I believe in a lordship salvation but not in the way or to the degree that it is often taught. Paul, in Romans 10:9, gives this instruction concerning salvation: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus." Therefore, there is a recognition of the lordship of Christ (since we are to confess the Lord Jesus) at the very time of salvation. I believe that this is a natural outcome of faith. Faith is expressed in trust ("In whom ye also trusted" - Ephesians 1:13). To trust is to put full confidence in something. When we trust in the Lord, we are looking to Him for much more than just a ticket to heaven. The lost man is not told to trust that Jesus will save him from hell and take him to heaven. He is told to trust in the Lord. We are to fully lean on Him. Or, said another way, we are to look upon Him as the One in charge; as our Lord.
This explanation discerns between two extremes. One extreme is that often called easy-believism. It usually involves one following a simple formula and saying a formulized prayer. Although this often leads to false conversions, others who are led through this formula are saved. It depends on what is going on in their heart. The problem comes when their faith in the prayer or in following the formula. Their faith must be in the person of Jesus Christ.
True faith also involves a turning from our way to God's way. That is, it is connected with repentance. The word "repent" is often used synonymously with "turn" in the Bible. Paul preached "to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20). Other references connect these two ideas as well.
To repent is to turn from your way and to God's way.
Isaiah 53:6 states, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
We have turned to our own ways. But, to be saved, we must turn from our ways and to the ways of God. The Thessalonians "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Repentance, however, (and this is important) is not the practice of good works or the absence of sin. It is a change in the heart. We do great injustice to salvation when we require a cleaning up from sin as a prerequisite for salvation. When we do this we have fallen into works-salvation. Works are the fruit of true repentance (as in Acts 26:20). However, they come after salvation, not before.
This brings me to the problem I have with the standard teaching of lordship salvation. Many who teach this believe that a person must not only make Jesus Lord by trusting fully in Him and looking to Him, but they must also prove it in their actions by leaving their sins or at least some of their sins before they can be saved. This also is works salvation. If I must do the works of God before I can get saved, then salvation is not by grace but by works (Romans 11:6). Salvation is fully and completely the work of God. However, when someone truly trusts in the Lord and is saved, God works in their life and begins the transformation process.
Some believers grow faster than others. Some, because of hindrances Satan places in their path, hardly grow at all. Some spend a life as carnal Christians, but they must deal with the chastening hand of God. They trusted in Him and thereby chose Him as Lord, but they have not submitted to that lordship in practice. If they were truly saved, they will not lose their salvation. However, they will deal with the consequences. Others grow but show very little visible fruit because of circumstances. Sometimes, people in countries where Christ is little known get saved but do not have a Bible or anyone to lead them in Christian growth. They may misunderstand many things about the truths of God, but they are truly saved.
I say all this to show that we cannot formulize salvation on any level: not in easy-believism and not in lordship salvation. Salvation is not in a plan or recipe; it is in a person and that person is Jesus Christ. We are saved by believing in Him, not by jumping through the right hoops. The question of salvation is not whether or not someone jumped through the correct hoops. That is why people keep "getting saved" over and over again. Every time a preacher defines another hoop, they want to make sure they jumped through that one. Oh, you did not repent when you got saved. Well, you need to be saved. O no, you did not ask God to save you. Then you must be lost. It goes on and on.
The true and ultimate question of salvation is whether or not a person has believed in Jesus Christ. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). Now, granted, this cannot be a superficial or casual belief. That is a given and it must be examined. However, true faith in Christ by definition will include repentance from dead works, a look to Jesus as Lord (even if the person does not understand the terminology), and a calling out to the Lord. But it is still all wrapped up in "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." Anything more is adding to God's free gift of salvation.