A Final Judgment for the Justified According to Works?

Not the way some would have you think.  Cornelis Venema writes:

If the confessions of the Reformation clearly speak of justification as a once-for-all act of God, which does not comport with a final justification according to works, this still leaves open the question regarding the way they handle the final judgment and the obvious role that works play in this judgment.  How do they treat the subject of the role of good works in the context of the final judgment?

To answer this question, it is significant to observe that the confessions of the Reformation clearly affirm the reality of a final judgment according to works.  They also openly acknowledge that the good works of believers are genuine works that please God and are accordingly rewarded by him.  However, they are careful to note that the good works God rewards in this context have at least three important characteristics.

First, they are not the kinds of works that could ever justly deserve the verdict of free justification.  Such works could never be ‘the whole or part of our righteousness before God’, according to the Heidelberg Catechism:

Because the righteousness which can stand before the tribunal of God must be absolutely perfect and wholly conformable to the divine law, while even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin (Q. & A. 62; cf. Rom. 3:9, 20; 10:5; 7:23; Ga. 3:10; 5:3; Deut. 27:6, Lev. 18:5).

Second, the good works of believers are themselves the fruits of God’s sanctifying grace at work in the hearts and lives of his people.  They are those good works that God prepared beforehand for believers (Eph. 2:10).

And third, the works of believers are only ‘good’ in so far as they proceed from faith, the same faith that finds no other basis for acceptance with God than that provided by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Good works are the inescapable fruits of a true and living faith; though faith alone – ‘before we do good works’ – is the exclusive instrument whereby believers receive the free gift of justification (Matt. 7:18; John 15:5; James 2:18, 22).

The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ, pgs. 262-63. (Bold emphasis mine.)

This is very much in the spirit of Belgic Confession, Article 37 which states that the final judgment “is very pleasant and a great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption will then be accomplished.”


4 Replies to “A Final Judgment for the Justified According to Works?”

  1. Amen. Not to mention HC Q/A 52, which freed me from something like a Left Behind scare!

    Question 52. What comfort is it to thee that “Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead”?

    Answer: That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person, who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven: who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all his chosen ones to himself, into heavenly joys and glory.


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