Piper’s “THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION” Key Arguments pt. 2

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, today’s post will conclude the key arguments section (part 1 can be found here).


 Piper’s Key Arguments

 

One of John Piper’s major concerns is what Wright teaches about the role of the imputation of God’s righteousness in Christ and the imputation of the obedience of Jesus to believers according to Romans 5:19. Wright argues that it makes “no sense” to say the judge imputes his righteousness to the defendant. He believes that righteousness is not something that “can be passed across the courtroom.”[1] Wright thinks that when God acts to vindicate His people, then they will metaphorically have the status of righteousness, “But the righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness. That makes no sense at all.”[2] The righteousness of the Judge and the defendant has two different meanings and looks nonsensical to Wright because of the framework and method Wright used to evaluate it is incorrect according to Piper. From Piper’s perspective, Wright treats the righteousness of God merely in terms of the actions of the Judge, and not in terms of His deeper attribute of righteousness and omnipotence.[3] Piper believes Wright’s paradigm to explain Paul turns out to limit and distort rather than clarify.[4] Piper brings the argument back to the glory of God. As Piper examines the teachings of Paul and using this law-court imagery, Piper concludes the reason God acts the way He does is not because God is unrighteous, but because God will act in a way that most fully upholds and displays the supreme worth of His glory.[5] Interpreting Paul and the Old Testament, Piper defines God’s righteousness as most fundamentally His unwavering allegiance to uphold the value of His glory. God also demands His creatures forsake their unrighteousness and glorify Him.[6] In contrast to Wright’s view of the defendant and judge, Piper makes the case that what makes God and humans “righteous” is their unwavering allegiance to treasure and uphold the glory of God. Thus, it is conceivable for the Judge’s righteousness to be shared with the defendant. Piper sees the Judge, who is also Creator and Redeemer, will find a way to make His righteousness count for the defendant since it is the exact righteousness they need.[7]

Piper concludes his volume by citing that the reason he wrote this book is to avert the “double tragedy” that is caused by Wright and the New Perspective. The first tragedy is where the obedience of Christ, imputed to the believer through faith alone, is denied or obscured.[8] Piper believes that inevitably a believer’s own works – the fruit of the Spirit – will take on a function that contradicts the very reason the good works exists. Piper argues Wright’s perspective elevates the importance of the works of love, that in turn begins to nullify the glory of Christ and His work that were designed to be displayed.[9]

The other tragedy that Piper hopes to avoid is the undermining of what makes the works of love possible, which is that Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice secured completely the glorious reality that the omnipotent Father is for His beloved children. Piper believes that if Christians deny or minimize the importance of the obedience of Christ, imputed to Christians through faith alone, their works will begin to assume the role that should have been Christ’s.[10] Piper argues at length about the supremacy of God’s glory and that God does all He can to uphold His glory and will not do or allow anything to take from his glory.


[1] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 98-99.

[2] Ibid, 99.

[3] Piper, The Future of Justification, 71.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 70.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 71.

[8] Ibid, 187.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

Personal Preference on the Main Views of Salvation

This final post on the differences between Protestant thought and Catholic thought show my own personal views on why I chose the Protestant thinking about justification and sanctification. Again, this is not a bashing of one side, this is what seems to make the most sense to me personally. Others will disagree and that is okay. It is good to have conversations about these topics. In the following posts, we will look more at salvation and different modes and beliefs.


The Catholic view combines faith with baptism and penance as the instrumental cause of justification, but also seems to have a distorted view of grace. By proposing that grace is an infused power, grace has been changed from God’s unmerited favor to something which man merits justification. The Catholic view on justification and sanctification seems to have a different view of justification by faith than Romans three and four seem to imply.

The idea that a person has to cooperate with God is something that I do not agree with. To me, it seems to take something away from God and makes faith and grace dependent on something a person does. I believe faith and grace are a gift of God, and for a person to have to do something and cooperate with God seems to imply a very small view or inappropriate view of God. The belief in having to do works and the process of justification takes away from the all-sufficient, completely efficacious sacrifice of Christ. The justification process of staying in grace through works and trying to become more righteous seems to say that faith, the cross, and Jesus was not enough or sufficient for salvation.

In regards to the Eucharist, I do not believe that communion either inherently conveys grace or is it a participation in the actual sacrifice of Christ. This seems contrary to what Scripture says that Christ’s work in finished (Heb 9:18; 10:10-14, 18). Since Christ has been sacrificed for sin, raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitting at the right hand of God until the time of His return, I personally cannot agree with the physical presence of Jesus in the elements.

