Piper’s Doctrine Of Final Salvation Through Works: The Reformed Brotherhood Understands Your Pain

Does John Piper teach a two-stage doctrine of salvation wherein the initial stage is said to be justification by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ but in which final salvation is said to be through good works? Over time I have concluded that, in fact, he does and has for some years. I had trouble seeing it because I assumed things that were not true. Others have had similar difficulties. I have corresponded privately with a few people who have challenged my thesis about Piper’s doctrine of salvation but in my experience my correspondents have done the same thing I did: assumed what must (a priori) be true rather than investigating what is true. Read more»

R. Scott Clark | “The Reformed Brotherhood: Overcoming Confirmation Bias On Piper And Final Salvation Through Works” | May 15, 2020

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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15 comments

  1. Does Piper truly believe that a justified person (or in Piper & Fuller’s scheme “an initially justified person”) can wind up in hell because they didn’t produce sufficient (or I think one might better say, “salvific”) works?

    If so, that’s a HUGE problem, and I don’t see how it squares with the Calvinistic soteriology Piper claims to cherish (cf. his book “Five Points Toward a Deeper Understanding of God’s Grace”).

    Just gave that little Five Points book to a friend in the charismatic movement that is beginning to embrace predestination and eternal security—hoping he doesn’t go astray when discussing the perseverance of the saints!

    • My friend balked at taking two tiny booklets produced by the OPC, one on the need for creeds and confessions, the other on the Reformed faith. Piper on the Five Points and MacArthur’s “Saved Without a Doubt” was about the best I could do at that point given the resources I had on hand 🙂.

      However, I picked up three copies of the Three Forms that you linked to, as well as two paperbacks of the Westminster Standards. Need to have better resources on hand to give away. Thanks for the recommendation! May the Lord continue opening my friend’s and our eyes even wider to the glorious truths of the gospel and His Word.

      • Brandon,

        Your friend may not be ready to re-think his views/commitments. At the moment he is afraid new or different ideas. That happens. Be kind, gracious, and patient. When he’s ready to re-think things, given him a copy of the catechism.

  2. Piper’s view on sanctification sounds a lot like the Wesleyan Arminianism that I grew up with. John Wesley taught that we are saved by grace, but that our sanctification is then maintained by our good works, that it is even possible to achieve “sinless perfection”, and that if we continue to sin we may lose our salvation. Is Piper really a Wesleyan?

    • Mr McCoy, you or any of us might find it interesting that the terms ‘initial justification’ and ‘final justification’ according to Moo’s Tyndale New Testament Commentary on James (1985), p. 109, were used in 1774 by Wesley. Moo’s citation says it’s in “Minutes of 1744” in J. Wesley, Works, VIII, p. 277.

  3. 19:21“A profound rejection of the covenant of works, I’m persuaded there is no such thing. Dr. Fuller really didn’t persuade me that I just never could find it, I never could find it in the Bible… Meredith Kline just turned read in the face when he was talking to me like the whole universe was going to collapse if what I said was true.. Fuller and I reject their structure… 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐀𝐝𝐚𝐦 𝐨𝐫 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐀𝐝𝐚𝐦 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐆𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐲.”
    -John Piper

    https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/sanctification-by-faith-alone

  4. How is John Piper not considered a false teacher? If his writings lead to his belief that final salvation is through works, then how is this the gospel? Shouldn’t John Piper be called to repent? How are we loving this man and those that read his works, but unable to figure out what seems to be adrift in his writings, by not calling this out as a false gospel? Is this any less important than calling to account a pastor immersed in federal vision? At the end of the day, they’re both giving us a works salvation, are they not? I welcome any needed correction.

    • I do not completely disagree, but there have been ministers that have taught Federal Vision theology within NAPARC denominations and federations. They have taught in contradiction to their vows. They claim to formally subscribe to the reformed confessions. None of that is true of John Piper, since he is a Baptist. Our responsibilities in dealing with error are different in these two situations. I believe not baptizing the infants of the members of your church is a very serious error, but Piper is not in a reformed communion nor does he subscribe to any of the reformed confessions.

    • Thank you both, Benjamin and Bob, for your comments. In light of what I said, Benjamin, what you stated, “Piper is not in a reformed communion nor does he subscribe to any of the reformed confessions”, is something I need to remember when these articles on Piper come up.

  5. A good rule of thumb is to read the references given, in support of a statement, and ask, does the reference state or imply what the statement says. In the particular example you ask about, David, “God will create in us what he commands from us” (Providence, p. 621) is one retort, which Piper tries to support with Ezek 36:27 combining it with Romans 8:29 and 1 Thess 5:24, into”the requirements for making it to glory (p. 620).”

    So here, you have to read Ezek 36:27 and ask “is this about the requirement(s) for making it to glory? Then, in Romans 8:29: is that about commands which become requirements for it? Finally, is the “it” in 1 Th 5:24, about works required by us, that God will do?

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