Good Works

Posted: August 29, 2012 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Discipleship, Reformed Theology

Francis Turretin (1623-87) on the necessity of good works as they relate to justification:

Although we acknowledge the necessity of good works against the Epicureans, we do not on this account confound the law and the gospel and interfere with gratuitous justification by faith alone. Good works are required not for living according to the law, but because we live by the gospel; not as the causes on account of which life is given to us, but as effects which testify that life has been given to us. (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2.705)

And here is Turretin on the necessity of good works as they relate to our final glorification:

For since good works have the relation of the means to the end (Jn. 3:5, 16; Mt. 5:8); of the “way” to the goal (Eph. 2:10, Phil. 3:14); of the “sowing” to the harvest (Gal. 6:7, 8); of the “firstfruits” to the mass (Rom. 8:23); of labor to the reward (Mt. 20:1); of the “contest” to the crown (2 Tim. 2:5; 4:8), everyone sees that there is the highest and an indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory. It is so great that it cannot be reached without them (Heb. 12:14; Rev. 21:27). (2.705)

So to summarize: good works are the effect of justification (not the cause) and the means to the end of glorification. And for the record, when Turretin speaks of “good works” he means that which is (1) done from faith, (2) according to the will of God in Scripture, (3) from the heart), and (4) for the glory of God (2.706).



  1. kim/nannykim says:

    My problemo with all of this is the separation of justification from the means to glory. I gave Berkhof’s quote in the post which comes after this one (since I had missed this one). Here it is: Berkhof states:” In the mystical union with their Lord believers are made to share the experiences of Christ. Just as He entered upon His glory by the pathway of sufferings and death, they too can enter upon their eternal reward only through sanctification.” (pg 650)]

    Then you have Turretin stating: “…. there is the highest and an indispensable necessity of good works for obtaining glory. ”

    I have a partial problem with the statements of the necessity of sanctification or works and your statement that , “good works are the effect of justification (not the cause) and the means to the end of glorification.” If something is the effect of justification it can not be separated from justification or it will not be justification. Justification without its effects is no justification. If something is necessary then it is not optional. If I say I love God , but hate my brother John says I don’t love God. Wouldn’t the same be true with justification? If I say I am justified but have not works then I am not justified (ie James). Why do Protestants say that we are saved by faith alone when first Corinthians says if one has all faith, but “do not have love, I am nothing.” They really do not mean faith alone. Basically the Catholic response is that when one is regenerated the person is infused with faith, hope and charity—thus faith is not alone. Faith has to have hope and charity to be a faith that is salvific. The whole idea of “merits” is that these only come from grace as the CCC states and that the reason God looks on them and honors them , so to speak, is because he is a God that keeps His promises. It is not an earning by works. It is a trusting in God to honor the promises he has made—

    Catholics would agree that the cause of justification is grace as Trent says: For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts[38] of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity.

    For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.[39]

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