While works are certainly important and are evidence of true and saving faith, they are not necessary to preserve or earn salvation. A person is not saved because they pray the rosary, obey the pope or attend mass. Rather, it is those who have put their faith in Jesus for the hope of their salvation. From everything I have been taught about justification, I hold to the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-10). Catholics teach a faith plus “meritorious works” in order to be saved. Protestants recognize that works are important, but they believe they are a result or fruit of salvation and never a means to it. Catholics blend justification and sanctification together into one ongoing process, which leads to confusion about how one is saved.

Different Views of Justification Defended by their Preferred Scriptural Texts

We continue our series by trying to defend each position using the preferred texts that each side uses to defend its position. For part one, please refer to the initial post on setting this brief series up.  Again, I am not a Roman Catholic and in this post I am trying to use the most widely preferred text that I found in research that support this view. I am sure there are a number of texts on justification that any Roman Catholic believer could point to in addition to the few listed here. The same argument about additional texts to support the Protestant position could be argued as well.


Defend each view using their preferred scriptural texts

Roman Catholics maintain that James 2 is basic to the Catholic denial of imputed righteousness based on faith alone. The Catholic Church attempted to reconcile Romans 3 with James 2 by declaring that faith begins the process of justification whereas works complete it. Catholics maintain that through the on-going process of justification, the righteousness of God through Christ is infused by the Holy Spirit in a believer. Romans 5:19 says, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Thus, a believer is made righteous and justified by obedience.[1] Both Psalm 15:2 and Matthew 25:46 speak of being righteous and doing deeds entitles a believer to enter heaven. First Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” meaning that God gave the believer grace and we cooperated with God to accept Jesus and the offer of salvation.[2] Romans 5:1-2 indicates that after having received the grace of justification a believer now has access to God’s grace by which they stand in Christ and can then rejoice in the hope (something that is not yet possessed) of sharing God’s glory (Rom 8:24). Ephesians 2: 10 points out that a believer must continue to work in Christ and only by the grace of God can believers do so. However, this grace can be resisted (2 Cor 6:1).

Protestants see the words of Paul in Romans 3 as referring to works of the law by which a person attempts to justify himself. James is speaking of works that demonstrate the genuineness of one’s justification. Where Catholics see works combining with faith to complete the process of justification, Protestants view works as evidence that one has actually been justified by God. A Protestant view of James 2 sees that a justified believer proves their faith by acts of obedience. In other words, faith is justified or made evident by works. Romans 5:1 says a believer is justified (made righteous) by faith. The faith that saves a person is not alone. It inevitably produces good works. Works are not a condition of salvation but a consequence of it. Someone who is truly saved will manifest good works. If there are no good works present, then there is no reason to believe that true saving faith is present either.

Roman Catholics view that a person is not justified by faith alone, but rather through works and faith together. This view contradicts Romans 3:28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Catholics may also argue that a person is justified by faith, and is preserved or kept in a state of grace through works. However, this too contradicts what Scripture says. Galatians 3:1-3 points out if the people received the Spirit by works of the Law or by hearing with faith. Ultimately, it is by grace through faith alone that justifies a person. Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” This supports the Protestant theology that justification is not by works in anyway but is by grace through faith in Christ and His sacrifice alone.

The Catholic view of justification seems to contradict passages such as Romans 4:1-12 and Titus 3:3-7 among others. Both of these passages speak to be justified by faith by the mercy and grace of God, not by works or anything of man. According to the Roman Catholic view, a person must await a final justification at death to know whether they have eternal life and will not see God’s condemnation. In contrast, Protestants view the Bible guaranteeing eternal life as a present possession of those who believe (John 3:36; 5:24; 1 John 5:13). John further states the only condition for obtaining eternal life is belief (John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 20:31).


[1] See Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1991: “Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or ‘justice’) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to divine will is granted us.”

[2] See Council of Trent: Decree on Justification, Chapter XVI: “For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God.” Also see Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993.

JUSTIFICATION IN CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT THOUGHT

We continue to look at the concept of soteriology and what are the different parts that make up the whole of salvation. Over the next few posts, we will look at the differences between catholics and protestants on their views on justification. Many years ago now, a group of leaders from both the catholics and protestants got together to try to bring unity to the different parties. They discussed their differences but also wanted to lay out what both parties believe and share and celebrate the similarities.

