Paul's Passing Thoughts

John Piper Pleads for Evangelicals Everywhere to be Saved in His 6 Minute Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 30, 2010

There is a video widely circulated throughout the internet called “The Gospel  in 6 Minutes.” It is excerpted from a sermon by John Piper called “God Strengthens Us by the Gospel.” Apparently, it was delivered in September of  1997, and till this day, the title of the sermon that inspired the video has not even raised a brow. “Strengthened by the gospel”? “Us” would be Christians, “strengthened” would be sanctification, and “gospel” would be the good news that saved us.

That’s what Piper believes. It’s the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification. I could post-up just on the title. Regardless of the apostle Paul saying on numerous occasions that the gospel is the foundation of our faith that we build on (Rom. 15:20, 1Cor. 3:10-12, Heb. 6:1), Piper’s title would suggest that’s not the case. The premise that the same gospel message that got us into the kingdom, now sanctifies us, has very serious ramifications in regard to life and godliness. First, if you extrapolate this concept to its logical conclusions (a lost art in today’s church); the gospel is the message God uses to justify us, so, if we are sanctified by the same, an on-going justification would be required for our everyday walk with God. Sure, you could still call it sanctification because it grows as opposed to being a particular point in time, but what drives it is continual justification. Therefore, and think about this, justification is not a onetime event, it is ongoing.

Secondly, justification is monergistic (a complete and total work of God ALONE), so, that would limit sanctification to the same tenets of justification; namely, by faith alone! Are we sanctified by faith alone?

Thirdly, would a rejection of sanctification by faith alone short-circuit justification? Do we, therefore, have to believe in a monergistic sanctification by faith alone to be saved?

Fourthly, if we could not obey to be saved, and we are sanctified the same way we are justified, then who does the obeying? It couldn’t be us, right?

So, let me sum-up in regard to Piper’s title with five interpretive questions: Is sanctification by faith alone? Is sanctification by faith, and our works, a false gospel? Do we have to be saved daily? (as stated by a proponent of GS in a chapel sermon at SEBTS entitled “Playing With the Box” in which he plainly said that we need daily salvation). Who obeys? How does sanctification by faith alone function? Are these not questions that effect the very core of how we function as Christians? The guy preached this message when? His buddies are who? Am I here right now?

Am I seeing too much in a mere title? Well, let’s see. The video excerpt is divided into four parts:  Let’s start with the first part: “What is the Gospel?”:

“What’s the gospel? I’ll put it in a sentence.
The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.
That’s the gospel.”

See anything missing? It’s the same thing that’s missing in 99.99% of all gospel presentations by proponents of Gospel Sanctification: repentance. Some time ago, I stumbled upon a video of John MacArthur verbally flogging Rick Warren for the absence of repentance in his (Warren’s) gospel presentation. Hmmm. But  remember, Piper and Mac are buddies, and besides, Rick Warren is not a rock star in Reformed circles. But never the less, proponents of GS believe in what they call “deep repentance.” I am not going to stop here to explain it, but suffice to say that it would be very difficult to insert into a gospel presentation because of its complexity. However, I am seeing a movement among some proponents to attempt to implement the concept into the presentation of the gospel. In other words, they pass on mere repentance, but they want to implement deep repentance (sometimes referred to as “intelligent repentance”) instead. Like I said, for now, I’m going to pass on an explanation, but let me at least give you this snippet: it involves repenting of  “good works” in order to be saved. And trust me, they don’t want you doing any good works in sanctification either.

As an aside, let me interject another example that is slightly off-subject. Missing from the transcript (from Piper’s website) that I am using for this article, Piper makes this statement: God entered history IN Jesus Christ [slightly paraphrased]. Is that true? Did God enter history “in” Christ? This is a term that I am often hearing among proponents of GS, this whole “God IN Christ” business. When I ask them to clarify; in every case, they quickly say, “I didn’t mean it exactly that way.” Perhaps, but I am not the only one who is concerned that the Trinity is being distorted by an unbalanced view of soteriology  in reformed circles (see page 192, “Future Isreal” by Barry E. Horner). More than likely, Piper was referring to the Christocentric hermeneutic that is also a staple tenet of GS doctrine, of which Horner also expresses concern on the same page of his book cited above. As we proceed, you will see a major element of my thesis here; to be specific, this doctrine continues to get stranger and stranger, almost daily, while mainline Evangelical leaders seem glibly oblivious.

