Piper vs Owen on Romans 2:6-7, 13

A short demonstration on the importance of covenant theology:
John Piper denies a works principle anywhere in Scripture, including the Covenant of Works.

Has God ever commanded anyone to obey with a view to earning or meriting life? Would God command a person to do a thing that he uniformly condemns as arrogant?

In Romans 11:35-36, Paul describes why earning from God is arrogant and impossible. He says, ‘Who has first given to [God] that it might be paid back to him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” The thought that anyone could give anything to God with a view to being paid back with merit or wages is presumptuous and impossible, because all things (including obedience) are from God in the first place. You can’t earn from God by giving him what is already his…

It is true that God commanded Adam to obey him, and it is also true that failure to obey would result in death (Genesis 2:16-17): “In the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (verse 17). But the question is this: What kind of obedience is required for the inheritance of life – the obedience of earning or the obedience of trusting? The Bible presents two very different kinds of effort to keep God’s commandments. One way is legalistic; it depends on our own strength and aims to earn life. The other way we might call evangelical; it depends on God’s enabling power and aims to obtain life by faith in his promises, which is shown in the freedom of obedience…

Adam had to walk in obedience to his Creator in order to inherit life, but the obedience required of him was the obedience that comes from faith. God did not command legalism, arrogance, and suicide… There was no hint that Adam was to earn or deserve. The atmosphere was one of testing faith in unmerited favor, not testing willingness to earn or merit. The command of God was for the obedience that comes from faith…

What then of the ‘second Adam,’ Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the obedience that Adam forsook (1 Cor 15:45; Rom 5:14-20)?… He fulfilled the Law perfectly in the way that the Law was meant to be fulfilled from the beginning, not by works, but by faith (Rom 9:32)…

We are called to walk the way Jesus walked and the way Adam was commanded to walk. Adam failed because he did not trust the grace of God to pursue him with goodness and mercy all his days (Psalm 23:6).

A Godward Life, p. 177

Piper is correct that man can never earn anything from God. But that is why our confession recognizes that God voluntarily condescended to Adam and offered him a reward for his labor that he did not deserve (LBCF 7.1). In so doing, he made Adam a wage earner. Piper rejects this. And because he rejects this, he does not believe there is any objective contrast between the law and faith.

When Paul says “the law is not of faith” (Gal 3:12; Rom 10:5; Lev 18:5) Piper says that refers to a subjective “legalistic” attitude towards law-keeping, and not to any objective difference between the law and faith. As a result, he says:

Let me declare myself clearly here: I believe in the necessity of a transformed life of obedience to Jesus by the power of the Spirit through faith as a public evidence and confirmation of faith at the Last Day for all who will finally be saved. In other words, I believe it is actually true, not just hypothetically true, that God “will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom.2:6–7).

The Future of Justification, p. 110

So Christians are called “to walk the way Adam was commanded to walk” in order that God may give us eternal life.

However, if we recognize the biblical truth taught in LBCF/WCF 7.1, we will see that God gave Adam the law *as a covenant of works* to thereby earn eternal life. This is the “works principle” articulated in Lev 18:5. This principle is quoted by Paul as a contrast to the faith principle, not because it referred to a subjective legalistic attitude in the Judaizers, but because it referred to an objectively different means of obtaining a reward: works vs faith.

Owen explains that Rom 2:6-7, 13 is a further statement of this works principle:

The words there [Rom 2:7] are used in a law sense, and are declarative of the righteousness of God in rewarding the keepers of the law of nature, or the moral law, according to the law of the covenant of works. This is evident from the whole design of the apostle in that place, which is to convince all men, Jews and Gentiles, of sin against the law, and of the impossibility of the obtaining the glory of God thereby.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/vindicevang.i.xl.html

We are not hereon justified by the law, or the works of it… The meaning of it in the Scripture is, that only “the doers of the law shall be justified,” Romans 2:13; and that “he that does the things of it shall live by them,” chapter 10:5, — namely, in his own person, by the way of personal duty, which alone the law requires. But if we, who have not fulfilled the law in the way of inherent, personal obedience, are justified by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us, then are we justified by Christ, and not by the law.

