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Anthony Burgess (d. 1644) argued that while good works should never be construed as meritorious for our justification, they were still necessary as our duty on the way to final salvation. Here are 13 reasons why:

1. “They are the fruit and end of Christ’s death” (Titus 2:14).

2. “There is an analogical relation between good works and heaven insofar as God has appointed the way (good works” to the end (heaven).”

3. “There is a promise made to them” (1 Tim. 4:7-8).

4. “They are testimonies whereby our election is made sure” (2 Peter 1:10).

5. “They are a condition, without which a man cannot be saved. So that although a man cannot by the presence of them gather a cause of his salvation; yet by the absence of them he may conclude his damnation; so that is an inexcusable speech of the Antinomian, Good works do not profit us, nor bad hinder us.”

6. “They are in their own nature a defence against sin and corruption” (Eph. 6:14-16).

7. “They are necessary by a natural connexion with faith, and the Spirit of God.”

8. “They are necessary by debt and obligation. . . . We cannot merit at God’s hand, because the more good we are enabled to do, we are the more beholding to God. Hence it is, that we are his servants.”

9. “By the command of God” (1 Thess. 4:3).

10. “They are necessary by way of comfort to ourselves. And this opposes many Antinomian passages, who forbid us to take any peace by our holiness.”

11. “They are necessary in respect of God, both in that he is hereby pleased, and also glorified.”

12. “They are necessary in regard of others” (Matt. 5:16).

13. “Holiness and godliness inherent is the end of our faith and justification.” (Quoted in Jones, Antinomianism, 68).

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19 thoughts on “Why Good Works Are Necessary for the Christian”

  1. Humble Andproudofit says:

    Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself and DO what pleases you.

  2. Andy Chance says:

    I read Jones’ book, and this was the part that was most troublesome to me. It’s not troublesome because I disagree. I think I remember reading in Moo’s commentary on James that a person will not be saved by their works but neither will they be saved without them. I see that in the Scriptures.

    At the same time, I think one of the charges made against modern antinomians is that they make reckless statements. I’m not saying that you or Burgess are making reckless statements, but I’m sure you can see how “good works are necessary for Christians” might be easily misunderstood in a dangerous and damaging way.

    I’ve really appreciated you bringing antinomianism to light, as well as your book on holiness, which I thought was very good. But could you, perhaps–cause I know you’re not busy ;)–show us how to explain that good works are necessary for Christians in a way that does not confuse people?

  3. mark mcculley says:

    I second Andy Chance’s concern. I agree that we live in a day of “hyper-grace” in which clergy tell folks that God accepts them just as they are, even if they do not know and believe the gospel. I agree that Christianity is not a theory which we believe but do nothing about.

    But that being said, in reacting to antinomianism, we need to remember that most professing Christians are legalists (soft to hard) and that not only NT Wright but also Arminians and Baxterians condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. So we need to make sure we don’t confuse law and gospel.

    Is Assurance Necessary for Us to have Good works, or are Good works necessary for Us to have Assurance, or do we have a Situationist Gospel in which the Answer Depends on What’s Good for the Listener?

    With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, 2 Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become effective They are not commanded to become fruitful in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ).

    But many assume an assurance of calling based on our works. To do that,they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context of II Peter 1, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their works of faith the assurance. In effect, their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in works, not assurance in Christ’s atonement.

    By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”? Legalists are trying to follow Christ as Lord without first submitting to salvation only by God’s perfect and sufficient alone righteousness.

    We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But many “Calvinists”, along with the Arminians, think of faith as the “condition” that saves them. Yes, they disagree (somewhat) about the source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in(the results in your life) than they are in the object of faith.

    Though the true gospel explains that the justification of the ungodly does not happen until righteousness is imputed and faith is created by hearing the gospel, the true gospel also declares that it is the righteousness ALONE (apart from the works of faith created) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)

    The moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. Walter Marshall teaches us, as Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

    Scot Hafemann: “ Sandwiched between what God has done for us and what God promises to do for us in the future, we find the commands of God for the present as the necessary link between the two.” This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ, but on us—-if the Holy Spirit enables you do enough right, then God promises not to break you off

  4. Rich C says:

    This also a response to Kevin’s previous post on Mark Jones’s book on Antinomianism.

    As long as a person holds to the third use of the law position, there will always be confusion as to works/grace.
    With all due respect, it is like listening to someone describe the amillennialism position by saying it is “replacement” of the church with Israel.
    They just don’t get it.

    Not trying to be mean, but as much as I respect you Kevin, you just don’t get this because of your own misunderstanding of the use of law (as opposed to the Law of Christ,fulfilled in Christ), and misrepresent those (some) of us who trust the free grace of God for our security by labeling it as antinomianism.

    It’s like reading a Dave Hunt book on Calvinism (i.e., build a staw man that doesn’t exist in reality and then label it as if this is the Calvinist position)

    I’m not “working” for a reward that’s better than other believers, I’m resting in God, “Who is my exceedingly great reward”!

    One last thing.
    REPENTANCE toward sin is evidence of our “good works”. God delights in our repentance (1 John 2:1). It is a distinguishing mark of a true believer. If you believe that repentance is a crutch that some use to “continue in sin that grace may abound”, you just don’t get it.

    I still appreciate you brother, but you missed the boat in this particular area.
    Rich C

  5. Kyle B says:

    Rich C,
    If he missed the boat so did the whole Reformed tradition. Kevin is saying nothing contrary to what the Reformed Confessions teach. So don’t critique Kevin, critique the whole system of doctrine taught in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards. But alas, and respectfully, your response shows a lack of understanding as to what Reformed Christianity teaches.

  6. Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Rich C. I completely agree with you… Kevin misses it. It isn’t “our good works” in view but rather Christ’s works on our behalf. Imputation of His righteousness is complete and total. We offer nothing to supplement that.

  7. a. says:

    “Why Good Works Are Necessary for the Christian”

    and that we may have life abundantly John 10:10b

  8. Andy Chance says:

    Just to clarify, I think both Jones and Mr. DeYoung are confronting a real problem and bringing out a biblical truth. I’ve just never seen it expressed quite like, “Good works are necessary for the Christian.” I think I understand how that is very different from “Good works are necessary for justification,” but I would like to learn to understand and express this truth clearly.

  9. Hermonta Godwin says:

    Above, you ask to “show us how to explain that good works are necessary for Christians in a way that does not confuse people?”

    I think the problem is that you assume that Justification has a priority over Sanctification. The traditional reformed view is that Union with Christ has the priority and from it flows both Justification and Sanctification (and other benefits). As long as one clearly states/shows that one works are not meritorious in relation to justification, one has basically guarded against what needs to be guarded against.

  10. Cris Dickason says:

    Although the following is framed in terms of the relation between dogmatics and ethics as distinct fields of study, it nicely lays out the way to see the relationship of faith and life, confession and profession. This is from Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol 1, p. 58:

    Dogmatics sets forth what God is and does for human beings and causes them to know God as their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; ethics sets forth what human beings are to do for God now; how with everything they are and have, with intellect, and will and all their strength, they devote themselves to God out of gratitude and love. Dogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God; ethics is that of the service of God. The two disciplines, far from facing each other as two independent entities, together form a single system; they are related members of a single organism.”

  11. This is so close to Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 32!

  12. This page truly has all of the information I needed about this subject
    and didn’t know who to ask.

  13. God bless you for crafting this site , i feel like the almighty himself must be shining down on you and your family. You’re such a beautiful person whom I am truley pleased to share god’s grace with.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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