The Parable of the Soils and the (Now Dead?) Lordship Salvation Debate

Isn’t Luke 8 decisive on the question of Lordship salvation?

As I understand it (and I had a little difficulty nailing it down in my research), those who oppose “Lordship salvation”—the Zane Hodges, Charles Ryrie, Grace Evangelical Society side—says that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved, no matter what they do subsequently. In their view, insisting that a new convert take Jesus as Lord and not just Savior (in other words, demanding repentance) is adding “works” to grace.

But Jesus in Luke 8 is willing to say that people who ultimately fall away did in fact “believe.”

Let me quote the whole passage:

And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:4-16)

I preach weekly to people who are living in 1 Corinthians 6 sin and yet say they believe in Jesus. They certainly don’t believe in some other religion; they confess Jesus openly. What good is such a faith? I tell them, with a love they appear to respond to, to repent or face the judgment 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 promises.

Anyone out there on the Hodges/Ryrie side of things care to correct me? I feel like I must be missing something.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

5 thoughts on “The Parable of the Soils and the (Now Dead?) Lordship Salvation Debate”

  1. Mark, I have vacillated back and forth in my interpretation of this parable. There seem to be basically two views of it. Usually, three of the four categories is considered either saved or lost. Obviously, the Lordship view tends to say three of the four are lost, whereas the opposite view says three of the four are saved.

    Now, I have no wish to give false assurance to the person with no evidence of “new creatureliness”, but I wonder if we are trying to prove too much with this parable. Was Jesus trying to teach us something about salvation or something about the present appearance of the kingdom in this dispensation? (I realize that statement by itself can raise all kinds of snakes in other departments of theology.) If we look at the parable as NOT teaching about salvation at all, but simply observing the different effects of the word, in this life, as people respond to it or not. Jesus isn’t focused on eternal destiny here. Should we? If we look at it this way, I think we simplify the parable to its basic point and don’t make it say more than it is intended to say.

    I could be off on this, but I don’t think I would rest my case with this passage. By the way, the seed on the thorny ground is said to be “unfruitful”, not non-existent… and there are vocabulary differences to puzzle over in the parallel passages…

    So mark me down as a definite “maybe” on this one.

  2. Three are saved. Believing means being justified and declared righteous. Fruit is Sanctification. You cannot have justification by sanctification. The two are separate. Position versus condition. Relationship versus fellowship, acceptance versus approval.

  3. Amen u broke salvation down the way it is in the Word. Alot of people and Christians dont understand the Doctrine of soteriology or salvation is what it means. Plus christians can fall away as long as they are in this body. Romans chapter 7 explains it best.

Leave a Reply