Interview with Pastor John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
In the death of Jesus, God has a very special, peculiar design or intention or purpose to purchase and create a flock for himself, including the purchase of our faith, our union with Christ, our forgiveness of every sin (past, present, future), our eternal right standing with God as adopted children and as new creatures in Christ — all that purchased once for all by Jesus. That’s what God intended and achieved when Christ died and stood in the place of his sinful flock, his sheep.
We should distinguish between the purchase and the permanent securing of our forgiveness once for all at the death of Jesus, on the one hand, from the personal possession and enjoyment of that benefit, which comes to us through faith, on the other hand. At the death of Jesus, our sins are canceled, nailed to the cross, debt fully paid. So, payment and securing are accomplished once for all — never to be repeated, permanently, infallibly for all God’s people when Christ died.
But the personal reception, the possession, the enjoyment of that achievement, that purchase, that securing of forgiveness comes to God’s people only through faith in Christ — union with Christ by faith. I say that because of texts like Acts 10:43: “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.” I mean, that’s clear. Everyone who believes receives forgiveness of sins. And Romans 3:28: “We hold that one is justified by faith.” So, we are justified, including forgiveness of sins and right standing with God, by faith.
Colossians 3:3: “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” That’s a description of wonderful, completed salvation. We’re already home. Then comes Colossians 3:5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire.” So, one trait of those whose sins are fully paid for is that we make war on our sinning. That’s the mark of those whose sins are fully canceled: We make war on our sinning. We put them to death. But you can’t do that if you don’t admit — that is, confess — that you have any.
The second trait is confession (1 John 1:9). You have to confess your sins in order to make war on them. If you don’t think you have any, if you’re not confessing, “Yes, I have sinned and I’m sorry,” you won’t make war. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”
So, confessing our sin is the agreement with God that we have sin and it must be fought and killed. If we don’t confess this truth, we’re living, John says, in an illusion. We’re lying, we’re deceived, we’re calling God a deceiver, and we’re not saved. If we believe we have no sin and that it doesn’t need to be killed, we’re living in an illusion, not in salvation. So, confession of sin is not the basis of our forgiveness; it is one of the traits that show we are truly in Christ, where all our sins are covered by his blood.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.