Archive for March 2019

A Moment With Martin

March 4, 2019

martin luther

I feel the terrors of hell and the nearness of death’s hour; but if I have Christ, I have come to the consummation, and neither death nor sin nor devil can harm me. For if I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the Law, and it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell, and it cannot hold me. All that Christ has is mine. Through Him we acquire all His goods and eternal life. Even if my faith is feeble, I still have the selfsame treasure and the selfsame Christ that others have. There is no difference. Faith in Him makes us all perfect, but works do not.

We might compare this to two persons who possess a hundred guldens. The one may carry them in a paper sack, the other may keep them in an iron chest. But for all that, both possess the entire treasure. Thus the Christ whom you and I own is one and the same, regardless of the strength or the weakness of your faith or of mine. In Him we possess all, whether we hold Him with a strong faith or a weak faith.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works, AE 23:28,
Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,
John 6:29

John Piper’s False Gospel

March 3, 2019

piper

I get it that some people are enamored with John Piper and will go to any lengths to defend him.  However, what that reveals in these “defenders” is how little love and appreciation they have of the Gospel.  In fairness, and for some, the questions and objections raised by Piper are hard to discern because he couches them in flowery and pious prose and just enough sound doctrine to be persuasive. Where Piper completely comes off the rails is when it comes to justification by belief alone in contrast to what Piper calls “final salvation.”  In a sermon entitled “Faith Alone: How (Not) to Use a Reformed Slogan” Piper preaches; “Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14).” Notice, the killing of sin and pursuit of holiness is not just a matter exclusive to our ongoing and progressive sanctification, but rather has an eschatological component on which our entrance into heaven on the last day rests.  Our works, done by faith of course, are the ground by which we enter heaven and pass through God’s judgment.

As astounding as it might seem at first to some, for Piper, being justified by faith alone gets no one into heaven. Works done by faith must be offered on the last day at God’s tribunal as evidence that our faith is genuine; that our belief is “saving.”  But what really gives him away, and lays the foundation for his nosedive into abject Christ-denying heresy is his misunderstanding and mishandling of James 2.  Piper argues:

James saw in his day those who were treating “faith alone” as a doctrine that claimed you could be justified by faith, which produced no good works. And he said No to such faith. He said it is dead: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). It is like a body with no breath (James 2:26). It is like an energy with no effect (James 2:20), no completion (James 2:22). If there is justifying faith, it has works (James 2:17). So, he says, “I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). The works will come from faith.

Paul would affirm all of this because he said in Galatians 5:6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” The only kind of faith that counts for justification is the kind that produces love, that bears the fruit of love. The faith that alone justifies is never alone, but always yielding transforming fruit. So, when James says these controversial words, “A person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24), I take him to mean not by faith which is alone, but which shows itself by works.

The problem with all this is that James 2 nowhere deals with our justification before God. Rather, James 2 is a discussion of our justification before other men.  James is explaining the ways by which we can identify the true believer from the feigned variety.  Obviously, it’s not a foolproof method because I’m sure Piper can point to many seemingly good works and will point to them on that the last day along with all those other pretend pillars of the church Jesus mentions in Matthew 7:21-23 (for an excellent discussion of this passage in Matthew see John Robbins’ piece, “Justification and Judgment“).  James is not teaching that works done by faith are what makes faith “saving” or any such thing.  As O. Palmer Robertson explains in The Current Justification Controversy:

According to the Reformers, James does not say that works must be added to faith or included in faith as the way by which men receive God’s judicial declaration that their sins are forgiven. In their understanding, James is not even discussing the way to pardon from guilt, as is Paul. To the contrary, James is describing how a man may show his faith to be genuine (James 2:18), and how faith inevitably will come to fulness or fruition in good works (James 2:22).

According to Piper, a person justified by faith alone does not enter heaven.  Instead, justification by faith alone merely puts a person in a “position” from where their faith can produce the works necessary for “final salvation.”  Piper again:

Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14). Mortification of sin, sanctification in holiness. But what makes that possible and pleasing to God? We put sin to death and we pursue holiness from a justified position where God is one hundred percent for us — already — by faith alone [emphasis mine].

Because if we try to put sin to death and to pursue holiness from a position where we are not fully accepted, not fully forgiven, not fully righteous in Christ, and where God is not one hundred percent for us, then we will be putting sin to death and pursuing holiness as a means of getting into a position where God is one hundred percent for us. And that is the Galatian heresy.

That is not the “Galatian heresy.”  Paul writes: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” And, commenting on Galatians 5:6 John Calvin warned about snakes like Piper:

When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner.

Sadly, and ironically, it is John Piper who is guilty of the Galatian heresy. He is explicitly and unequivocally teaching that we begin with the Spirit when we are initially justified by faith alone, but we are to perfect our faith in the flesh as we produce the works of faith from “a position where God is one hundred percent for us” in order to be finally saved on the last day. A grosser distortion of the Gospel would be hard to find even in Rome. 

For a deeper dive into Piper’s false gospel, below is a sermon and a podcast by PCA pastor, Patrick Hines. Give them a listen, but more importantly, share them far and wide.  

John Piper’s False Gospel

Response: John Piper’s Clarification

 


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