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"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 21: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience - Commentary

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Chapter 21: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

Are Christians free? How are Christians free? What does this Liberty consist in? Are we free to sin?


§1 The Liberty Which Christ Hath Purchased For Believers Under The Gospel

  1. The Liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel, consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the rigour and curse of the law, and in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin, 2 from the evil of afflictions, the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave, and ever- lasting damnation: 3 as also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind. 4
    All which were common also to believers under the law for the substance of them; but under the New Testament the Liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of a ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected, and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of. 6
    1. John 3:36; Rom. 8:33; Gal. 3:13[1]
    2. Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18; Rom. 6:14-18; 8:3
    3. Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 2:14-15
    4. Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Rom. 8:15; 1 John 4:18
    5. John 8:32; Ps. 19:7-9; 119:14, 24, 45, 47, 48, 72, 97; Rom. 4:5-11; Gal. 3:9; Heb. 11:27, 33-34
    6. John 1:17; Heb. 1:1-2a;7:19, 22; 8:6, 9:23, 11:40; Gal. 2:11f.; 4:1-3; Col 2:16-17; Heb. 10:19-21; John 7:38-39

The Children Of God Are Freed From

Oh, brothers and sisters, how thankful should we be to our Lord for the many liberties which He has blessed us with as His children. The Confession mentions ten things which we have been freed from. As His children and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are slaves to no one, but God. Paradoxically, true freedom comes from slavery to none other than Christ. We belong to Him and we are called to walk in freedom (Gal. 5:1). We are under grace and are free, but our freedom does not consist in doing our own will, but the will of the Father and seeking His good pleasure. We were called out of the bondage of sin to walk in the freedom of God and the Gospel.

1. The guilt of sin

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Before The Throne of God Above, verse 2.

Christ, our precious Lord and Savior, makes an end of our sin and thereby also end of the guilt of sin. The guilt of sin does not only consist in the psychological terror of breaking God’s Law, but also the moral culpability and responsibility for breaking His Law, for sin is the breaking and transgressing of His Law (1John 3:4 KJV). Christ, our High Priest, “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26) and thereby made also an end to the condemnation and punishment of sin for His people. Romans 8:1 declares that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Why? Because of His sacrificial work on their behalf. He has satisfied the wrath of God on their behalf and has been punished according to the demand of the law in place of His elect (Rom....


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

...have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards' position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for an explanation to understand what he's getting at. 2) And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by Calvinists. In the following sections, we will try to lay some things concerning man's will in the four states, from innocence until glory.


§1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural Liberty and power of acting upon choice

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural Liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
    1. Matt.  17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

God Ordains Human Actions

From chapter 3 it is clear that God is sovereign and ordains even human actions. Therefore the freedom spoken of here is not autonomous freedom.

Section 1: God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the Liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (See commentary)

His sovereignty, orchestration and ordaining extends to all things whatsoever comes to pass, the good and the bad. Chapter 5 which speaks of God’s providence is even clearer on this:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

If even the evil actions of men are under His control how much more the good actions? For the case that God ordains and is sovereign even over the evil actions of men and yet holds them accountable, see chapter 3 section 1 where I try to argue just that from the biblical texts. Consistent with what the Confession said in chapters 3 and 5, the freedom spoken by the 1689 is not a freedom of will from God’s sovereignty, but freedom of will within God’s sovereign decree.

Edwards on the Will

R.C. Sproul, in Willing to Believe, presents Augustine as having taught the following four conditions of the will:

  1. Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
  2. Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This Adam and Eve also had prior to the Fall.
  3. Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
  4. Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

Points 1 and 2 concern the State of In...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

...sup

Finally, Calvin likewise notes on v. 6:

But now we have been loosed from the law, etc. He pursues the argument derived from the opposite effect of things, — “If the restraint of the law availed so little to bridle the flesh, that it became rather the exciter of sin; then, that we may cease from sin, we must necessarily be freed from the law.” Again, “If we are freed from the bondage of the law for this end, that we may serve God; then, perversely do they act who hence take the Liberty to indulge in sin; and falsely do they speak who teach, that by this means loose reins are given to lusts.” Observe, then, that we are then freed from the law, when God emancipates us from its rigid exactions and curse, and endues us with his Spirit, through whom we walk in his ways.[7]

