Justification is a declaration coming from the throne of God regarding our judicial, legal standing before God and His Law. It is God declaring us righteous! That is, it is a declaration from God declaring that we are in perfect conformity to His Law. It is not progressive as the Roman Catholic cult teaches. Justification occurs one time, is instantaneous, and is never again repeated. Never.
That has been understood for centuries. The word justify does and has always meant the same in both the biblical and secular realms throughout history, yet apparently, there is still some confusion – or should I say fusion?
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Thus justification has these two sides: the removal of sin because Christ bears our curse, and the imputation of righteousness because we are in Christ and His righteousness is counted as ours. (John Piper, God is the Gospel, p. 43)
No. The verse Piper quotes speaks of reconciliation, not sanctification. It is good news for the sinner who needs to be reconciled unto God, and has nothing to do with the removal of sin from the saint.
Nowhere in Scripture does justification have two sides. It only has one. It means to declare righteous. It removes nothing. To declare something removes nothing. When a person is saved, he or she is declared righteous – that’s justification – but sin is not removed from the believer in the declaration.
The tyranny of sin as a master is broken, absolutely, yet the believer still sins, thus the need for constant renewing of the mind by the reading of the Word of God; thus the need for the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the conscience and spirit of men to convict of sin.
The work of removing sin is the work of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, a process in which, the Christian is not passive, but active in the mortification of sin by the enabling of the Spirit of God.
“Well, all Piper is saying is that our sin is removed from our account.”
Well, that is not justification, because in justification there is no sin to be removed. If we say that our sin is removed, we are saying that it existed in the first place. In the justifying declaration of God, there is no sin to be removed!
Brethren, when God declares you justified, God is declaring that you have never sinned – a declaration of total, complete obedience to His Law – a declaration of perfect sinlessness. It is a declaration of your perfect obedience to the Law of God – in Christ.
Yet even after justification, sin remains, it is not removed as Piper says.
What John Piper is doing here, as in most of his writings and preaching and teaching, is fusing justification with sanctification. In other words, Christ obedience for your justification also applies to your sanctification – which is not true, not biblical.
While the majority of Christians would confess that the Holy Spirit works in us to help us remove sin, John Piper goes so far as to say that the Holy Spirit does not do that apart from the preaching of the Gospel – to Christians.
In a section of the book titled: The Spirit Flies in Formation Behind the Christ-Exalting Gospel he writes:
This is crucial to understand. It shows how Christ-exalting the Holy Spirit is. He will not do His sanctifying work by the use of His direct divine power. He will only do it by making the glory of Christ the immediate cause of it. This is the way He works in evangelism, and this is the way he works in sanctification. – (John Piper, God is the Gospel, p. 91).
That statement flies in the face of all New Testament teaching. Apparently, not only does John Piper not understand Justification by faith, neither does he understand fully the work of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer.