dangerous rescue

Response to John Piper

“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.
Ephesians 1:14-19

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.

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  1. Ah yes Mr. Piper. The man who almost drove me from the faith. I am sure he would take that as a compliment being the hardline Calvinist that he is. He mistakenly separates the wheat from the tares. Although in due time this will happen, it just so happens he won’t be doing the separating. I wonder if that will disappoint him?
    At any rate, after a summer of despair and tears and trying to listen to enough Piper so I would love God enough, I quit. I sadly came to a point where I said ‘what’s the point?’ I will never enjoy God as much as a minister or a professional church worker so it looks like I am going to hell. So I was in a dilemma. Should I just do the eat, drink, and be merry route or the direct line to hell route by my own hand? I quickly realized suicide wasn’t in me and I really didn’t feel like being Merry since I was just waiting for my ticket to hell to be punched.
    Then, praise God I heard a confessional Lutheran. I cried out to God for weeks and ‘by accident’ i came upon Dr. Rod Rosenbladt. I head about justification for the first time in my life. What I mean is for the first time in my life someone pronounced to me that Gods forgiveness in Christ was for me. Christ’s death was for me. When I heard him preach, I actually believed that Jesus desired to save me. I wept for joy. The first weeping of true joy in Christ ever. It was such amazing news! Then I got really ticked off! Years and years of a bill of goods that could never deliver. My heart breaks for anyone caught up in the bro Calvinist world of making sure you enjoy God really, really enough. I am working through the not being ticked off anymore. Dare I say that sanctification is taking place in my life since I don’t have to obsessively make sure that I really, really love Jesus. Thanks for this article Jim. It’s so timely. You have no idea. I’ll have to email you soon and catch up.


    • Robin you completely blow my mind. Isn’t the real gospel wonderful? I really love hearing your story. Thanks for posting this because I don’t think some people realize what s serious issue this is.

  2. Interestingly when he took a sabbatical from ministry it was to reflect on stuff like why he still yelled out at his wife after being a Christian for so long ….you can read all that online….anyway these type of statements put a chill up my spine…

    • It’s because faith in Christ and love for the brethren go together. 1 John 3:23, Ephesians 1:15-16, John 15:12. If you don’t have 1 John 4:10 as your root idea of love, you only have expectations and judgment as the root of your relationships, instead of grace. Grace is always scandalous and undeserved, and that is what we are believing for each other.

  3. Have you noticed that he sort of sounds like he believes in Christian perfection a la John Wesley yet his hero supposedly is Jonathan Edwards? I think he is a nice man but is very confused. I really don’t want to be down on all the Calvinist though. I think Michael Horton has probably doctrinally helped me understand what the Christian faith is and Steve brown could be my pastor any day because i know I could confide in him and be loved even if he were “rebuking me”. Tullian has probably given me more hope for the evangelical world more than anyone and Kim Riddlebarger from the WHI has been a great source on sorting through all the end time craziness. So, Calvinists in the Reformed since aren’t my beef. It’s the Baptist who discovered the Five Points and don’t realize that in the reformed world that’s not the only thing they believe. I think they have a sick fascination with Limited Atonement which drives a lot of their theology. I think some of them may be afraid for themselves. Some are just angry but, some I think are really worried so they spend all day trying to make sure they have all their ducks in a row. Plus, if you channel Jonathan Edwards all day long, you may be suffering from OCD which I hear Edwards probably did himself. The Five pointer Baptist and the 3-4 pointer Baptist I think really go round and round about this stuff. Growing up in the Baptist world I watch with fascination. The five pointers have groups like the Acts 29 network or 9 Marks which promote churches having members sign membership covenants that if broken would lead to disciplinary action. Some of it is very twisted and frightening. Religion can make people so weird. The more secularized the culture becomes the more in the opposite direction a lot of these groups try to go. I don’t get it really. The New Testament church was operating in a secular world that had not had the advantage of 2000 years of Christian virtue and ethics ingrained into the entire West. Yet, the church grew exponentially. Oh I know. They believed that Jesus’ death was enough so even over a 1000 years after Pentecost they could do crazy things like during the Black Plague go into the sickness and death and care for the sick and dying. The Christians knew death’s sting had been destroyed a millennium earlier and they could literally pour out their lives for the neighbor. It’s just hard to love your neighbor when all you can do is sit around and think about the eternal state of your soul. I mean if I’m worried about going to hell all the time how can I ever get my face out of navel and out toward my neighbor? Unless of course I start obsessively trying to do things to prove to myself that I am really ‘in’ which kind of negates the act because you are still making it about you. My advice. If you are prone to depression or have a very Martin Luther like way of internalizing everything, don’t read John Piper.

