Sunday, August 06, 2006

Piper and Wright on “Future Grace”

One of the greatest truths I have learned from Piper is that saving faith is one that looks to and rest on God’s promises in Christ for salvation, both in the past, present and future.

Piper writes:

“A second assumption is that justifying faith is not only a trusting in the past grace of God, but also a trusting in the future grace of God, secured by the past grace of Christ’s death and resurrection. Justifying faith embraces the finished work of Christ’s atonement, in sense that it rests in all that this atonement means for our past, present and future.” [1]

Also to my amazement, Wright articulates something similar to Piper:

“Romans 8 thus points to the crowning glory of Paul's doctrine of justification. It demonstrates that the assurance which is contained in the doctrine is found not in looking at anything in oneself, not even at one's faith, but in faith itself, which is looking to Christ” [2]

“The doctrine of justification by faith is that all this is even now certain for those who believe in the Gospel; the experience of justification by faith is the steadfast looking away from oneself at the objective facts of incarnation and atonement, revealing as they do the unchanging and unshakeable love of God for his people. This is justification: because of the work of the Son and the Spirit, God pronounces in the present the future verdict of 'righteous' over all who believe. Irrespective of moral or racial background, believers are declared to belong for all eternity to the true people of Abraham, the family of the renewed covenant, the people whose sins are forgiven.” [2]

“The 'faith' in question is faith in 'the God who raised Jesus from the dead'. It comes about through the announcement of God's word, the gospel, which works powerfully in the hearts of hearers, 'calling' them to believe, or indeed (as Paul often puts it) to 'obey' the gospel (Rom. 1.16f.; 1 Thess. 1.3f., 2.13; 2 Thess. 1.8). This faith looks backwards to what God has done in Christ, by means of his own obedient faithfulness to God's purpose (Rom. 5.19; Phil. 2.6), relying on that rather than on anything that is true of oneself. For Paul, this meant refusing to regard the badges of Jewish law-observance ('the works of the law') as the decisive factor (Phil. 3.2-11). And it looks forward to the final day: because this faith is the first sign of new God-given life, it is the appropriate anticipation of the final verdict, which is guaranteed by the same Spirit who inspired faith (2 Cor. 1.22; Phil. 1.6).” [3]

[1] John Piper, “Future Grace”, pg. 27

[2] N.T. Wright, “Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism”

[3] N.T. Wright, “The Shape of Justification”


Anonymous said...

Wright says that "the final verdict [...] is guaranteed by the same Spirit who inspired faith." So then the question is, can the Spirit be thwarted? For Piper, the answer is of course, no. For Wright however, I'm less sure.
Your thoughts?

dan said...


I don't know of any quote that Wright directly said the Spirit can not be thwarted, but I am certain that he has the same view as piper. What Wright is saying is that because God through the Holy Spirit produce initial faith (regeneration), he will produce the perseverance and work necessary for final justification.

Wright writes about assurance: "Assurance is not an extra blessing over and above justification, but simply the outworking of justification itself, the realization that the Spirit who inspired faith and now inspires love will continue until, in the resurrection, he has produced the full harvest of which he himself is presently the first fruits "



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification Dan. From my (granted, limited) reading of Wright, I'm not sure he would view the Spirit's work in the same light as Piper. The whole Calvinism thing kind of dictates how one views the give-and-take of a believer's relationship to the Spirit.
Either way, thanks for the thoughts.