Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whatever is good - Part 1

The last week offered me multiple chances to consider the issue of good works in new light -- I am coming to the conclusion that this issue needs more light shined on it, especially in the Reformed church.

So first, a question right off -- please consider what comes to mind when you first hear it:

Why do good works?

The types of responses to this question are varied, not only because there are different issues involved, but also because there are drastically different perspectives to be taken.

First you can just be a religious person (as opposed to a Christian), or someone who has every intention of living a "good life." They may succeed or they may not, depending on what standard of good you are using. So the Buddhist and Hindu and Muslim all base what passes for justification on how they conduct themselves and what they accomplish here on earth.

Moving (theoretically) toward the truth, we have those who take the name of Christ, yet still base their justification on the work of their hands -- this may be in the form of Pelagianism (no original sin, Christ's death an example of love), Roman Catholicism (faith plus works) or Arminianism (salvation is conditional upon continued faith). Naturally, these all tend to have a sense of works righteousness, wherein man has something contributable to his ultimate justification.

And then you have the Reformed Calvinist doctrine which preaches total depravity plus unconditional election. Good works? Sounds like there is no room, I suppose. But then, scripture never asked us to earn our way into heaven -- We still perform good works, says the Heidelberg...

"Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ." -- Lord's Day 32 (Q/A 86)

So there we have it: four reasons all rolled up in and around the fact that none of them are designed to earn justification.

So now the puzzling question: do you and I look forward to greater blessing in heaven among God's elect (still freely justified by grace through faith), as those who pursue good works. This was a point raised at a conference I attended over the weekend regarding our final glorified state -- the answer is yes and no (from what I gathered from our speaker): we will, no matter what, as sons and heirs to eternal life, be equally filled with heaven's blessings -- that said, we can conceivably enter God's presence with differing capacity for blessing. If, for example, God has used us to bring someone into the Kingdom, this should indeed count for something.

One must ask themselves if we truly understand what scripture means when it speaks of a "reward." We usually deign to know what it does NOT mean, just like we know "running the race" doesn't mean running a time-trial against other believers. But what is the best way to view this reward, and coupling it with the aforementioned, "capacity" to be blessed, is there a minor element of good works that we overlook to our loss, something which we are free to employ as a motivator to good deeds, without it becoming a means of earning our salvation?

What do you think?
<< Home 7 Comments:
Anonymous jackie said...

"These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers (1)manifest their thankfulness, (2)stregthen their assurance, (3)edify their brethren, (4)adorn their profession of the Gospel, (5)stop the mouths of adversaries, (6)and glorify God..." WCF chap 16 sec. 2
I thought I would embellish upon the Heidelberg as only the Westminster can; with SIX reasons. hehe ;)

4:20 PM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger Mark R said...

Very good Jackie. I do appreciate your willingness to fill in where I got lazy and didn't feel like looking it all up. :p

4:31 PM, November 29, 2007  
Blogger Rebekah said...

And adding to all this the simple fact that compassion is most effective and most appropriate coming from a justified people.

" the grace of God I am what I am."

11:46 AM, November 30, 2007  
Blogger iMurphy said...

I heard a great sermon lately where the man was talking about a salvific motivation for faith and a doxologic motivation for work; Faith is what saves us, works bring glory to God. The Reformation what a revolution against getting those backwards, not just against Works.

1:16 PM, November 30, 2007  
Anonymous jerret said...

Can an athiest live a good life?

2:38 PM, December 02, 2007  
Anonymous your sis on the nest said...

We as Christians must do good works, not primarily because it is commanded or because of the benefits we get from it, but because it is actually who we are in Christ. This is the reason we do "good works." (This also means that in God's eyes an atheist cannot live a good life.) The lists of things mentioned in the catechism and the confession are results of our good works and things we may certainly look for, but not the reasons. Our life in Christ is the source of our good works as much as the wages of sin is death. Maybe I'm playing with words just a bit...?

As to the motivation for good works part, it's hard for us to separate reward for us from glory for us. In heaven we will only see that "greater capacity" as greater capacity to glorify God and enjoy His glory. Our understanding of "rewards" must be seen from this heavenly perspective if it is to be a righteous motivation. So when we seek greater heavenly reward, we are seeking something for God, not for ourselves.


10:36 PM, December 02, 2007  
Anonymous your sis on the nest said...

Sorry, I meant playing with words in regard to the meanings of "reason" and "source." We so often look to the benefits--all the good things that come--instead of to our Lord!

10:45 PM, December 02, 2007  

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