Judged according to our works?

2Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Rev. 22:12   “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

A question came up in our Sunday school class a few weeks back about whether or not we are judged according to our works. The question arose as we were talking about the Athanasian Creed. Near the end of the creed, we read these statements:

40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

42. and shall give account of their own works.

43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

So, is that final statement (#43) Biblical? Perhaps taken alone it is a bit too stark.

2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 22:12 make it clear that our final judgment is according to our works. Ephesian 2:8-9 makes it clear that our salvation (justification) is by grace apart from works. During the class, I said that every man faces a judgment according to his works and he who receives condemnation receives what he has earned by his evil works. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

But what of those on the other side of the divide ? How do the good works of the righteous relate to their final judgment?

Here’s some help from Calvin in his commentary on 2 Corinthians:

As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness. For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins. After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtains eternal life gratuitously.

Notice that he says the good works of the justified sinner does not earn him merit or salvation–that is the work of Christ alone. Those good works, though, do factor into the judgment in that God rewards those who do good. Those rewards are by God’s gracious acceptance of our works done by faith in His Son (Eph. 2:10).

But can we say more than that? Are those good works necessary for salvation? In what sense are they necessary? Continue reading

You know you are an antinomian if…

Mark Jones, pastor of Faith Vancouver (PCA), has written a timely book exploring the history and tenets of the heresy of antinomianism. Antinomianism has many different flavors but all of them end up diminishing or entirely dismissing the utility of God’s law in the life of the believer. Jones explains antinomianism by going back to the beginning:

Adam was the first antinomian (Rom. 5). In the garden, he was against (anti) God’s law (nomos) when he transgressed by failing to guard the garden and to forbid his wife to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (1)

When Adam decided to reject the continuing validity of God’s law in his and his wife’s life, he became the first antinomian.

Early in Jones’ book, he makes a helpful correction to our view of legalists. When defining legalism we have a tendency to think of it as the opposite of antinomianism; the legalists fight for law and the antinomians fight for not-law. Jones rightly points out that legalism is a form of antinomianism:

The Pharisees did not actually keep the law (Mark 7:8); their Talmudic legalism actually made them practical antinomians insofar as they “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (2)

Why is this understanding important? Because the cheap-grace antinomians of our day accuse Christians who pursue obedience to God’s law of being works-salvation Pharisees. But the law-keeping of the Pharisees and the Law-keeping of the Christian are radically different. The Pharisees, who replaced God’s Law with little man-made laws, were deeply antinomian:

In reality, legalists are not much different from antinomians, if indeed they are different at all. Pharisaic selective obedience is disobedience. Oliver O’Donovan perceptively notes that legalism and antinomianism are in fact two sides of the same coin because they are “fleshly” ways of living life. (2)

In other words, cheap-gracers are the Pharisees because they replace God’s commands with tiny little commands. Actually, they have only one command:

…the common assertion, ‘You just need to believe the gospel more,’ essentially undermines the position of the antinomian, not least because it devolves into a sometimes oppressive and monotonous mantra that take the place of the multifaceted exhortations one finds in the Scriptures. (28)

The fearful antinomian exhorts those tempted to commit adultery, to break the Sabbath, to trust in money, to gossip, to lie, to worship a block of wood with that one law and that one law alone: “believe the gospel more.” To say “Thou shalt not…” is a betrayal of the gospel of grace to the antinomian. The Apostle Paul is half-good, half-tainted.

Now to return to the title of this post… Continue reading