One of the many splitting points during the reformation and subsequent split from the Catholic church was on salvation and in particular justification. This led to many discussions on what is sanctification, how does communion work, and what does justification mean and how is it imparted to a believer and when. These are just a few of course.

So when the catholic and protestant leaders met, they created a joint declaration where all individuals involved signed off and approved it (document can be found here). Some evangelicals had issues with what was signed and the same can be said for catholics. Essentially, this was trying to bridge a gap and create a united community.

One of the questions that we must ask is what exactly are the beliefs of both sides. Secondly, how does each side defend its position. Third and finally, which view does a person hold and why. So today’s post will focus on summarizing the Roman Catholic and Protestant understandings of justification by faith. The next two post will focus on the second and third post respectively.

We must remember it is important to understand an alternate view in order to create conversation and have greater understanding of where that person is coming from. Below is a collection of my thoughts, research, and collaborative efforts to summarize a broad doctrine into a summary statement.

Personal Note: This is not a slamming of either side or specifically of catholicism. This is researching a particular view in an effort to understand what a catholic seems to believe (in general). I am not here to condemn any views or say one side is better than the other. At the end of the day, I will present my personal view as to why I hold to the salvation and justification, but I understand the importance of a united Church and the love and grace that God has provided. I am thankful for the open dialogue between the two sides to try to bring unity.


Protestants view justification as a specific point upon which God declares the believer as righteous. It is the moment when God declares a guilty person righteous because of what Christ has done. This point is where the believer enters into the Christian life. Protestants hold to the view of sanctification as the process or development of being made more righteous throughout a believer’s life. Justification encompasses the forgiveness of sin, acceptance by God, and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness.

In contrast, the Roman Catholics believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer “by grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must supplement the righteousness of Christ imparted to them with meritorious works. The Roman Catholics view justification as a point and a process, dependent on the grace that a believer receives by participating in the Church. Grace is often seen as something that can be distributed through various possibilities of change and means. Roman Catholics reject that there is an imputed righteousness of Christ to a believer at the moment of salvation; that is, that a believer is counted as fully righteous in the eyes of God. A person is prepared for justification with the help of actual grace. This disposition toward righteousness occurs through cooperation between a person’s will and the grace that assists them to move toward God. Although grace is present, a person cannot reach this justified state apart from their own efforts. Justification involves being made righteous and holy. The person believes that faith in Christ is only the beginning of salvation and that the individual must build upon that with good works because God’s grace of eternal salvation must be merited.

Roman Catholics hold to the doctrine of transubstantiation where they believe as they partake of the elements of the Eucharist, the literal body and blood of Christ becomes a part of the believer, transforming them, and making them more righteous. On the other hand, Protestant partake of the Lord’s Supper by holding to either the memorial view – the elements are seen as symbols and the believer commemorates Jesus’ death – or the consubstantiation perspective – Jesus is spiritually present in the elements but is not in the elements or are they the physical body and blood of Christ.

While both believed a person is saved by grace, the biggest difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic view is how a person receives that grace and whether it is the point at which a person becomes a Christian or if it is the point and a process that is continually moving toward salvation.

The sharing of my studies

Earlier this year, my wife and I decided that it was time for me to stop talking about going to seminary and to actually do it. Instead of just thinking about it, I finally acted. As I got into the middle of it, I found it so encouraging and challenging to my faith. It taught me things I never knew or dreamed of knowing. It was also very humbling as I learned more about God and His great grace towards us. It humbled me in the way I saw myself and the way I need to treat others better.

I wrestled with doubt as I worked full time and took two demanding online classes. Our lives had to change and adapt to this new way of life. As we used to be able to spend several hours a night watching TV or reading or going for a walk, now we were lucky to just spend one hour together. I went from having my nights and weekends free to having no time to do anything, especially anything fun or exciting. Our lives were changing and only by the grace of God did we get through. Only by God’s grace will we continue to make it as I continue my studies.
This time strengthened us and challenged us. It made us remember what is important. As much as we like a comfortable lifestyle, God reminded us that these lives are not for us or our comfort, but strictly for Him. We want to live for His glory and Oh boy is he driving that home right now.

I would like to share with you some of the projects I worked on in an effort to share what I learned. Not everything may be applicable to everyone or even interesting, but my hope and prayer is that it will bring glory to God. That this sharing of information will offer insight into the things I learned. I am excited to share the projects I worked on and am currently working on. I hope this journey will lead us into a deeper spiritual awareness of how great God is.

