teaching that intellectual assent to a set of facts is sufficient for salvation. Sometimes this is labeled “decisional” salvation, for all one needs to do is make an intellectual decision confirmed perhaps by a formula prayer. No one can be saved, says the lordship position, “by a casual acceptance of the facts regarding Jesus Christ.”

What makes this a straw man are words like sterile, intellectual assent, and casual.

Facts are essential. In describing the Gospel he preached, Paul said it was “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” These historical and doctrinal facts are “of first importance,” for without them there is no Gospel.

Do these basic facts about the Gospel require only a casual, academic, or intellectual acceptance in order for one to be saved? Not if one defines faith as the Greek dictionary does: to “be convinced of something” or to “give credence to.” Specifically, to believe in the Gospel is “to put one’s trust in” the Gospel. Being convinced of something or putting one’s trust in the Gospel could hardly be said to be a casual acceptance of something. When a person gives credence to the historical facts that Christ died and rose from the dead and the doctrinal fact that this was for his sins, he is trusting his eternal destiny to the reliability of those truths.

And that is as far from casual as anything could be.

So you see, the argument erected about the non-lordship view is nothing more than a straw man. With such telling words as “sterile” and “only intellectual assent,” opponents can more easily destroy this straw man. Make no mistake, non-lordship people do not say what straw man #1 alleges they say.


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