HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 24
Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?
Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
How can you say that the good we do doesn’t earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next?
This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.
But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not produce fruits of gratitude.
Tuesday, June 6: Hebrews 11:1-2,23-29
We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved to do good works. So, asks the Catechism: “How can you say that the good we do doesn’t earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next?” The answer is short, sweet, and to the point: “This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.” The Bible does clearly state that God rewards His children for their good work (Matthew 25:21-23, Luke 16:9, 1 Corinthians 3:14, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Revelation 22:12). It also says that the greatest rewards are reserved for those who choose to follow Jesus: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” Matthew 19:29). Still, we profess that these rewards are not earned. They are a gift of grace. What is going on here? Andrew Kuyvenhoven provides us with a helpful answer: “We do not deny that work and reward are related. But as soon as we teach the churches that God must deliver when the faithful submit their claims, the church has poisoned the gospel. The relationship of saved sinners to God who gives rewards remains one without claims or rights on our part. We live and work in the shadow of the cross of his Son. In life and death, we depend on his mercy” (Comfort and Joy, 161). In other words, we should not believe or teach anything that counters or undermines sovereign grace. Let’s embrace the spirit of Moses. On the one hand, “he chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time…because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26). On the other hand, his good works were the fruit of faith in the work of God whose greatest reward was the gift of His Son: “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26). So, too, for us. Our greatest reward is Christ Himself, the gift of God’s generous and unmerited grace. Boast in His generosity.
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn