John Piper’s article “For Whom did Jesus Taste Death?” focuses on Piper’s premise that disallows Jesus from being a ransom sacrifice for all people. There are many parts of Piper’s article that I would like to address, but I will deal with them one at a time in individual posts. This post addresses Piper’s claim that our faith was purchased on the cross as a gift.
Was Our Faith Purchased on the Cross as a Gift?
In my last post, I addressed the question of whether there was one verified example of a man for whom Jesus did not die. For if there was such a man who did not have a kinsmen Redeemer, then Jesus could not have died for all. Similarly, if there is a biblical example supported by the testimony of Jesus that He died for one particular man who is now in hell, then the premise that it would be unjust for a man to be in hell if Jesus died for him, is untrue. So, what about the claim that faith is a gift purchased at the cross? John Piper says that one will believe this if “you believe as you ought to believe”.
And when you believe as you ought to believe, you will discover that your belief—like all other spiritual blessings—was purchased by the death of Christ.
Where does the Bible say that your faith was purchased on the cross as a gift? Piper claims that Hebrews 10:14 shows that our sins were paid for and ultimately forgiven at the cross so that no judgment will ever fall on our head, no sin can be brought up against us, and the wrath of God was wiped out at the cross – before we were born!
The ticket for heaven which Jesus obtained for me by his blood is the wiping out of all my sins, covering them, bearing them in his own body, so that they can never bring me to ruin—can never be brought up against me again—never. That’s what happened when he died for me. Hebrews 10:14 says, “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Perfected before God for all time, by the offering his life! That’s what it means that he died for me. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ also [was] offered once to bear the sins of many.” He bore my sins. He really bore them (See Isaiah 53:4–6.) He really suffered for them. They cannot and they will not fall on my head in judgment.
According to Piper, all of your past, present, and future sins were already forgiven before you committed those sins as Jesus “really bore” those sins so that you could never be charged with any sin. He writes:
So glory in this, Christian. Glory that your sins really were covered when Jesus tasted death for you. Glory that your guilt really was removed when Jesus tasted death for you. Glory that the curse of the law really was lifted and that the wrath of God really was removed, and that the precious faith that unites you to all this treasure in Christ was a gift purchased by the blood of Christ.
How did the Cross Become Effective?
In your case, Piper states, the sin of unbelief was covered before you had faith. In Piper’s theology, the cross is only effective if it purchases the gift of faith.
The sin of unbelief was covered by the blood in your case, and therefore the power of God’s mercy was released through the cross to subdue your rebellion and bring you to the Son. You did not make the cross effective in your life by faith. The cross became effective in your life by purchasing your faith.
The teaching that Jesus bought your faith as a gift is why people like John Piper believe that Jesus could not have died for everyone, for if faith was purchased by the death of Christ and it guarantees our salvation, and not everyone ends up with faith, then by their own reasoning, Jesus could not died for everyone. The clear teaching of the Bible that Jesus died for all must be reinterpreted to remove the blood of Christ for those who die in unbelief. Piper knows that this doesn’t sound right to most Christians as he admits that 95% of Christians would say that Jesus died for everyone. Let’s deconstruct each one of Piper’s points on saving faith.
John Piper: The cross became effective by the purchase of faith
The purchase of faith on the cross is so key to Piper’s Calvinism, that if this teaching were found to be faulty, his entire system would be broken apart.
However contrary to John Piper, the apostle Paul makes the argument that faith could exist without salvation.
1 Corinthians 15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
Paul further drives home his point by writing that one could have faith in Christ and still be in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
The effectiveness of the cross is shown in the resurrection, not in the purchase of faith. John Piper teaches that Jesus purchased our faith on the cross, but Paul argues that that faith could be in vain and could have failed to save! Paul gives no credence to a “purchased faith” on the cross, for his argument is that faith in Jesus cannot save without the resurrection. Was Paul arguing that Jesus bought your faith by His death? It is nowhere in the passage! If Paul taught that a “bought faith” guarantees your salvation, then Paul would have to be claiming that there was an “if” situation where Jesus would be a failure in saving because the faith that He bought would be utterly useless! 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17 are devastating to the teaching of a “bought faith”.
What about the author of Hebrews?
John Piper gives Hebrews 10:14 as a prooftext that the “bought faith” brought a “perfected” for-all-time state that was guaranteed at the cross.
Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
On the contrary, the author of Hebrews is not presenting a for-all-time guarantee of salvation for those who have not yet been born. The author’s emphasis is that it is “by one offering” (meaning that no other offering will ever be given and no other offering is needed as if the death of Jesus wasn’t enough), Jesus has “perfected” (finished, completed without defect or blemish; perfect tense).
The perfect tense is a completed action that Jesus has done while the “state of being” at the present time results from that action.
While Jesus has completed the work, the sanctification is still ongoing in believers who are “being sanctified” (present tense – an ongoing event).
The work in us is ongoing to the point where the apostle John stated that forgiveness and cleansing from unrighteous are conditional. We must confess our sins.
1 John 1:9–10
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
John states that if we say that we have not sinned and have no need for forgiveness, we make God out to be a liar. If our sins were completely forgiven at the cross without the need for confession and without turning from sin to God, then the Bible failed to tell us this “fact”. Instead, the Bible reveals that a person who is cleaned by Jesus of his sins, needs an ongoing washing and cleansing by Jesus.
John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”
Jesus said that there is a “need” for ongoing washing. Our future sins have not been forgiven yet. We still need to have our “feet” washed.