Posts Tagged ‘good works’

The Law is Powerless to Change us

September 4, 2009

Benjamin Franklin made 13 virtues for himself, including: Silence (‘speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation’), frugality, industry (‘lose not time; be always employed in something useful’) and tranquility (‘be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable’).

He set up a book with a page for each virtue, lining a column in which to record “defects.” Choosing a different virtue to work on each week, he daily noted every mistake, starting over every 13 weeks in order to cycle through the list four times a year.

For many decades Franklin carried his little book with him, striving for a clean thirteen-week cycle. As he made progress, he found himself struggling with yet another defect. “There is perhaps no one of natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it. Struggle with it. Stifle it. Mortify it as much as one pleases. It is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself….even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Zondervan, 1997, p. 35

…These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Col.2.23


The law is spiritual

September 4, 2009

The little word “law” you must not take in human fashion, as a teaching about what works are to be done or not done. That is the way it is with human laws — human laws can be fulfilled by works, even though there is no heart in them.

But God JUDGES according to what is at the bottom of the heart, and cannot be satisfied with mere works. For even though you keep the law outwardly, with works, from fear of punishment of desire for reward, nevertheless, you do all this without willingness and pleasure, and without love for the law, but rather with unwillingness, under compulsion and if the law were not there you would gladly do otherwise. The conclusion is that you hate the law.

For this reason Paul says the law is spiritual. What is that? If the law were a human law, it could be satisfied with works; but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it, UNLESS all that you do is done from the bottom of the heart.

But nobody has a heart like that. Only the Holy Spirit can give a man such a heart. Thus it comes about that faith alone justifies a man and fulfils the law, for faith brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ.

Martin  Luther, Preface to Romans

Guilt and works (of penance)

August 25, 2009

If you go to Uttoxeter today there is a monument to Samuel Johnson. Johnson’s father ran a bookstall on market, and young Samuel once refused to help out on the stall. When Johnson was older, he stood in the rain (without a hat) as a penance for his failure to assist his father.

His act could not atone for his guilt but yet he felt the need to do it. Penance is not repentance from sin.

Faith and Works

May 28, 2009

It is faith alone that saves us, but not a bare faith. When a horse beareth a saddle and a man thereon, we may well say that the horse only and alone beareth the saddle, but we do not mean the saddle empty, and no man thereon.

William Tyndale

The Reformation In England, By J. H. Merle D’Aubigné
(Originally published in 1866)
Reprint by Banner of Truth Trust
1962 (first edition). p.396

Faith and Works

May 27, 2009

The pope, he said, “turneth the roots of the trees upward. He makes the goodness of God the branches and our goodness the roots. We must be first good, says he, and move God to be good to us for our goodness’ sake; so must God’s goodness spring out of our goodness. Nay verily, God’s goodness is the root of all goodness, and our goodness, if we have any, springs out of His goodness.” … “As the husband marrieth the wife, before he can have any lawful children by her, even so faith justifieth us to make us fruitful in good works. But neither the one nor the other should remain barren. Faith is the holy candle wherewith you must bless yourselves at the last hour; without it, you will go astray in the valley of the shadow of death, though you had a thousand tapers about you, a hundred tons of holy water, a shipfull of pardons, a cloth-sack full of friars’ coats, and all the ceremonies of the world, and all the good works, deservings, and merits of all the men in the world, be they, or were they, never so holy. God’s Word only lasteth for ever; and that which He hath sworn doth abide when all other things perish.”

William Tyndale,D’Aubigne, The Reformation in England, Vol. 1, pp.170-71
Banner of Truth, first edition, 1962

Good Works do not justify, however…

October 21, 2008

Good works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works. A bishop is not a bishop because he consecrates a church, but he consecrates a church because he is a bishop. Unless a man is already a believer and a Christian, his works have no value at all. They are foolish, idle, damnable sins, because when good works are brought forward as ground for justification, they are no longer good. Understand that we do not reject good works, but praise them highly. The apostle Paul said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… When God in his sheer mercy and without any merit of mine has given me such unspeakable riches, shall I not then freely, joyously, wholeheartedly, unprompted do everything that I know will please him? I will give myself as a sort of Christ to my neighbor as Christ gave himself for me.

p.230 Here I Stand – A Life of Martin Luther, Penguin 2002, Roland H Bainton