Sunday, October 7

A Sunday Hoeksema Sermon!

I was blessed to be at home today, renewed in my mind in the peace I have in Christ and I listened to a sermon online by Herman Hoeksema’s entitled “Justification in Relation to Good Works” which addressed questions in the Heidelberg and the Scriptures:

Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace”

Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”

The doctrine of Justification by Faith as the sole source of our righteousness before God in Christ (justified freely by His grace) is objected to by many professing Christians when they accuse those who believe it and confess it in its totality as being a doctrine that will cause men to become antinomian or profane and careless, count on that accusation Hoeksema says. Most who object also object to the doctrine of election and reprobation either fully or in some sense and in doing so they deny many things; 2 of which are:

They deny the Sovereign providence of God!
They deny that Sovereign justification is by grace alone!

And this is the underlying principal of the portion of the Heidelberg catechism which follows; the underlying principal of God’s Sovereignty!

#62 But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God, must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the divine law, but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

#64 But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?
No, for it is IMPOSSIBLE that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

Matthew 7:18 “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”

It stands to reason that if you deny that our justification (our complete righteousness before God) is by the providence of God in His election and by His Grace alone you make good works somehow a credit to your account and your sin a demerit to your account, in your justification. This is, of course, not true! Justification has nothing to do with our works, absolutely nothing, it is all of Grace. Once this doctrine is understood and believed and embraced, sin truly no longer has dominion over us.

The catechism tells us that ALL of our works are defiled with sin so the believer must confess that truth of himself and then remember that if our works are defiled with sin God cannot look upon them and declare us righteous because of them, not wholly or in part or we are condemned in them. A true and living faith WILL bring forth fruits of righteousness, because the transforming power is HIS righteousness, the righteousness of God in Christ.

It is so imperative that believer’s KNOW this doctrine first, that we know that Christ has merited it all for us. He has merited our salvation, our forgiveness of sins, our justification, our eternal life, He has merited our place in heaven, our gifts to serve and He has merited the very number of works that we may do. He has redeemed us forever UNTO good works and we MAY do them freely as sons and daughters of God.

What a blessed truth! Thank you H. Hoeksema!


  1. An important question concerning Question 64 is this: "What are the fruits of thankfulness?" They are inevitable, but what are they?

    These are not defined by ourselves. The answer to this is in Q. 91: Good works are those which proceed from true faith, according to the Law of God, and unto His glory.

    The new man in Christ [q. 90] rejoices in Christ, including the order that He has established for our good: the church, the disciple, the sacraments, and the fellowship of the saints.

    It is a very great mistake to leave obedience undefined and up for grabs to the individual. This can leave each man isolated and alienated from the love and communion of the saints that the Sixth Commandments requires, as described by Questions 105 and 106 and especially 107: "But is this all that is required: that we do not kill our neighbor?"

    "A107: No, for in condemning envy, hatred, and anger, God requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and kindness towards him, and to prevent his hurt as much as possible; also, to do good even unto our enemies."

    The great value of the law in the life of the Christian is that it diagnoses the works of the flesh which war against the soul. "I cannot obey God," is not an excuse or a remedy: it merely confirms the diagnosis.


  2. Thank you for your response Bud, I always appreciate them. I certainly agree that the law confirms that diagnosis to our own heart. I’m so thankful that there is a true remedy and that the remedy is Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for His sheep. The law always points me to Christ and not to any merit of my own doings because as you say the law confirms the diagnosis.

    I used to ask all the time and wanted to know so desperately what a good work was, I wanted a list to follow I suppose. No one could ever give me a list and for that I am extremely thankful to the Lord for He knows my given propensity to idolatry. I would have gone merrily on my way following a list compiled by man and I would have been so happy in my idolatrous, fleshly ways.

    I agree that sinful man does not define what a good work is, not any man can do that. I believe that a good work is one that only the Lord can define in each individual as only the Lord can see into the heart from whence that work comes from and only He knows what the motive of the heart is. He alone can see if the outward deed is motivated by the principal of the law of love and of faith in our heart, the law of love that says: First, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind and second to love thy neighbor as thyself. We, on the other hand, only see the outward deed. The Pharisees did many outward good deeds but were called hypocrites by the Lord because He could see their heart.

