Of Good Works.
Chapter 16, Paragraph 7.
“Works done by unregenerate men although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use, both to themselves and others; yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner according to the word, nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God; nor make a man meet to receive grace from God; and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God.”
2 Kings 10:30
1 Kings 21:27,29
1 Corinthians 13:1
Unbelievers can do many things. They can treat the wounded and sick; they can clothe and shelter the poor. They have the ability to pray, attend church, and give generously to charity. Every day these acts are carried out by those who are unregenerate. These are works which are commanded by God in His word. Aren’t they, then, good works?
These works, although good in that they are commanded by God in His word, can never be acceptable to God for salvation. Good works proceed wholly from the Spirit indwelling a regenerate heart. If the Holy Spirit has not changed the heart to will that which is good, then all the work done proceeds from a corrupt nature that is opposite to all good. The action may be beneficial, but the source is what determines whether the work is truly good.
…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. -1 Samuel 16:7
Why should the unregenerate do any work considered “good”, then? Because such actions are commanded by God. While unacceptable to God for salvation, doing works that God commands is advantageous for the world. Lives are spared. Physical ailments are treated. Material comfort is shared. While this earth is a violent, evil place, it is not full of destruction, for in the Lord’s providence the sinful actions of men are bound, ordered and governed (LBCF 5.4). Thus there are benevolent works that are not the sole domain of the righteous, for anyone, believer or no, has the ability to perform them. Even though they are corrupted, these actions are more desirable than totally transgressing God’s law. Through such means, God’s glory and goodness is demonstrated even through those who despise Him.
Questions to Consider
- Can anyone be good without God? Can anyone’s works be good without God?