Will We Be Finally “Saved” By Faith Alone (Sola Fide)?

In a post dated March 2, 2018 one of the principal leaders of the self-described “Young, Restless, and Reformed” movement, John Piper, restates his view that there are two-stages of salvation, that our initial justification is by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ but that there is yet another stage, a final stage of salvation and to reach that stage faith is not enough. He argues that salvation and justification are distinct, that they should not be confused because salvation refers to a process but justification does not. Further, he reminds us that the Westminster Confession 11.2 says,

2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

He quite rightly notes that the Confession alludes here to Galatians 5:6 and further that James 2:17 requires good works of believers, that such good works are necessary and that “without holiness” no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). He says that “[o]bedience and love are the necessary confirmations” of true faith and union with Christ. He concludes his summary by saying, “We are not justified through sanctification….But we are finally saved through sanctification.”

He rejects the inference that his formulation has made salvation contingent upon our obedience and thus destroyed assurance of faith. For Piper, because God is sovereignly working sanctification in us, because he is the “decisive worker,” we should speak of it as the instrument of final salvation. Our assurance, he concludes rests “on God’s past work by Christ” and “his future work by the Spirit in us.”

This is better than some things that he has written on this topic but his formulations remain problematic. I have addressed this topic at length and repeatedly and thus will not repeat all that material in this response but here is a resource page.

The first remaining problem is the tw0-stage structure of his soteriology (doctrine of salvation). He is right to say that salvation is a process but his doctrine of “future grace” or future salvation “through sanctification” is mistaken. One notes that he does not engage Ephesians 2:8–10. On this see the resource page. His doctrine of future salvation through sanctification cannot be squared with Ephesians 2. Further, it is at odds with the paradigmatic biblical image of salvation: the salvation of God’s helpless and hopeless people from Egypt. There were not two stages of salvation at the Red Sea—in Belgic Confession art. 34 the Reformed confess that the “Son of God is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.”

The Scriptures simply do not support the inference that there are two stages of salvation and that our putative “future salvation” is contingent upon sanctification. Saying that our future sanctification is “decisively” wrought by God does not alleviate the problem. The whole construct rests on the premise that so long as we assert divine sovereignty we may say, more or less, whatever we please. This is the theological corollary of the “God-of-the-gaps” science or occasionalism. We explain what we can and what we cannot we attribute to God. In his reliance on a “two-stage” construct we see the lingering influence of Daniel Fuller and in this sort of appeal to divine sovereignty we may see the influence of Jonathan Edwards. In any event, it remains unhelpful.

Any doctrine of a “two-stage” salvation necessarily negates his affirmation of justification (in this life) sola gratia, Sola fide. It means that we only initially justified by grace alone, through faith alone, but ultimately, finally, saved “through sanctification.” This approach makes Christ, in the words of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, but half a Savior. It reduces him to a facilitator of salvation. He has not actually accomplished and applied it. We know this to be the case from the Piper’s own language:

God’s verdict of not guilty and his imputing of his own righteousness to us at the beginning of the Christian life is by faith alone… that’s how we get started. James is answering the question ‘does the ongoing and final reckoning of Abraham’s righteousness depend on works as the necessary evidence of true and living faith?’ James’ answer to that question is ‘Yes.’ And Paul’s answer is also ‘Yes.’ Gen 15:6. If you ask them, ‘Does justification as an ongoing and final right standing with God depend on the works of love?’ …So when Paul renounces ‘justification by works’ he renounces the view that anything we do along with faith is credited to us as righteousness. Only faith obtains the verdict, ‘not guilty,’ when we become Christians. Works are not acceptable in the moment of initial justification. But when James affirms ‘justification by works’ he means that works are absolutely necessary in the ongoing life of a Christian to confirm and prove the reality of the faith which justifies..…For James, ‘justification by works’ means “maintaining a right standing with God by faith along with the necessary evidence of faith, namely the works of love.

This was his language in 1999.

His latest relies on his earlier tw0-stage doctrine of justification, it makes the same use of James. It is, with slightly modified rhetoric, the same doctrine.

Second, we should agree that justification and salvation are distinct. Salvation is broader. It includes justification and sanctification. Justification is accomplished for us us and sanctification is wrought in us and this distinction is vital to understanding the Scripture. It was at the heart of the Reformation. Nevertheless, salvation and justification are inseparable and the difference between them is not as great as his argument suggests. See the resource page for the essay addressing this point but suffice it to say here that our sanctification is the fruit of our justification and it too is the “work of God’s free grace” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, 35).

