I believe that I ought to return to the comments N. T. Wright made during his lecture at the Evangelical Theological Society’s recent conference in Atlanta that have attracted so much attention among bloggers. I do so to point out something that I had forgotten when reading John Piper’s The Future of Justification. I do this so as to be entirely fair to both N. T. Wright and John Piper.
Wright repeatedly refers to works—the entirety of our lives—as the “basis” of justification in the last day. However, Wright also uses the language of judgment and justification “according to works” in a way that inclines one to think that the terms “according to” and “on the basis of” may be interchangeable for him. For example, he refers to Romans 2:13 and says, “Here is the first statement about justification in Romans, and lo and behold it affirms justification according to works.” “Paul, in company with mainstream second Temple Judaism, affirms that God’s final judgment will be in accordance with the entirety of a life led – in accordance, in other words, with works.”
But in these contexts where he is discussing justification on the basis of works or according to works, he does not discuss the finer distinction between “based on” and “according to.” I suspect his view of how works really function in relation to final justification would become a good bit clearer if Wright discussed this difference.
Find Piper’s comments on pages 117-118. These quotations suffice to show that Piper is aware that Wright uses the expressions—on the basis of and in accordance with—interchangeably, even though he finds fault with Wright for failing to explain his appeal to 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 and to address “the fact that Paul threatens baptized professing Christians not just with barely being saved, but with not being save at all at the last judgment (Gal. 5:21; 6:7-9; 1 Cor. 6:9). The whole question of how Paul can speak this way and how our works actually function at the last day. . .” (p. 118).