"My heart I give Thee, Lord, eagerly and earnestly." - John Calvin
Monday, April 3, 2017
Unprofitable Servants: The Works of Men as Merit
I run into too many people who believe that they contribute to their own salvation with good works - Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah's Witness, the average American Evangelical. I'm not surprised by that belief; it is merely the remnant in us of fallen Adam, who fell into sin when he decided that he wanted autonomy more than he wanted the holiness of God.
What does surprise me, however, is that such people believe that God also credits their works for part of their salvation. They'll even use extra-spiritual language, asserting that God's grace makes their works meritorious. But it doesn't. Grace is grace, and works are works (Romans 11:6); they are mutually exclusive.
What's more, Jesus rejects the idea of merit in our works: "You also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17:10).
That should be a mind-blowing statement to most professing Christians! Jesus says that, if you lived every day in perfect obedience to every command of God, then you have done only the minimum that is expected from you. You are an unprofitable servant! That's why our works, no matter how perfect they may be - and I am being extremely generous in allowing that! - cannot qualify before God as any part of justification. It can't be works alone; it cannot be grace plus works; it cannot be works completed by grace. It can only be grace alone: "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28, emphasis mine).
My name is Chris Cole. I have lived in the Charlotte, NC, area for over thirty years, and have been an active Presbyterian during most of that time. I love the Westminster Confession of Faith as a beautiful expression of my own personal beliefs.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I prefer the English Standard Version of the Bible, and all quotations are from the ESV, unless otherwise stated.
I have a number of reviews of Reformed books on Amazon. There is a link to them in the Reformed links below.
"Seeing [that] the Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus, is so ready (never was there king so ready to hear a subject as Jesus is), [even] if thou wert the vilest body that goes, a thief, a harlot, etc., yet if thou wilt say this, 'Lord, remember on me, and give me a part of thy kingdom'; - if thou prayest to him from a penitent heart, with confidence and assurance, I promise unto thee, heaven and earth shall go [fall] together ere thou wantest [lack] thine asking. Seeing [that] our Lord Jesus is so liberal [free-giving], then seek more than enough, more than a kingdom, and thou shalt get more. The only cause why we want [lack] is in us: we have no hearts to seek it." - Rev. Robert Rollock, Scottish Presbyterian minister, about 1590, in a commentary on Luke 23:42-43