The Answer John Piper Should Have Given

I wrote yesterday about the odd advice John Piper gave to an inquirer about watching television and movies. Even odder was that Piper did not correct said inquirer for asserting this:

Dear Pastor John, hello! I know that I have begged for Christ to receive my heart and life. My repentance is sincere. I have stopped my willful sinning, and I am doing everything I can to live a holy life. My question is about my desire and satisfaction in spiritual discipline and worship. I prefer entertainment to time with God. That’s the honest truth.

Stopped willful sinning?


If Piper doesn’t correct that one with some instruction about ongoing sin, simul justus et peccator and all, hasn’t he missed a great teaching opportunity?

That he failed to challenge this framing of the question may be a tell about the Baptist pastor’s understanding of justification and good works.


15 thoughts on “The Answer John Piper Should Have Given

  1. The Sin Offering

    “The priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he committed, and he shall be forgiven” (4:35b).

    – Leviticus 4:1–5:13

    Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth understood that sin is not an abstract concept but rather pollutes everything it touches. Having successfully murdered Duncan, she thought her deed would go unpunished. Yet she did not account for the lingering filth of her evil. Despite her best attempts to clean herself, she had to confess: “Here’s the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”

    The idea that sin brings pollution is thoroughly biblical, and the reality of this pollution was dealt with under the old covenant through the sin offering described in today’s passage. “Sin offering” is a perfectly acceptable translation of the Hebrew term in Leviticus 4, but what the sin offering actually accomplished is better seen in the words purification offering. The sin offering purified the sanctuary; it removed the defilement of sin that occurred when the people broke the covenant.

    Our holy God cannot abide the presence of those people and things that are unclean (22:3), and each time people sinned under the old covenant, they dirtied themselves. The burnt offering solved the problem of the Lord’s wrath, but it did not purify the one offering the sacrifice. There still needed to be expiation, or the removal of sin’s pollution, from the worshipers and the instruments of worship. The blood of the sin offering accomplished this cleansing. The tabernacle that became defiled because it was located in the midst of a sinful people was cleansed by the blood of the sacrifice, and the sinner was made clean and able to stand before God again (4:1–5:13).

    Unintentional sins and sins of omission were dealt with in the sin offering. These were sins people committed in ignorance of the Mosaic code or when they forgot those laws they had learned. Sins committed with a “high hand” were not covered (Num. 15:22–31). A high-handed sin is one a professing believer commits boldly and defiantly, not caring about the consequences and feeling no guilt about it once committed. It is a sin people commit fearlessly as they shake their fists, literally or figuratively, at the Lord. A sin committed with a high hand is not always the same thing as an intentional sin — all high-handed sins are intentional but not all intentional sins are high-handed. The truly converted will not commit high-handed sins, though they may commit sins of intention, albeit only after and during a struggle against the flesh (Rom. 7:7–25).

    Coram Deo
    That an intentional sin is not always a high-handed sin is seen in God’s willingness to forgive sins that were clearly intentional (2 Sam. 11–12). Only those who are unconverted may sin with a high hand, for a converted person will express sorrow and contrition after an intentional sin, thereby proving it was never high-handed in the first place. As we repent over sins both intentional and unintentional, we are assured that we belong to Jesus.

    Passages for Further Study
    Proverbs 6:16–19
    Zechariah 13:1–3
    John 18:15–27; 21:15–19
    1 John 1:5–10


  2. 🙂

    Day by day continuing with one mind….
    the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul ..
    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

    2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.


  3. It may be a tell of that, but, it may just be a tell of how the blog is really run. Perhaps the good doctor employs a physician’s assistant. No less a problem, ultimately (9th and all that), but mebbe not a good way to divine his doctrine of justification justly.

    JUST sayin’…


  4. I was a bit confused about what you wrote yesterday, but I found it on your other blog.

    You had better be careful with this “liberty” stuff, because it makes you sound like a Darbyite who divides everything up into law and grace. Or even one of those Lutheran antinomians.

    Just because you have at this point stopped your tenor of life (pattern habitual) willful sinning, that doesn’t mean that you will still be killing sin tomorrow. Justification in its “not yet” aspect is not because of your works or killing sins but it is “according to” your works and killing sins. As long as you are careful to deny that your continuing repentance is your continuing righteousness (for justification), then it is perfectly Reformed (historically) to mix a little threat into your gospel hope. (end of sarcasm)

    Even justified sinners are still sinners. So as much as I oppose any Christian who is seeking power (or complaining about persecution!), I find myself
    “in the gray”

    On the one hand, wanting to remind everybody —what I believe is not what judge Roy Moore believes—he thinks he’s a better person because he “accepted Jesus”

    On the other hand, I am wary of the self-righteousness of me saying—-I am not like judge Roy Moore (or any of those of those who think they are “good people” victimized by the world and fake news

    the “Pharisee” thanks God for having stopped deliberate sinning like that of Roy Moore

    but also, the “Pharisee” thanks God for having stopped being self-righteous like Roy Moore

    what does it mean if I am careful to ask everybody to please see the irony in what I am writing?

    if you see the irony, does this mean that you see that I am “at least” better than the neonomians?

    but if not, does this makes me an advocate of “moral equivalency”?

    sins paid for in advance by Jesus —This is not good news for almost anybody (those who describe themselves Christian and those who do not) The FBI wants a religion that really makes people better than they otherwise would be. Or at least that makes them act better than they would if they did not have “heartfelt faith” in it. Whatever that religion may be. Whether that religion watches the Simpsons on TV …or not

    John Piper, “The Debtor’s Ethic, Future Grace— “the Israelites are at their best, though, what is notable about them is not their gratitude, but their faith. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and BELIEVED the LORD, and his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31

    Piper–To contrast, when Moses behaved badly and struck the rock with his staff, this was his reprimand: And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye BELIEVED ME NOT, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. Numbers 20:12 The LORD doesn’t say that this was because they weren’t grateful enough….”


