While the debate can become very doctrinal and theological, it has many practical implications. When believers evangelize the lost, should they tell who they are witnessing to that they need to repent? One advocate of the free grace view clearly stated his answer, "If an unbeliever asks if he must give up his sinful ways to have eternal salvation, tell him no. The only condition is faith in Christ" (Robert N. Wilkins in "Appendix B" of Radmacher, Salvation, 247). This is simply not the way Jesus and the apostles presented the gospel. Neither should this be our message. As Delos Miles says, "The intention of evangelism is to convert persons and structures to the lordship of Jesus Christ. . . . The evangelist is a change agent, dealing first and foremost with that change called repentance. The most profound change any person can ever experience is biblical repentance" (Delos Miles, "The Lordship of Christ: Implications for Evangelism," Southwestern Journal of Theology 33 no. 2: 46).
For a person to be saved, he must submit to Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9, cf. Matt 7:21-23). The free grace view tries to bypass this by saying a person needs to recognize that Jesus is Lord, but there is no need to submit to Him as Lord for salvation. When speaking of Romans 10:9, Livingston Blauvelt argues, "Paul wrote in Romans 10:9 that unbelieving Jews must confess that Jesus is the Lord—that He is God Himself. The emphasis here is not on making Jesus Lord (Master) of one's life but on recognizing His true identity—that He is God" (Livingston Blauvelt Jr., "Does the Bible Teach Lordship Salvation?" Bibliotheca Sacra 143: 39-40). MacArthur counters by saying, "Jesus as Lord is far more than just an authority figure; He's also our highest treasure and most precious companion. We obey Him out of sheer delight" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 30). MacArthur is right. A person cannot separate recognition of Jesus' authority from submission to His authority (Luke 6:46-49). As a result, in evangelism a believer needs to make sure that the person he or she is witnessing to understands that submission to Jesus' lordship is a necessary element of faith and trust in Him.
Finally, Christians need to realize that works are an inevitable result of a believer's life. This does not mean a Christian will be perfect, but that God will continue to transform him or her into Christlikeness. A true believer will produce fruit (Matt 7:16-20). If a person claims they believe in Christ but have no fruit, this may be an indication that they are not truly saved. They need to hear the full gospel message, including repentance and submission. As John MacArthur maintains, "Faith obeys. Unbelief rebels. The fruit of one's life reveals whether that person is a believer or an unbeliever. There is no middle ground. Merely knowing and affirming facts apart from obedience to the truth is not believing in the biblical sense" (MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, 178). The great commission calls all followers of Christ to "make disciples" (Matt 28:19-20). In evangelism, believers must settle for nothing less.
The debate between the free grace and lordship salvation views is an important one. However, the lordship salvation position is clearly what is advocated in God's Word. As Robert Strimple asserts, "The fact is, . . . that what is now being called lordship salvation is simply historic Protestant theology! What is novel is this present-day opposition to that theology and that gospel" (Robert B. Strimple, "Repentance in Romans," in Horton, ed., Christ the Lord, 19). This novel approach has gained much ground in contemporary evangelicalism, but it is simply not biblical. MacArthur concludes, "No-lordship doctrine inevitably makes the gospel message the object of faith, rather than the Lord Jesus Himself" (MacArthur, Faith Works, 50). This is very unfortunate, and it needs to be corrected. However, when believers understand both sides of the debate, then examine and analyze them with Scripture and reason, and finally discern the implications of this debate in evangelism and witnessing, they can ensure that Christ will be served.
posted at 3:30 PM