Third, the confusion engendered by his doctrine of future salvation through sanctification—one notes that he did not use the phrase “through good works” in this latest post as he has in the past—would be reduced if he also adopted the historic Protestant way of speaking about good works as the necessary fruit and evidence of salvation. As R. C. Sproul asked of Norman Shepherd, “What’s the matter with the traditional view that good works are necessary for sanctification or are necessary as evidence of authentic faith?” This latest post seems to be moving in this direction but the language of final salvation “through sanctification” is too close to the medieval doctrine of “faith formed by love.” Because we have been saved, the love of God has been “poured forth” into our hearts (Rom 5:5) and therefore we love one another because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). It is not love or sanctification or good works that makes faith powerful. It is Christ, the object of true faith. The same sovereign Holy Spirit who gave us new life and true faith, and who through that faith has united us to the risen Christ, is at work in us. He is sanctifying us. It is also true, however, that he has already saved us and justified us. He is saving us—Piper is right about that—and he shall save us. We serve because we are saved we do not serve, we do not obey, in order to be saved.

This last point gets at a fundamental problem in Piper’s revisions of Reformed theology. As Daniel Fuller’s student, he categorically rejects the covenant of works. Historically, what has happened in such cases is that the works principle (the covenant of works) sneaks back in. The notion that we must be sufficiently sanctified to be saved in future turns the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. The turn to divine sovereignty as “decisive” is an attempt to mitigate the problem but it does not eliminate the problem. It does not seem that there is a clear distinction between sanctification as “the work of God’s free grace” with good works being the fruit thereof and good works themselves as the product of human cooperation with grace. In other words, in Piper’s soteriology, we must still do our part to be saved. The medievals taught the same thing. Aquinas taught prevenient divine grace and divine sovereignty just as strongly as Piper. Divine sovereignty is not enough.

Finally, any doctrine of initial and final justification and initial and final salvation is a smoldering cigarette on the couch of Protestant theology. He seeks to ease the burdened conscience and to encourage assurance not by pointing to Christ’s accomplished of salvation but to the future completion of it in us but this is not the Reformed approach to assurance. According to the Reformed, our only comfort in life and in death is not that I shall be finally saved through sanctification but rather:

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, 10 and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

We confess that we belong to Jesus now. We belong to Jesus utterly because he has purchased us. There is nothing provisional about it. The Heidelberg Catechism knows nothing of two stages in justification or salvation because there is only one stage. We shall be preserved because we have already been redeemed. The ground of my assurance is not a “future salvation” but its past accomplishment and present promise that the same God who has begun a good work in me will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6). Yes, Piper affirms Philippians 1:6 too, but in the context of a “two-stage” doctrine of justification and salvation it takes on a different sense.

Piper’s view is not far from the ne0-Augustinianism one finds in various late-medieval theologians but as much as the Reformers appreciated and learned from the neo-Augustinians, they were not satisfied with that approach. Piper’s use of divine sovereignty combined with his doctrine of final justification and salvation through sanctification is good evidence for re-naming the YR&R movement, the Young, Restless, and Augustinian. In the February 26, 2018 essay, “No Love Lost: How Catholics (And Some Protestants) Go Wrong On Good Works” he makes clear his discomfort with the confessional Reformed doctrine of guilt, grace, and gratitude. His substitute is the neo-Edwardsean doctrine of “Christian Hedonism,” which proposed substitution is fraught with too many problems to address here.


  1. Excellent article! Neither Piper, Chan, Comfort, or Washer preach the good news. The preach a me-gospel instead of a Christ centered Gospel and it is truly sad.

    • Brady, you bring up an interesting point. Paul Washer does not preach a final judgment, as far as I know, but he manages to make me feel guilty, like when I sing, Take My Life and Let it Be Consecrated, Lord to Thee. But maybe that is a good thing? It makes me ashamed of how much I should do, but fail to do, and how much I should have done, and failed. Does he over do it, to the point that I am too preoccupied with what I do? At such times I am especially comforted to know that God looks at the work my Savior has done, and imputed to me, even when fail miserably. Christ and Him crucified is my only boast. But guilt, grace, and gratitude seem to be the way to progress in sanctification. Paul Washer is like a good dose of the law, he makes me aware of my guilt and how desperately I need the perfect righteousness of Christ, and that produces gratitude which is the motive to love God and strive to obey Him. So I’m kind of on the fence about men like Paul Washer and Steve Lawson.