The Commandment Is Holy And Righteous And Good

The next section that I will look at is vv. 7-13. First of all, the law that Paul is here speaking about is the moral law summarized in the Decalogue, for that is the law which all men know (Rom. 2:12-16). Moreover, that is the law which reveals our sin (Rom. 3:20) and which the Apostle himself cites as an example. He cites the tenth commandment as an example of a law or commandment which showed him what sin was (Rom. 7:7). Even though the commandment said “You shall not covet”, yet, because he was still unregenerate, sin used the law to work more corruption in Paul. Instead of being kept away from sin, the law used by sin worked more sin in him. Secondly, Paul repeats what he in Romans 4:15; 5:13 said, namely, “apart from the law, sin lies dead” (Rom. 7:8). See above for more on the connection between sin and law. Sin is an offense because it is a transgression of the moral standard of God (1John 3:4). Thirdly, the commandments which promised life upon obedience (e.g. Lev. 18:5; Deut. 4:1) actually produced death in Paul. Why? Because he was still a man devoid of God’s Spirit and in his unregenerate state in which he “cannot please God” neither submit to “God’s law” (Rom. 8:7-8). He was helpless against the curse of the law. He had to take it himself. He had no substitute. Fourthly, Paul is careful not to say that it was the law of God which worked death in him. But rather, “sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment” (Rom. 7:11). Sin used that which is “holy and righteous and good” to work in Paul that which is unholy, unrighteous and evil. The purpose of this is laid out in v. 13. This happened “so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful” (NKJV). MacArthur notes, “Confronted by God’s law, the sinner’s rebellious nature finds the forbidden thing more attractive, not because it is inherently attractive, but because it furnishes an opportunity to assert one’s self-will.”[80] Finally, after exonerating the law from the charge of being the author of sin, Paul says on the contrary, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Here, he is borrowing language from Psalm 19:7-9 (see above). There is nothing wrong with the law, what is wrong is in man and in his misuse of the law for purposes it was not meant for. The law is holy and pure. The law and the commandment is righteous. It declares what is right and what is wrong, it is just. It reflects God’s standard of righteousness. It is good, because it reflects the goodness of God’s morality. It is not something arbitrary, neither it is good because God commands it, but rather, it is good becaus...


1689 Second Baptist Confession of Faith Highlighted

...e to affix texts of Scripture at the bottom, for the confirmation of each article in our Confession; in which work we have studiously endeavored to select such as are most clear and pertinent for the proof of what is asserted by us; and our earnest desire is that all into whose hands this may come would follow that (never enough commended) example of the noble Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily that they might find out whether the things preached to them were so or not. 

There is one thing more which we sincerely profess and earnestly desire credence in - viz., that contention is most remote from our design in all that we have done in this matter; and we hope that the Liberty of an ingenuous unfolding our principles and opening our hearts unto our brethren, with the Scripture grounds of our faith and practice will by none of them be either denied to us, or taken ill from us. Our whole design is accomplished if we may have attained that justice as to be measured in our principles and practice, and the judgment of both by others, according to what we have now published, which the Lord (whose eyes are as a flame of fire) knoweth to be the doctrine which with our hearts we most firmly believe and sincerely endeavor to conform our lives to. And O that, other contentions being laid asleep, the only care and contention of all upon whom the name of our blessed Redeemer is called might for the future be to walk humbly with their God in the exercise of all love and meekness toward each other, to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, each one endeavoring to have his conversation such as becometh the gospel; and also, suitable to his place and capacity, vigorously to promote in others the practice of true religion and undefiled in the sight of God our Father! And that in this backsliding day we might not spend our breath in fruitless complaints of the evils of others, but may every one begin at home, to reform in the first place our own hearts and ways, and then to quicken all that we may have influence upon to the some work, that if the will of God were so, none might deceive themselves by resting in and trusting to a form of godliness without the power of it, and inward experience of the efficacy of those truths that are professed by them. 

And verily there is one spring and cause of the decay of religion in our day which we cannot but touch upon and earnestly urge a redress of, and that is the neglect of the worship of God in families by those to whom the charge and conduct of them is committed. May not the gross ignorance and instability of many, with the profaneness of others, be justly charged upon their parents and masters, who have not trained them up in the way wherein they ought to walk when they were young, but have neglected those frequent and solemn commands which the Lord hath laid upon them, so to catechise and instruct them that their tender years might be seasoned with the knowledge of the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures; and also by their own omission of prayer and other duties of religion of their families, together with the ill example of their loose conversation, having, inured them first to a neglect and the contempt of all piety and religion? We know this will not excuse the blindness and wickedness of any, but certainly it will fall heavy upon those that have been thus the occasion thereof; they indeed die in their sins, but will not their blood be required of those under whose care they we...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

