I'm not sure why I made this question out to be more difficult than it really is, but in any case, I was struck with a sudden and obvious thought the other day. Faith is what consummates union with Christ, and it is Christ's work which merits for those united to Him a crown of righteousness or [eternal] life. Faith is obedience to a command, but it is not on account of this obedience that we merit anything (link). Works, on the other hand, are the grounds upon which merit is accrued to an individual - even good works (link). But no one can merit eternal life for Himself apart from perfect obedience to the law. We can merit other things: death by our sin (Romans 6:23), wages by our labor (Romans 4:4), rewards (25:14-30), but faith has always been held by Reformed Christians to be the instrumental, not meritorious, cause of justification. So obedience would seem to be a genus of which faith and good works are species.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Obedience, Faith, and [Good] Works
Given that God commands men to repent and believe (e.g. Mark 1:15), I've had a somewhat frustrating time understanding in what sense faith is not a good work. Doesn't faith "in the gospel" require mental activity and an act of will, viz. in understanding and assenting to certain propositions? And isn't obedience synonymous with good works (cf. Romans 1:6, 16:26)? Didn't Paul and Silas tell the Philippian jailer he had something to "do" in order to be saved (Acts 16:31-32)?