    • I actually skipped the article from John Piper. I’ll take your advice and just stay away (hope that’s okay Jim). My ears have been ruined and my heart is way tender from hearing the gospel and to hear the things some preachers preach really gets me and then the Lord has to remind me of his promises. What’s interesting is I could never love my neighbor the way I do now like the way you pointed out how they did things for a thousand years. I’m not perfect but it’s a whole lot easier to be generous now knowing I’m not taking care of myself anymore. I hope I’m not rambling and I hope this gets easier for us dealing with these things.

  4. I found this article by Piper to be very confusing also. I have heard him talk on the Christian’s assurance of salvation but then he comes along here and says we are only saved if we enjoy God well enough. It seems Piper is adding a condition to salvation that is not Biblical. This “extra” requirement puts our salvation on us. Isn’t that the opposite of what he has preaching for 40 years? He is a strong “predestination” guy but here it seems like your name is not written in the Book of Life before the earth was formed but is only written in the Book of Life when you “enjoy” God to a certain man made level of enjoyment.

  5. This is an example of why a christian should not worship anyone but God. I like Piper, Chandler, MacArthur, and even you but as they and you are only fallible men, I have grown tremendously in my faith from them but everything they say is not the Gospel. We all are not perfect and that is why we need a lot of Grace.

    • I agree that men are fallible…however there must be something wrong with me. The teachings of of MacArthur, Piper and Chandler took my focus off Christ and Him crucified that put me into despair for two years and on the verge of suicide…there was no growing in my faith with there teachings. Just something to consider Kern…God’s grace finds its greatest triumph in the sphere of human helplessness, so we do not need a whole lot of grace…we need it all and all the time. Not trying to be combative if Cyberland writing comes across that way.

      • I stick to my original statement. I have grown a tremendous amount spiritually under these men, especially Piper. Do I agree with everything they say, no, but a lot and I praise God for men like them. As for as Piper yelling at his wife, we all will sin until we die and go to heaven.

  6. To make it clear, I agree with Jim on this. I think Piper is wrong but as I look back on my life, I can’t understand why I believed some of the things I use to believe.

  7. Just another in the list that almost walked away, and contemplated suicide after a heavy dose of Piper. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth, and the whole limited atonement, election thing is a never ending downward circle of despair. God has been rescuing me through the simple straight forward gospel. It’s ironic, but some of the men I know who love the most, and work the most, don’t get into deep theological arguments and theories of election and the atonement, but simply listen to the words of Paul in Acts 16 and take to heart the truth that when we simply believe we are saved. I love being around them, and learn more about Jesus than any of the professors and theologians could ever tell me. Jim, thank you, thank you, thank you for your tireless stand for the simple gospel. I need it everyday. I have been wondering for years why no one questions what Piper writes. I will quote a paper from a reformed writer in Europe who wrote a critique on Piper’s theology: “If “spiritual joy” is of the “essence” of faith, and if this “evidence” is necessary in order for us to “bank on the promise as our own”; that is, if we must observe within ourselves a “delight” and “attraction” to the “beauties of God” before we can be assured we are saved, it is then necessary that we rejoice and delight in God while we as yet believe (or at least suspect) ourselves to be lost, damned, hated by God and on the broad road to hell with no hope!

    If Piper is correct, then we will never properly be assured of the forgiveness of our sins and God’s love for us! For who but a deluded fanatic can take pleasure in and rejoice in a God who is opposed to him and will soon destroy him in the eternal lake of fire, inflicting fiery vengeance upon him? As the Scriptures say:

    There is no peace… unto the wicked.” A Critical Examination of John Piper’s “Christian Hedonism” Limerick Reformed Fellowship.

  8. PS….I am sure there are actually a lot of people that really do benefit from some of Piper’s teaching, but I think for those of us with a sensitive, wounded conscience who are introspective and given to over analyzing things, Piper is just not palatable.

