Piper’s Foreword

I’ve written in the past about some of Piper’s erroneous statements regarding justification. Justin Taylor recently posted a Foreword Piper wrote to Thomas Schreiner’s new book on Sola FidePiper says:

As Tom Schreiner says, the book “tackles one of the fundamental questions of our human condition: how can a person be right with God?”

The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God…

Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God…

Thus Schreiner closes his book with a joyful testimony—and I rejoice to join him in it: ”My confidence on the last day . . . will not rest on my transformation. I have too far to go to put any confidence in what I have accomplished. Instead, I rest on Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. He is the guarantor of my salvation. I am justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”

A few logical implications follow:

  1. Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain heaven.
  2. Christ’s righteousness is insufficient to attain heaven.
  3. Justification is not “the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.” (Reymond, p. 743)
  4. There is not therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  5. Justification is meaningless.
  6. I cannot rest in Christ alone on the last day, but must hope in my transformation.


See follow-up posts:

41 thoughts on “Piper’s Foreword

  1. Mark Feather


    It seems like all of these do not logically follow if those who are justified (enter into a right relationship with God) consequently and necessarily manifest good works that evidence true faith and thus obtain heaven. To put it negatively, those who do not manifest good works and thus do not attain heaven were never truly justified to begin with because they lacked true faith. The good works are a condition of attaining heaven, but only in so far as they are necessary evidences of true faith that justifies. This seems to be the thrust of Scripture, as the one who has been justified is necessarily being sanctified in spite of our constant sin. I admit that Piper doesn’t make that explicit in his foreword, but a survey of his ministry makes it pretty reasonable to assume that he presupposes it. Thinking about it this way has removed the tension from the debate for me, but I’d love to get your thoughts!

    In Christ,


    1. Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your thoughts. The fact that those who are justified also manifest good works does not change anything I said. The great thing about syllogisms is we can pinpoint any logical errors. You’ll need to demonstrate the specific point in my syllogisms that is invalid.

      And I would also disagree that a survey of Piper’s ministry makes it reasonable to assume all he is saying is that Christians will be sanctified. A survey of his ministry makes it clear he is saying much more than that.


      1. Mark Feather

        Hi Brandon,

        I was confused when you asked me to respond to your syllogism because you don’t have one here, but I found it on Taylor’s blog, so my mistake. The problem with the first syllogism (P1+P2=>C1) is the use of the term faith, which is the term Taylor believes you are equivocating. As per P1, we are justified by faith alone, but this is only true of true faith which we both believe is necessarily manifested in works. P2 quotes Piper, but the problem is that Piper equivocates in that sentence. To add a bit of commentary to it, “He says right with God by faith alone [that is true faith which is always accompanied by works], not attain heaven by faith alone [that is spurious faith which is bare and not accompanied by works].” This seems like a stretch, I know, but I think his following paragraphs bare that out:

        “‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.’ Faith that is alone is not faith in union with Christ. Union with Christ makes his perfection and power ours through faith. And in union with Christ, faith is living and active with Christ’s power.”

        “Such faith always ‘works by love’ and produces the ‘obedience of faith.’ And that obedience–imperfect as it is till the day we die–is not the ‘basis of justification, but … a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.’ In this sense, love and obedience–inherent righteousness–is ‘required of believers, but not for justification’–that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right standing with God.”

        I think Piper is pretty clear there, quoting Schreiner, that these works are necessary evidences of faith in union with Christ. Thus when we are justified our true faith is bare and alone, but by the final judgement our faith is accompanied by all manner of good works that demonstrate it was true to begin with. In this way he is simply looking at the Christian faith from two points, the beginning, which lacks all works, and the end, which abounds with works that flow from faith. I wish he had added a comment on how every person who does not attain heaven was not in anyway justified to begin with, but alas, he didn’t. I’m sure there will be push back on this, but it seems that is what he is doing.

        Your other syllogisms are based on this first one, so I’ll just treat your conclusions in turn:

        C2 – Christ’s imputed righteousness is sufficient, although it will be accompanied by our works because both are related to true faith (the former because faith is the mechanism by which the righteousness is imputed and the latter because faith is the grounds for such works).

        C3 – You can rest on Christ alone, but if you have no works then you aren’t resting in Christ alone because you don’t have faith!

        C4 – Justification is the divine verdict of the Eschaton brought forward into the present time, but if a person has no works then they were not justified to begin with because they did not have true faith.

        C5 – Yes, justification does mean that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but the faith that unites us to Christ always produces works of love.

        C6 – There is no person that is justified and will be condemned on the last day, so no problem here.

        C7 – P13 is false, so justification isn’t meaningless!


    2. Hugh McCann

      “…good works are a condition of attaining heaven, but only in so far as they are necessary evidences of true faith that justifies. This seems to be the thrust of Scripture, as the one who has been justified is necessarily being [progressively] sanctified in spite of our constant sin.” OK.

