Living the Christian Life by Faith in Future Grace
We return today to our series of articles on John Piper’s new book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014). The seventh of these ten trademark theological truths focuses on the Christian Life and in particular the importance of living by faith in “future grace.” Continue reading . . .
We return today to our series of articles on John Piper’s new book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014). The seventh of these ten trademark theological truths focuses on the Christian Life and in particular the importance of living by faith in “future grace.”
To this end Piper concentrates on 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12, especially vv. 11-12. There Paul writes, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Piper draws our attention to eight crucial truths in this short text. First, there is the calling of God. The only reason we are members of his kingdom and can have confidence in his promises is that he has “called” us to himself. Second, Paul prays that God would make us “worthy” of this calling, not in the sense of acting in such a way that we earn or merit a call from God. Rather “it means being made suitable or fitting or appropriate because of the worth of another” (109). If the Queen of England is going to pay you a visit you would take steps to prepare a room that is “worthy” of her dignity. She’s not making the visit to your home because of that room, but that room should itself be beautiful (“worthy”) because she is coming.
The third thing we see in this text is the prayer that God would enable us to “fulfill every resolve for good.” To live properly as Christians we must plan and purpose and resolve; in other words, we must live intentionally. And these resolves must be fulfilled. But how? That brings us to the fourth observation.
Fourth, we fulfill our resolves by the “power” of God. In that way God makes certain that no one gets the glory but himself. Fifth, we tap into this power by “faith”. “By faith we trusted God for the power to fulfill the resolve and, by that power, through that faith, the resolve became a deed or work, a work of faith” (110). And sixth, when it occurs this way “the name of our Lord Jesus” is “glorified”. Not only that, but, seventh, we are glorified “in him. And all of this, finally, is of grace. “The power of God that comes to us moment by moment fulfilling our resolve in works of faith is the power of grace” (111). Thus grace is more than a disposition in God or a principle by which he saves us. It is “an active, present, transformative, obedience-enabling power” (114).
The proper response to grace we’ve experienced in the past is gratitude. And the proper response for grace that is promised to us in the future is faith. “We fulfill our good resolves by the power of grace arriving second by second as we trust God for it on the basis of Christ’s work. And so we live in those moments by faith in the constant arrival of future grace” (114-15).
Faith, then, is more than assent to the promises of the gospel. It is also “a satisfying embrace of Christ in those promises” (116). Thus we defeat sin and fulfill righteousness “by faith in future grace, that is, by being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Christ in the next five minutes, five weeks, five months, five years, five decades, and five centuries, and five million ages of ages” (116).
Living the Christian life by faith in future grace!