  2. Dr. Clark,

    When I read Piper I see him saying that good works are necessary for final salvation. How is this different from WCF 16.2 . . . “that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life”? I remember Dr. Waldron saying something to the effect: Good works are the way to eternal life but they are not the gate. Isn’t this was Piper is saying?

    Thank you,

  3. As long as moralists, such as Piper continue to insist on a final judgment for those who trust in Christ, they are denying Christ’s words, “IT IS FINISHED!”

    If we really understand what that means, we have he most powerful incentive of all to strive to obey God and do good works, love and gratitude to the Savior who has done it all for me.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Clark, for contending for the eternal gospel of faith alone. In this time of massive apostasy from the gospel, catalyzed in part by a multitude of prominent Evangelical preachers, we need more Christian soldiers fighting for the truth. I am pretty new to these issues, and your writing have been a great blessing to me.

  5. Referring to the two recent-most articles on DG:

    Is it not probable that Piper’s use of the phrase”final salvation” is referring to the point in time where we enter our eternal inheritance, rather than speaking of a second, contingent, qualifying moment of finally sealing God’s approval through sufficient works. The emphasis being temporal rather than doctrinal. In this view, John Piper is simply rejecting antinomianism, rather than positing stages, or growth, in the level of God’s mercy toward us.

    • Piper’s answer is always Christian Hedonism, being so satisfied wth God that we can resist the power of sin and achieve the sanctification that is required final salvation. That is final salvation by our own works and effort! I don’t know how it could be more clear that Piper is teaching works salvation. Why is it not enough for Piper that love and gratitude should provide the motive for good works in sanctification? Are we really so foolish, that having begun in the Spirit, we are now trying to attain our goal by human effort? Gal.3:3 By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal2:16 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace. Gal.5:4 To look for final salvation through our works of sanctification is actually to be alienated from Christ. Christ will be a complete Savior, or none at all!

    • It must be very distressing for those who buy into Piper’s Christian Hedonism, where they must be so satisfied with God that they will overcome the temptation of sin, to realize that they actually fail, and fall into sin. What then? Does that mean failure? Does that mean you will not attain final salvation because you are not the Christian Hedonist you thought you were? Maybe you just don’t have justifying faith at all, because Piper includes the power to overcome sin in the definition of justifying faith. “But justifying faith has found all that is for us more satisfying than all sin’s promises, and safer than sin’s threats.” But you fell into sin!

    • Why should anyone find it necessary to write an apology to a position Piper has taken, and then to qualify it with a “probable”. Dr. Clark’s essay, and his position therein, stands on its own and does not need any apology because it is cogent and scriptural and as such also in line with the Reformed confession of faith, which incidentally, is also 100% scripturally based.

    • The reason I wrote my comment is that it seems that in both the 26th Feb article and 2nd of March podcast, Piper was attempting to address his critics and tighten up his language to some degree, in an attempt to be as clear as possible about his thinking. Dr Clark, here, is addressing those arguments in particular, as am I in my comment above.

      I am concerned about aspects of the Desiring God approach to justification, particularly his definition of saving faith in pietistic terms. In fact, for a long time I have wanted to see a more thorough engagement and critique of his theology from reformationally minded pastors and academics. I welcome Dr Clark’s HB output in this regard. Nonetheless, taken in isolation (and ‘ignoring the evidence’ suggests Dr Clark), the recent statements from John Piper do not, *by themselves*, indicate to me a properly two-stage salvation that requires works-righteousness beyond the ‘necessary evidence’ formulation that Dr Clark himself would state is the classic reformed position.

      I am not making any kind of claims concerning Piper’s theology as a whole. I am simply being pedantic concerning the text of the current statements under examination.

    • Rob, you write: “The recent statements from John Piper do not “by themselves” indicate to me a properly two-stage salvation that requires works righteousness beyond the “necessary evidence ” formulation that Dr. Clark would state as the classic reformed position.” That is an amazing statement that suggests to me that you do not understand the difference between works as evidence that our faith is real and works that are evidence of fruit that is required for final salvation at the final judgment. First of all, the Reformed view is that we were judged and justified for eternity the moment we put our trust in Christ as our righteousness. Therefore believers will be vindicated by their glorification, not judged on the basis of their fruit on the last day. The good works of believers show that they have saving faith in this life because they are an expression of their love and gratitude to God for their complete salvation. But their good works in no way contribute evidence for a final salvation. In contrast, consider some statements from Piper’s article: “There is no final salvation without the confirmation of justification in a life of holiness….the fight for holiness is hopeful because it is based on the completed work of justification….In other words, receiving Christ in a saving way means preferring Christ over all other persons and things. It means desiring him not only for what he can do. His deeds on our behalf are meant to make it possible — possible to know and enjoy him forever.” There you have the difference made clear! The Reformed position is that Christ actually saves us the moment we trust in Him, there is no future judgment! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But as with all moralists, Piper is saying that salvation is only possible, provided we do our part.

