“It is possible to believe the promises of God, and have the assurance of salvation, and yet be lost forever.”
— John Piper
In a recent article, You Can Believe the Promises of God and be Lost, John Piper boils salvation down to a work: you have to “enjoy” God enough. Throw out 1 John 4:10. Love God or die. This is the first commandment, and Piper makes it clear: this is the saving law. Obey it and live, transgress it and die. It is the one thing for which the blood of Jesus is insufficient. Belief is not enough. It isn’t the blood of Jesus plus NOTHING which saves us. It is the blood of Jesus plus our genuine enjoyment of God which saves us. He puts it in bold letters and underscores it and makes sure we understand that he is saying it. Belief in Jesus is insufficient. You have to “really” believe by loving God and enjoying Him.
This contrasts with Paul:
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested…
Here is the question: does this idea of the law include the two big ones, love God and love your neighbor, or is Paul kind of lying? Is simple faith enough or not? Do we save ourselves by loving Him, or does He save us? Ironically, the “Lord Lord” guys in Matt 7:23 that Piper refers to repeatedly in the article are making this very error. They thought it was a man-initiated thing, that men control God by their obedience and goodness. But this is not the way. It is God who knows us, not we who know God. He is quite explicit about this in the verse “depart from Me, I never knew you. Our knowledge of Him is a gift of grace, not of works, lest any man should boast. Piper has left room for boasting, in the amount of enjoyment and love we have for God. “Lord Lord, didn’t I enjoy you?” He has made it a saving work.
This is the place so many stumble: they think that we are justified apart from the law, but not apart from THAT law! We still have to love God! Paul can’t mean that! Do we have no skin in the game, no part in our acceptance whatsoever?
No, none. Love is not in your love for God. 1 John 4:10. This is our great rest. It’s over. You’re dead. You don’t even have to love Him. You can crucify Him. You can hate Him. He still loves you. He will raise from the dead with your name on His lips, and He will look for you, and whether He finds you cowering in guilt in a locked room (John 20:19-23) or hiding under a bush sewing fig leaves, He will forgive you. He will make you glad. He is Lord and you have absolutely no control over that. You damn well didn’t “make Him Lord.” Where were you when He laid the foundation of the universe (Job 38:4)? Here is your work: Believe it (John 6:29). Your salvation has utterly nothing to do with you. You have nothing but God’s resurrection. Give up hope in yourself to love God. It won’t work. You need simple-dimple sloppy-agape one-way grace and that goes straight against your flesh.
You know why Piper has to get so shrill about loving God? Because He paints a God for us who is conditional and weird and hard to love. I’m not excited about his conditional mean God who condemns me to hell simply because under threat I can’t force myself to love him. I hate that God. The joyous news is this: God isn’t like that! He died for us while we were yet sinners! (Romans 5:8) He has loved us from before the foundation of the cosmos. He’s been dreaming about lavishing us with grace literally forever (Ephesians 1:4). He’s very excited about us. You have no idea . That’s a God I can worship – the BIBLICAL God. Get a load of this:
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Why is it so controversial to say that God loves us, and that Jesus Christ has died for our sins? Why is it so strange and out-to-lunch to say that His blood actually WORKS? Why is it so difficult and rare to say that we are SAVED? Why do these people constantly want to pull the rug out from under our assurance? Why does this constantly devolve among PREACHERS into a question of what we do and how good we are and how well we love? Why is it so universal that we neglect and downplay the importance of so great a salvation? (Hebrews 2:3) Here is what I have to say: You are no good at all. You would crucify Him again if He were here. (That’s what you’re saying every time you take communion – think about that!) God loves you anyway. Enough to die for you. It really cost Him. He meant it to be that way. He is “Lord”, and He deeply and greatly and eternally loves you. All you have to do is say yes.