Reflecting on Truth #34
New City Catechism Question 34
Q: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through Christ alone, must we still do good works and obey God’s Word?
A: Yes, because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Spirit; so that our lives may show love and gratitude to God; so that we may be assured of our faith by the fruits; and so that by our godly behavior others may be won to Christ.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 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. (1 Peter 2:9–12)
Why does this matter?
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. What a marvelous salvation we have, that we are now sons and daughters of God! We are God’s elect people, a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. However, we must now turn our minds from our identity as God’s redeemed people to our manner of life. We know who we are in Christ Jesus, now we must consider how we must live as a redeemed people.
The passage above in 1 Peter reminds us that our actions, character, and conduct flow from our identity as God’s redeemed people. We were not a people, but now we are God’s people, and as God’s people, we ought to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” and “keep [our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable”. We are called to be holy because our God is holy! As redeemed image-bearers of God, we are called to better “image” our God to the world around us. This is the reason that the apostle Peter provides for honorable living: the Gentiles might “see [our] good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”.
Our manner of life ought to be consistent with our profession to be members of God’s redeemed people.
What does this mean for us?
This means that good works are not the reason we are saved. We do not do good works in order to merit our salvation in any way, shape, or form. Scripture makes it clear that salvation by works is impossible for us to achieve as sinful human beings. However, Scripture also makes it clear that the genuine believer, one who has been made new and alive in Christ, regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit, will inevitably bear fruit in keeping with their profession of faith and repentance. The true follower of Christ will increase in their hatred towards sin and in their love for godliness and holiness.
Furthermore, we are taught in Scripture that the spiritual fruit that we bear assures us in our spirits that we are children of God. In our anxious moments, we might be prone to doubts and attacks from the devil. Yet God is faithful, and His Word reminds us that we are able to have full assurance of our salvation by the work of the Holy Spirit in us and the fruit that we bear by faith in keeping with repentance. We must also remember that our good works, together with the proclamation of the gospel, will be seen and heard by non-believers around us, and God may indeed use these good works to bring glory to Himself according to His sovereign will.
So, then, dear friends, these good works must be in the Christian. They are not the root, but the fruit of his salvation. They are not the way of the believer’s salvation; they are his walk in the way of salvation. - C. H. Spurgeon