  9. Like you, John Piper is NOT somebody who teaches that only the sins of the elect were imputed by God to Christ, and only those sins propitiated. Even though he does claim that Christ died to purchase something extra for the elect, John Piper claims to be “also Arminian” and to teach as gospel what Arminians teach as gospel. So maybe he’s somewhat close to Baxter and the New England theory of governmental atonement. . And more to the point, like Norman Shepherd, Piper denies that salvation comes by faith alone in the promises of God but insists also that we must love God in order to be justified. How much and how often Piper never quite says….

    Romans 3:31 is often used to support “the third use of the Mosaic law” as the standard of conduct for justified Christians.But in context, Romans 3:21-31 is the clearest foundation possible for the doctrine of a definite “limited in extent” atonement, because the apostle here teaches that Christ’s death is a law-work, a satisfaction of law for the sins of the elect. The cross is a penal substitution, a propitiation.

    Propitiation means that the law must be faced. Paul’s gospel does not substitute one kind of righteousness for another kind of righteousness. The gospel is not about an “end-run” around the law. The righteousness of the gospel comes by Christ taking the law head-on, meeting its every demand and satisfying its curse. This is the conclusion of Romans 3:31. Paul cannot let the fact that the gospel is “apart from the law” as regards sinners doing the law obscure the equally prominent fact that Christ’s righteousness is a law righteousness.

    Romans 3 has been all about showing that God’s law cannot be set aside without rejecting God and His righteousness. Justification cannot be a matter of sweeping sins under the rug of divine amensia. Gospel righteousness is satisfaction of God’s law. This is why Christ had to die. Romans 3:31 is not about the continuation of the Mosaic code. Romans 3:31 is about the “establishment” of the curse of divine law by the cross of Christ.

    Election is God’s love, and when the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we can stipulate is that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed. . A propitiation for the non-elect amounts to nothing. Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to nothing.

    • Mark, I always appreciate your comments. You are a calvinist who seems bold enough to face the fact that all calvinism is hyper-calvinism. Either you believe God sovereignly chooses some and sovereignly refuses others, or you are a universalist, or else you come up with a more traditional (arminian?) understanding of the word “faith”. I suppose that it is clear that I am not claiming to be a calvinist. I’m not a calvinist. So I’m not even trying to hold the line with confessions and all the quotes from Calvin’s works and the third use of the law and all of that. I care a little about those things because they are part of the historical context of our faith, but it is not part of my story in coming to faith. Martin Luther actually is part of my story, but I don’t find him centering so much on these issues. I confess that many of the refutations of the idea that true calvinism is hyper-calvinism end up sounding like a lot of Arminian mealy-mouthed nonsense that is still trying to be Calvinist somehow. I never make an issue with it because I think you and a some of those guys are real believers and I am happy to say we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

      On to my response. I would say, biblically the division between the saved and the unsaved is faith, not election. I don’t believe any text says directly that the division between the saved and the unsaved is by election. (Also, I am not a universalist.)

      16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

      21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Romans 3:21-25

      I’ll come right and say what I believe – faith is our free-will response to the offer of salvation. We don’t have to be righteous, we just have to say yes or no to Jesus – once. Saying yes means, I can’t save myself, Christ saves me. So many people try to shy away from the simplicity of faith in Christ, but they always add some kind of justificatory works into the mix.

      I also know that faith is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. But then we land in a mystery. Saying it is a mystery is the Biblical answer:

      19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:19-24

      In context this is about the Jews and the Gentiles, but the principle holds true wherever this issue raises its head. Grace cannot be boiled down to pure election. It is forgiveness and mercy and blessing despite deserving wrath. It is love persisting when justice demands that we are not loved, at the cost of Jesus’ blood. God could have chosen us based on pure election without propitiation or atonement, just pure authority. But He didn’t do that. He makes Christ and Him crucified, and simple faith in that, the central piece in the gospel. I think we should be careful about second-guessing that by saying election is the central piece.

  10. jim,

    Since I am a Calvinist, not all Calvinist are hyper calvinist, I stand on Romans 8:30 “and those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. “. Present tense, already done, I do not have to accept it. But I will, regeneration.

    I had nothing to do with it. By the way, wasn’t Luther a Calvinist.?

    I am reading your book and it is very good.


    • I want to be clear that I love my calvinist brothers and sisters! I’m not making an accusation with this statement. Further, I know for certain that John Piper and Kevin DeYoung and David Platt do not speak for all calvinists. So the delineation remains – not, what is your stance on election, but what is your response to the Gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected. We may differ around how we come to our response, but our response — either yes or no to salvation — is the real delineator. Piper et all add works to Christ’s cross. I and a good number of others, including calvinists, believe this is wrong. I don’t even agree with my wife on everything, but we definitely are on the same page concerning faith in Christ and Him crucified for our sins. I’m thinking through it all, and there is limited time and much I don’t understand. It is entirely possible, even probable, that there are major holes in my understanding.