Now we move to the second part of the video: “You Can’t  Outgrow the Gospel”:

“You never, never, never [actually, he repeats “never” 23 times; think it‘s important to him?] outgrow your need for it. Don’t ever think of the gospel as, “That’s the way you get saved, and then you get strong by leaving it and doing something else.”
No! We are strengthened by God through the gospel every day, till the day we drop.
You never outgrow the need to preach to yourself the gospel.”

I think this statement clearly reiterates my opening description of Gospel Sanctification, but what does he mean by “leaving it and doing SOMETHING ELSE.” What is the “something else”? Well, it’s ANYTHING ELSE but the gospel, obviously. And I do mean anything else. For an Idea, read Paul David Tripp’s (the reining prince of Gospel Sanctification) explanation of what the OTHER THINGS are in “How People Change,” pages 23 thru 36. On page 27, he says that the mere act of changing our thinking to biblical thinking is activity that “omits the person and work of Christ as savior.” Stop right there. This concise statement answers two of my interpretive questions: who does the obeying in sanctification? Well, since the relatively passive activity of changing our thinking omits the “work of Christ,” obviously, Christ is doing the work and not us. Comprender? Also, is sanctification by faith and works a false gospel? Yes, because, according to Tripp, it omits “Christ as SAVIOR.” Right? Also, let me mention that Jerry Bridges, another propagator of GS, coined the phrase “you must preach the gospel to yourself everyday” as Piper eludes to it here. This is often Jerry Bridges’ prescription (and most other advocates of GS, especially Dana Stoddard) for people who struggle with assurance of salvation, as opposed to the obvious biblical prescription of examining behavior / thinking and doing something about it. Is this not a major, ground-level issue in our Christian walk? Why doesn’t anybody care? I am truly perplexed!

We now move to the third part of Piper’s six-minute gospel: “How the Gospel Strengthens”:

“Here’s an illustration, and I use it not because it’s any big deal to speak from my life, but because it’s what I walked through and where I most pointedly in the last year experienced the power of the gospel to make me strong. (Many of you are walking through things much heavier than prostate cancer—much heavier.)
Do you remember the verses that I shared with you back in February that were almighty for me? It was that moment right after the doctor says, “I think we need to do a biopsy,” when this stab of fear comes. It didn’t last long, mercifully.
And then came—what? 1Thessalonians 5:9-10. It’s just as pure gospel as you can get.
God has not destined you for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,who died for you so that whether you wake or sleep you will live with him.
Settled. Peace like a river.”

This clearly demonstrates how the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification has changed biblical counseling. Instead of biblical directives, the attempt is going to be to find the right gospel “picture” (see the transcript from Piper’s address to the 2010 T4G  conference) that fits the individual’s “need” at that time. I have witnessed this reality first-hand in actual counseling situations. I was also in a Reformed church one morning that propagates GS, and heard an elder of that church testify to how God miraculously turned a marriage around in the first meeting when he “showed them the gospel” from a particular Bible text. The couple were Christians who came to that church for counseling. In the transcript that I am working from, which came from Piper’s website; his comment in the same section as follows, was left out: “That’s why  the Bible is so thick, there is a gospel presentation for every need of life” [paraphrased]. The fact that the doctrine of Gospel Sanctification is radically changing what goes on in biblical counseling offices should greatly alarm the Evangelical church. For instance, most Evangelicals who show-up at one of these counseling offices will be dealt with as if they are not even saved; being Evangelicals.

We now move to the fourth and final section of the Piper video: “A Plea to Believe”:

“I know that there are people reading this [edited for written form] who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation. So I’m just going to plead with you here at the end, lay down that rebellion. Lay it down. And simply embrace the gospel that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Righteous One, died for your sins. He was raised on the third day, triumphant over all his enemies. He reigns until he puts all of his enemies under his feet. Forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God comes freely through him alone, by faith alone.
I plead with you, don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the
Don’t put it off. “

Piper begins this section with the following: “I know that there are people reading this who are not trusting Jesus Christ, and therefore can only expect condemnation.” In context, what does he mean that they are not “trusting Jesus Christ”? Well, he continues: “Forgiveness of sins and a right standing with God comes freely through him alone, by faith alone.” So, who is he talking to? I’m glad you asked, he continues in the very next sentence: “I plead with you, don’t try to be strong in your own strength; it will not be there when you need it. Only one strength will be there—the strength that God gives according to the gospel.” He is talking about being strong, or strengthened, in regard to “us” (remember the title of the sermon that the video was excerpted from? “God Strengthens Us by the Gospel”).  In other words, exerting our own effort in the sanctification process, and especially apart from the gospel, will result in “condemnation.” This is a plea for any person who believes in synergistic sanctification to be saved.  Also note how he uses expressions of justification and sanctification interchangeably. The topics of  his paragraphs in the same general context often look like this: Justification, sanctification, justification, sanctification. Likewise, Piper and many others such as Paul Tripp often use justification verses to make points about sanctification. I have cited many, many, examples of this in previous articles, and a prime example would be pages 64 and 65 of “How People Change.”

