Grace and Good Works

The Heidelberg Catechism - Question 86: We have been delivered from our misery by God’s grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good?

Answer: To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by His blood. But we do good because Christ by His Spirit is also renewing us to be like Himself, so that in all our living we may show that we are thankful to God for all He has done for us, and so that He may be praised through us. And we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbours may be won over to Christ.

Observations: If we are saved by grace alone why must we still do good works? It’s a good question, one that the church has wrestled with since the 1st century. Paul expresses this same question when he asks ‘shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (Rom 6:1)’ If good works can’t save us why do them? The Catechism gives us five reasons. Firstly, ‘we do good because Christ by His Spirit is also renewing us to be like Himself.’ We do good works because the Spirit is making us more like Jesus, which means we behave more like Jesus, we do the things Jesus did. Secondly, we do good ‘so that in all our living we may show that we are thankful to God for all He has done for us.’ Paul says ‘in view of God’s mercy offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him. (Rom 12:1)’ Good works are an act of gratitude for God’s grace. Thirdly, we do good works ‘so that God may be praised through us.’ Jesus says, ‘let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:16)’ Fourthly, we do good works ‘so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits.’ Jesus says that those who remain connected to him will produce fruit (Jn 15:5). Our good works are evidence of the Spirit’s activity in our lives. Finally we do good works ‘so that by our godly living our neighbours may be won over to Christ.’ Peter writes, ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that they may see your good deeds and glorify God. (1 Pet 2:12)’

Application: Even though we are saved by grace alone, God’s grace isn’t without effect in our lives. Paul writes that we are ‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works. (Eph 2:10)’ And that God’s grace will enable us to ‘abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)’ And that through God’s word ‘the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (1 Rim 3:17)’ We should eagerly desire to do what pleases the Lord, for that desire is evidence of the Spirit’s work in regenerating our dead heart. Our good works will not save us, but they are evidence that we are saved.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I know that there is nothing I can do that will make me right with You, all I can do is trust in Your Son Jesus Christ, that on the cross he made me right with You, he paid the penalty for my sin and his righteousness covers my unrighteousness. But Lord, I ask that You will fill me with Your Spirit that I might desire to serve You, that I might become more like my Saviour and Lord. May my good works be an offering of gratitude, may they bring You glory and lead others to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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