Future Grace: Chapter 16
Piper begins by explaining that not all “belief” is created equal. John’s Gospel tells us that “many believed in His name” (2:23) because of the signs Jesus performed. John indicates that their belief was deficient in that it was based on seeing Jesus’ miracles. John Piper writes that “one of the reasons that the miracles of Jesus might or might not lead to genuine faith was they they could so easily bolster the love of power and prestige that permeates the sinful heart and makes true faith impossible.” He defends that position with John 5:41-44.
So, what is saving faith?
John Piper uses several verses in John’s Gospel to help define a faith that saves.
1. John 3:19-21 — Saving faith loves the light; it embraces Jesus as precious because the light of Christ is loved and not hated.
Our pastor is preaching through John right now and just recently finished teaching through the feasts Jesus attended, as recorded in John 7. John’s Gospel is fascinating, and I’d encourage you to study it or ask your pastor to preach through it.
3. John 8:45-47 — Saving faith is a free gift of God. Piper writes, “You cannot even hear the Word of God (in a compliant way) if you are not “of God,” that is, not born anew by the free-blowing Spirit of God (John 3:8; 1:12-13). Therefore faith is not a self-wrought work, but a fruit of God’s work in the soul.”
Many years ago, I sincerely struggled with John 1:12-13, particularly the part about our inability to become a child of God due to our own will. I read it over and over again trying to make sense of my experience. I had been taught that my salvation was based on my decision. Well, if that were true, then John 1:12-13 isn’t true. But I know that John 1:12-13 is true. So, what does that mean about my experience and what I’d been taught?
It took hours of studying and reading (nearly a year), but I finally came to the realization that if I have a heart that loves the light, that desires intimacy with Jesus, that hates sin, then, at some point, God gave me His gift of saving faith. I quit worrying about whether or not I was “chosen,” and “when” it happened, and started looking instead at the evidence for it.
I don’t agree with decisional regeneration. We can’t generate faith in ourselves. We can’t just decide that we’re going to believe. Dead men are dead — they can’t do anything for themselves. The spiritually dead can’t make themselves spiritually alive. I think Piper explains it better than I can:
This being drawn to Christ by God also corresponds to being Jesus’ sheep in John 10:27. In John 10:25-28, Jesus says,
I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to Me; but you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me.
The most amazing statement here is that we do not become sheep by believing; rather we believe because we are sheep. This is the same as saying “The reason you do not hear [my words] is that you are not of God.” Being “of God” and being a “sheep” are the same, and they are not the result of what we do in believing, but rather the result of what God does to us so that we can believe.
I love this doctrine for two reasons. First, because it places all of the responsibility on God when it comes to salvation. I have a responsibility to share the gospel, but it’s not my responsibility to “close the deal.” Second, this doctrine directs all of the glory to God. It is not at all about anything that I have done nor nothing in or about me, but only what He has done on my behalf. From His foreknowledge to predestination to the gospel call to justification to sanctification and glorification — He performs and guarantees everything. Therefore He alone is worthy of my praise.