Casting for anxieties

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

You ever have one of those weeks where it seems that each day has its new challenge. Each day the calendar is full and the demands are many. Then, when you think things couldn’t get any crazier, it does. Your week goes from long to agonizingly long and you don’t look forward to the next new day. There are times when we feel we can barely make it through this day. Your strength is sapped around 9 AM. Your confidence is gone and it seems like it left days ago. It seems like everything you do or touch or say is wrong.

I feel like that is the story of my week. Each day I am not looking forward to and it has already been way too long. The demands that work puts on us is so much at times. The anxiety of tomorrow and the next day and the rest of the week is just too much right now that I want to run away from it all. The anxieties are weighing me down. I feel like each passing moment is another moment to call on God for grace and help because this world is beating me down.

But actually, that is what I need to do. I need God’s grace and help constantly, especially on these tough days. Because as I get worn down from the different beatings, the wrongs, the failures, I need the help of God so much. But that is when the verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” comes to life. That is when God reminds me, I can’t do this nor do I need to try. For when I am low, when I am weak, when I am struggling so much, that is when I need to call on Him and I will be at my strongest. It is funny that when things are fine and going well, that I am weak because those are the days I rely on self.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 11: 28-30 about not being burdened with the things of this world, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Rest. Sweet, sweet rest. While the burdens and cares of this life weigh us down, while this world tries to strip life away from us, Jesus promises us a way to be free. A way to not be burdened by the things of this world. A way to turn it all over to Him and let God be in control. The stresses of life and bad days and weeks create all sorts of different problems. Tiredness, stress, anger, bad attitude and so much more. But God offers us an escape. When we give to God our cares, worries and anxieties, He promises us in 1 Peter 5:7 that He will help us because He does care for us. So much more than we could ever, ever imagine.

God cares so much for you that even the things that seem like the smallest irritation; even He cares about because it is something that is bothering us. God cares for us. He cares about all aspects of our lives. How awesome and amazing is that! God wants a deep, personal and intimate relationship with us that no matter how big or small the anxieties are He wants to know. He knows them already. More than we could imagine and know about, yet He wants to hear from us. He wants us to remember Him. He promises us what this world can never promise us. Hope. While we struggle and fight for control in this world, God simply tells us to give all our anxieties to Him and He will take care of it. Why? Because He cares for us. He wants to see our dependence on Him. What wonderful joys come when we let God be God. When we get out of His way and trust Him with our worries and burdens, He gives us such an amazing peace. He comes to our rescue.

The thing we struggle with is control and thinking we can do it or that God needs our help. God needs nothing. God created all things, so He can handle our problems. He is already there, working in it. But we need to let go. We have to trust. And when you think about it, why would we not trust the only thing worthy of trust. We know that things won’t always work out the way we may want or desire, but God has a plan. That plan is beyond our comprehension, but God is good. God is for you. “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV).

As we struggle in the tough times. As the world brings us down, God offers hope. Give Him your worries because when everyone else doesn’t seem to care or listen. When everyone else in your life isn’t hearing you or your pain or your struggle and all you want is just to be heard. You want to know that someone is actually listening to you and your pain and it seems no one understands. It seems that others aren’t hearing the words coming out of your mouth. They are too busy trying to solve your problem. Telling you what to do and how to feel or not feel. Remember this verse from 1 Peter. God is with you and wants to hear from you. He will listen and is listening now. He knows those pains already. He knows what you are struggling with. He has felt that pain and knows those struggles. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV). God wants to hear from you. He cares for you. He will listen. But we also need to listen to Him and what he is moving us to do. Talk to Him and give Him your worries, anxieties and cares. He will help. He is waiting for you.

Finally, I leave you with a simple promise from our Great Lord and Savior about tomorrow. Listen to His words in Matthew 6:31-34, “31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (italics mine). Talk to God. What is He saying? Keep listening. Keep giving Him your cares, for He is already at work. He will and is helping you! Blessings brothers and sisters.

God’s grace is enough

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This is such a big verse in so many different ways. There are two ways that I want to address this today: 1) God’s grace, 2) Giving grace.

First, let’s talk about the amazing beauty of God’s grace. How great, how big, how wide, how far, how deep it goes to redeem us. Many scholars debate on what “thorn in the flesh” Paul was talking about when he wrote this, but what my focus is today is on the beauty that is God’s grace. In the midst of our pain, our struggles, our sufferings and all the attacks; God’s grace is sufficient. His grace covers so much that it covers all of our failures and mistakes. Even when we do not treat God, our greatest treasure, as a treasure, He still gives grace and loves us.

