Recompensing Good Works

Recompensing Good Works

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

suggested further reading: James 1:19–27

In this text the author seems to build salvation on works and to make God a debtor to them. But the apostle does not speak here of the cause of our salvation. Everywhere else, Scripture shows there is no other fountain of salvation but the gratuitous mercy of God. Thus when God promises reward for works, that depends on the gratuitous promise by which he adopts us as his children and reconciles us to himself by not imputing our sins. Reward is reserved for works, not through merit, but through the free bounty of God alone. Yet even this free reward of works does not take place unless we are first received into favor through the kind mediation of Christ.

We hence conclude that God does not pay us a debt but performs what he has freely promised. He performs it inasmuch as he pardons us and our works; nay, he looks not so much on our works as on his grace in our works. On this account he does not forget our works because he recognizes himself and the work of his Spirit in them. He is

not unrighteous

, as the apostle says, for he cannot deny himself.

This passage, then, corresponds with Paul’s saying: “He which hath begun in you a good work will perform it” (Phil. 1:6). For what can God find in us to induce him to love us except what he has first conferred on us? God so regards himself and his own gifts that he carries to the end that of his own good will he has begun in us. This is not an inducement from anything we do; rather, God is righteous in recompensing works because he is true and faithful and has made himself a debtor to us, not by receiving anything from us, but, as Augustine says, by freely promising all things.

for meditation: As Calvin explains here, good works are the fruit of salvation which is wrought entirely of grace based on the merits of Christ. The good works that flow out of this salvation do not gain or retain our favor with God. Those things depend on Christ’s righteousness, not our own. Nevertheless, God delights in the obedience and good works of his children and promises to reward them. How should God’s promised rewards motivate us?

 Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008).

365 Days with Calvin

(p. 284). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.