-The Doctrine of Justification

There is also a twofold justification before God mentioned in the Scripture. First, “By the works of the law,” Romans 2:13; 10:5; Matthew 19:16-19. Here unto is required an absolute conformity unto the whole law of God, in our natures, all the faculties of our souls, all the principles of our moral operations, with perfect actual obedience unto all its commands, in all instances of duty, both for matter and manner: for he is cursed who continues not in all things that are written in the law, to do them; and he that break any one commandment is guilty of the breach of the whole law. Hence the apostle concludes that none can be justified by the law, because all have sinned. Second, There is a justification by grace, through faith in the blood of Christ; whereof we treat. And these ways of justification are contrary, proceeding on terms directly contradictory, and cannot be made consistent with or subservient one to the other.

-The Doctrine of Justification

Advertisements
  1. Hugh McCann
    November 14, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Well done, Brandon. Keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hugh McCann
  3. November 14, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Reblogged this on Covenant Nurture and commented:
    Excellent article on some of John Piper’s errors.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. markmcculley
    November 14, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/daniel-fuller-vs-john-calvins-faith-seeks-life-not-found-in-commandments/

    Piper channels Daniel Fuller—They thought that obeying the law is not a matter of faith, but a matter of works. Note very carefully, ‘works’ is not synonymous with obeying the law. That’s plain because Paul says you can pursue obedience to the law either by faith or by works. But God never meant for obedience to be pursued by works. That’s clear from the little phrase, ‘as though it were by works.’ ‘As though’ means obedience is not by works but by faith. So works is not simply efforts to obey the law of God. Works is a way of trying to bring about the fruit of obedience without making faith the root.” (The Pleasures of God, pg. 251)

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/is-obeying-the-law-the-same-thing-as-trusting-god/

    Liked by 1 person

  5. markmcculley
    November 14, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Piper’s appendix from The Future of Justification disregarded by Piper ,http://www.epubbud.com/read.php?g=ST9AALT4&p=10&two=1

    John Piper— Romans 9:32 views the law as it points to and aims at “Christ for righteousness,” not in all the law’s designs and relations to faith. Therefore, it would be a mistake to use Romans 9:32 to deny, for example, that there is a short-term aim of the law that may suitably be described as “not of faith” as in Galatians 3:12 (“But the law is not of faith, rather `The one who does them shall live by them'”).

    John Piper—I myself have argued in the past, for example, without careful distinction, that “the law teaches faith” because Romans 9:32 says that you don’t “attain the law” if you fail to pursue it “by faith,” but pursue “as from works.” But the distinction that must be made is whether we are talking about the overall, long-term aim of the law, which is in view in Romans 9:32, or whether we are making a sweeping judgment about all the designs of the law.

    John Piper—We would go beyond what Romans 9:32 teaches if we made such a sweeping judgment, so as to deny that there is a short-term design of the law not easily summed up in the phrase “the law teaches faith” but fairly described in the words “the law is not of faith” (Gal. 3:12).

    John Piper—For example, one short-term aim of the law was to “imprison everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). That is, the law functions, in a subordinate, short-term way, to keep people in custody, awaiting the fullness of time, which is a time of faith, as Galatians 3:23 says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.”

    John Piper— If, in some sense, “faith” had not yet come, but was “to be later revealed,” then it would not be strange to say “the law is not of faith” if the faith being referred to is the faith of Galatians 3:23, that is, faith in the Son of God who has come in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4). This is probably what Paul means when he says in Galatians 3:12, “The law is not of faith.” The faith that was to come–to which the law was leading Israel, as it held them in custody–is faith that is consciously in Christ, “the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe.”

    Like

  1. November 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: