Piper and Wright: Does Justification by Faith Save Us?

Copyright Tony S. Reinke, 2007So far in this series we have looked at the following:

Today I want to share a quote from The Future of Justification in which Piper responds to another of Wright’s main criticisms of traditional views of justification. Wright has argued that the Gospel is not a way of getting people saved, and that we are not saved by holding a certain doctrine, but by faith in the person of Jesus and his resurrection.

“. . . there is a misleading ambiguity in Wright’s statement that we are saved not by believing in justification by faith but by believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The ambiguity is that it leaves undefined what we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection for. It is not saving faith to believe in Jesus merely for prosperity or health or a better marriage. In Wright’s passion to liberate the gospel from mere individualism and to make it historical and global, he leaves it vague for individual sinners.

John PiperThe summons, “Believe the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection” has no content that is yet clearly good news. Not until the gospel preacher tells the listener what Jesus offers him personally and freely does this proclamation have the quality of good news. My point here has simply been that from Acts 13:39 it is evident that one way Paul preached the gospel was by saying, “By him [namely, Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Of course, it is Jesus who saves, not the doctrine. And so our faith rests decisively on Jesus. But the doctrine tells us what sort of Jesus we are resting on and what we are resting on him for. Without this, the word Jesus has no content that could be good news. . . .

If the gospel has no answer for this sinner, the mere facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus are not good news. But if the gospel has an answer, it would have to be a message about how the rebel against God can be saved—indeed, how he can be right with God and become part of the covenant people. I do not think Wright needs to marginalize these essential and glorious aspects of the gospel in order to strengthen his case that the gospel has larger global implications.” (pp. 86-89)

Book photo courtesy of Tony S. Reinke, The Shepherd’s Scrapbook. Used by permission.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, and a writer. Since 1995 he has been a member of Jubilee Church London. Adrian serves as part of Jubilee's leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.
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  • ernest

    Its strange to hear Piper, a Calvinist, comment on how a man can be saved since he believes that unless one is fortunate enough to be elected by God, there is no hope, no Good News, no path to salvation. Even Piper’s comment about a free offer of salvation is meaningless since Piper believes that man cannot accept the offer unless God decides to regenerate the man. Piper’s god extends his hand of salvation to men who have their hands tied behind their backs.

  • Tyler Allred

    This quote from Piper seems to miss the point that Wright makes about the content of the “gospel”… Wright stresses again and again that the gospel is the royal proclamation that in Jesus death and resurrection he has become king/ messiah and Lord over all creation. It’s that proclamation of victory that comprised the gospel and the fact that Jesus is now king demands a change in our allegiance; as an obvious derivative, our own salvation and membership into his kingdom is certainly the next part of that message but “gospel” in both it’s Jewish and Roman roots would not have started with the individual but with the king on the throne… how I can be saved is not the gospel, that Jesus has conquered and is sitting on the throne ruling his kingdom is.