      I don’t think that Luther was a Calvinist – Calvin came after. Some of the things that pass for calvinism I’m not even sure Calvin would be comfortable with. Luther definitely emphasized grace and the cross and such much more than election. I’m not saying he was silent on it, but then neither am I and neither are prominent Arminian theologians like Roger Olson, who wrote “Against Calvinism”. I would hesitate to call myself an Arminian by the way, I am just very sloppily on the fence. I’m not proud of it. However, everyone who is not a calvinist is not a “lose-your-salvation” works kind of person, nor do they reject election and predestination. Rod Rosenbladt is a regular on the White Horse Inn podcast, and he is not a calvinist. Yet he is a serious advocate of the gospel of grace. I’m like that I think.

  11. I am not Reformed, and have no interest in being called a “Calvinist”. For one thing, I am not a paedobaptist, and for another, I am pacifist and do not justify wars as something “natural law” allows.

    And I very much oppose Piper’s false gospel, which follows his mentor Daniel Fuller in turning “faith alone” into “but also works”. So it is good for you to know that Piper does not speak for all “Calvinists”. Roger Olson in his Against Calvinism does a very good job of exposing the double talk of those like Piper who want to be both Calvinist and “also Arminian” at the same time, using a contradictory “two wills approach” and even defining the “free offer” as God’s love for the non-elect.

    But Jim, you do nobody (including yourself) any favors by calling me a “hyper-Calvinist”. One, nobody tends to think of themselves as “hyper”. Two, if you don’t want to call yourself Arminian, and you don’t want to call yourself “universalist”, then you must have some definition for what’s a “true Calvinist” as opposed to a “hyper Calvinist”. If you don’t, you need to stop throwing the term around. If you do have a definition, you need to spell it out.

    I know this is not about me. But I not only believe that the gospel needs to be preached to all sinners ut I go so far as to say that God does not save any sinner apart from teaching the gospel. So how am I hyper? I teach that Christ’s death made substitution for the elect alone. Yes, I know lots of people who think of themselves as “Reformed” don’t believe that and never believed that. But what is it that you object to? Isn’t election good news? Did Jesus justly expiate all the sins he bore? Did Jesus bear all the sins of all sinners?

    I agree with you about the “mealy-mouth”. Piper claims to believe everything Arminians believe, plus more. He has no antithesis. In other words, if I believe that all for whom Christ died will not be condemned for their sins, that does not mean that faith in the gospel is no longer necessary. But it does mean that Piper should not also be telling all sinners that Christ loves them and wants to same them.

    To use the Bondage of the Will language of Luther (who did not teach that Christ died only for the elect), we must call a thing what it is. We need antithesis. If you teach universal atonement but not universal salvation, you must have other factors being decisive. On the other hand, if I teach that the Tri-une God actually propitiated Himself for all the sins of the elect by the death of the God-Man Christ, I cannot say at the same time that God loves all sinners.

    When J. I Packer claims that election is not part of the gospel message (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God), he relegates the doctrine of election to the “hidden God” who we need not know. Besides the God who has already elected a sinner in Christ or not, there is a false god offering Christ to sinners.

    Instead of a propitiation in which Christ is offered by God to God to bear the sins imputed to Him, the true nature of propitiation and imputation is not supposed to be explained. It is not so much a matter of doubting how much God the Holy Spirit can teach a sinner about propitiation and imputation, but rather a desire that the truth of the matter not be known.

    It’s as if Packer is being more cautious and prudent than God. Of course we don’t know who is not elect. But we do know that God has an elect, and that Christ only died for that elect, and if we leave that out, we must also leave out the whole matter of a past imputation of sins to Christ.

    “Bearing sins” becomes a very flexible metaphor, in which the reality and success of the bearing are to be determined by the Holy Spirit convincing the sinner. If the Spirit fails to convince a sinner, that sinner will bear for himself the sins Christ bore for him, including presumably the sin of not being convinced by the Spirit.

    The false gospel has two Gods, one wanting to save all sinners. The false gospel also cannot have a righteousness which was completed at once in the past by Christ. The false gospel can have an alien righteousness, but only in the Augustinian/Osainderian sense that it’s God doing the work of righteousness by grace IN the elect sinner.

