Future Grace

Title: Future Grace
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Multnomah
Publication Date: 1998

I am going to attempt to summarize Piper's position put forth in Future Grace. This is my first attempt at a short non-academic, not for class credit, book review... so we will see how it goes. On a very basic level the book is well arranged, and divided into 30 chapters with the intention of the reader reading a chapter a day for a month to complete the book, which is very doable. First, Piper discusses gratitude, and postulates that many Christians work out of a "debtor's ethic." In other words, people are motivated to give or to do things out of gratitude for what Christ has done, or because we owe Christ so much for our salvation. Piper argues that there is no Biblical basis for this, and throughout the Bible God has called His people to do things out of faith in future graces, not as a response for past graces. If one thinks through the history of salvation, this seems to be the case. Also, Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (ESV) Given this definition of faith, anything we do in faith must therefore be based on the future graces of God, not done out of gratitude. This is not meant to discount our past experiences of God, for we trust in future graces based not only on the character and nature of God, but also on our past experiences. As a result, Piper argues that our actions and our faith must be future oriented, founded in God's future grace, and should not be done out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us. There are two phrases in the book that Piper uses that can essentially summarize his beliefs on faith. "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him." "The faith which justifies also sanctifies, because the nature of faith is to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus." This first statement points us towards a right heart and attitude for glorifying God. It is not what we do, or what we give, it is when we have full satisfaction in God that we glorify Him. Piper states that when we find full satisfaction in God (not in our works, our things, or our desires) that God will be most glorified in us. This runs in contradiction to thoughts that we must do things that will bring glory to God. In the end, God glorifies Himself through his graciousness in human history, and we glorify God when our lives are testimony to a full satisfaction in God alone. (See also Psalm 51:17) The second statement is also a very Lutheran statement, and that is that a justifying faith is also a sanctifying faith. (For a more extended discussion on Luther's views of faith see my paper discussing Luther's Commentary on Romans ) Another way to put this is to argue that faith and works are inseparable. (See James 2:17) It is important here to make the distinction that works are a necessary result, or consequence, of faith, but are not a prerequisite to faith or to salvation. A faith that is saving necessarily manifests itself in good works. It is important to differentiate between works of the law done in faith (good and necessary) and works attempting to fulfill the law, which are futile and prideful. Good works that are done with the intention of satisfying God, or even one's own desires, are not the good works that are the result of faith. Good works done in faith are those that are done without reward or desire for reward, but purely for the glory of God and the love of one's neighbor. Future orientation is important, because God has historically called his people to do something and blessed their faith in His future graces. Hebrews 11 is a summary of those who stepped out in faith throughout salvation history. God does not ask us to worship and glorify Him for what he has done, but for the future graces that lie ahead. Piper recognizes that we are daily in deeper debt to Christ. In his acknowledgments in "Pleasures of God", he writes, "From the time I came into being, I have gone deeper and deeper in debt to Christ, and I will continue to do so forever. Every breath, every heartbeat, every book, every friend puts me another degree deeper in debt to grace. In this I rejoice, because the Giver gets the glory (1 Peter 4:11)." Regardless of one's theological orientation, I recommend "Future Grace" as a good reading to help one reflect on where they place their satisfaction and future hopes, which all should agree lie completely and totally in the graces of God.