Unbelief: The stench of death to death

In his “Belief in Jesus: Its Barriers and Blessings John Piper talks about sad news (perdition) and glad tidings (salvation). He gives three conclusions that turn the sad news into glad news.

Piper’s text is John 12:37-42

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”[h]
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

Piper has three conclusions:

1. God is sovereign over all belief and unbelief. He knows exactly how to plan both of them in ways that exalt his sovereignty and preserve man’s accountability. And therefore he is never thwarted in his plans by anyone’s unbelief. Nor is he ever prevented from saving his own (John 10:16; 6:37).

2. The root of unbelief points to the glory of Jesus Christ. He is the radiance of God’s glory, but he is meek and lowly. The root of unbelief is to love the glory of man (the centrality of man, the praise of man) and not the glory of God (the centrality and supremacy of God). And that is exactly backwards. When we love the glory of God above the glory of man, we will not reject Jesus, but believe on him.

3. The text of this message and the entire story of the public ministry of Jesus points us to the cross where he will die. He was the glory of Isaiah 6. He was the unattractive suffering servant of Isaiah 53. And therefore (because of both) he was rejected by men and destined for the cross — and for the salvation of the world. This is what God planned in the unbelief of Israel.

What I want to mention most of all is part of Piper’s opening prayer.

“I don’t want to be the instrument of anyone’s hardening tonight, I don’t want to be the aroma (added: “stench” is more appropriate) from death to death. I tremble at the prospect of consigning anyone to destruction, to bringing them to the point of decisive unbelief through exposing them to the brightness of the glory which they hate.”


Piper’s m3 sermons have transcripts.


7 thoughts on “Unbelief: The stench of death to death

  1. Piper’s opening prayer reminds me of Paul’s own wish to see Jews saved in the beginning of Romans 9 right before His exposition of God’s Sovereign choice. I see the desire to see people be saved as not being in conflict with God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

    • SJ

      What is your understanding of 2 Peter 3:9?

      “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

        • 2 Peter 3:9 is the verse Arminians use to bolster their view, which you express as “I see the desire to see people be saved as not being in conflict with God’s Sovereignty in Salvation.” Are you saying “I see the desire to see (ALL) people be saved as not being in conflict with God’s Sovereignty in Salvation,” which seems to be what you mean. If it is not what you mean, then there is no reason for me to query you.

          Let’s face it, it’s a hard to know what is meant by the “free offer” of the Gospel to those God knows from eternity will not be saved. A problem for both Arminians and Calvinists.

          • Ah, my original comment was not so much on the lines of “Well meant” offer, or about God’s desire but our desire…let me rephrase that: “I see THE BELIEVER’S desire to see people be saved as not being in conflict with God’s Sovereignty in Salvation;”
            Being a Calvinist does not extinguish the passion for evangelism

            • How’s this for timing? I was reading this when I thought I’d take a peek at your email:

              “So, summarizing, there is here an important strand of Calvin’s thought about the human condition, about the condition of the incarnate Christ, and that of the godly apostle Paul, which stresses the legitimacy of an expansive aspiration for the eternal good of everyone, expressed in situations of human ignorance as to what God’s will is. This second epistemic constraint is a part of the human condition and so it is shared by ministers of the gospel and by evangelists, who out of the fullness of their hearts and in fulfillment of their calling may call men and women to Christ having no reason not to, and with an ardor for their salvation, while all the while remaining ignorant of what God’s purposes are with respect to these men and women.”

              Excerpt From Paul Helm: Calvin on aspirations, in David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson. “From Heaven He Came and Sought Her.” Crossway, 2013. iBooks.

  2. Pingback: Bloggerneecy | God Is The Only One Able To Crack Hardened Hearts

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