    You can have a false election, you can say that God delivers faith to the sinner, and still have a false gospel. Because if the message is not about what Christ did by Himself outside the elect sinner, if the gospel is not about sins imputed once and taken away once, then justification becomes a theoretical footnote, and assurance depends on regeneration making you different from other people.

    And instead of telling God’s elect that Christ is coming a second time not to deal with their sin, (Hebrews 9:28) preachers still have people doing the dealing. Deal with your sins, love more, believe more, none of that is a message about what Christ has done.

  12. You write, I don’t believe any text says “directly” that the division between saved and lost is election.

    One, I agree that faith in the true gospel (as opposed to the idolatry of believing that Jesus died even for those who will perish) is a difference between saved and lost. II Peter 1:1 tells us that Faith is given (allotted, think lottery) to those God loves based on (through) the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. This true faith not only has for its object Christ’s righteousness, but it is gift purchased by Christ’s righteousness, his act of obedience even unto death.

    Two, do you know of any texts that say “directly” that “faith is not works? I think of many, including Romans 3:26 God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has FAITH in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law?[ By one of WORKS? No, on the contrary, by a law of FAITH. 28 For we conclude that a man is justified by FAITH APART FROM THE WORKS of the law

    Three, to go quickly to a most obvious text. According to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. “Though they were not yet born and HAD DONE NOTHING GOOD or bad-in order that God’s purpose of ELECTION would continue, not because of WORKS but because of His CALL.”

    Jim, one day I hope you are effectually called to see the connection between “not because of works” and election. When “mealy mouthed” evangelicals (not only Tullian but also those who accuse Tullian of being antinomian) attempt to leave out the “for the elect alone” and discuss the gospel without talking about election, mostly all they can say is “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

    Even if you believe the false gospel that Christ died for every sinner, “Reformed evangelicals” will tell you that God effectually called you to believe that falsehood. In select groups (for examples, conferences that charge you big dollars) they will explain a more educated and precise view of things which you might want to add on to what you already believe without needing to repent of a false gospel.

    Before they became “Calvinists”, they believed in a faith alone gospel, and now you still believe in a faith alone make the difference gospel but now they know that the faith came from God. And then if they follow Piper, they come to know that “faith alone” means “works also”

    Galatians 3: 8, “ And the Scripture, for-seeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham…. Faith is hearing produced by God by means of the gospel. The power is in the true gospel, not a false gospel. I Corinthians 1:18–“for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, IT is the power of God.”

    The true gospel needs to be proclaimed to all sinners (and not just those who have the bucks to get into Reformed conferences). The gospel is only good news for the elect, but we don’t know who the elect are until they have believed the gospel.

    If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that FAITH is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone.

    Jim, when you teach that faith is the difference between saved and lost, is your faith in faith? is your faith in your faith like that of the Lutherans, who warn that even those faithfully attending their “sacraments” can lose their faith?

    “Faith alone” is not the condition of justification, and to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election. Faith in the true gospel is a result of regeneration and regeneration is a result of being joined by God to Christ’s death. (Romans 6 does not use the word imputation, but that’s what imputation amounts to). God does the imputing to the elect for whom Christ died. And those elect do the believing as a result and are justified before God.

    Calvinism which is only about sovereignty and election but not about justification is not the gospel. But Lutheranism which is only about justification, but teaches a faith in an universal atonement is also not the gospel.

    Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel. Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

    Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

    Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of a remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

    God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to elect persons.. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. The righteousness of God obtained by Christ is imputed unto the elect alone.

    According to Romans 4:5, faith alone is “not works”. 4 Now to the one who works, pay is not considered as a gift, but as something owed. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous,it (the object of faith) is credited for righteousness.

  13. Jim, when you define faith as “our free will response to God’s offer”, do you mean to say that sinners have “power to the contrary” so that God cannot have what God wants but only what the sinner wants? Do you disagree with Luther’s Bondage of the Will, which says that at the very heart of the debate about what the gospel is, there is this question about if the sinner is in control? And are you defining “faith as a gift” as meaning that “faith is something God gives the sinner only if the sinner wants that faith” and denying that God can and does cause a sinner to believe the gospel?

