Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.
Lord’s Day 24
Question 62: Why can’t our good works
be our righteousness before God,
or at least a part of our righteousness?
Answer: Because the righteousness
which can pass God’s judgment
must be entirely perfect
and must in every way measure up to the divine law.1
But even our best works in this life
and stained with sin.2
1. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10 (Deut. 27:26)
2. Isa. 64:6
Question 63: How can our good works
be said to merit nothing
when God promises to reward them
in this life and the next?1
Answer: This reward is not earned;
it is a gift of grace.2
1. Matt. 5:12; Heb. 11:6
2. Luke 17:10; 2 Tim. 4:7-8
Question 64: But doesn’t this teaching
make people indifferent and wicked?
It is impossible
for those grafted into Christ through true faith
not to produce fruits of gratitude.1
1. Luke 6:43-45; John 15:5
Why can’t I work my way to heaven? Are you saying I’m not a good person? These questions normally flow from a misunderstanding of the holiness of God and the true nature of our own depravity (Spoiler Alert: God is much holier than you think and you are much worse than you will admit). After laying out “Faith Alone” in Lord’s Day Twenty-Three, the Heidelberg writers pose some important questions to the answers that need to be clarified…
Why can’t our good works be our righteousness before God?
Because our righteousness is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)
How can our good works merit nothing when God promises to reward them?
Because the reward is a gift, not a right (Luke 17:10)
Won’t believing that make people indifferent and wicked?
We are saved by faith alone, but by a faith that is not alone. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ through true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude. True faith will produce fruit, but we don’t work to earn righteousness. That won’t save us. We work to show gratitude for Christ saving us.
“I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention faith alone, we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to be the only cause of justification. (Galatians 5:6, Romans 3:22.) It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone: just as it is the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is not alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light.” John Calvin