Piper’s “THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION” Key Arguments pt. 1

The series on Piper’s “The Future of Justification” is continued in this post by taking a brief look at Piper’s key arguments against Wright and the New Perspective. This will be done in two parts due to length, so part two will come in the following post that will provide more arguments and Piper’s main goal with this book.


 Piper’s Key Arguments

Piper argues that what God requires regarding a person’s salvation Christ accomplished by becoming the pardon and perfection for that believer. The final suffering and death of Jesus propitiated God’s wrath against the believer. Also, Jesus’ whole life of perfect righteousness, culminating in His death, is then imputed to those who believe. God provided in Christ what God demanded from a person in the law.

N. T. Wright says, “Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that they have become a Christian.”[1] Justification “was not so much about ‘getting in’, or indeed about ‘staying in’, as about ‘how you could tell who was in’. In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church.”[2] Wright sees justification in the first century as not how someone might establish a relationship with God, but “about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present…of who was a member of his people.”[3] Piper believes Wright’s disconnected justification from the event by which a Christian is saved or enters into God’s favor. A main issue that Piper takes with Wright’s thinking is at what point is God totally for the believer; Piper sees that before conversion and faith in Christ, God’s wrath was against the believer, in contrast after conversion and union with Christ, God’s wrath is no longer against the believer. Piper counters Wright’s argument by claiming justification is the moment or the event when a believer put their faith in Jesus Christ and at that moment God is no longer against them but is for them, and counts them as acceptable, forgiven, righteous, and obedient because of their union with Christ.[4] At that moment, even though the person is ungodly, they are declared and constituted just. Where Wright, according to Piper, sees the call as the only decisive saving moment, Piper puts the call with the work of God justifying the believer.

Piper sees Wright’s view on the gospel as challenging and involves some provocative denials about how the gospel relates to becoming saved. Piper claims Wright does not deny that God uses the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection and lordship over the world to save people. Wright wants to stress that there is a difference between one of the effects of the gospel—namely, personal salvation—and the proclamation of the gospel itself.[5] Piper is concerned that expressing the gospel in this manner will confuse people because it does not include the good news about salvation. In particular, if the announcement does not include news about how and why a person will not be “destroyed” by the risen Christ because of their sin, then it is not good news but actually terrible news.[6] Piper argues that unless the meaning of Jesus’ death and what He achieved is explained, it is not good news. It is good news because now reconciliation with God can be enjoyed by faith, and a person moves from God’s wrath to God’s righteous child. Piper believes in Wright’s passion to liberate the gospel from individualism to making it more historical and global, Wright leaves it vague for the individual sinner.[7]

Piper takes issue with another one of Wright’s gospel nuances. N. T. Wright argues that when Paul talks about how a person can come into a living and saving relationship with the saving God, it is not justification that “springs to his lips or pen.” Wright believes that when the gospel message about Jesus, the cross, and his resurrection is announced to a person, that through this, God works by His Spirit upon that person’s heart to believe.[8] Piper counters this thinking by pointing to Paul’s gospel sermon to the people in Antioch (Acts 13:38-39). As Paul brings his sermon to a close about how people can come to an eternal relationship with God, Piper believes Paul brings this message to a climax with justification.[9] Piper strongly disagrees with N. T. Wright’s theory that justification does not come to Paul’s lips or pen about how to have a saving relationship with God. He says, “It’s not only misleading, it’s not true to the text and it’s going to hurt the church.”[10]

to be continued…


[1] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 125.

[2] Ibid, 119.

[3] Ibid, 125.

[4] Piper, The Future of Justification, 181-182.

[5] Ibid, 45-46, for multiple quotations on Wright’s view of the gospel.

[6] Ibid, 46, 81-91.

[7] Ibid, 86.

[8] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 116.

[9] Piper, The Future of Justification, 20.

[10] Ibid.

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