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Difference 2
  1. They differ in the circumstance of place as to their promulgation; which the Scripture also taketh notice of. The first was declared on mount Sinai; the manner whereof, and the station of the people in receiving the law Exo 19:18. The other was declared on mount Zion, and the law of it went forth from Jerusalem, Isa 2:3. This difference, with many remarkable instances from it, our apostle insists on, Gal 4:24-26. And it “answereth,” or “is placed in the same series, rank, and order with Jerusalem,” namely, in the opposition of the two covenants. For as the new covenant, the covenant of promise, giving freedom and Liberty, was given at Jerusalem, in the death and resurrection of Christ, with the preaching of the gospel which ensued thereon; so the old covenant, that brought the people into bondage, was given at mount Sinai in Arabia.
  • Difference 3 They differ in the manner of their promulgation and establishment.
    1. Of the Old Covenant:
      1. i. The dread and terror of the outward appearance on mount Sinai, which filled all the people, yea, Moses himself, with fear and trembling, Matt. 12:18-21; Exo 19:16; Exo 20:18-19. Together herewith was a spirit of fear and bondage administered unto all the people, so as that they chose to keep at a distance, and not draw nigh unto God, Deu 5:23-27.
      1. ii. That it was given by the ministry and “disposition of angels,” Act 7:53; Gal 3:19. Hence the people were in a sense “put in subjection unto angels,” and they had an authoritative ministry in that covenant.
    2. Of the New Covenant:
      1. i. The Son of God in his own person did declare it. This he “spake from heaven,” as the apostle observes; in opposition unto the giving of the law “on the earth,” Heb 12:25. Yet did he speak on the earth also; the mystery whereof himself declares, Joh 3:13. And he did all things that belonged unto the establishment of this covenant in a spirit of meekness and condescension, with the highest evidence of love, grace, and compassion, encouraging and inviting the weary, the burdened, the heavy and laden to come unto him. And by his Spirit he makes his disciples to carry on the same work until the covenant was fully declared, Heb 2:3. See Joh 1:17-18.
      1. ii. And the whole ministry of angels, in the giving of this covenant, was merely in a way of service and obedience unto Christ
  • Difference 4
    1. They differ in their mediators. The mediator of the first covenant was Moses. “It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator,” Gal 3:19. And this was no other but Moses, who was a servant in the house of God, Heb 3:5. And he was a mediator, as designed of God, so chosen of the people, in that dread and consternation which befell them upon the terrible promulgation of the law. But the mediator of the new covenant is the Son of God himself 1Tim 2:5. He who is the Son, and the Lord over his own house, graciously undertook in his own person to be the mediator of this covenant; and herein it is unspeakably preferred before the old covenant.
  • Difference 5
    1. They differ in their subject-matter, both as unto precepts and promises
      1. The Old Covenant absolutely considered:
        1. i. No promise of grace, to communicate spiritual strength, or to assist us in obedience; nor,
        1. ii. Any of eternal life, no otherwise but as it was contained in the promise of the covenant of works, “The man that doeth t...

  • 1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

    ... elements of worship define the corporate worship of Christ's Church. They are the essence. On the other hand, the circumstances of worship, Challies writes:

    The circumstances of worship are the “how” of worship - the conditions that determine the best way to worship God within the structure provided by the elements…The Directory of Worship for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church states, “The Lord Jesus Christ has prescribed no fixed forms for public worship but, in the interest of life and power in worship, has given his church a large measure of Liberty in this matter.” While there is little freedom in the elements of worship, there is great freedom within them according to circumstances. However, as with every area of life, this freedom must be exercised cautiously and in a way consistent with Scripture.[20]

    The circumstances of worship are those things which we could do without. While on the other hand, the elements or parts of worship are the things which we could not do without. If prayer or preaching is removed from the service, then an element and not a circumstance of worship is removed. But if, for example, the service starts at 12 o’clock instead of 10 o’clock, or a church decides to no longer use the beamer, then there is no change in the elements of worship, but merely the circumstances. Derek Thomas observes:

    Thus, the regulative principle as such may not be invoked to determine whether contemporary or traditional songs are employed, whether three verses or three chapters of Scripture are read, whether one long prayer or several short prayers are made, or whether a single cup or individual cups with real wine or grape juice are utilized at the Lord’s Supper. To all of these issues, the principle “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40) must be applied.[2]

    It is in the circumstances where the most differences are found in those churches which hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship.

    Who Can Worship God Perfectly?

    Christ the Lord was the only Man who has worshiped God perfectly “in spirit and truth.” We all fall miserably short. God demands perfect worship, but we are unable to give God His due. Like all His Ten Commandments, no one can keep them perfectly, because they do not merely concern outward things, but they deal with the heart. Therefore, the Regulative Principle should drive us to the Lord Jesus and we should beseech Him to teach us through His Word and Spirit about how we ought to worship the Triune God “in spirit and truth.” We should pray that we may be further sanctified to worship God more truthfully. Even those who hold to the Regulative Principle are able to sin in not worshipping God truly with their heart. The elements and parts of worship may all be present, but if the heart is not present, it is vain worship.

