Heidelberg Catechism Sermon — Lord’s Day 32

LORD’S DAY 32 — 86. Q. Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of our own, why must we yet do good works?

A. Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit to be His image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves thankful to God for His benefits,1 and He may be praised by us.2 Further, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits,3 and that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbours for Christ.4

1 Rom 6:13; 12:1, 2; 1 Pet 2:5-10. 2 Mt 5:16; 1 Cor 6:19, 20. 3 Mt 7:17, 18; Gal 5:22-24; 2 Pet 1:10, 11. 4 Mt 5:14-16; Rom 14:17-19; 1 Pet 2:12; 3:1, 2.

87. Q. Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent walk of life?

A. By no means. Scripture says that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, greedy person, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God.1

1 1 Cor 6:9, 10; Gal 5:19-21; Eph 5:5, 6; 1 Jn 3:14.

Premises in the Question

Antinomianism is not an option

The Christian is dead to the law as a tool of condemnation for lack of the required moral perfection. But as the Scripture instructs us we have been Redeemed by Christ from that condemnation. Christ paid the penalty for our lawlessness. But Christ did not pay the penalty of sin for our lawlessness that we might be free to be a lawless people. The redeemed are dead to the death sentence of the law, Christ having taken upon Himself their death sentence, but they are now alive to the law as the righteous standard by which they can adjudicate what the performance of “good” is.

We are the people who have been redeemed in order to do “good,” and when the Christian or God’s people as a whole resolve to sin that grace may abound their lives tell a lie about what God has done. So LD question 32 does not allow us to be unconcerned with obedience.

The Scripture reinforces the point of LD 32

14 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[b] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

As the law was man’s indictment, and as the law’s fulfillment of fallen man’s penalty and unrighteousness in Christ’s death was the way in which Christ’s death glorified the Father so the law now is the means which the Spirit uses in order to grow us up in Christ by sanctification.

The Church in the 21st century is awash in antinomianism. There continues to be a lack of concern for good works and the standard that defines those good works (God’s Law).

The second unstated premise we have already grazed against and that is,

If we must still do “good” there must be a standard which determines what “good” is.

Whatever standard a man chooses my which to determine the good is the god of that person’s life.

If a person determines by his own decision making what “good” is then that man is a law and a god unto himself

If a person determines by some other authority that is not looking to God’s authority for determining what “good” is then whatever that other authority is, is god unto the person.

Modern man in the West largely looks to the God State in order to be the standard of what is “good.” Following Mao’s dictum that “Our God is none other than the masses of the Chinese people,” the West largely determines “good” by the masses of elected officials.

So, we must do good as LD 32 teaches and in order to discern what is good we must have a standard and as LD 33 will teach that standard is that which conforms to God’s law.

Leviticus 18:4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.

I Sam. 15:22 And Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.

Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

LD 32 then goes on from the premises in the question to answer why we do good

I.) We Do Good Because of Divine Renovation

Eph. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

As the Spirit of God teaches here we were created for good works and we are being renovated constantly to that end.

The Scripture teaches not only has Christ delivered us from the penalty of sin by being redeemed by Christ’s blood, counted as righteous with Christ’s righteousness, but it also teaches that another aspect of that deliverance is that we are transformed from glory unto glory.

13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

After listing the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians Paul can say … “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” We have been given the Spirit of the living God as a guarantee of that which is to come, and that Spirit of the living God works to renovate — renew — all of our life.

The Spirit of God working in us, renewing us, works to the end that we bear the fruit of belonging to Christ. That fruit is recognized because it is consistent with God’s Character and we know God’s character because in the law we find the Character of God revealed.

This divine renovation that is going on in us is a work in progress. We are never completely renovated on this side but as we are already accepted in Christ, we are not trusting in our renovation to be right with God but because we are right with God we eagerly anticipate our renovation.

So, in our deliverance, God delivers us both from the penalty of sin in our justification but in our sanctification by the Spirit in applying His Law, God delivers us increasingly and incrementally from the power of sin so that we increasingly become what we have been freely declared to be in Christ.

