After a great dinner, and a few worship songs courtesy of Keith and Kristyn Getty, John Piper took to the pulpit to explore the theme of preaching the doctrine of justification from the Scriptures in an undiminished way. For ten years he has been very exercised about this doctrine and he began by offering five reasons why this has been the doctrine that has most consumed him over the past ten years. Here they are:
First, for eight of those years he was preaching through the book of Romans. When you preach through Romans, you bump into the doctrine of justification again and again. He lived in Romans for eight years and really had no choice but to reflect heavily on this doctrine.
Second, he is surrounded at Bethlehem by apprentices and young men who read more than he does, who are smarter than he is, and who ask many hard questions about cutting edge issues they are reading about and he is not. He has found it necessary to respond to their questions.
Third, this doctrine is increasingly embattled in our day. It is being confused and reduced and contradicted in many ways (and here he offered five of them): a) the lines between Protestant and Catholic doctrine are being blurred; b) the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is being flat-out denied by evangelicals; c) the New Perspective on Paul (and N.T. Wright in particular) has redrawn the map so that confusion is very widespread about what justification is, how it relates to judgment in the future, and so on; d) faith itself and the fruits of faith are being merged so that the historic “by faith alone” is losing its meaning; e) the term “righteousness of God” is being given meanings that historically it never had and which are throwing people off.
4. He relates to this truth in terms of the imputation to us of the righteousness that Christ perfectly lived out very personally. “I love this doctrine! I live off this doctrine.” This doctrine is desperately, daily saving. Some might say that this is a blinding passion but perhaps it might instead be an eye-opening passion. The Bible is as often (more often?) misinterpreted by those who come to it skeptically as those who come to it with craving.
5. The heart of the glory of God in Christ reaches its climax at the cross. The gospel is the gospel of the glory of Christ. He is driven by this to preach with passion the doctrine of justification.
He then offered three ways the glory of Christ is diminished in these challenges. And having done that, he spent some time discussing each one of them. I will give only the points and leave it to you to listen in for his explanation (and again, I’ll let you know when the audio files are available):
First, one of Christ’s great achievements is being denied–that his righteous perfection is counted as mine.
Second, if you lose Christ’s righteousness being counted to us, something in the human soul does not get dealt with. There is some need within us that cannot be dealt with outside of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
Third, the aim of our charge is love, says Paul. Love is the great outcome of the Christian doctrine. What happens if you begin to blur the line between the ground of it and “it” itself? The very thing that you try to increase in importance (love) will die because you’ve tried to make it the foundation instead of something that is supported by the foundation.
We’ll now enjoy a short concert by the Getty’s and after that look forward to another great day tomorrow. If you’d be so kind, I’d love it if you’d remember me in your prayers as I lead a breakout session tomorrow at 1:00 PM.
I’ll be back in the morning!