I only have one plea for myself: among all of my Southern Baptist brothers (Al Mohler etc.), and Reformed guys like Piper, MacArthur, RC Sproul, Michael Horton (if you move on from the gospel to anything else, you loose both sanctification and justification [that means you ain’t saved], see page 62 of “Christless Christianity”), etc; who have been hanging out together, would somebody figure out who’s  saved and who isn’t? I would like to know who I can follow horizontally. Or, are these issues just not important? Or, do I just need to shut-up and be mesmerized by expert pontification?


2 Responses

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  1. PDuggie said, on August 5, 2010 at 12:51 AM

    Hi. Just found your site. Very interesting. I actually sit under Paul Tripp in the evenings at Tenth. Generally I like what he has to say, and maybe filter out the stuff that seems too GS.

    I was teaching in sunday school and offhandedly mentioned that the way we continue the Christian life is not much different than the way we start it. While I think that could sound like GS, I wonder.

    What do you think of Jonathan Edwards on “evangelical obedience”? He stresses obedience in sanctification, but also, IIRC, describes those obediences as acts of faith that depend on Christ as much as justifying faith.

    I’d like to keep my observation that there is a structural analogy between Justification and sanctification, though one is synergistic and one monergistic. Maybe Edwards offers a way to do that.


    • pauldohse said, on August 5, 2010 at 5:47 AM

      PDuggie, Greetings.

      “Generally I like what he has to say, and maybe filter out the stuff that seems too GS.”

      Interesting, I was just discussing this morning with someone as to whether or not “GS (Gospel Sanctification)” is becoming a known and accepted term for the doctrine. Of course you like most of what Tripp says, in the same way I liked everything JC Strombeck said in “Disciplined by Grace.” Only problem is: it’s 100% vertical, and such teaching will lead to a lack of a horizontal perspective on our role in sanctification. The end result is that we will continually be reminded of the vertical while the horizontal, being forgotten due to lack of emphasis, will diminish in our walk with God, and the ill results following.

      “I was teaching in sunday school and offhandedly mentioned that the way we continue the Christian life is not much different than the way we start it. While I think that could sound like GS, I wonder.”

      My short response is: they are significantly different because of the role of Scripture (law) is different in each. My long answer is the following:

      “IIRC, describes those obediences as acts of faith that depend on Christ as much as justifying faith.” I don’t know who or what “IIRC” is, but they are dead wrong. This statement says that we are sanctified by faith alone in the same way we were justified by faith alone. In justification, we trust Christ to do all of the work of justification alone through the Spirit. We do not also trust Christ to do all of the work, or works, of sanctification alone. GS teaches that Christ obeys for us and in our place, and also de-emphasizes the work of the Spirit by rarely mentioning Him. Why? Because Christ called the Holy Spirit a “helper”(John 14:26). That’s a huuuuuge problem for GS theology, because if the Holy Spirit is helping, that means we are actually doing something also. But let me reiterate: Christ does ALL the work in justification, so if we are sanctified the same way we are justified, Christ is also doing all of the works in sanctification also. Obviously. That negates the role of biblical imperatives in sanctification, otherwise known as antinomianism.

      “I’d like to keep my observation that there is a structural analogy between Justification and sanctification, though one is synergistic and one monergistic” The structural analogy given in Scripture is a building, with justification being a foundation that the saints build on. Saints cannot, and did not, have any role in building the foundation, but clearly participate in building on the foundation (Rom 15:20, 1Cor 3:10, 3:11, 3:12, Heb 6:1 [by the way: 1Cor 1:30 and 1Cor 6:11 state that justification, sanctification, and glorification, are distinct]). However, Paul Tripp clearly teaches that the key to sanctification is an every day focus on the foundation. So, you can keep your monergistic foundation with your synergistic floors built upon the foundation because it is biblical, but you can’t have Paul Tripp’s building of foundations piled on top of each other by Jesus while we watch.

      Blessings to you, paul

      > —–Original Message—– >


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