Will We Be Finally “Saved” By Faith Alone (Sola Fide)?

The Scriptures simply do not support the inference that there are two stages of salvation and that our putative “future salvation” is contingent upon sanctification. Saying that our future sanctification is “decisively” wrought by God does not alleviate the problem. The whole construct rests on the premise that so long as we assert divine sovereignty we may say, more or less, whatever we please. This is the theological corollary of the “God-of-the-gaps” science or occasionalism. We explain what we can and what we cannot we attribute to God. In his reliance on a “two-stage” construct we see the lingering influence of Daniel Fuller and in this sort of appeal to divine sovereignty we may see the influence of Jonathan Edwards. In any event, it remains unhelpful.

Summary
In a post dated March 2, 2018 one of the principal leaders of the self-described “Young, Restless, and Reformed” movement, John Piper, restates his view that there are two-stages of salvation, that our initial justification is by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ but that there is yet another stage, a final stage of salvation and to reach that stage faith is not enough. He argues that salvation and justification are distinct, that they should not be confused because salvation refers to a process but justification does not. Further, he reminds us that the Westminster Confession 11.2 says,

2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

He quite rightly notes that the Confession alludes here to Galatians 5:6 and further that James 2:17 requires good works of believers, that such good works are necessary and that “without holiness” no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). He says that “[o]bedience and love are the necessary confirmations” of true faith and union with Christ. He concludes his summary by saying, “We are not justified through sanctification….But we are finally saved through sanctification.”

He rejects the inference that his formulation has made salvation contingent upon our obedience and thus destroyed assurance of faith. For Piper, because God is sovereignly working sanctification in us, because he is the “decisive worker,” we should speak of it as the instrument of final salvation. Our assurance, he concludes rests “on God’s past work by Christ” and “his future work by the Spirit in us.”

Responses
This is better than some things that he has written on this topic but his formulations remain problematic. I have addressed this topic at length and repeatedly and thus will not repeat all that material in this response but here is a resource page.

The first remaining problem is the tw0-stage structure of his soteriology (doctrine of salvation). He is right to say that salvation is a process but his doctrine of “future grace” or future salvation “through sanctification” is mistaken. One notes that he does not engage Ephesians 2:8–10. On this see the resource page. His doctrine of future salvation through sanctification cannot be squared with Ephesians 2. Further, it is at odds with the paradigmatic biblical image of salvation: the salvation of God’s helpless and hopeless people from Egypt. There were not two stages of salvation at the Red Sea—in Belgic Confession art. 34 the Reformed confess that the “Son of God is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan.”

The Scriptures simply do not support the inference that there are two stages of salvation and that our putative “future salvation” is contingent upon sanctification. Saying that our future sanctification is “decisively” wrought by God does not alleviate the problem. The whole construct rests on the premise that so long as we assert divine sovereignty we may say, more or less, whatever we please. This is the theological corollary of the “God-of-the-gaps” science or occasionalism. We explain what we can and what we cannot we attribute to God. In his reliance on a “two-stage” construct we see the lingering influence of Daniel Fuller and in this sort of appeal to divine sovereignty we may see the influence of Jonathan Edwards. In any event, it remains unhelpful.

Any doctrine of a “two-stage” salvation necessarily negates his affirmation of justification (in this life) sola gratiaSola fide. It means that we only initially justified by grace alone, through faith alone, but ultimately, finally, saved “through sanctification.” This approach makes Christ, in the words of the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, but half a Savior. It reduces him to a facilitator of salvation. He has not actually accomplished and applied it.

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The post Will We Be Finally “Saved” By Faith Alone (Sola Fide)? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

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