    I certainly agree with you that “grace cannot be boiled down to election”. I don’t know anybody who says that grace is only election or election alone. If I thought election was the only thing that matter, then I would not have any problem with John Piper’s teaching—when he speaks of a “condtiionality” which is not merit but which is works, he does teach that the elect are predestined to love God (enough, however much that is) and work (enough…)

    The problem, Jim, is that you think election can be “boiled out of” the gospel. But if you have an election-less gospel, then you have a propitiation made for all sinners which does not end up propitiating God. God did NOT elect anybody apart from the propitiation. I John 4 makes that very clear. It’s not the propitiation which causes God to love anybody. But for all whom God loves (the elect) there is a propitiation. “Propitiation” with election boiled out of it is not penal substitution, and is not satisfaction of God’s law, and it ultimately does not expiate any sins.

    Do you know any actual “Calvinists” who assert only the authority but not the justice of God? Election is not only about God’s sovereignty but also about explain why not all are saved—Christ had no obligation to love the non-elect and Christ did not satisfy justice for the non-elect. The good news in that is that A. God is just and B. those who believe the gospel of penal substitution will not perish, because their believing is a result of Christ’s penal substitution for them.

    I used to be an universalist—- back then, it was only about about God’s sovereignty But the truth of the gospel is not only God’s sovereignty but also God’s righteousness. This means that the gospel is not only about the justification of the elect sinner but also about the justification of God.

    There is nothing in the Bible at all about “free will” (man’s power contrary to God’s). But that does not mean that I am dismissive of efforts to justify God. To justify God does not of course mean that we make God just. Rather, it means that we declare that God is just. When God justifies an elect sinner, then God is NOT only SAYING that this sinner is just. God is justified in justifying the elect sinner because 1. Christ died because of the imputed guilt of that elect sinner and 2. God (not our faith) righteously joined that elect sinner to share in Christ’s death so that the elect sinner is legally righteous. Because of these two facts of HISTORY, God is justified in justifying elect sinners.

    It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t look just. The elect sinners go free. Christ, who did not sin, died. This is why we are tempted to say that the whole thing is only about God’s sovereignty and then tell people to shut their mouths and ask no questions. But the Bible itself does not take that attitude. The Bible tells us how God thinks. The Bible justifies God.

    Romans 9 does not only ask: “who are you to talk back to God”. Romans 9 explains that it is inappropriate for that which is made to sit in negative judgment on the maker. That which is made is instead to make the positive judgment that God has the righteous right to harden as many as God hardens.

    Romans 6 deals with the objection that God justifying sinners will cause sinners to rationalize their sins, so that they not only say that their sins were predestined but also that they say that more sins result in more grace. The Romans 6 answer is that grace is either grace or not. There is not more or less grace, but either grace or no grace.

    Piper always wants “more”. So do Roman Catholics. But less sin does not get the elect more grace, and more sin does not get the elect more grace, because all those God justly justifies have all the grace any other elect person has. If you have grace, then you are justified from sin, and if you don’t have grace, you are a sinner “free from righteousness” (6:20).

    While unbelieving legalists trust in God to help them to sin less, those who have been delivered to the gospel know that there are only two kind of sinners, two states—guilty sinners and justified sinners (justly justified by Christ’s death to sin.

  14. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/piper-vs-owen-on-romans-26-7-13/

    if we forget that we were forgiven,
    does that mean that we are not forgiven?

    does it mean that we were never forgiven?

    we are not forgiven for not remembering that we were forgiven?

    we are not forgiven for not forgiving others after we are forgiven?

    we do not forgive others after we are forgiven because we forget that we are forgiven?

    Piper teaches final justification conditioned on the works of the justified


    John Piper—-Now I want to stop and make sure that you are hearing what I believe the Scripture is saying, because it is not commonly said, but our lives hang on it. There is a real sense in which our justification depends on our sanctification. There is a sense in which whether we are acquitted before God depends on whether the law of the Spirit of life has freed us from the law of sin and death.

    But how can this be? The sentence of “not guilty” has already been given, and it was given to those who have faith. How then can I say that the past sentence of “not guilty” is dependent on the present process of sanctification? And how can I say that to experience justification one must not only have faith but also be freed by the Spirit from the power of sin?

