Tag Archives: Good Works

“All His footsteps were nothing but mercy” by Wilhelmus à Brakel

“You who are godly, ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy’ (Hos. 10:12); ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually’ (Hos. 12:6). In order to stir you up more to this end, give heed to the following matters with an obedient heart.

First, precepts teach, but examples attract.

Therefore, observe those compassionate persons who have gone before you, and have left you an example. The most perfect example is the Lord Jesus, whom you ought to follow joyfully and willingly, since He is altogether lovely to you.

Read only the history of His life, the gospels, and you will perceive that all His footsteps were nothing but mercy. Time and again you will read: “Jesus being moved with compassion…”

He was not merely moved, however, but His compassion culminated in deeds. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave the oppressed their dead again, and traversed the entire country doing good.

In doing so He has left us an example, so that we would follow in His footsteps. Therefore, out of love for Him, conduct yourself as He did. Your name “Christian” also obligates you to this.

Furthermore, add to this the example of Job. Who can read about his compassion without being moved to follow his example? “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor” (Job 29:15-16); “If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (for from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother‟s womb;) if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep” (Job 31:16-20). That was exemplary.

Add to the example of this man the example of a compassionate woman: Tabitha or Dorcas. Observe the following of her: “Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did … and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them” (Acts 9:36, 39).

She was a mother to the poor! She did not occasionally do a good deed, but rather she was full of, and overflowing with, good works and alms (gifts which are the manifestation of compassion). The Greek word ἐλεημοσυνῶν (elémosúne) is a composite word and a derivative of ἐλεέω (eleéo), which means to have compassion.

Thus, she did not only give, but rather she gave, being moved with compassion. First the heart was moved, and the heart thus moved, in turn moved her hand. She did not only buy material from which she made clothing, but her benevolent love was so great that it was her delight to do the sewing herself and to dress the widows with the work of her own hands.”

—Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 4: Ethics and Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 1700/1995), 4: 122.

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“Christ is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays” by Herman Bavinck

“Finally the designation ‘word of God’ is used for Christ Himself. He is the Logos in an utterly unique sense: Revealer and revelation at the same time.

All the revelations and words of God, in nature and history, in creation and re-creation, both in the Old and the New Testament, have their ground, unity, and center in Him.

He is the sun; the individual words of God are His rays.

The word of God in nature, in Israel, in the NT, in Scripture may never even for a moment be separated and abstracted from him. God’s revelation exists only because He is the Logos.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; vol. 1; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 402.

[HT: Nick Gardner]

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“Pure grace clothed with our nature” by Richard Sibbes

“Grace is no enemy to good works. It is no enemy to diligence and to good works; nay, it is the foundation of them.

The Apostle doth not use it here as an argument to neglect good works. (Titus 2:11-14) No. He stirs them up by it.

If anything in the world will work upon a heart,  it is the love, and favour, and grace of God. ‘The love of Christ constraineth,’ (2 Cor. 5:14).

The love of Christ, as known, melts the heart. The knowledge of the grace of Christ is very effectual to stir us up, as to all duties, so especially to the duty of bounty and mercy. For experience of grace will make us gracious, and kind, and loving, and sweet to others.

Those who have felt mercy will be ready to show mercy. Those who have felt grace and love, will be ready to reflect, and show grace and love to others.

Those who are hard-hearted and barren in their lives and conversations, it is a sign that the Sun of righteousness never yet shined on them.

There is a power in grace, and grace known, to assimilate the soul to be like unto Christ. It hath a force to stir us up to that which is good, (Titus 2:11- 12).

The Apostle enforceth self-denial, a hard lesson; and holiness to God, justice to others, and sobriety to ourselves. What is the argument he useth?

‘The grace of God hath appeared.’ (Titus 2:11) The grace of God hath shined, as the word signifieth.

He means Christ appeared, but he saith, ‘The grace of God hath appeared.’ When Christ appeared, grace appeared. Christ is nothing but pure grace clothed with our nature.

What doth this appearing of grace teach us? ‘To deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live holily, and righteously, and soberly.” Holily and religiously in regard of God; justly in regard of men, and not only justly, but bountifully, for bounty is justice.

It is justice to give to the poor. ‘Withhold not good from the owners.’ (Prov. 3:27) They have right to what we have.

