Is John Piper Correct On The New Birth?In this article, Brother Bob Ross examines John Piper's views on the New Birth.
IS JOHN PIPER AT ONE WITH THE FLYSWATTER ON THE NEW BIRTH?
Bob to Charles:
John Piper is posting sermons on the New Birth at his website
If I am reading him correctly, Charles, his view apparently is more in line with what we have advocated, and is contrary to the post-17th century "Reformed" view of Shedd, Berkhof, Sproul, Iain Murray, James White, the Flounders, Tom Nettles, and others of this category.
I am of the opinion that Piper has conceivably been influenced in his views in consequence of studying the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards did not advocate the "Reformed" view of "born again before faith," but was more agreeable with the Puritan view of men such as Stephen Charnock, Thomas Watson, and John Owen -- whose views we have cited on the Flyswatter.
I am reproducing some of Piper's remarks which recall the view advocated by Edwards, and which is consistent with what we have advocated on the Flyswatter in contrast to the "pre-faith regeneration" notion, or the "born again before faith" view, of the "Reformed" camp.
Those who are acquainted with the "born again before faith" idea -- as advocated by W. G. T. Shedd, Louis Berkhof, John Frame, and other "Reformed" theologians who teach that the alleged "covenant children" are regenerated in early infancy, or even before being physically born into the world -- will recognize the contrast between the view of Edwards and that of the "Reformed" gentlemen.
With Edwards, "a person cannot have spiritual light [i.e. new birth] without the word." Piper seems to be echoing Edwards in the following comments, taken from the three messages on his website:
Being Born Again Happens Through the Gospel
But it always happens through the word of God. Listen to 1 Peter 1:23 and 25: “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” So even though God is the one who begets his children, the seed by which he does it is the word of God, the gospel that we preach. (Excerpt from Piper's first message)
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No Life Apart from Jesus
So there is no spiritual life–no eternal life–apart from connection with Jesus and belief in Jesus. We will have lots more to say about the relationship between the new birth and faith in Jesus. But let’s put it this way for now: In the new birth, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ in a living union. Christ is life. Christ is the vine where life flows. We are the branches (John 15:1). What happens in the new birth is the supernatural creation of new spiritual life, and it is created through union with Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit brings us into vital connection with Christ who is the way, the truth, and life. That is the objective reality of what happens in the new birth.
And from our side–the way we experience this–is that faith in Jesus is awakened in our hearts. Spiritual life and faith in Jesus come into being together. The new life makes the faith possible, and since spiritual life always awakens faith and expresses itself in faith, there is no life without faith in Jesus. Therefore, we should never separate the new birth from faith in Jesus. From God’s side, we are united to Christ in the new birth. That’s what the Holy Spirit does. From our side, we experience this union by faith in Jesus.
Never Separate the New Birth and Faith in Jesus
Listen to how John puts them together in 1 John 5:4: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” Born of God–the key to victory. Faith–the key to victory. Because faith is the way we experience being born of God.
Or listen to how John says it in 1 John 5:11-12: “This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Therefore, when Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63), and when he says, “You must be born of the Spirit” in order to have life, he means: In the new birth, the Holy Spirit supernaturally gives us new spiritual life by connecting us with Jesus Christ through faith. For Jesus is life.
So never separate these two sayings of Jesus in John 3: “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3) and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (v. 36). (Excerpts from Piper's second message).
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United with Jesus Through Faith
And then we made the connection to faith like this. John 20:31 says, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” And 1 John 5:4 says, “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” Born of God–the key to victory. Faith–the key to victory. Because faith is the way we experience being born of God. So we summed the entire message last week like this: In the new birth, the Holy Spirit supernaturally gives us new spiritual life by connecting us with Jesus Christ through faith.
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Receive Him As Your Treasure
So now let’s step back and sum up these last two weeks. What happens in the new birth? In the new birth, the Holy Spirit supernaturally gives us new spiritual life by connecting us with Jesus Christ through faith. Or, to say it another way, the Spirit unites us to Christ where there is cleansing for our sins, and he replaces our hard, unresponsive heart with a soft heart that treasures Jesus above all things and is being transformed by the presence of the Spirit into the kind of heart that loves to do the will of God (Ezekiel 36:27).
Since the way you experience all of this is through faith, I invite you now, in the name of Jesus and by the power of his Spirit, to receive him as the sin-forgiving, transforming Treasure of your life. (Excerpt from Piper's third message).
JONATHAN EDWARDS' VIEW
Jonathan Edwards' view may be understood from reading his sermon, A Divine and Supernatural Light, etc. If you do not have a printed copy in some format, it may be consulted on the Internet at --
Edwards does not advocate "Reformed" Hybrid Calvinism which has one "born again before faith," but he teaches the creedal view that "effectual calling" is effected by the Word and Spirit inseparably, these two being essential to the producing of "light" (faith) in the faculties of the sinner.
Under his second major heading, Edwards says, "It is not intended that the natural faculties are not made use of in it. The natural faculties are the subject of this light: and they are the subject in such a manner, that they are not merely passive, but active in it; the acts and exercises of man's understanding are concerned and made use of in it. God, in letting in this light into the soul, deals with man according to his nature, or as a rational creature; and makes use of his human faculties."
Edwards continues under this same heading:
2. It is not intended that outward means have no concern in this affair. As I have observed already, it is not in this affair, as it is in inspiration, where new truths are suggested: for here is by this light only given a due apprehension of the same truths that are revealed in the word of God; and therefore it is not given without the word. The gospel is made use of in this affair: this light is the "light of the glorious gospel of Christ", 2 Cor. 4:4. The gospel is as a glass by which this light is conveyed to us, 1 Cor. 13:12. "Now we see through a glass." . . . Indeed a person cannot have spiritual light without the word.
If we are understanding Piper correctly, we wish him Godspeed in helping to turn many Hybrid Calvinists from the "Reformed" darkness to the Edwardian "Light" on the matter of the New Birth.