    Obedience is defined by God alone in His Word and so we don’t, of course, argue with the Word of God. I’m not sure what you were alluding to when you say it is a great mistake to leave obedience undefined, did you find that I was doing that in my post or Hoeksema was doing that in his sermon because he said that Christ has merited the very good works that we do? Sorry I was a bit confused with that statement.

    I find the imperative in scripture to ‘not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as we see the day approaching’…. and I love to assemble with the sheep. I do that as often as possible with my given circumstances and have for over 20 years within the same assembly. I am also always truly blessed when I stay home and am able to listen to the Word of God preached by a godly man over the internet and I am able to rejoice in the Word of God. It certainly isn’t the same as being amidst the congregation of the Lord, of being united together in our worship, of partaking of the Lord’s Supper together but I am thankful for the means the Lord has given in those times.

    God Bless!

  3. I was not being critical of your staying home on that Sunday!!

  4. Bud,
    Would you be so kind to tell me what you were alluding to when you were talking about obedience being undefined. I would like to understand what you meant.

  5. Eileen,

    I was not alluding to anything you or Hoeksema said, but was bouncing off the quotation of HC 64.

    Because many in the modern day retreat into the inwardness of Christianty as an excuse for bad behavior, I thought I would add a few remarks--not as a contradiction but as an amplification. If I hit a nerve, it was not on purpose.

    Of course no one can know someone else's heart, but that does not leave good works undefined. The catechism and the Scripture are clear as to that: Question 91.

    1. A good work, or work of thankfulness proceeds from faith.

    But neither is "faith" undefined when we say a good work proceeds from faith, for faith is one of the most clearly defined words in Scripture. Faith is not some vague feeling of goodwil toward God and man, but an active submission to the doctrine and commands of Scripture. It doesn't mean good intentions or vague feelings of good will and self-satisfaction. Its basic meaning is subjection to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ from the heart, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin. The flesh produces many dead works that are described in Galatians 5, and no writh, strife, seditiion, backbiting, etc., proceed from faith, although they often come with great pretensions of such. Faith and love are not a variance and do not offend against the doctrine of Q. 107 of the catechism: "God requires us to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and kindness toward [our neighbor], and to prevent his hurt as much as possible, also to good even unto our enemies."

    2. When a good work is defined as "for the glory of God" this glory is not undefined either. It is easy to say "Let God be glorified" [Is. 66:5] while mistreating the saints. Jesus said that some would even think they did God service. A deed is not sanctified by good intentions or by a clear conscience.

    A man is not excused from supporting his wife because he loves her. It is good that he loves her, but he MUST bring home the bacon or he has denied the faith. The church does not deal with his inward disposition but with his behavior.

    The glory of God means His excellency and shining brilliance. What we do is to enhance His reputation among men. It cannnot be against His power and His truth. Something cannot be for the glory of God when it is contrary to the command of Scripture, no matter what someone thinks in his heart. It is very easy to excuse some evil deed by claiming to have faith and love in the heart. Nothing is more common than that.

    Jesus asked about two sons. One who said, "Yes, Dad, I'll do it immediately," but didn't do it. The other said, "I'm not going to do it," but repented and did it. Which one did the will of his father? Even the Pharisees got that one right. It is not professions but performance that counts.

    3. A good deed, a deed of thankfulness, must proceed from faith, for the glory of God, but must also be in obedience to the law of God. This follows up on questions 88-90 of the catechism which defines conversion as the dying of the old man and the quickening of the new.

    This "quickening" is also defined as "heartfelt joy in Christ... living according to the will of God in all good works." To make it perfectly clear so that none would be able to wriggle off the hook, good works are defined succinctly in question 91. They ONLY proceed from faith, for the glory of God, according to the law of God.

    Therefore, if a person is to be justified before men, his works of obedience must be seen of men, for only God sees the heart. In the church, we charge men to seek the Lord in their hearts, but we deal with bad behavior and praise good behavior. If the fellowship and communion of the church is to be maintained it will be maintained by good behavior, not good intentions or good hearts. No one can see the heart except God alone. A lot of evil has been done by well-meaning but ignorant people.

    This is the reason that following this definition of good works, the catechism proceeds with an examination of the Ten Commandments.

    The only way we can know that what we are doing is right in the eyes of God is to examine the Scriptures, praying fervently that God will examine our hearts. The absolute way to blindness is to seek to examine our own hearts by reason, emotion, or willfulness, for that is the way to death.