    • Angela, looking at the text from 2nd March again and your own comment, I can see that Piper’s mention of “the last judgement” is a sticking point. I did a quick search of HB on that topic and I can’t help noting William Ames point, as follows:

      “26. But the sentence of life, in respect of the elect, shall be given, according to their works, not as meritorious causes, but as effects testifying of true causes.”

      There is a similarity between that quotation and these words from Piper:

      “works play no role whatsoever in justification, but are the necessary fruit of justifying faith, which confirm our faith and our union with Christ at the last judgment.”

      I concede, however, that Ames does not use the word “necessary” which is somewhat loaded (but note that RC Sproul uses it, as quoted by Dr Clark above).

    • Rob, the whole sense of the Ames article is that the elect will not face final judgment on the last day, but that their justification, when they came to saving faith, was their judgment so that will be vindicated by being raised to everlasting life. Ames mentions their works, but there is no mention that their works are part of a judgment for eternal life because they are already raised to life and vindicated as having been finally justified when they believed, and the true cause he refers to is the imputed rigjteousness of Christ when they believed. In fact he mentions that believers will rather join Christ in judging those who were never justified and the wicked Angels.

      Piper in contrast wants to maintain that all will be judged, even those who were justified, on the basis of the necessary fruit of justifying faith. Piper says the believer will be judged a second time, Ames says the believers’ justification on believing in Christ will be vindicated by his resurrection to eternal life.

  6. I’m with Paul!

    “Christ HAS died, and furthermore, IS risen again.” (Rom. 8:34)

    Paul rejoiced in a PAST salvation, which past, guaranteed his future!

  7. Yet I still hear many in Piper’s camp identified as “Reformed” or “Calvinist” only because of their perceived soteriology. I say “perceived” becaus we can see that even their soteriology is foreign to the Reformers.

    • There are such diverse groups calling themselves “Reformed” that the term has become virtually meaningless. About the only thing they seem to have in common is that they more or less subscribe to the idea of predestination. It must be very confusing for young people who have discovered the sovereignty of God, and connected this with the Reformers, who set out to learn more about Reformed theology, to be confronted with such diverse, and radical revisions of Reformed theology. Enter the actual Reformed Confessions. They tell it like it really is, and what authentic Reformed theology, piety, and practice is all about. Dr. Clark has written a great book, Recovering the Reformed Confessions: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice that explains why the confessions are so important to anyone wanting to know what Reformed Christianty actually stands for and how these are written, consensus standards, tried, and tested over hundreds of years so that they accurately define the Reformed faith.

    • Thanks Angela. I bought and read Scott’s book, “Recovering the Reformed Confession” and it is one my favorites. The “New Calvinists” or “Young, Restless, Reformed” seem to be made up of a majority of Baptists. They are prolific in media and seem to be trying to redefine “Reformed”. They have been making major inroads in my denomination (PCA). Our young new pastor frequently quotes John Piper but I have never heard him quote John Calvin. It’s a dismal tide.

    • Maybe God has put you in a position to respectfully point out to your pastor how he is wrong to recommend John Piper’s ideas, and if he will not listen, go through the steps outlined in the Book of Church Order to take it up with the Church by demonstrating how it conflicts with the Westminster Standards. That is what the confessions were designed to do, to give the full authority of these consensus documents to each member if they are able to prove that those in authority are deviating from the standards. In the U.R.C., it was through the courage of an ordinary, elderly couple that finally got the ball rolling in the condemnation of the Federal Vision heresy, which is very similar to Piper in teaching two stage justification/salvation.