      “I admit that Piper doesn’t make that explicit in his foreword…” Then, shame on him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mark Feather

        Hi Hugh,

        Yeah, what I’m arguing is that I think Piper holds to the view I laid out even if he didn’t fill in all the logical steps he takes to get there. I agree it was a shame he didn’t spell it out, but I just want to avoid people thinking he holds to a works based righteousness when I’m pretty sure he doesn’t.


  2. Mark Feather

    Sorry, Brandon, I can’t seem to reply to your reply of a reply, so I’ll just comment directly. The Piper statement from the sermon must be taken in context. He is arguing that a justified person is being sanctified necessarily. Thus he says, “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.” Moreover, he adds that, “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.”

    When that context is considered it is pretty plain that our justification depends on our sanctification in so far as all those who have been justified are being sanctified. We just need to be a more charitable with him in taking his statements in context. With all that said, my knowledge of his ministry is not exaughstive, so he is bound to have said something that I would take issue with!


  3. [18] Thanks to Brandon Adams and his blog article “Piper’s Foreword,” September 17, 2015, viewed January 28, 2016 See more at: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=316#sthash.xsWwbS6R.dpuf

    john Owen—“The new covenant was always the same, as to the substance of it, from the beginning… But the new covenant is not expressly called a covenant, without respect unto any other things, nor was it so under the old testament…absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise. Acts 2:39; Hebrews 6:14-16.”


  4. markmcculley

    Tom Schreiner—-“Too many Protestants reduce faith to mere verbal agreement. Many are mistakenly assured they’ll enjoy eternal life apart from any obedience if they accept Jesus as Savior. Bates convincingly demonstrates that such a reading doesn’t accord with the New Testament’s emphasis on works, for works are clearly essential for the reception of eternal life. We must maintain our faith until the end to be saved.”

    Schriener—“The empty hands with which we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior don’t remain empty. By virtue of being in Christ, we’re empowered to live a new life that pleases God. Genuine trust in God—saving faith in Christ—inevitably leads to a new life manifesting the Spirit’s fruit. The gospel can’t be reduced to the formula “Jesus died for our sins,” since the gospel centers on the truth that Jesus is King. He’s the resurrected and enthroned Lord over all, and we’re called to express our allegiance to him as our Lord. ”



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  6. markmcculley

    Four Views on The Role of Works at the Final Judgment, Zondervan, 2013, Tom Schreiner, p 89–“Often scholars like John Calvin have argued that the word justify in James means “prove to be righteous” in contrast to Paul where the word justify means “declare to be righteous”. There is scant evidence supporting the meaning “prove to be righteous. The verb regularly has a forensic sense (declare to be righteous) and it should be understand to have this meaning in James 2:14 to 21 as well. …Most scholars also agree that James draws significantly on the words of Jesus. IN Matthew 12:37, Jesus declares that human beings will be ‘justified’ or ‘condemned’ by the words they speak. As Jesus refers to a future judgment in accordance with words spoken, James refers to a future justification in accord with deeds performed.”

    Caneday on the threats of the gospel


    John Calvin—However eagerly the saints may in accordance with the Spirit strive toward God’s righteousness, the listless flesh always so burdens them that they do not proceed with due readiness. The law is to the flesh like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work. Even for a spiritual man not yet free of the weight of the flesh the law remains a constant sting that will not let him stand still. . . . But the accompanying promise of grace. . .sweetens what is bitter .Institutes, 2/7/12


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  8. Mark Mcculley

    Then of course Storms quotes Jonaathan Edwards—-“if God dwells in your heart, then God God will show by the efficacy of His operation. Christ is not indwelling in our heart as one who is dead and does nothing. In the heart where Christ is, Christ exerts himself and the
    saint is made to EXPERIENCE the power

    p 849, Storms—Some so called experiences of faith are nothing more than intellectuaal assent., only the cognitive consent of the mind to the truth….The only ULTIMATE TEST for whether the thing you call faith is in fact saving is what happens when you plant it

    and then Storms gets to “public justice”, firrst quoting Tim Keller and then Piper

    p 865, Piper, Abolition and the Roots of Public Justice—Piper explains that
    Wilbeforce did not use the words merit when he talked about ‘real faith. ie,
    justification was by faith alone, but sanctification was the evidence of faith, because real faith is the works necessary to salvation

    “Others got things backwards. First they strived for moral uplift, and then appealed for approval.”
    Puper and Storms and Schreiner don’t do that–they quote Edwards

    First they say that justification is through faith, but then they show that final (not yet) justification means that substantiual works are necessary

    So what are you doing to warm the poor, in order to gain your eschatological inheritance?


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