John Piper’s gospel is based on “double imputation.” This is the idea that Christ died for the sin of man imputed to Him (Christ) who knew no sin, but ALSO came to live a perfect life to establish a righteousness that is imputed to believers over the course of their lives to complete salvation. According to this gospel, Christ kept the law perfectly during the course of His life to establish His righteousness which could then be imputed to believers.
Hence, “double imputation.” The fatal flaw of this gospel is very simple.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – ” ~ Romans 3:20-21
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” ~ Romans 3:28
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” ~ Galatians 3:11
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” ~ Galatians 5:4
When the Bible speaks of a righteousness from God “apart” from the law, that literally means, “APART.” It doesn’t matter who keeps it, righteousness (justification) and the law are mutually exclusive. Contention against this exact same error was a focal point of the apostle Paul’s ministry. In Galatians, chapter 3, he argues that the law cannot give life and is therefore not the source of righteousness because there is only “ONE seed.”
Why then the law? Paul also answers that question in Galatians, chapter 3. All sin is imputed to the law, and Christ came to end the law of condemnation (Romans 10:4).
But if righteousness is not based on perfect law-keeping, where does righteousness for the believer come from? Answer: the New Birth. This is the cardinal point of 1 John, chapter 3. The believer does not sin because “God’s seed is in them.” The old man has died, therefore the law can no longer judge him. There is no law to judge the new creature, thus, where there is no law there is no sin! This is why the believer is truly righteous as a state of being, NOT because the so-called double imputation of Christ is perpetually applied to the believer’s life in contrast to much written in the book of Hebrews.
Among many other problems with this gospel, it does not make justification a finished work in the believer via the new birth because the “believer” is still under the condemnation of the law and thus needing a continuing “atonement” by Christ. Instead of what the Bible states in several places, “Where there is no law, there is no sin,” all remain under the condemnation of the law because it has not been ended and is the basis for righteousness. This is what’s behind the often heard term, “final justification.”
Here is where the confusion arises: the new birth changes the relationship of the law to the believer. All people are either under law or under grace; saved or unsaved (Romans 6:14). But “under grace” doesn’t mean that we are not under any law, it’s merely a different relationship to the law brought about by the new birth.
This boils down to the Spirit’s two uses of the law; to convict the world of sin and the judgment to come (John 16:7-11), and to sanctify the believer (John 17:17). John Piper’s double imputation only recognizes the former and therefore denies a true biblical definition of the new birth. This is why he has said on many occasions that “Christians still need to be saved by the gospel.” John Piper’s gospel keeps so-called Christians under law.
The new birth changes the believer’s relationship to the law (Romans 8:2), this frees the new creature in Christ to aggressively love (according to the law) without fear of condemnation. Christian’s do not sin, per se, but fail to love God and others which can lead to chastisement and natural consequences, but they do NOT need continued salvation because they are under the condemnation of the law. In other words, a Christian’s failure to uphold the law of love (“If you love me, keep my commandments”) does not condemn them, and this is why they no longer need the “gospel of first importance” in the same way that unbelievers do.
John Piper’s gospel redefines the new birth, keeps people under law, and makes the love they are called to something substituted by Christ.
In conclusion, the many verses of Scripture cited by Piper et al to make a case for the believer’s “service of love” being substituted by Christ must be reevaluated in a truthful context. This reevaluation will enable the Christian to receive a full reward and makes sense of, “Well done faithful servant.”