Are Christians merely forgiven, or
they possess the righteousness of
Christ? Recently the time-honored
understanding of the doctrine of
justification has come under attack.
Many question how—or if—we receive the
full righteousness of Christ.
Martin Luther said that if we
understand justification “we are in the
clearest light; if we do not know it,
we dwell in the densest darkness.” And
now, in this new and important book,
John Piper accepts Luther’s challenge.
He points out that we need to see
ourselves as having been recipients of
the imputation of Christ’s
righteousness and therefore enjoy full
acceptance with God and the everlasting
inheritance of life and joy.
Piper writes as both a pastor and a
scholar. His pastor’s heart is shown in
his zeal for the welfare of the church.
His careful scholarship is evident in
each explanation and undergirds each
I picked this book up because of my recent exposure to those who deny the imputation of Christ’s “active” obedience on behalf of believers. Some proponents of New Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism have headed in the direction of denying the historically-protestant doctrine of imputation, not to mention the classical objections from Rome and semi-pelagians, but Piper certainly meets their objections head-on.
The book is a short 125 pages, but don’t let that fool you, for the main thrust of his argument (the third chapter) is loaded with solid and meticulous exegesis. In short, Piper interacts with a treatise by Robert Gundry, and does so in the humble, pastoral way we’ve come accustomed to with Piper.
The book can really be broken down into four parts, as follows:
1. Evidence that the righteousness imputed to us is external and not our faith.
a. To this, Piper examines and exegetes the following texts: Rom 4:5-6 paralleled with Rom 3:28; Rom 4:9-11; 10:10; Phil 3:8-9.
2. The external righteousness credited to us is God’s
a. To this, Piper examines and exegetes the following texts: Rom 3:20 - 4:6; 2 Cor 5:21
3. Justification is not liberation from sin’s mastery [and by this Piper means perfectionism, infused righteousness, salvation by our continual effort, etc.]
a. To this, Piper examines and exegetes the following texts: Rom 6:6-7; flow of thought in Rom 8:3-4
4. The divine righteousness imputed to believers is the righteousness of Jesus Christ
a. To this, Piper examines and exegetes the following texts: 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9; 1 Cor 1:30; Rom 10:4; Rom 5:12-19
Personally, I would see his exegesis of Romans 5:12-19 to be his most potent and thorough argument. This section alone is worth the price of the book.
This book absolutely deserves the highest rating, five stars. Piper defends the doctrine that is at the very heart of the Christian faith, and does so in such a warm, thorough manner, that the believer who is indeed covered by Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness will no doubt leap for joy. In the face of such shoddy theology in this land, not to mention the shallowness of the American church which probably can’t even define the term ‘active obedience’, this doctrine of imputation of Christ’s obedience by faith alone has fallen by the wayside. I would submit that many errors of pelagianism, salvation-by-merit or works, and even self-willed sanctification begin with a misunderstanding or misconstruing of this precious doctrine.
Are we counted righteous based upon God’s righteousness and not our own? Is this righteousness imputed or ‘counted’ to us by faith alone, as opposed to ‘infused’ or self-merited? Is this righteousness the perfect obedience of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, in our place? Piper proves from scripture that the answer to these questions is without a shadow of a doubt, ‘Yes’. And this, my friends, *is* the gospel. And the defense of the gospel in the face of error never gets old.
Out of 5 stars, I give this one a strong 5. Without a doubt, this is a must-have must-read. - Nathan White