A friend pointed me to a May 27, 2015, blog post by Dr. John Piper at desiringgod.org. The title of the post caught my attention: “You Can Believe the Promises of God and Be Lost.” You can see that blog here.
I was hoping that Piper would say that it is possible to believe non-salvific promises and not be born again. After all, people can believe a prosperity gospel and not be saved. People can believe God’s promise about the truthfulness of His Word and yet not be regenerate. There are lots of promises of God in Scripture which are not promises of being born again.
However, as I read his article, it was clear he was saying that you can believe the promise of everlasting life and yet still be unregenerate. For example, he wrote concerning those in Matt 7:22 who were upset to learn that they would be excluded from the kingdom, “These folks believed that they were secure in relation to Christ. They called him ‘Lord,’ and they tapped into supernatural power in his name.” The only eternal security promises he mentions which the people of Matt 7:22 believed are Rom 3:28 and Josh 1:5, though the latter is not really an eternal security verse as it is used in Joshua.
(For a clear explanation of Matt 7:21-23, see this 5-minute video by me, this explanation by Zane Hodges, and this blog by me.)
Piper goes on to make this startling statement: “Believing that Christ and his promises are true, based on a testimony, is a necessary part of faith. But it is not the saving essence of faith” (emphases his). That is direct contradiction of the Lord’s words in John 3:16; 5:24, 39-40; 6:35, 37, 39, 47; 11:25-26. It is also a direct contradiction of the Apostle John’s purpose statement in John 20:30-31.
So, what is the saving essence of faith? Piper calls it a “spiritual apprehension of the truth” and “apprehending the beauty of worth of the truth.” He says, “saving faith in the promises of God includes spiritual enjoyment of the God of the promises…saving faith must include this enjoyment. Enjoyment of the glory of God is not the whole of what faith is. But without it, faith is dead” (emphasis his).
He says the problem with the people of Matt 7:22 is that although they believed the promise of everlasting life, “they did not love God.” Loving God is spiritual enjoyment of the promises of God, according to Piper.
Piper ends by saying that “to apprehend and embrace spiritual beauty…is the ‘embracing of spiritual beauty’ that is the essential core of saving faith. And this embrace is what will shape our lives most deeply and receive the ‘well done’ at the last day.”
In other words, Piper is saying that in order to be born again one must 1) believe the promise of everlasting life to the believer and 2) persevere in love for God. That persevering in love for God produces the life of good works necessary to receive the Lord’s “well done.”
Piper merges the Great White Throne Judgment and Judgment Seat of Christ (the Bema), and he makes receiving Christ’s approval at the Bema the final link in gaining access to His kingdom. In his view, unless there is a way to be sure that you will persevere until death in love for God, then you won’t know where you will spend eternity until you appear at the Bema/Great White Throne Judgment.
Back to the title of my blog. The answer is no. Emphatically no. A person cannot believe the promise of everlasting life and yet end up being eternally condemned. The Lord Jesus Christ guarantees it as the Gospel of John (and the epistles) repeatedly makes crystal clear.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). To believe is to be persuaded. It is not to love God and do good works. Yes, our belief in the promise of everlasting life should produce love for God, and love for God should produce a lifetime of good works. But love for God is not part of what saving faith is. Perseverance in good works is not part of saving faith. Indeed, love for God and perseverance in good works are not guaranteed by God.
What God does guarantee is beautiful: “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Believe that promise, and you will never be eternally condemned (John 3:18). Guaranteed. Amen.