Friday, July 10, 2009

Works of supererogation

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 3 of 4 - How We Receive the Grace of Christ

Chapter 14 - The beginning and progress of justification
Sections 12-21 - Objections to justification by faith alone
12. They say our works make up for our sins, only when they "accept grace." But "Christ's righteousness... must appear in court on our behalf, and stand surety in judgment."
13. Our works cannot make partial satisfaction for any sins. "Men's whole righteousness, gathered together in one heap, could not make compensation for a single sin."
14. Rather than boasting in works that go beyond what God requires, Jesus says that when we have done all that is required, to say "that we have done no more than we ought to have done" Luke 17:10. Of course, we ought to seek to do more than we have yet been able, but not to think that we have done more than is required by God.
15. 1 Cor 9:1ff doesn't refer to works of supererogation. The only such works that exist are those God describes as hypocrisy, or seeking God in the wrong place - Isa 1:12; 55:2.
16. We must not put any confidence or boasting into any work. Ps 143:2; Isa 45:25.
"It is not very laborious for these leisured rabbis to dispute these matters under the shade in easy chairs. But when that supreme Judge sits in His judgment seat such windy opinions will have to vanish. It is this that we had to seek: what confidence we can bring to His judgment seat in our defense, not what we can talk about in the schools and corners."
17. Works aren't a cause of our salvation, no matter how you look at it. True causes are God's mercy, Christ's righteousness, our faith, and God's vindication. Rom 3:23-26; John 3:16; Eph 1:3-14.
18. We can take some solace in the good works we do, but only as they are an outworking of God's grace, not as meriting grace themselves.
19. We can proclaim the benefits of God's salvation (our adoption, regeneration, indwelling Spirit and resulting purity) without denying His salvation was freely given.
20. Augustine prayed that God would not look on his works, but on God's works through him: "see in me Thy work, not mine."
21. Scripture does speak of works as causing salvation, sometimes. This is done to show the order of events (righteousness on earth and vindication before God's throne at death, e.g.), not so we rely on our works instead of God's mercy for the final cause of our salvation.

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