Category Archives: works

Gifts of grace and reward according to works

“All the benefits that believers enjoy or will obtain are gifts of the grace of God (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 8:9; Eph. 2:8; etc.), yet everyone is rewarded according to his works (Rom. 2:6-11; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:5; Rev. 2:23; 20:12). Godliness holds promise for this life and also for the life to come (I Tim. 4:8). The thought of future glory spurs them on to patience and perseverance (Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 15:19; 2 Cor. 4:10, 17; Rev. 2:7; 10-11, 17; etc.).” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, p. 236).

This is taken from a chapter on “Sanctification and Perseverance,” a passage I ran across in preparing a message on Revelation 2:1-7. I commend the quote to you, not because I value the author, whom I deeply respect, but because of his use of Scripture here. Read not only what Bavinck writes, but please read the passages (in context) which he references. Systematic theology is crucially important for the life of the church. But we end up in serious trouble if we try to strain Scripture through the screen of our theological system, rather than letting our theology flow from Scripture. There is no substitute for serious study of the Word of God.

Law and Gospel, Faith and Works

ephes_12191cIn preparing for the next 101 Bible Study I ran across this:

For Paul, faith and works, that is, an extraspective trust in and reliance on Christ, as an act of obedience, and other acts of obedience are distinct from each other but inseparable. In fact, we may say, faith and good works, thus distinguished, are always synecdochic. To speak of the one invariably has the other in view; they are unintelligible apart from each other. They always exist  without confusion, yet inseparably. James 2:18, “Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works”–which admits of no exceptions for those in restored fellowship, by faith, with God–is a fair commentary on Paul in this regard.

From this perspective, it should be appreciated that the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself, it is not a theological ultimate. That antithesis arises not by virtue of creation, but as the consequence of sin, and the gospel functions to overcome it. The gospel removes an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer. How so? Briefly, apart from the gospel and outside of Christ, the law is my enemy and condemns me. Why? Because God is my enemy and condemns me. But with the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend. Why? Because God is no longer my enemy but my friend, and the law, his will–the law in its moral core, as reflective of his character and of concerns eternally inherent in his own person and so of what pleases him–is now my friendly guide for life in fellowship with God.

faith_4118a(Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation, pp. 117-118)

There’s a lot to chew on in these few sentences! In context Gaffin is discussing the concept of faith working through love in Galatians 5:6 and similar expressions in Ephesians 2:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11.