Grace, when it appears in any soul, is a teacher; it teacheth to deny all that is naught, and it teacheth to practice all that is good. It teacheth to live holily and righteously in this present evil world.

Many men like the text thus far, ‘The grace of God bringeth salvation.’ Oh it is a sweet text!

Ay, but what follows? What doth that grace teach thee? It teacheth to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; it doth not teach men to follow and set themselves upon the works of the devil, but to live soberly and justly and righteously in this present evil world.”

–Richard Sibbes, “The Church’s Riches By Christ’s Poverty,” The Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 4 (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1639/2001), 4: 518-519.

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“Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation” by Martin Luther

“The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh (Eph. 5:31–32).

And if they are one flesh and there is between them a true marriage– indeed the most perfect of all marriages, since human marriages are but poor examples of this one true marriage– it follows that everything they have they hold in common, the good as well as the evil.

Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own. Let us compare these and we shall see inestimable benefits.

Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation. The soul is full of sins, death, and damnation.

Now let faith come between them and sins, death, and damnation will be Christ’s, while grace, life, and salvation will be the soul’s; for if Christ is a bridegroom, He must take upon Himself the things which are His bride’s and bestow upon her the things that are His.

If he gives her His body and very self, how shall He not give her all that is His? And if He takes the body of the bride, how shall He not take all that is hers?”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 351.

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“His righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, His life stronger than death, His salvation more invincible than hell” by Martin Luther

“Christ is God and man in one person. He has neither sinned nor died, and is not condemned, and He cannot sin, die, or be condemned; His righteousness, life, and salvation are unconquerable, eternal, omnipotent.

By the wedding ring of faith He shares in the sins, death, and pains of hell which are His bride’s. As a matter of fact, He makes them His own and acts as if they were His own and as if He Himself had sinned; He suffered, died, and descended into hell that He might overcome them all.

Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow Him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by Him in a mighty duel; for His righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, His life stronger than death, His salvation more invincible than hell.

Thus the believing soul by means of the pledge of its faith is free in Christ, its bridegroom, free from all sins, secure against death and hell, and is endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of Christ its bridegroom.

So He takes to himself a glorious bride, “without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26–27) of life, that is, by faith in the Word of life, righteousness, and salvation. In this way He marries her in faith, steadfast love, and in mercies, righteousness, and justice, as Hos. 2:19–20 says.

Who then can fully appreciate what this royal marriage means? Who can understand the riches of the glory of this grace?

Here this rich and divine bridegroom Christ marries this poor, wicked harlot, redeems her from all her evil, and adorns her with all His goodness. Her sins cannot now destroy her, since they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up by Him.

And she has that righteousness in Christ, her husband, of which she may boast as of her own and which she can confidently display alongside her sins in the face of death and hell and say, “If I have sinned, yet my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned, and all His is mine and all mine is His,” as the bride in the Song of Solomon 2:16 says, “My beloved is mine and I am his.”

This is what Paul means when he says in 1 Cor. 15:57, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, the victory over sin and death, as he also says there, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56).”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 351–352.

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“True faith in Christ is a treasure beyond comparison” by Martin Luther

“It ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and increasingly to strengthen faith alone and through faith to grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him, as Peter teaches in the last chapter of his first Epistle (1 Pet. 5:10).

No other work makes a Christian. Thus when the Jews asked Christ, as related in John 6:28, what they must do “to be doing the work of God,” He brushed aside the multitude of works which He saw they did in great profusion and suggested one work, saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29); “for on him has God the Father set his seal” (John 6:27).

Therefore true faith in Christ is a treasure beyond comparison which brings with it complete salvation and saves man from every evil.”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 347.

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“You are justified by the merits of another, namely, of Christ alone” by Martin Luther

“The moment you begin to have faith you learn that all things in you are altogether blameworthy, sinful, and damnable, as the Apostle says in Rom. 3:23, “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and, “None is righteous, no, not one; all have turned aside, together they have gone wrong” (Rom. 3:10–12).

When you have learned this you will know that you need Christ, who suffered and rose again for you so that, if you believe in Him, you may through this faith become a new man in so far as your sins are forgiven and you are justified by the merits of another, namely, of Christ alone.”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 346–347.

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