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How Faith Works

This article originally appeared in the September 22, 1989, issue of Christianity Today. We are republishing it today because its themes have erupted again this month amid discussion of Alan Chambers's views on grace, salvation, and sexual ethics.

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We call Jesus both "the Savior" and "the Lord."

How does our obedience (treating him as Lord) relate to our salvation (accepting him as Savior)? Christians seem to have difficulty sorting out that relationship. And with this difficulty comes doctrinal conflict and, occasionally, harsh words: legalism, works righteousness, easy believism, cheap grace.

After a debate over "Lordship Salvation" burst into flame once more, Christianity Today sought a senior theologian to analyze the issues and give guidance to our readers. Here S. Lewis Johnson Jr., veteran teacher of New Testament and theology, reviews the basics of our beliefs about grace and faith and sets the debate over Lordship Salvation in the context of classic evangelical teaching.

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The phases through which the issue of "Lordship Salvation" passes may be likened to those of a volcano. The issue often lies dormant for years, but then it suddenly erupts violently. Unfortunately, unlike volcanoes, the issue of Lordship Salvation refuses to grow extinct. The issue is still active, emitting the smoke and sulfurous fumes of controversy.

The forerunner of the current debate erupted in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two well-known evangelicals, Everett F. Harrison and John R. W. Stott, debated the issue in Eternity magazine in September 1959. Harrison was the first professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary and Stott was at the time rector of All Souls Church in London. Harrison took the position that, while the ...

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