Monday, February 23, 2009

February 24- The Place of Good Works

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of hi m that you are in Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore as it is written- let those who boast, boast in the Lord. (I Corinthians 1:28-30)

Calvin’s Catechism:
M: What? Are men not justified by good works, when they study to approve themselves before God by holy and righteous living? A: If anyone could be found perfect to this degree, he might be reckoned just on merit. But since we are all sinners, guilty in many ways before God, we must seek elsewhere that worthiness which may reconcile us to him.
M: But are all men’s works so despicable and worthless that they are unable to obtain favor with God? A: First whatever works proceed from us as properly to be called our own are vicious; then further, they can do nothing but displease God and be rejected by him.
M: You say then that, before we are reborn and remade by the Spirit of God, we are able to do nothing but sin, just as the bad tree produces only bad fruit. A: Precisely so, For whatever appearance they may have in the eyes of men, they are nonetheless evil so long as the heart, to which God chiefly looks is depraved.
M: But when God has once embraced us, are not the works which we do at the direction of the Holy Spirit acceptable to him? A: They please him, but not by reason of their own merit, but as he liberally dignifies them with his favor..some defilement from the infirmity of the flesh is always mixed in them, by which they are vitiated.
M: But we do not therefore judge the good works of believers to be useless? A: By no means. For God does not in vain promise them reward both in this life and in the future. But this regard springs from the gratuitous love of God as source. For he first embraces us as sons, and then, burying the memory of the vices which proceed from us, he visits us with favor.

We are supposed to be good. Everyone knows that. But Protestants realized that we cannot be good enough to get to heaven- for we are not perfect (and heaven is a perfect place). For Luther we do good out of gratitude to God. Here Calvin says something different. God shows favor to us for the good we do- rewarding us on earth and in heaven. Certainly the Bible speaks in general terms that God rewards those who do good. For example, those who do not kill are less likely to have violence done to them. Those who are honest are less likely to get in trouble. We reap what we sew. It is also true that the world is a better, safer, kinder place when people are seeking to do good instead of seeking their own interests. Again, think of that Liberty Mutual commercial (
Calvin believed in rewards in the next life too. Rewards for good deeds are not just for the here and now. But good is a way to store up treasure in heaven. However, the Bible does not speak of getting into heaven by being good. It may be hard to distinguish the difference. Perhaps it would be like getting into the theater free, but the best seats going to the nicest people.

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