    We should pray that God may grant the grace for a reformation of worship according to His Word. Many churches nowadays do not care about what God has said concerning how He is to be worshiped, but rather look to the world for suggestions. They seek to learn from the world concerning what they desire to see in Church, rather than in the infallible and sufficient Word of God. They seek to draw people using means that God has not authorized and adding to His worship things which He has not commanded. May we pray that God would grant His people the grace and willingness to diligently search the Scriptures to learn about the way in which God des...


    Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist

    ...-Baptist-Confession-Chapter-19:-Of-The-Law-Of-God-Commentary/" target="_blank">Of The Law Of God (Threefold Division of the Law, the Decalogue before Moses, a brief exposition of the Decalogue, ceremonial and civil laws, the abiding moral law under the New Covenant in the OT prophecy and the NT, Threefold Uses of the Law, The Law and the Gospel)
  • Of The Gospel, And Of The Extent Of The Grace Thereof
  • Of Christian Liberty And Liberty of Conscience
  • Of Religious Worship And the Sabbath Day (A case for the Regulative Principle of Worship and the Christian Sabbath)
  • Of Lawful Oaths And Vows
  • Of The Civil Magistrate
  • Of Marriage
  • Of The Church
  • Of the Communion of Saints
  • Of Baptism And The Lord's Supper
  • Of Baptism
  • Of The Lord's Supper
  • Of The State Of Man After Death And Of The Resurrection Of The Dead (Intermediate State Hades, Sheol, Heaven; A Case for Amillennial Eschatology; critique of Premillennialism)
  • Of The Last Judgment (Endless punishment in Hell contra Annihilationism)
  • ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

    ...ty, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably1 all things, whatsoever comes to pass2 yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; 3 nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the Liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather establishedin which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. 5
    1. Prov. 19:21; Isa 14:24-27; 46:10-11; Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9:19; Heb. 6:17[1]
    2. Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11
    3. Gen. 18:25; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5
    4. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 24:1; Isa. 10:5-7; Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28
    5. Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

    Introduction

    There is no truth of Scripture more hated by some and cherished by others than the doctrine of Divine Absolute Sovereignty. The natural man cannot bring himself to accept such a doctrine, yet the child of God who believes this precious doctrine loves it magnifies the Lord through it and finds his rest in it. The Confession is clearly and unashamedly Calvinistic in its view of the absolute, free, irresistible, micro-managing sovereignty of God. Every molecule moves the way it does because God from all eternity has willed that it be so. From eternity past to eternity future nothing will occur to the mind of God which He didn't already know and ordain. He possesses all knowledge, actual and possible (chapter 2:2). The Confession doesn't go into the Hyper-Calvinistic error of disregarding man's will and responsibility, but rather affirms that the Liberty of second cause agents (men) are established because of God's decree. The Liberty here discussed is obviously not the mythical libertarian free will. There is no such thing as libertarian free will. Libertarian free will says that one can go against all inclination and nature, which is impossible and ridiculous. Jonathan Edwards in his The Freedom of the Will shows the absurdity and impossibility of such a will. Rather, moral agency or free will, biblically defined, would be the freedom to do whatever one desires. The Bible speaks about a limitation upon the desires and inclinations of the natural man; this limitation is our sinful natures from which sinful actions are born. See !--cke_bookmark_600S--!--cke_bookmark_600E--chapter 9 for our discussion of man's free will, moral inability, moral necessity and libertarian free will.

    God orders every event in such a way that He is sovereign over every step, yet at the same time, the second cause agent is not being coerced to do anything against their desire, but out their own desires and freedom carries whatever God has from all eternity decreed. We may not understand how this is done, but I believe that such is the testimony of Scripture. It is not for me to understand how the two work together, rather, it is for me to believe that it is such if I see both in Holy Writ. On a personal level, there is no truth that I cherish more than knowing the Triune God and knowing Him as the only Sovereign. It is not merely “in the head” doctrine, but it is a doctrine that I praise God for, cherish daily and find comfort in daily.

    Some years ago, I came across the Doctrines of Grace through the Facebook page called Reformed Memes Daily and I remember seeing something from Romans 9:18. I was amazed that the Bible had such things to say and wanted to study this issue. Apparently, I had not read that passag...


    A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

    ...red and challenged Pelagius and it was because of his prayer that Pelagius was outraged. They are so radically different from each other.