    This is what I meant by a defined work of thankfulness.

    Sin is coming short of the glory of God, whatsoever is not of faith, and any transgression of the law of God. The church has suffered a lot by trying to define goodness by the individual hearts of men. This leads to confusion and destruction of the communion and fellowship of the saints.

    I am sorry for the length of this answer, but you did ask.

    God bless.

  6. Thank you so much that was a great help. I agree wholeheartedly that only the Scripture can define what is good because He is the only Good One. We cannot define for ourselves so I see that you were adding commentary onto the Heidelberg Q. 64.

    Here is where I struggle and don’t quite understand when people speak of good works. Do WE know when WE have done a good work? That has always been my question. I can discern the growth and transformation in my life (the dying of the old and the quickening of the new), but to call or even think anything that I do is a good work bothers me. For instance: since we are talking of our brethren and how we are to treat them, lets say you truly forgive an offence (because the Lord tells us to forgive one another our trespasses as He has forgiven us), do you think in your own mind that that was a good work or are we simply thankful that the Lord gave us the desire and the ability to do that? Are you saying that since He gave us the desire and the ability, that is then the work that proceeds from faith?

    "The only way we can know that what we are doing is right in the eyes of God is to examine the Scriptures, praying fervently that God will examine our hearts." (your quote from above)

    So are you saying here that we proceed to do right and God will examine the heart to see if the motive is right? That is why I’m afraid to call a work that I do good, what if it is done from a wrong motive and I don’t know that? The heart is deceitful above all things, so we are told. I struggle with calling those things good works. Why can’t we just do them and not talk about them as being good works?

    Thank you Bud!

  7. Why do we call them good works? Because we are called to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our father which is in heaven. We are called to love that which is good and hate that which is evil. We are called to hold vile people in contempt and honor those who fear the Lord [Ps. 15:4]

    It is good that a man loves his wife and takes care of his children. It is true that our best works are contaminated by sin, but that does not make them bad works, just as some good mixed with an evil work does not make the work good. Preaching the gospel is good, even if done for envy and strife [Phil 1:15] and murder is evil, even if done for God's service. God in His goodness restrains men's evil or He would not govern the world.

    I do not know whether a man who disciplines his children is doing it for a good or bad motive--no one knows that. But his discipline will be good for the kids, no matter what his motive is. It is God's goodness that enables him to be a good father even without faith, for the benefit of generations to come. Many a godly child has grown up with unbelieving but disciplined parents.

    It is far better to do good with an evil motive than to do evil with a good motive--at least for the neighbors. Neither will stand at the Judgment, but I would far rather have a church member who does good with a bad motive than one who does evil with a good motive. Let God sort the motives out and I will not worry about it as long as he doesn't ruin the church by bad behavior. Only God knows the heart and only God can cleanse the heart.

    It is certainly true that the very seal of God is two-sided: "God knows those that are His, and let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." [1Tim. 2:19] God knows His elect, and He has also told us how to behave. It is possible to know what iniquity is and to repent of it.

    We are to put off the old man and put on Christ. This is not an abstract concept but concerns behavior as the immediate context shows: Col. 3:8-10 and parallel passages.

    Otherwise we become nihilists, making all behavior equal. It makes it safe for those who behave badly, but it is not Scriptural, godly, or practical. Christ wants us to shine as lights, "so that others might see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven." [Matt. 5:16].

    "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain." Phil. 2:14-16

    How can we do that if we don't know what it is? The Bible is not a book of puzzles. It is a revelation of the will of God.

    Psalm 19:
    "7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
    8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
    9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
    10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
    11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward."

    There, I couldn't have said it better myself :-)

    God bless.


  8. Thank you so much, that was quite helpful in my thinking of 'good works'. I think I will print it and study it some more. I said some time ago that since the Scripture uses those words "good works" I should not be afraid to understand why it uses them either, although I probably will never be comfortable applying those words to myself.

    However, I don't hesitate to pray that the Lord will continue to "lead me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake"

    Thanks for the wisdom!

  9. Yes, and we probably should not apply them to ourselves. Afterall, the sheep on the right hand of the Lord Jesus in Matt. 25, asked, "Lord, when did we visit you in prison, and feed you...?"

    It was enough that they loved and served the people of God....