    • Hi Angela: The PCA has become a de facto “safe zone” for Piper, the New Calvinists, and the Federal Visionists. The denomination’s Standing Judicial Committee directed the Northwest Presbytery to put Peter Leithart on trial for preaching the Federal Vision in a PCA church. This Presbytery promptly found Leithart innocent in the face of overwhelming evidence against him. There are rogue presbyteries within the PCA which are “safe havens” for such teaching. There seems to now be a tolerance at the highest levels for the Federal Vision in the PCA whereby further action against its purveyors is seen as divisive. So by comparison Piper, is seen as benign at worst and is more likely to be seen as “one of us”.

  8. Dr. Scott Clark,
    Thanks for your continual examination of what Piper and others are saying. Do you have a fuller critique of Christian hedonism as a form of piety?

    • If you google criticism of Christian Hedonism, you will find, A Critical Examination of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism from Limerick Reformed Fellowship and a criticism by Peter Masters. These two sources give very good criticisms Christian Hedonism in my opinion.

  9. A Hedonist thinks of first of all himself, thus ‘Christian Hedonism’ is an oxymoron.
    “He must increase, I must decrease.”
    “For me to live is Christ.” –
    “I live, yet not I.”
    + 1 Cor. 11:24, Php 2:3, etc. etc.

    • What Piper means by Christian Hedonism is that we need to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever. Your joy in the Lord must give you such joy, that you have such a powerful motive to achieve eternal life in which to enjoy God forever, that you will overcome sin and achieve the level of sanctification that is required for final salvation. So instead of gratitude to Christ for providing all the righteousness you need to stand righteous before God and thereby qualified for eternal life, giving you the incentive to obey God and do good works, your desire for eternal joy provides the incentive to obey God. You are looking for future joy with God and that is the motive for obedience. You are obeying to provide the fruit that must be produced to qualify you for eternal life, when God evaluates your life on judgment day! It is a clever and insidious revision of the Reformed understanding of good works in sanctification. It turns the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. It is salvation by good works that you must enjoy doing!

  10. ‘Your desire for eternal joy, provides the incentive to obey God.’ = Hedonism

    I’m sure Piper understood what the word Hedonism meant, when he chose it.

    Whereas the heart of Christ in Paul caused him to wish himself accursed in Hell, if it meant his people coming into salvation.

    • This article is quite helpful. It points to one of the problems with Piper’s revision of saving faith, not as a simple trust in Christ as my complete Savior, but as faith that includes joy and pleasure in the Lord in order to enable the works that are the required fruit for final salvation. As Piper states in his article, Christ’s deeds make it POSSIBLE to enjoy Him forever, but final salvation depends on our doing our part, and joy provides the motivation. Therefore saving faith must include sufficient joy and pleasure in the Lord to enable the life of holiness that is the prerequisite for final salvation.

  11. I wonder how Piper would answer this question: “Has there ever been anyone in the history of the world who was justified but failed to achieve “final salvation”?

    • In Future Grace, Piper says that no justified person will ever be lost. p332 But then he qualifies that statement to say that justifying faith is the kind of faith that sanctifies, so you see he is including sanctification in the definition of faith. That is not faith alone! That is adding sanctification, making it co-instrumental with saving faith. Similarly thje FV defined saving faith as faithfulness. So ultimately these moralists bring in a final judgment that determines whether justifying faith was sufficiently sanctified and that destroys salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone because our works or sanctification are then co-instruments in the definition of the faith that justifies. So according to Piper, if you have the right kind of faith, that which includes sanctification, you have the justification that cannot be lost because it is sanctifying, and that meets the condition for final salvation.

  12. Dr. Clark,

    In response to Dan, you write (above): “Who says that there is such a thing as ‘final salvation’ in the first place? The WCF certainly doesn’t confess that nor do the Scriptures teach any such thing.”

    I am sure you are aware that others have pointed out Dr. Horton’s use of that same term in God of Promise (cited below)? Would you please comment on this (or, if you already have, direct me to where you have done so). Thanks.

    //The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor, are part of that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

    …Holiness, which is defined by love of God and neighbor … is the indispensable condition of our glorification: no one will be seated at the heavenly banquet who has not begun, however imperfectly, in new obedience.//

    • David,

      I have indeed seen this quotation. I have also asked Mike about it. I gave away my hard copy of The Christian Faith: A Theology for Pilgrims on the Way and so just bought the Kindle—which was more expensive than the hard copy!—and searched it for your quotation. I cannot find that language.

      I did find 4 references to “final salvation” and each of them denying the Roman doctrine of final salvation or, in one case, talking about the resurrection and consummation.

