Heidelberg Catechism Q91

Q. What do we do that is good?

A. Only that which
arises out of true faith,
conforms to God’s law,
and is done for his glory; and not that which is based
on what we think is right
or on established human tradition.


Earlier in the catechism we learned that we cannot do anything good unless we are born again by the Spirit of God (Q8).  If we are a new creature in Christ, then we can do things that God considers good.  This question defines what good things are in the eyes of God.  First, anything that would be good to God must come from true faith.  The 21st question told us that true faith is knowledge and conviction that God’s words are true and a personal assurance that Christ is our savior from sin.  Without this foundation, any act that we undertake is as a dirty cloth, stained and irredeemable, but in Christ our works are clothed in his righteousness if they meet other criteria as we shall see this week.  Read Isaiah 64:6 and Ephesians 2:10.


The book of Hebrews has a wonderful chapter that many know as the “Hall of Faith.”  This chapter tells of the lives of many biblical characters with whom God was pleased.  Their lives exhibited a trust in God and his word, but also a willingness to act upon his direction.  However, all of their actions would mean nothing if these men and women had failed to have faith in God and his word.  In fact, it was the faith they exhibited which allowed God to accept their actions.  Read Hebrews 11:1-39 paying particular attention to the role faith played in God’s acceptance of their life.


But in addition to a trust in God and his word, our action must also conform to the Law of God.  It would be no use to believe God and his word but to disobey it and consider that to be good and acceptable; on the contrary, belief must be wedded to actions.  Read 1 Samuel 15:1-22.  In this story Samuel declares to Saul that his actions, though noble, were inappropriate for a king according to the Law of God.  Only a priest was allowed to sacrifice and a sacrifice improperly offered by not following God’s specific instructions was unacceptable.


To which laws are we to conform our actions?  All of them.  The 10 commandments summarize the Law of God but even these can be further simplified to a Love of God and a love of our neighbor.  For our actions to be righteous in God’s sight both requirements must be fulfilled.  If we love our neighbor but in so doing fail to love God and honor him in holiness and purity by giving acceptance to that which God abhors, we have broken the commandment.  And if we love God but fail to serve our neighbor and meet his needs then we have broken the commandment.  Only when both are carried out in faith does our righteousness shine forth as pleasing to God.  Read Matthew 22:37-39.


But even if our actions stem from faith and conform to his law, there is one more condition to them being acceptable to the heavenly Father.  They must bring him glory.  All creation, that which is seen and unseen, exists to praise God and glorify his name.  There is a great song with a chorus that goes like this, “Glorify your name, glorify your name, glorify you name in all they earth.”  Such are the acts which are good in God’s sight.  They glorify his name and cause men to rejoice.  If our actions and thoughts, words and deeds fail to bring God glory, then all is lost.  Read 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1.


Finally, we must remember that not every action which we think is holy and good, actually conforms to the law of God and brings him glory and is done in faith.  Cultural patterns and assumptions are strong and they try to justify many things which God refuses to accept.  Men and women throughout history have tried to use the scriptures to give reasons to their personal choices, but this is not God honoring.  Jesus brought many of these kinds of issues to light in his day.  Read about some of these cultural patterns which he repudiated in Matthew 15:1-9.  Can you think of some things which those inside and outside the church have come to regard as good but which are not in conformity to God’s law, fail to bring him glory and ultimately deny the act of faith?


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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