II.) We Do Good As Thankfulness So That God Will Be Glorified

This passionate pursuit of “good works” is the consequence of having been graciously given a firm grip on how great a salvation we have been saved with. Those who are the most earnest in this concursive work of renovation are those who have the firmest grip of what their peril was outside of Christ. Having been thoroughly convinced of their sin and misery due to being exposed to the threat of God’s wrath against them, all of their life is lived as an expression of gratitude for being freely redeemed.

So, in sanctification their justification is always before them.

In our lived out gratitude it is our hope that men will praise God for what He is working out within us. We want God to be seen and marveled at.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

I Peter 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.

The Christian’s passion is for God’s glory. There is nothing more that we desire people to see then the greatness of the God we serve. And so a motivating factor for us in our doing “good” is that God might be praised among men because of us.

It is not that we desire people to see anything about ourselves in order to take note but being owned by God we desire that people praise God and see His greatness in the way he has renovated us. We remain unimpressed with ourselves. What we desire people to be impressed with is how God could take such rabble and do such wonders.

We always remain but jars of clay (II Cor. 4) but it is our earnest passion that God’s glory would be seen through these simple jars of clay that men may be amazed that such a simple vessel can manifest the majesty of God and so praise God for how He can use earthen jars of clay.

III.) We Do Good So That We Might Have Assurance

A means of assurance that we are taught here is that we see the power of the living God working in us conforming us to Christ. We understand that this is all of grace but the grace we see assures us that we really do belong to God.

The negative side of this is that if there is no fruit produced then assurance is going to be a dicey matter. In point of fact if we don’t have fruit we shouldn’t have assurance … (but oddly enough the angst about not having fruit is itself likely fruit. The person dead in their sins doesn’t care about fruit.)

Jesus said in Matthew 7.16-17, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

Now, there are dangers here that we must touch upon.

A.) One danger is that we will begin to start looking at our performances instead of Christ’s performance for us.

B.)There is a danger that we will begin to get impressed with our fruit forgetting that even our good works must be imputed with the Righteousness of Christ to be accepted.

C.) There is a danger that we will enter into fruit comparison contests.

D.) And for those who are tender of conscience and have a real grip on their sinfulness there is a danger of despairing of having any genuine fruit because they see their sin all over the best of their works.

Still, understanding that our ultimate assurance is found in Christ alone as mediated by Word and Sacrament, we find penultimate assurance in the fact that the Spirit of the living God is renovating us. We are not what we would be — we still see in us sin that we despise — but we are no longer what we once were and that can, in a minor key, give us assurance.

So we do good works in order to thank and praise God, and so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits. Those are the first two compelling reasons to do good works.

IV.) We Do Good So That People May Be Won To Christ

1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

You are the personal representative of Jesus Christ.

We must understand here that it is only the elect that will be drawn to Christ via our good works. The flip side of this is that the reprobate will be repulsed by our good works.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

As Christians we are a pucker up or duck kind of people, and as the antithesis becomes more and more worked out in our families, our neighborhoods, our culture, we will be loved and correspondingly hated by the elect and reprobate all the more consistently.

Still, we enter into good works because of our earnest desire that men might be won to Christ.

The HC ends with warning concerning a lack of the renovating work.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

But dear congregation we have better hopes for you, hopes for works accompanying salvation.

So, for a few weeks we will be looking at God’s Law to talk to ourselves more about what these “good works” should look like and how they are defined. We will not be exhaustive here as it simply isn’t possible to be exhaustive on this kind of subject matter.

We end by noting that there seems to be a stream in the reformed church that wants to downplay sanctification and good works choosing to insist upon the “not yet” of sanctification as opposed to the nowness found in the reality that we are new Creatures in Christ. These folks would choose to look at the failures of Christians in their “good works” and suggest that sanctification can’t really be measured.

And it is true, as we said earlier we are not yet what we will one day be and we remain sinners saved by grace, BUT we are sinners saved by grace who, by the Spirit’s renovating work are putting to death the old man and bringing the life the new man and so we can rejoice in the progress that the Spirit of Christ is working in us.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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