The Pied Piper Plays Again

January 2016

John Piper recently wrote a Foreword to Thomas Schreiner’s new book, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters.[1] Piper writes:


As Tom Schreiner says, the book “tackles one of the fundamental questions of our human condition: how can a person be right with God?”


The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions. …


Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience—imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but…a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God. …


And this faith is no mere mental assent, but a heartfelt embrace of Jesus Christ as its all-satisfying treasure. “Justification is by faith alone, for faith finds its joy in Christ alone, seeing him as the pearl of great price, the one who is more desirable than anything or anyone else” (emphasis added [by Piper]).


Thus Schreiner closes his book with a joyful testimony—and I rejoice to join him in it: “My confidence on the last day…will not rest on my transformation. I have too far to go to put any confidence in what I have accomplished. Instead, I rest on Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. He is the guarantor of my salvation. I am justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”[2]


A few logical implications follow:

  1. Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain Heaven.
  2. Christ’s righteousness is insufficient to attain Heaven.
  3. Justification is not “the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.”[3]
  4. There is not therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  5. Justification is meaningless.
  6. I cannot rest in Christ alone on the last day, but must hope in my transformation.[4]


[1]Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2015.

[2]John Piper, “Foreword,” Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone, 11, 12, emphasis in original unless otherwise noted.

[3]Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith: 2nd Edition – Revised and Updated, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998, 743.

[4]Thanks to Brandon Adams and his blog article “Piper’s Foreword,” September 17, 2015, viewed January 28, 2016,