Friday, May 12, 2017
T. C. Hammond: Why Do Good Works?
The first question that arises when the Doctrine of Justification by faith only is clearly set forth is: What then is the place of good works in the Christian economy? Sufficient attention is not paid to the fact that St. Paul had to encounter the very objection that is still laid against justification by faith. He represents his opponents as saying that his doctrine made void the law. Even that he taught “Let us do evil that good may come.”
The Reformers were not insensible to this false inference. Articles XII, XIII, XIV deal with three aspects of good works. Good works that follow after justification; works done before the grace of Christ; works which are alleged to be over and above those required by God’s commandments. Article XII, which we are now considering, deals with good works which are the fruits of faith. It discusses the matter first negatively and then positively. “Good works which are the fruits of Faith cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement”. That is a very brief summary of the argument of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans which concludes with the compelling declaration: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight for by the law is the knowledge of sin”. As it cannot be too frequently emphasized, we do not reject the merit of good works because they are good but because they are not good enough. The root error in the theory that we can commend ourselves to God by our works is that the very conception induces a low idea of sin. That was the root error of the Pharisee who performed external acts of obedience and thought that thereby he had met the weightier matters of the law, when he had, in fact, neglected them. That is the root error of many professing Christians today who say, “I live a good life and therefore God will be merciful to any mistakes or sins into which I may have fallen”. The Article draws attention to “the severity of God’s judgement”. The word “severity” in Latin had frequently the concept of strictness, faithfulness to a word or bond to the very letter. That is evidently the meaning it has in this Article. God abides by His judgement and cannot be turned aside from it. Read More
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 5:28 PM