Monday, January 28, 2008


Of course it is Jesus who saves, not the doctrine. And so our faith rests decisively on Jesus. But the doctrine tells us what sort of Jesus we are resting on and what we are resting on Him for. Without this, the word Jesus has no content that could be good news.
John Piper: 'The Future of Justification' P86

I'm reading Piper's new book on justification at the moment. I'd seen a review that said if you weren't really part of the debate yourself, not a pastor of a church where this was a problem, not someone torn between the new Perspective and orthodoxy, or not someone with an academic interest in the subject, it's probably a work to be avoided. I'd have to say that since i don't fall into any of those categories, but am still enjoying and gaining much from the book, i'd have to disagree.

Anyway, Piper, in the above quote, makes the distinction between saving faith in Christ, over above saving faith in doctrine, which doesn't actually exist. And thats right, but it got me to thinking not that 'all we need is love' or that if we say we're Christians we'll go to Heaven, but that it makes the study and belief of sound doctrine all the more important. If i just say i love maths, but do no work in the study of maths, and then just make up a load of random junk on my maths exam, i'm not going to get very far. A football team that tries to pass the ball from hand to hand isn't going to do very well, despite how much they claim to love the game.

Last year saw serious controversy over, and defence of the doctrine of, penal substitution. And that was right and crucial controversy, not because we are saved by believing the doctrine, but because the doctrine helps us to know and see how we are saved and what from. If i don't believe that all my sin was punished in Jesus on the cross, my sinful heart will naturally waiver and worry and try to work to deal with sin itself. But if i know that all my sin has been dealt with by Jesus forever, then there will no such problems. In theory at least.

The same with that foundation stone of the church, justification by faith alone, something at stake in 'The Future if Justification'. Not that believing in the doctrine saves me, but that it shows me what sort of Christ i believe in, and shows me how i'm being saved. If i didn't have faith in this doctrine i'd be trying to do all sorts of Christ diminishing work to make myself right with God, whether it was being nice to people or running backward down the high street at full moon. Knowing, loving, studying, communing with God and trying to defend this doctrine teaches me that none of that is true. That i was delivered from the curse of the law by the One who became a curse for me. That Christ died as a ransom for many. That if i'm saved by my works i make the cross of no benefit.

Sound doctrine is vital. Vital because it shows us what sort of Christ we believe in. Vital because it shows us what He's done. Vital because it shows us what that means. There's little more important in life than those truths. Nothing actually.

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