    1) The faith to which justification is promised is not merely a single decision to acknowledge Christ’s lordship and accept him as Savior. The faith by which we are justified is an ongoing life of faith. When we read Romans 4 and James 2 carefully we see that Abraham believed God’s promise and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. He was justified by his faith. But then we notice that the illustrations of this faith in Romans 4 and James 2 are not merely its first act in Genesis 12 that caused Abraham to leave the land of Ur and follow God to Canaan, but also Abraham’s faith in God’s later promise in Genesis 15 to make his own son his heir, and the faith in Genesis 22 that enabled him to almost sacrifice his only son, Isaac. In other words, when Paul and James think of the faith by which Abraham was justified they think not merely of his initial belief but of his ongoing life of faith. Therefore Paul says in Colossians 1:21–23,

    And you who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, IF INDEED YOU REMAIN IN FAITH stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel.

    Or as he says in 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2: I preached to you the gospel which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, IF YOU HOLD IT FAST—unless you believed in vain.
    We are justified not ALONE by that initial reception of the gospel but by an ongoing life of faith.

    2) Second, the coming of the Holy Spirit into a person’s life and the working of the Spirit to liberate that life from the law of sin and death always accompany genuine faith and there is no other way to have it….It is by faith that we receive the Holy Spirit, and it is by faith that the Spirit works within us. To live by faith and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit are the same thing, viewed from two different angles.

    Paul says in Romans 8:14, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” . One must believe in Christ to be God’s child; one must be led by the Spirit to be God’s child. And these are not two conditions but one, for it is by faith that God supplies to us the Spirit, and it is by a life of faith he works miracles among us.

    Now with these two insights I think we can solve our earlier problem. On the one hand Romans 5:1 says we have been justified by faith. . Freedom from condemnation is made conditional upon the work of the Holy Spirit freeing me from sin.

    May no one react and say, O, that cannot be. All you have to do is believe in Christ as Savior; you don’t have to overcome sin by the power of the Spirit. That error cheapens faith, contradicts the teaching of Romans 8:1, 2, and runs the risk of hearing Jesus say on the judgment day: Depart from me, you evildoers, I never knew you.

    You don’t want to believe in a Christ who makes no difference in your life, do you? Who wants a Jesus who is so nothing that all he can produce is a people who think, feel, and act just like the world? We don’t want that.

    • Justification is the beginning of the process. Sanctification is the process. The beginning of a process never rests on the process itself. A continuing relationship is never the ground of an initial relationship (connection).

  15. Justification certainly grounds our sanctification, but unless we clearly understand the distinction we make grievous errors. But it is easy to see.

    There is a distinct difference between entering into a relationship with a person and continuing that relationship. Justification is our initial salvation where we become children of God: those who “believe on His name.” John 1:12

    Sanctification is our continuing relationship with our Father where we are pleasing to Him. We experience ups and downs in this relationship, but no amount of “bad relationship” removes us from being children of God.

    Is God our adoptive parent who only accepts us if we are pleasing enough to Him? Is this mortal life a probationary period where we hope to pass the test and maybe we’ll be good enough that we’ll earn God’s favor? The essence of “the faith” of Christianity says may it never be.

  16. John Zahl–Imputation assumes the same of Christians that it assumes of non-believers—they need God COMPLETELY (still).

    Is preaching the gospel to Christians to be dismissed as “evangelizing believers from the pulpit?”

    Being both justified and sinners is the LAST WORD for all Christians in this age until they are raised up on the LAST DAY

    John Zahl–The question of justification (at least in Protestant circles) is often understood to be a non-issue. Melancthon and others were quick to draw lines of separation between justification and sanctification. While justification was understood to be entirely based
    upon imputation, they assumed that sanctification was a process.

    John Zahl–Imputation gives you the same church service every Sunday of our life, year in, year out, rain or shine. It is: “Welcome to the atonement (once again)”. There is no graduation, only Christ and Him crucified.

    John Zahl–“Infusion typically teaches that “God’s hands and feet on Earth are his people.” Imputation insists that God has His own feet and His own hands. Psychologically, Imputation often discourages and suggests repentance. Imputation believes in tears and despises false progress-solutions to problems. Imputation endures grief and says nothing. Imputation is passive and lets the individual cry without offering false hope. Perhaps our dream and plan must COLLAPSE. Imputation believes that the old does not need to be sustained,and that the old cannot be reformed


  17. THANK YOU. I have been struggling so much with assurance of salvation, and keep going to the “Desiring God” website for answers, but end up drowning in guilt and resentment of John Piper. This post was an encouragement.

    • JOHN 5:24?
      Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

      Or, JOHN 3?
      14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
      15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
      16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
      17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
      18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God…
      36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

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