John Piper: One effect of close attention to Scripture is that sweeping generalizations become problematic. This is notably true of the way our works (including our attitudes and words and behavior) relate to our salvation. The biblical texts relating to this issue are many and diverse, but not contradictory. If you take any one of them and treat it as the whole picture, you will almost surely lead people astray. For example, Paul rejoices that we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). I take that to mean that anything we bring to Christ other than faith has no part in the ground (Christ) or the instrument (faith) of our justification. This is a glorious truth, and our life hangs on it. But if we carelessly speak of justification as having no relationship to works, or if we generalize about salvation being apart from works of the law, we lead people away from the
Jason Helopoulos: There has been a lot of discussion lately about the Christian life and sanctification. Much of this discussion has included differing views on good works and the relation of the Christian and the Holy Spirit to these good works. Here are a few questions and answers to help in this discussion. What are good works? Only that which God has commanded us in the Bible to do may be called good works. Why do good works? Because good works done in obedience to God’s commandments are the fruits and evidence of a true and lively faith manifest our thankfulness to God strengthen our assurance of salvation encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ adorn the profession of the gospel silence adversaries of the faith glorify God lead us on to eternal life Who brings forth our good works? We can’t do good works in and of ourselves. Good works are wholly from the Spirit of Christ. The Holy
Kevin DeYoung: Anthony Burgess (d. 1644) argued that while good works should never be construed as meritorious for our justification, they were still necessary as our duty on the way to final salvation. Here are 13 reasons why: 1. “They are the fruit and end of Christ’s death” (Titus 2:14). 2. “There is an analogical relation between good works and heaven insofar as God has appointed the way (good works” to the end (heaven).” 3. “There is a promise made to them” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). 4. “They are testimonies whereby our election is made sure” (2 Peter 1:10). 5. “They are a condition, without which a man cannot be saved. So that although a man cannot by the presence of them gather a cause of his salvation; yet by the absence of them he may conclude his damnation; so that is an inexcusable speech of the Antinomian, Good works do not profit us, nor bad hinder us.” 6. “They are
Kevin DeYoung: Good question. It’s a question Catholics have often asked Protestants as they wax on about justification by faith alone. It’s a question I’ve had posed to me, in one way or another, by both Muslims and Mormons. It’s a question that even Gospel-centered Christians don’t always seem to agree on. Thankfully, it’s also a question we find in the Heidelberg Catechism (Q/A 86). According to the Catechism, there are at least five reasons we who have been saved by grace alone through faith alone must still do good. 1. Fruit. Good works are the fruit of which justification is the root. If we have the grace of God inside us we will have something of the grace showing through to the outside. “Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself.” 2. Gratitude. Good works show to God and to the world that we have much to be thankful for (Rom. 6:13; 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:5-10). When we are
From John Piper: William Wilberforce was driven in his political, emancipation efforts by a clear doctrinal understanding of what Christianity was. Pray that those today who care deeply about social justice will be as vigilant to righteous action in right thinking. He was especially jealous to keep clear the right relationship between good works and justification. Notice especially his third statement below about what Christianity is. Wilberforce said, “Christianity is: a scheme “for justifying the ungodly” [Romans 4:5], by Christ’s dying for them “when yet sinners” [Romans 5:6-8], a scheme “for reconciling us to God”—when enemies [Romans 5:10]; and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled.” William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity, ed. Kevin Charles Belmonte (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), p. 64. Emphasis added, but the capitalization is his emphasis.
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones once wrote: “[T]he Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not to be regarded as a law- a kind of new ‘Ten Commandments’ or set of rules and regulations which are to be carried out by us-but rather as a description of what we Christians are meant to be” D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol.1, [IVP, 1966], 23. (HT: Matthew Morizio)
This is an excellent piece from Jared Wilson, at The Gospel-Driven Church blog. I’ve adapted it a little at the end for UK readers. For our gospel to be Jesus’ gospel, it must move. It must be embodied. Faith without works is dead, of course. But works outside the context of the proclamation of the gospel isn’t the gospel at all. The danger within the new church movements, even as we seek to be the gospel in healing, comforting, clothing, and feeding, is that we practically confuse our good works for the gospel of Christ’s good work. As I’ve argued elsewhere, my neighbor being loved by me may be the gospel, but me loving my neighbor is not. If we divorce the sharp edge of the gospel — the scandalous message of sin and grace — from our missional efforts (or whatever you want to call them) we are not glorifying God at all. We are glorifying our own compassion.