Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 32 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 86-87.
This week, we begin the third and final section of the Catechism. We have completed the sections that focused on our guilt before God and the grace that God has shown us; now we turn our attention to the section on our gratitude for God’s gracious work in our lives. The aim of this sections is to understand how God’s grace motivates the response of our heart and life.
To kick off this new section on gratitude, we are going to look at questions today that try to make sense our Christian commitment to good works, despite the fact that our salvation is completely a work of God’s grace. If it’s all of grace, then why should we do good works at all. And just so we’re clear, this is not a new question. In fact, the Apostles James, John and Paul all addressed this question in the NT letters they wrote.
In Romans 6, Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
In James 2, we read, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
In 1 John 2, John wrote, “4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
The question of how the grace of God goes hand in hand with the obedience of good works in the believer is an important one and the Heidelberg does a really good job of answering it.
Lord’s Day Focus...
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 neighbors may be won over to Christ.
The Catechism gives us five reasons why good works must be the pursuit of our Christian life.
1. Because Christ by His Spirit is renewing us to be like Himself. The Holy Spirit is working in our hearts to convict us of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come. The Spirit is growing us in the knowledge of God’s Word and in the obedience of God’s Word to the point that we are becoming more like Jesus.
2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2. We do good works to show our thankfulness to God. Gratitude for God’s mercy and grace is not only a right response but it’s also a response that is noted in Scripture.
1 Pet 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
The fact that we have tasted the goodness and kindness of the Lord, is what fuels and motivates our turning from sin and longing to grow up in the word.
3. We do good works so that God might be praised.
Matt 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
When we obey God’s commands, we prove that He is good. We display His goodness to the world.
4. We do good works so that we can be assured of our faith by our fruits. Yes, God alone saves us by grace and through faith. We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. When we do good works in response to our salvation by grace, we are producing fruit from a heart that is rooted in Christ.
Lk 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
5. We do good works in the hopes that others might see, and the gospel might be commended to them.
1 Pet 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Phil 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
The bottom line is that the New Testament is filled with passages that call us to respond to the grace of God in our lives with faithful obedience to the commands of Christ. It doesn’t call us to perfect obedience, perfection was achieved by Christ alone and His perfection was attributed to us when we believed. But in response to His amazing grace and love we are called to love Him and to obey His commands.
Question 87: Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent ways?
Answer: By no means. Scripture tells us that no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like is going to inherit the Kingdom of God.
If obedience to the commands of Christ is important for those who are saved it is also a key component to determining whether or not a person is truly saved. Christ teaches us that, “Unless we repent, we will all perish (Luke 13).” People who claim to be Christians but continue to live in unrepentant sin are a walking contradiction.
We just finished studying through the NT letter of 1 John. Throughout that letter, John is trying to help the church understand relationship between our faith in Christ and our obedience to Christ. He wants us to know the truth that our relationship to God (spiritual reality) has a huge impact on the way we conduct ourselves in this world (physical life).
John writes “If we say we have fellowship with God, who is light, but we continue to walk in darkness, then our word (what we say) is a lie and we are not practicing (walking in) the truth.”
John is pointing out that there must be consistency between one’s profession of faith and one’s conduct. You can say you are right with God all day, but if your life is defined by sin, then you are lying about your relationship with God. You might have made a profession of faith, but if your life is defined by sin, then your profession of faith is suspect and quite possible a lie.
Now, John is not saying that we must be perfectly sinless. When he uses the phrase walking in darkness, the verb tense is present active, which indicates an ongoing action. This is a person who has never truly come to a knowledge of Christ. This is a person who has never truly repented of sin and begun to follow Jesus. He is not referring to a person who struggles with temptation and sin as a believer, but to a person whose life is defined by sin.
This is a person who keeps on walking in the darkness, someone who is comfortably living in sin thinking that it has no impact on their spiritual condition. There is a major difference between a person whose life is controlled by sin and a person who is seeking to repent of and overcome temptations to sin.
If we are not walking in the light, then we have no reason for believing that our sins are covered. There is no assurance of salvation while you continue to live under the dominion of sin.
But, if we are trusting in Christ as the light of the world sent to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and if we are walking in the light as He is in the light then we should have confidence that we belong to Him and that our sins are covered by His precious blood. And when we stumble in sin, we can have confidence that if we confess our sins to Him that He will be faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.
Your faith in Christ matters and so does your faithfulness to Christ. Some people might say that this doesn’t sound like good news, but it is. A gospel that is powerless to change your life is not a very powerful gospel. Grace that leaves you wallowing in sin is cheap grace. But the grace that truly saves is also a grace that changes us from sons of darkness to children of light.
Next week we will continue our study of the gratitude that flows out of the grace of God. I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 33 and questions 88-91.
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Thanks for listening.