Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 32

Q. 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merits of ours, why must we still do good works?
 
Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit, after His own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for His blessings,[1] and that He may be praised by us;[2] also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof;[3] and that, by our godly conversation, others may be gained to Christ.[4]
[1] 1 Corinthians 6:19–20; Romans 6:13 and 12:1–2; 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10;   [2] Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12;  [3] 2 Peter 1:10; Galatians 5:6, 24;   [4] 1 Peter 3:1–2; Matthew 5:16; Romans 14:19.
 
 
Q. 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?
 
By no means; for the Holy Scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.[1]
[1] 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Ephesians 5:5–6; 1 John 3:14–15; Galatians 5:21.

Commentary

Men are creatures of extreme! As Rome errs in the way of legalism by making good works meritorious, so there are others who err by way of antinomianism, by teaching that repentance and good works are not essential to salvation.
 
The Reformed view presented in this Q/A is the correct biblical balance: Our Salvation is by grace through faith alone; but this faith, which is not meritorious, is not alone, it manifests itself in good works. We may illustrate the three positions thus:

Rome:

Faith + Works —> Justification

Antinomian:

Faith —> Justification – Works

Reformed:

Faith —> Justification + Works


The Scripture speaks of the necessity of good works as a fruit of true saving faith in numerous places. For example, James says: “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (Jas 2:17). The fact is that anyone who claims to have faith, but does not evidence any change in his life and does not produce good works or fruit, cannot be telling the truth. For as the Lord says: “Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Mt 7:17). Good fruit and good works, therefore, is one of the means by which a believer may be assured of the genuineness of his faith. Good works, moreover, is a means by which the saints manifest their gratitude to God, and also an instrument to gain sinners to Christ.
 
The importance of good works figures in numerous parables of the Lord’s. In the parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14–30), for example, we find the two-talent man and the five-talent man being rewarded by their master for bearing fruit with the talents that He has placed in their charge. He said to them both: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Mt 25:21). There is no doubt that the Lord is speaking about rewards in heaven, or at the last day. He says elsewhere: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Mt 16:27). Although every cup in heaven will be full, brim full, yet not every cup will have the same capacity. On the other hand, we find the one-talent man producing nothing and being cast out into “outer darkness: [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 25:30). This cannot be but referring to hell. The one-talent man proves his unregeneracy by his fruitlessness.