Book Review: Future Grace

The title of this book does not do it justice. Paired with the subtitle, it makes a little more sense: “The Purifying Power of Living By Faith in Future Grace.” Even then, it still fails to accurately convey the compelling, life-altering teachings found in this book.

Future Grace seems to be much more essential than Piper’s other works. Some of Piper’s works—such as A Peculiar Glory (which I recently reviewed), God is the Gospel, or The Pleasures of God—are focused on theological concepts. While each of these books does have significantly practical implications for daily living, they approach this by investigating and defending theological ideas.

This book is different. Piper veers a bit from some of his core teachings—although they are still present—to focus with great intensity on a single, foundational idea, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Piper structures thirty-one chapters around an exploration of this idea, unpacking it to explain that we live righteous, Godly lives through faith in God’s promises of future grace. This grace is undeserved favor or merit, which we should recognize at the present; apprehending God’s great and glorious promises for future grace empowers a life of holiness now.

The book’s argument starts with the problems of the “debtor’s ethic” and gratitude-driven Christianity teaching that pervades evangelicalism today, and then considers the place of faith in future grace in the Scripture. One of the more insightful sections explores how the righteous in the Old Testament—pre-Christ—lived by faith in future grace, not by works. Piper’s exploration of this idea shatters the notion that God’s people under the old covenant were saved by works.

Another contrarian perspective woven through this book is the concept of conditional promises and the implications that one could appear to “lose salvation.” Piper is renowned as a Reformed theologian, but he argues powerfully against the misapplication of the doctrine of perseverance. In an exceptional chapter on lust, Piper quotes Christ and apostles to drive home the conclusion that failing to actively fight lust will result in eternal damnation—not because Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t effectual, but because faith that saves is also faith that fights sin. A person who is not fighting lust shows that they are not saved.

Future Grace is explicitly intended to be read slowly, one chapter at a time, almost like a devotional. This, in part, explains the thirty-one chapters, one for each day in a month. It is laid out with two or three chapters on principles and concepts, and then one chapter directly applying these ideas to specific areas of Christian struggle.

This book is a must-read for every Christian. It challenges erroneous ideas of how to live the Christian life and provides directly applicable instruction for taking the power of the promises in the Word and applying them, through faith, to our day-to-day walk.

3 Thoughts to “Book Review: Future Grace

  1. So cool to see you, blogging, Samuel! As you know, I love John Piper as well, but I am very troubled by the soteriology expressed in this book. One example:

    “Consider an analogy. Suppose that you live in a village where electricity is supplied by a generator on a nearby hill. Each evening the owner of the generator regulates which houses receive the power. He gives two conditions for receiving power for the lamps in your house. First, he says, “If you plug the cord into the socket firmly, you will tap into the power of the electricity for your light.” And second, he says, “If I see light in the house, I will keep the power flowing to your house, but if I do not see any light for a while, I will assume you are not home and turn off the power to your house.”

    In this analogy, plugging into the power is the condition of believing in the promises of God. It connects you with the power of future grace. That’s the primary condition of future grace. But there is another condition. If you do not plug in the lamps and there is no light, the power source will be cut off. This light in the house is the secondary condition of loving others. You don’t have light first in order to get power. Your light proves that the lamp is plugged in. And your love proves that your faith is genuine—that you are really connected to God as one who is satisfied with all that he is for you in Jesus. The light and the love are both conditions of future grace. If God sees that you don’t have them, he will know that you are not plugging into the power of future grace by faith; and he will tell you that such lightlessness and lovelessness will not be given the benefits of future grace.

    Thus faith and love are conditions of future grace…”

    Unfortunately this wrong teaching has made it into his pulpit ministry as well ( eg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh-M1bCzHi0 ).

    1. I actually find myself agreeing with Piper on this one. Scripture seems to support this view of conditional grace quite strongly—there’s a lot of emphasis on “working out our salvation” in various senses. However, it is critical to distinguish between works of my own righteousness (filthy rags) and works enabled by and empowered by present grace. Saving faith must produce the fruit of salvation—the good works of faith and love as Piper describes. Faith without this fruit is not saving, justifying faith. And that faith is solely from the Father.

      The challenge I see, at least in the lives of the Christians in my circles, is that the Reformation emphasis on salvation “through faith alone” and the Reformed emphasis on the perseverance of the saints encourages a spiritual apathy among many who do not make seek to live according to the Spirit in a life of holiness after God. Which is really a shame.

      1. The issue is the ultimate ground of a person’s eternal destiny. Piper’s statements in future grace explicitly posit that eternal life is given to us based on our faith AND love. Love is a work. Faith, is not. That’s the problem with Pipers stated view. I am in 100 percent agreement re saving faith producing work. That’s John 15, James, and historical orthodoxy articulated this. God does not justify without sanctifying. But the post justification sanctification cannot be made a ground of ultimate eternal life (or ‘future grace’ as piper calls it). And that’s where Piper is going wrong. 🙁

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