Louis Berkhof – The Necessity of Good Works

There can be no doubt about the necessity of good works properly understood. They cannot be regarded as necessary to merit salvation, nor as a means to retain a hold on salvation, nor even as the only way along which to proceed to eternal glory, for children enter salvation without having done any good works. The Bible does not teach that no one can be saved apart from good works. At the same time good works necessarily follow from the union of believers with Christ. “He that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit,” John 15:5.

They are also necessary as required by God, Rom. 7:4; 8:12, 13; Gal. 6:2, as the fruits of faith, Jas. 2:14, 17, 20–22. as expressions of gratitude, 1 Cor. 6:20 unto the assurance of faith, 2 Peter 1:5–10, and to the glory of God, John 15:8; 1 Cor. 10:31.

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Patrick Ramsey – Good Works and Sola Fide


In my last article I discussed that the puritans believed that good works are more than the fruit of faith, justification and salvation in that they are the way to eternal life and an antecedent condition of glorification. The minority of puritans labelled as “antinomians” not only rejected this view, they characterized it as a form of legalism. They were by no means the only ones to have done so. A noted 20th century scholar wrote that you didn’t have to be an antinomian to regard this view of good works “as a betrayal of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone.” Indeed, more recently John Piper sparked something of an outrage by his statement that we do not attain heaven by faith alone, which essentially is no different from the puritan view.

I do not believe that the critics are right. The puritans didn’t betray justification sola fide (by faith alone) by their doctrine of good works. Nonetheless, I can see why people might think that they did and so in this article I want to make a few observations to demonstrate that they were able to maintain a high view of works without falling into works-righteousness or subverting the precious the precious doctrine of justification by faith alone.

First, the puritans were quick to point out that good works are non-meritorious. They do not “merit pardon of sin or eternal life” (Westminster Confession of Faith 16.5). Despite their necessity, good works are not the grounds or basis for entering into eternal life. When John Davenant affirmed that good works “have a relation to the attainment of eternal life,” he did not fail to qualify that relation by noting in the very same sentence that it was “not as merits by the value and worth of which we attain it, but as the intermediate courses, or paths, by which we advance towards the goal of eternal life, according to the appointment of God.” Similarly, John Ball said: “Without observation in some measure to all the Commandments of God, we cannot enter into the kingdome of heaven: but we enter not for the obedience we have performed.”

Second, the puritans emphasized that the ability to do good works is “wholly from the Spirit of Christ” (WCF 16.3). Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 32 says that the Holy Spirit is given to the elect “to enable them unto all holy obedience…as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.” The puritans didn’t neglect the role of the Holy Spirit or the unconditional promises of God. They believed and taught that obedience is a condition and a benefit of the covenant of grace. In other words, they affirmed that God gives what he requires of his people. Hence, they expounded the condition of sincere obedience within an Augustinian — and not a Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian — framework of salvation.

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Thomas Manton – Zealous for Good Works


“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”—Titus 2:14.

We should be forward and cheerful in well doing. Zeal is “a higher degree of love”: the more love, the more forward in acting. Certainly, zeal will readily set us a-work to do all we do willingly, freely, and cheerfully, as the Apostle intimates, “For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many” (2Co 9:2). It is not zeal to stand bucking and disputing every inch with the Spirit of God. You are not only called to the bare practice of good works, but you must be first and most forward and leaders of others. Watch [for] opportunities to do good, and take hold of them when they are offered. We should be glad of an opportunity offered, wherein to discover our affection to God and our hatred to sin. This is zeal: to be willing and forward.

2. To be zealous is to be self-denying and resolute notwithstanding discouragements. Zeal is a mixed affection. It consists partly of love and partly of indignation. So when I am zealous of a thing, I love that thing and shake off and hate all that lets and hinders it. Zeal sets us a-work and holds us to it notwithstanding discouragements. Zeal will not stick at a little labor and charge; the more resistance, the more glory! God’s children are glad that they may not serve God with that which cost them nothing, as David professeth, “Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2Sa 24:24). Certainly men are not zealous and their hearts are not set upon the ways of God, when every slight excuse will serve the turn, and every little profit draws them away, and every petty business doth hinder them and break off communion with God, and every slender temptation doth interrupt and break off all their purposes and resolutions to duty and obedience, be it prayer, charity, or acts of righteousness. We must be resolute for “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal 4:18).

3. To be zealous of good works imports diligence and earnestness to advance piety to the highest pitch…Is he zealous that is contented with a little charity, with a little worship only? Sloth and idleness will not stand with zeal: “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom 11:11). Thus, it will be when we are seething hot in spirit…A large affection cannot be contented with mean things and low degrees of holiness…Those that are planted into this noble Vine, Jesus Christ, are full of good works.

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David Helm – Why Good Works Are Crucial for the Christian Life


Living As Worthy Citizens

What is required of us to live in this world as citizens worthy of all the wonders and relationships belonging to the next?

The Apostle Peter gives us his answer in two simple words in 1 Peter 2: abstain (v. 11) and keep (v. 12).

Abstain from the Passions of the Flesh

Peter’s first admonition comes in verse 11: “Beloved . . . abstain from the passions of the flesh.” To live in this world as citizens worthy of all the wonders and relationships belonging to the next, we must refrain from acting upon the impulses and desires of the flesh.

To understand what Peter has in mind when he exhorts us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” we must reach all the way back to what he wrote in 1:14:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.

Peter then went on to define what those passions were. He listed them as “malice,” “deceit,” “hypocrisy,” “envy,” and “slander” (2:1). These are the things a person in Christ puts away. These are the vices from which we abstain. They are the attitudes, actions, and way of life in which we once walked. They speak of the season when we were tethered to this world without God’s indwelling power to resist.

To put it simply, if Peter was alive and preaching today, each of us would sense the angst in his appeal and the emotion in his voice. We must abstain from the malicious desires of our mind that would feast on others as carcasses to be devoured, and we must renounce our tongue when it brings forth the dead wood of slander (2:1).

Further, we must learn to cover ourselves when tempted to go nakedly into the presence of the illusion that physical pleasure is the end of all things. To “abstain from the passions of the flesh” requires us to live with a renewed mind, a disciplined tongue, and a controlled body.

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