A Christian is not only saved by the death of Jesus, but will also live the new life of Jesus. He/she has a new identity, characterized by thankfulness and good works.
LD 32 q&a 86.
Since we have been delivered
from our misery
by grace alone through Christ,
without any merit of our own,
why must we yet do good works?
having redeemed us by his blood,
also renews us by his Holy Spirit
to be his image,
so that with our whole life
we may show ourselves thankful to God
for his benefits,
and he may be praised by us.
Further, that we ourselves
may be assured of our faith
by its fruits,
and that by our godly walk of life
we may win our neighbours for Christ.
LD 32 q&a 87.
Can those be saved
who do not turn to God
from their ungrateful and impenitent
walk of life?
By no means.
Scripture says that no unchaste person,
thief, greedy person,
robber, or the like
shall inherit the kingdom of God.
LD 33 q&a 88.
What is the true repentance or conversion of man?
It is the dying of the old nature
and the coming to life of the new.
LD 33 q&a 89.
What is the dying of the old nature?
It is to grieve with heartfelt sorrow
that we have offended God by our sin,
and more and more to hate it
and flee from it.
LD 33 q&a 90.
What is the coming to life of the new nature?
It is a heartfelt joy
in God through Christ,
and a love and delight
to live according to the will of God
in all good works.
LD 33 q&a 91.
But what are good works?
Only those which are done
out of true faith,
in accordance with the law of God,
and to his glory,
and not those based
on our own opinion
or on precepts of men.
Faith is life-changing
Suppose you have a neighbour who has lived a worldly life for years. His greatest concern in life is money and having fun. He is nice to people, but only as long as they don’t bother them or if he can take advantage of them. One day, this neighbour announces that he has become a Christian. He now goes to church every Sunday. Meanwhile, his lifestyle remains the same. He still spends all is money on golf and vacations, hangs out in expensive clubs, and is easily angered by other people’s mistakes.
Can he really be a Christian?
Our salvation is completely based on God’s grace, and not on anything we contribute. Still, it is essential for Christians to live a life of obedience to God. There must be good works. Not because they save us. Not because they make us Christians. But because that is what Christians do; or better yet, that is what Jesus Christ does in believers.
Answer 86 says it well: Because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit to be his image. When Jesus saves you, it not only saves your from God’s judgment after this life. It also completely changes your life, here and now.
Read Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. How does the Bible describe our new life? Where does it come from? Compare these verses with the first part of answer 86.
The catechism explains what motivates Christians in their new life. We are thankful to God because of his wonderful grace, and want to praise him in our everyday living.
Justification and sanctification
The saving work of God in our life can be summarized by two words:
- justification: God considers us to be innocent and righteous because of Jesus’ death on the cross
- sanctification: God makes us more holy and truly righteous because of the new life of Jesus’ resurrection.
It is important not to confuse these two. Our good works play no role in our justification, but only in our sanctification. On the other hand, we may not separate them either. Anyone who has been justified through faith in Jesus will also be sanctified by his Holy Spirit.
Read Ephesians 2:8-10. Which part talks about our justification? Which part about our sanctification?
In John 15:5, Jesus said: “If you remains in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” The Bible often uses the picture of fruit. Fruit is good. Fruit is the purpose of a true; if a tree does not have good fruit, it is useless. And fruit grows naturally as long as branches are part of the plant, and as long as a tree grows in good soil.
Just like a farmer plants trees to produce fruit, God has created us to produce the “fruit” of good works. If we are attached to Jesus (like a branch is attached to a plant), we will grow fruit. If we soak up the power of the Holy Spirit (like a tree in a water-filled irrigation channel), we will grow fruit.
Galatians 5:22 describes what this fruit is. Look up this verse for nine important attitudes in life that should grow in you when you follow Jesus! The catechism points out, that the growth of this fruit in our life is encouraging to us: it shows that God is really at work in us. At the same time, the fruit of the Spirit is a witness to people around us. When we do right by others, especially when that does not come naturally, they will see the power and beauty of Jesus in us.
Can you think of one or two other Bible passages that use this picture of “fruit” and being “fruitful”?
Old self and new self
Read Ephesians 4:17-29. What are some things that belong to your “old self”? What are some things that belong to your “new self”?
In the Bible, Paul talks about sanctification as putting off your old self (or old nature) and putting on your new self (or new nature). When you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit gives you a thorough “makeover”.
This does not happen overnight. It takes our whole earthly life, and even then there is much work to be done. It should keep us busy every day: the catechism speaks of daily conversion. Literally, “conversion” means “turning around”. We must turn away from sin and turn toward God. Take out the trash and bring in the treasures of the Holy Spirit.
- A fellow believer says: “I don’t see any ‘fruit’ in my life. There is no growth. I am stuck in my sin. Does that mean I am no Christian?” What would you answer?
- Is sanctification something that God does, or something that we do? Explain.
- Is conversion about your outward actions or your inward emotions? See q&a 89 and 90.
- There are many unbelievers who do good works, for instance helping the poor. According to q&a 91, are these the kind of good works the Lord is looking for?
All: Memorize q&a 86 and 88.
Older students: Also memorize q&a 91.