BOOK REVIEW: JOHN PIPER’S “DOES GOD DESIRE ALL TO BE SAVED?”
GOD’S GENUINE DESIRE AND OFFER FOR ALL TO BE SAVED
Book Review By David P. Craig
John Piper states his purpose for writing this book as follows, “My aim in this short book is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for all people to be saved and his will to choose some people for salvation unconditionally before creation is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people and does not rule out sincere offers of salvation to all who are lost among the peoples of the world.”
In Chapter One Piper acknowledges and addresses some of the more perplexing texts that are cited to show that God’s will is for all people to be saved: 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23; and Matthew 23:37. Piper concludes his examination of these passages by stating that the only conclusion we can arrive at is that the Scriptures show that God has two wills: “willing something in one sense that he disapproves in another sense.”
In Chapter Two Piper illustrates God’s “two wills” by examining five explicit examples of this from the Scriptures: (a) In the death of Christ (Acts 2:23); (b) In the war against the Son of God (Rev. 17:16-17); (c) In the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus); (d) In the restraint of a King’s evil (Proverbs); (e) In not delighting in the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).
Chapter Three is an exposition of the Sovereign will of God. Piper’s thesis is that “behind the complex relationship of the two wills of God is the foundational biblical premise that God is sovereign in a way that makes him ruler of all actions.” Piper examines various passages of Scripture and concludes, “Terms such as ‘will of decree’ and ‘will of command,’ or ‘sovereign will’ and ‘moral will,’ is not an artificial distinction demanded by Reformed theology. The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say yes to the universal will of Ezekiel 18:23 and Matthew 23:37, and yes to the individual, unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23.”
In the final Chapter Piper ties his argument together by discussing how God does not sin in willing that sin takes place. He answers the question: “What keeps God from saving whom he desires to save? And he goes into a lengthy discussion of the question “What is free will?” In the process he comes back to 1 Timothy 2:4 and gives an exegetical and philosophical argument from some of the great theologians of the Church: John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Stephen Charnock, Robert L. Dabney and a wonderful illustration from the life of George Washington.
In the final analysis Piper arrives at 3 concluding statements about the universal love of God and the offer of Christ’s salvation to everyone in the world: “(1) Christ really is the all-powerful, all-wise, all-satisfying Son of God offered in the gospel; (2) by his death and resurrection, he has acted out God’s discriminating, definite electing, regenerating, faith-creating, every-promise-guaranteeing new-covenant love, and thus purchased and secured irreversibly for his elect everything needed to bring them from deadness in sin to everlasting, glorified life and joy in the presence of God; and (3) everyone without any exception, who receives Christ as supreme treasure–who believes in his name–will be united to Christ in the embrace of this electing love and enjoy him and his gifts forever.”
John Piper has done a beautiful job of explaining the mysteries of God’s sovereign will, the offer of salvation, and shown clearly that the Bible teaches that we believe in and practice both – that He is sovereign in His election of those He will save, and that we have a responsibility to declare the gospel to all of humanity because He desires their salvation. I recommend this book to help you understand the depths of God’s sovereign plan, love, and activity in carrying out His redemptive purposes until Christ returns again.