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Question and Answer

Why do the elect do good works?

Question:

I note this in your section on what the OPC believes: “They repent of their sins (both at their conversion and thereafter), produce good works as the fruit of their faith, and persevere to the end in communion with Christ, with assurance of their salvation.”

One could make the assumption that an individual could lose his salvation, that the elect only prove to be elect if they persevere to the end. Is it not an error to believe that it is the individual’s perseverance and not God’s sovereign election that seals a person’s eternal relationship to him? The elect will produce good works, not in an effort to persevere, but because they love the Savior after being so lavishly loved by Christ. How can one not love others sacrificially?

Any insight or clarification would be appreciated.

Answer:

Thank you for your email, I enjoyed reading it, and did take the time to check the Summary of Doctrine on our website. May I respond to your email, starting with the concluding remarks and working back?

Your final statement was good to read. It would be great if more folk thought that the believer should do good simply out of love for the Lord who so sacrificially loved us. I think the OPC, if I can personify our denomination, would also agree with your leading question, “Is it not an error to believe … ?” God’s sovereign election certainly seals a person’s eternal relationship with him. It is not the resultant perseverance of the individual that causes or guarantees eternal salvation.

The summary of faith you quoted, and the fuller standards that lie behind the summary, endeavor to maintain a difference between the cause of being saved from the results of being saved. Also, it is worth noting that if the cause of salvation is divine (as it is) then that divine cause is the strongest guarantee of our salvation.

The elements listed in the quotation you presented are all the result of God’s saving grace; namely, (a) repentance, (b) good works, (c) perseverance to the end in communion, (d) with assurance of salvation.

Please note that these four elements are all connected in some ways with a causal connection—for example, our assurance of salvation does arise from (a) and (b) and (c). Other connections could be identified; all the same, as interconnected as these four aspects of salvation might be, they are neither the grounds for, nor a guarantee of our eternal relationship with the Lord; rather, they are the outcome of his having ordained and developed that relationship.

One could take a position similar to that which James, the brother of the Lord, adopts, when he sees good works as evidence of salvation (Jas. 2:17–18). This does not mean that good works are the cause or basis for salvation. To use an analogy: you or I might be presented with the family budget for the last month. We add up all the income and expenses and happily find the columns balancing. Those final matching totals for income and expense column are proof that the books and budget balance, but not the cause of the budget and books balancing.

Do these brief thoughts answer your questions?

Please be encouraged to keep asking, keep probing.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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