  5. John Piper– The Future of Justification—‘Soft’ legalists may not believe that they are thereby ‘earning’ their salvation, still less that they are ‘establishing a claim’ on God based on their own ‘merit’. Unfortunately, in most definitions of legalism by New Testament scholars, the possibility of ‘soft’ legalism is not even considered…. For Daniel Fuller, legalism ‘presumes that the Lord, who is not ‘served by human hands, as though he needed anything’ (Acts 17:25), can nevertheless be bribed and obligated to bestow blessing by the way men distinguish themselves.’

    Piper—Such definitions would be innocent enough if they were accompanied by an awareness that ‘legalists’ of this kind represent only some of those who interpreted Deut. 30:16 as saying that obedience to God’s law was the way to life. But all too frequently there is no such awareness. The alternative to faith is not (as it is in Paul) simply ‘works’, — a statement which embraces both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ legalism — but rather the sinful, self-seeking, merit-claiming works of the ‘hard legalist”.

    Piper—“If we are to avoid lopsided and misleading analyses of how any writer conceives of ethical motivation, we must not treat any one of his motivational statements in isolation from the realities which dominate his concern with Christian conduct in other places. The scholar who treats one text in detail is just as susceptible to the danger of arbitrary selectivity and lopsided exposition as is the scholar who attempts a more general cross–cut of a writer’s thought.”


  6. I am got to put some fear into D.G. with my answer here. I agree with his response to Piper’s missed opportunity. I see his concern and add to that the believer who wrote to Piper is, on a very real level, far more focused on himself than on the Savior


  7. E. Burns – from this am – pretty clear:

    How do you get into heaven? You don’t get into heaven by faith alone. You get justified by faith alone. You get into a position where God is one hundred percent for you by faith alone. And in order to get into heaven, that faith must bear the fruit of love. Pursue the holiness without which you will not see the Lord. Put to death the deeds of the body, and you will live!

    We should not speak of getting into heaven at the last day, through the last judgment — when all of our lives are assessed for whether there’s been any transformation confirming the reality of the faith which alone justifies. We should not say you can live like the devil and get to heaven. You can’t.

    There is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Essential to the Christian life and necessary for final salvation is the killing of sin (Romans 8:13) and the pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 12:14) — mortification of sin and sanctification in holiness. And what makes that possible and pleasing to God? These next two sentences are absolutely crucial for you living the Christian life in a way that pleases the Lord. What makes it possible for you to kill sin and pursue holiness — which are essential for going to heaven?

    We put sin to death and we pursue holiness from a justified position where God is already one hundred percent for us by faith alone. You are in that position where God is one hundred percent for you by faith alone, and from that position, you now put sins to death and you now pursue holiness from that position.

    Here’s the second sentence that’s all-important: if we try to put sin to death and pursue holiness from a position where we’re not fully accepted — not fully forgiven, not fully righteous in Christ, where God is not one hundred percent for us, maybe only ninety-five percent for us — then we will be putting sin to death and pursuing holiness as a means of getting to heaven.

    That is the Galatian heresy. Therefore, we are justified. We are put into a position where God is one hundred percent for us by faith alone — a position in Christ where no accusations sticks, no condemnation holds, no separation ever comes. Brothers and sisters, we have been shown the solution to the world’s greatest problem. You know it. We have entered paradise. We have stood on our head for joy. Have we not? Or haven’t you? I hope you have or will.

    Everything’s changed. Savor it and show it to the world. They need it more than anything, and you will not have wasted your life.


  8. Yep, it is classic John Piper.

    Here is another classic tell tell sign……

    Do you see what John Piper is doing here? There is no word legalist is scripture? Are you kidding me?? There is no word Trinity in scripture either! (I just love the “Beer!” Sign)

    Staggering the amount of folks in “Reformed circles” who adamantly defend him. But then again not surprising, federal vision theology practically speaking is flourishing, and people like Mark Jones and many others think that the planet’s biggest problem Antinomionism in the Reformed world. A world where legalism doesn’t really exist I guess , makes me wonder what planet they are living on ?


  9. Admittedly, it’s odd that Piper doubles down on this if indeed he holds to the traditional Protestant understanding of JBFA. On the most charitable reading, he isn’t being clear. But instead of trying to be clearer, we keep getting the same old stuff.


  10. The Synod [of Dort] rejects the errors of those who teach that the perseverance of true believers is not an effect of election or a gift of God produced by Christ’s death, but a condition of the new ­covenant which people, before what they call their “peremptory” election and justification, must fulfill by their free will.

    . . . I thought Piper was a “Calvinist?” I guess you can call yourself just about anything these days, without a single good work to prove it.


  11. Could it be that there are seasons and times of ‘dryness’, where one could want to will, want to do, but could not, for a period of time? Especially if one has endured severe trials, loss, and hardship……like the Psalmists of 77 and 88? Yet it is not forever…….


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