    Augustine believed and taught the doctrine of Original Sin. The doctrine teaches that because of Adam’s disobedience and because Adam was the representative of the whole human race (the root of the tree), therefore by his disobedience the whole human race was thrown into misery and sin. He stood in the place of those born of men and women. He believed that death (both spiritual and physical) was the punishment of the disobedience of our first parents.

    He taught that all men have free will (liberum arbitrium). What they lacked was Liberty (libertas). Augustine defined free will as the power to make free choices without any compulsion from the outside. In that sense every person has free will and is free to do as he pleases. What man in the Fall has lost is libertas. Augustine (and RC) understands libertas as the ability do that which is required of us. God commands man to be holy and obey Him, but since the Fall man has not been able to do that because he lost the libertas to will to that which is good. Because as Jonathan Edwards later would clearly say is that man choses according to his pleasure and desires, the only problem is that the Scriptures everywhere describe our desires as sinful. Man is free do all that he desires (liberum arbitrium), but in the Fall he has lost his desire to do good (libertas).

    At this point RC introduces some helpful Latin phrases (I love the fact that he many times explains what words mean):

    • Posse non peccare is the possibility not to sin. This is what Adam and Eve had when they were originally created by God.
    • Posse peccare is the possibility to sin. This obviously Adam and Eve did.
    • Non posse non peccare is the impossibility not to sin. These all the descendants of Adam until freed by Christ have.
    • Non posse peccare is the impossibility to sin. This is what those in Christ will have in the eternal state.

    Augustine like all Calvinists rejected Pelagius’ foreknowledge view of election and taught that God predestined according to His good pleasure without “looking into the future.” He predestined not because men believed, but He predestined so that men would believe.

    Martin Luther

    Some more than thousand years later there came a dispute between Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther. Luther taught the Augustinian view of freedom and predestination and Erasmus was on the Semi-Pelagian side, only he seemed to think that this topic has no much significance for the average Christian. Luther responded by saying that how isn’t it of any significance for people to know if they must do things for salvation or it comes wholly by the grace of God. For Luther, the subject of free will could not be divorced from Sola Fide and Sola Gratia and it is therefore important to understand. Luther taught the doctrine of Augustine, who taught the doctrine of Paul, who taught the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Luther strengthened the argument of foreknowledge in regards to free will. He said that if God knows all things, then there could be no choice B. Foreknowledge makes certain that our choices will happen. Luther taught that “God foreknows nothing contingently, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will.” As RC says about Luther’s view: God wills what he foreknows and foreknows what...


    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 16: Of Good Works - Commentary

    ...esus quotes the words of Isaiah approvingly when he says, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matt. 15:8-9 from Isa. 29:13). From this passage, we learn that whenever we add things to the Lord's commandments and teach them as if they were the Lord's, we dishonor Him and worship Him falsely. Therefore, the Confession is explicit that “Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his Holy Word”, so that only God would be the Lord of the conscience (see also chapter 21 on the Liberty of the conscious).

    It is God who teaches us through His will “what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). And it is God who is and determines the criteria of what good works constitute. It is His holy character as revealed in His Word. It is also God who works in us His good works. We cannot really do any good works which are pleasing in His sight without His will and direction.  That's why Paul tells us that “...it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The Holy Spirit in Hebrews 13:21 tells us that it is God who “equip[s] you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight”. The glory of the New Covenant is the fact that we have God's Law on our hearts and given the ability by the Spirit to obey God from the heart (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-27). In fact, God has created us believers and predestined us from all eternity that we should walk in good works (Eph. 2:10).

    Therefore, good works, first of all, are commanded by God and derived from His Law, and moreover, they are brought forth by God in us. It is God who is the measure of what is good. Whatever reflects His holy character is good, and whatever does not, is evil. He is the standard. It is written, “...the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed” (1Sam. 2:3).

    2Tim 3:6-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    Performed In Faith

    For works to be truly “good” in God's sight, they have to be done in faith. Romans 14:23 tells us “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Therefore, anything that is not done in and through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord, is sin and not really a “good work” in the sight of God. Even if a billionaire would donate all his money and give it to the poor, strictly in God's eyes that would not be a good work because it lacked a crucial component, namely, good works are to be performed through faith in Jesus Christ.

    We perform our works in thankfulness to God for our identity in Christ and that we are able through faith to please God (Heb. 11:6). We don't perform them thinking that we are better than others, or that God will love us more, but we perform them to the glory of God and to display His goodness to us. If our faith is really living, then it will inevitably produce good works. Paul speaks of the Thessalonians’ “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Thess. 1:3). They did good while believing and hoping in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their works came as a result and were supported by their living faith. In his secon...