Whatever is good - Part 1
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?