What amazes me, and encourages me, is that even the great Paul struggled. What is beautiful is that this man, who talks so much on grace, pleads for the grace of God. He needed relief from the pain and hurt he was feeling. Even though he took so much joy in God and even took joy in suffering, he still needed to be reminded that God loves and cares for him.

What I love is how Paul takes his hurt and starts to boast in what God does so that he may taste the pleasure of having Christ’s power rest on him. It is so hard for me when I am in the middle of a weakness, a hardship, a difficulty to praise God, yet Paul is delighting in it. He takes such delight that he gets to see how God is going to work in it and through it. He doesn’t run from it or cower, he stands strong. I recall when Job was in front of God and God tells him to “brace yourself like a man” (Job 40:7). While that is a different situation, I mention it because when we stand firm in God and delight in Him, we can stand up to all these hardships and persecutions because we know He is such a treasure. He is so good and so faithful. Even though the world and the attacks bring us down and beat us time and time again, God picks us up off the floor. He puts his arm around us. He tells us to lean on him. We are completely battered and beaten to an awful mess, yet when we call out to Him, he stands us up. We can stand firm on the mighty foundation of the Rock.

There are many days when I feel the evil one relentlessly attack me. My thoughts betray me. Everything gets twisted and distorted. It is just a bad day, yet that is when I need this verse the most. That is when I need to recall it the most. Because as awful as I have been, as bad as the thoughts were that went through me, as horrible as I have been, this is where I need to be reminded of the great grace of God. That He is making me strong. That He is there for me in this trial, this hurt and all this pain. His grace is sufficient and it covers the dirtiest of sins we confess and repent of.

These are the days I feel the worst and feel like I am so far from God. These are the days that wear on me and drag me down because it has been a battle all day. And I have been defeated so much. Yet, somehow He still loves me. He still cares for me. He still forgives me and calls me his son.

I praise God for that. I praise God that His grace is enough. And it always will be.

The other part I mention is giving grace. It has been interesting because the last few days my wife and I have been struggling with this with other people. Sometimes the hardest thing we have to do is to give grace, or in a worldly saying to give the benefit of the doubt. We are so quick to judge and condemn, like caged, hungry lions attacking its prey.

These past few days and weeks it has become a big lesson for us both. People seem to have a first response of attack when a mistake is made. Or even when there is no mistake, just to be mean or rude for no reason. Obviously, I am not in their shoes and don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. Also, I am not without guilt. All too often I do the very thing I mention. I am quick to judge, quick to get angry and slow to listen and speak. For some reason it seems that we have been at the receiving end of rudeness or insults. People not thinking before they send an email. People speaking before thinking. But it happens and I do this too.

Sometimes, I wonder if people heard the way they spoke to someone how they would take it. How would they take the correction that isn’t important? The unnecessary anger. The jab for no reason. The put down. How would they feel? How would I feel? Why is an encouraging word and even response so hard?

I was faced with this today and when I went back through this verse, God slapped me across the face with the “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Particularly in an insult. As someone was rude to me for no reason, by the grace of God was grace. This is surprising since I am a hot tempered person. I get defensive and my usual response is not sprinkled with grace and salt but with venom and vengeance.

There are days when I am so tired, or hurting, or hungry and all too often I let my emotions rule me and my response. I don’t want to be led by my evil emotions, but by the love and grace of God. For when I am weak (tired, angry, hurt, hungry, stressed) that is when Satan attacks me so much. That is when the simplest comment that would otherwise not affect me gets blown out of proportion. That is where Satan keeps attacking and growing roots with this evil seed. And for some reason, I let him. I fight at times, or try to, but so often he beats me.

That is where I need this verse. That is where I need to give grace, to give the benefit of the doubt. Why do I need to make someone feel bad? We all make mistakes, why do I need to beat someone up over it.

God, I need your grace to give grace. I thank you for your grace. I thank you that when I am weak and not doing well, you lift me up. Encourage me. You give me hope and walk me through. I need your grace Oh Lord. I need your strength to receive your grace. I need your strength to call out for your grace. Focus me on you. Focus me on your heart. I want and need to be gracious. Help me Lord! Strengthen me Lord! I am weak. I am hurting. I need you. I need a Savior. I need your grace. God have mercy on me when I fail. Thank you that your grace is sufficient! Amen.