This series is taken from Chafer's Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Volume III, Chapter XX (under Soteriology):
On account of its subtlety due to its pious character, no confusing intrusion into the doctrine that salvation is conditioned alone upon believing is more effective than the added demand that the unsaved must dedicate themselves to do God's will in their daily life, as well as to believe upon Christ. The desirability of a dedication to God on the part of every believer is obvious, and is so stressed in the Sacred Text that many sincere people who are inattentive to doctrine are easily led to suppose that this same dedication, which is voluntary in the case of the believer, is imperative in the case of the unsaved. This aspect of this general theme may be approached under three considerations of it: (1) the incapacity of the unsaved, (2) what is involved, and (3) the preacher's responsibility.
1. The Incapacity of the Unsaved. The Arminian notion that through the reception of a so-called common grace anyone is competent to accept Christ as Savior if he will, is a mild assumption compared with the idea that the unregenerate person, with no common or uncommon grace proffered, is able to dedicate his life to God.
Much has been written on previous pages regarding the overwhelming testimony of the Bible to the utter inability and spiritual death of the unsaved. They are shut up to the one message that Christ is their Savior; and they cannot accept Him, the Word of God declares, unless illuminated to that end by the Holy Spirit. Saving faith is not a possession of all men but is imparted specifically to those who do believe (Eph. 2:8). As all this is true, it follows that to impose a need to surrender the life to God as an added condition of salvation is most unreasonable. God's call to the unsaved is never said to be unto the Lordship of Christ; it is unto His saving grace. With the reception of the divine nature through the regenerating work of the Spirit, a new understanding and a new capacity to respond to the authority of Christ are gained. Those attending upon these issues in practical ways are aware that a self-dedication taxes the limit of ability even of the most devout believer. The error of imposing Christ's Lordship upon the unsaved is disastrous even though they are not able intelligently to resent it or to remind the preacher of the fact that he, in calling upon them to dedicate their lives, is demanding of them what they have no ability to produce. A destructive heresy is abroad under the name The Oxford Movement, which specializes in this blasting error, except that the promoters of the Movement omit altogether the idea of believing on Christ for salvation and promote exclusively the obligation to surrender to God. They substitute consecration for conversion, faithfulness for faith, and beauty of daily life for believing unto eternal life. As is easily seen, the plan of this movement is to ignore the need of Christ's death as the ground of regeneration and forgiveness, and to promote the wretched heresy that it matters nothing what one believes respecting the Saviorhood of Christ if only the daily life is dedicated to God's service. A pseudo self-dedication to God is a rare bit of religion with which the unsaved may conjure. The tragedy is that out of such a delusion those who embrace it are likely never to be delivered by a true faith in Christ as Savior. No more complete example could be found today of "the blind leading the blind" than what this Movement presents.
2. What is Involved. The most subtle, self-satisfying form of works of merit is, after all, found to be an engaging feature in this practice of applying to unbelievers the Lordship of Christ. What more could God expect than that the creatures of His hand should by supposed surrender be attempting to be obedient to Him? In such idealism the darkened mind of the unsaved, no doubt, sees dimly some possible advantage in submitting their lives to the guidance of a Supreme Being—of whom they really know nothing. Such notions are only human adjustments to God and resemble in no way the terms of divine adjustment, which first condemns man and rejects all his supposed merit, and then offers a perfect and eternal salvation to the helpless sinner on no other terms than that he believe on Christ as his Savior.
If the real issue in self-dedication to God is stated in its legitimate though extreme form, the possibility of martyrdom is first in evidence. One who is faithful unto God is enjoined to be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10). Such, indeed, is a glorious challenge to the devout believer and millions have accepted the challenge and suffered a martyr's death; but would any zealous advocate of the idea that the Lordship of Christ must be applied to the unsaved as a condition of salvation, dare to propose to the unsaved that they must not only believe on Christ but be willing to die a martyr's death? The very proposal of such a question serves only to demonstrate the unwisdom and disregard for revealed truth which this error exhibits.
The unregenerate person, because of his condition in spiritual death, has no ability to desire the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14), or to anticipate what his outlook on life will be after he is saved. It is therefore an error of the first magnitude to divert that feeble ability of the unsaved to exercise a God-given faith for salvation into the unknown and complex spheres of self-dedication, which dedication is the Christian's greatest problem.
3. The Preacher's Responsibility. It is the preacher's responsibility, not only to preserve his message to the unsaved from being distorted by issues other than that of simple faith in Christ, but, when speaking to Christians in the presence of the unsaved regarding the issues of Christian character, conduct, and service, to declare plainly that the truth presented has no application to those who are unsaved. Such a reminder, oft repeated, will not only preserve the unregenerate individuals who are present from the deadly supposition that God is seeking to improve their manner of life rather than to accomplish the salvation of their souls, but will also create in their minds the so important impression that they are, in the sight of God, hopelessly condemned apart from Christ as Savior. God alone can deal with a situation wherein a large percentage of the members of the church are unsaved, and yet are habitually addressed as though they were saved and on no other basis than that they belong to the church. It is surprising, indeed, that any unsaved person ever gains any right impression respecting his actual relation to God, when he is allowed to believe that he is included in all the appeals which are made to Christians regarding their daily life. If the importance of attention to this wide difference between the saved and the unsaved is not appreciated and respected by the preacher, the fault is nearly unpardonable since the results may easily hinder the salvation of many souls. Next to sound doctrine itself, no more important obligation rests on the preacher than that of preaching the Lordship of Christ to Christians exclusively, and the Saviorhood of Christ to those who are unsaved.
A suggestion born of this theme is that in all gospel preaching every reference to the life to be lived beyond regeneration should be avoided as far as possible. To attend to this is not a deception nor a withholding of the truth from those to whom it applies. It is the simple adjustment to the limitation and actual condition of those to whom the gospel is addressed. To such among the unsaved who, because of the weakness and inability which they observe in themselves, are fearful lest they would not "hold out" as Christians, it is desirable to remind them that, in the new relation to Christ which will exist after they receive Him, new abilities will be possessed by which they can live to the glory of God. Such proffered assurance is far removed from the practice of introducing obligations which are exclusively Christian in character and as something to which they must consent in order to be saved. Multitudes of unsaved people have been diverted from the one question of their acceptance of Christ as Savior to other questions regarding amusements and unchristian ways of living. As an unsaved person has no motive or spiritual light by which to face such problems, that person can only be bewildered by these issues. His problem is not one of giving up what in his unsaved state seems normal to him; it is a problem of receiving the Savior with all His salvation.