      I have known Mike for 25 years and have been reading him even longer and I know with a certainty that he has no sympathy for a “two-stage” doctrine of justification nor for a doctrine of initial justification sola gratia, sola fide and a “final justification” or a “final salvation” through faith and sanctification or through good works.

      Fruit is a consequent necessity. It is a necessity but it is not and cannot be co-instrumental with faith in justification or sanctification and thus not in salvation.

      The conditions about which Mike is putatively speaking in the material quoted are consequent conditions. I’ve explained this at length:

      Resources On Conditions in the Covenant of Grace

  13. I was astounded to find Piper quoted (I presume correctly) as saying in his book ‘Future Grace’;

    “The daily faith of obedience is not primarily a looking back upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary, but a looking forward, to “future grace.”

    My question is; then why did Jesus institute the supper, saying; “Do this in remembrance of Me.” ?!

    This is the major contention of the book Future Grace. Thence, its complete title: The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in … Future Grace

    • Yes, that is a very questionable part of that book, that we should look to future grace to help us achieve the sanctification we require at the final judgment, rather than to the finished work of Christ as sufficient for our eternal right standing with God. Excellent point!

    • Thank you, Angela for always directing us towards the truth of the Gospel! You are an encouragement to me in my walk in Christ!

    • Thanks Tina. I am just an opinionated old Christian who is near the end of her race. Through my failings and God’s chastisements I have come to learn a few things. It is a privilege to be able to share some of my experience with younger Christians. Thanks to Dr. Clark and the Heidelbolg for this.

  14. What I find difficult to understand is the obfuscation by Piper. Since there appears to be something he believes that is odds with the Reformed understanding of justification, why not sit down with someone like R. Scott Clark rather than one of Piper’s buddies and really clarify the issues. If he has a different belief system, why not either own it or do everything to distance himself from the growing perception? Has he become so beholden to the continued success of Desiring God Ministries that it is better to leave things murky rather than risk people canceling conference dates or have book sales go flat? Is the real problem in the lack of clarification the root of all evil?

    • Piper is right, good works are necessary for salvation! But not as instrument for salvation. Good works are simply evidence that we truly trust in Christ alone. If we are truly regenerated and indwelled by the Holy Spirit, He will be conforming us to the image of Christ. The evidence will be that we are being sanctified, and making progress in holiness. The problem with moralists like Richard Baxter, FV, and Piper is that they are not satisfied with works as simple evidence, they want to make them instruments of salvation, together with faith. They think that is the way to encourage good works and honor God. I know some FVs. They simply cannot understand why their system has been condemned as a false teaching. The same was true of Richard Baxter. They cannot seem to distinguish the necessity of good works as instrument or cause, and good works as the non saving, but necessary consequence of Justification. Tragically that results in a denial that both justification and salvation are through faith alone, and in Christ alone

  15. Coming out of a WoF church John Piper was instrumental for my inicial understanding of the doctrines of grace, by that time I didn’t know better and tried to persuade my friends to be “christian hedonists” but now I repent of that.
    This two-stage salvation is nothing more that salvation by works and christian hedonism the law by which you achieve that salvation, personally I believe that it is the result of Piper’s “profound rejection of the covenant of works” rejecting the covenant of works leaves no ground for assurance and hope derived from the active obedience of Christ and one has to come up with some new law (namely christian hedonism)
    I am really thankful to God for men like Horton and Clark that defend the gospel

  16. Dr. Clark and Angela,

    After reading Dr. Clark’s initial response to me and the comments thread, let me see if I can summarize what you are saying so that I understand this important issue.

    You all are saying that Piper is saying that in order to make it to heaven good works are necessary as the instrumental cause. The Reformed Confessions say that in order to make it to heaven good works are necessary as evidence.

    Thanks for your help, brother and sister!


    • Dan,

      Yes, the denial of salvation through faith alone is a major problem but there are others including, but not limited to, a two-stage doctrine of justification and salvation, and a denial of the covenant of works before the fall.

      See this resource page for more.

    • Dan, we are saying that good works are not the ground or instrument of getting to heaven, only faith in the blood and righteousness of Christ can be the ground and instrument for that. Good works are not the ground or instrument. They are necessary as evidence that the faith, the instrument of salvation, is real because they demonstrate that we are truly grateful for the salvation we have received through faith alone in Christ. Think of a fire. It burns and produces heat. It also necessarily produces light, but the light does not burn or produce heat. Our good works show that we have the faith that alone saves, but our good works show that saving faith is there.


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