This week we begin with Question 33 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 2 (questions 21-35), which focuses on Christ, redemption, and grace.
Question 33: Should those who have faith in Christ seek their salvation through their own works, or anywhere else?
Answer: No, they should not, as everything necessary to salvation is found in Christ. To seek salvation through good works is a denial that Christ is the only Redeemer and Savior.
Why can’t we rely on our good works to get us into Heaven? Why wouldn’t God receive us into his favor on the last day if we have done our best to obey him? It is because God is holy, and thus always true to himself. And we are sinful in Adam. There is no way we can offer up to God the perfect obedience necessary to meet his standard. Therefore, any reliance on our own works would result in us relying on something that was imperfect and thus worthy of God’s condemnation.
But what if we trust in Christ for part of what is needed and then rely on our own works for the rest? What if we mix together the good news of the gospel with a little bit of the law? Would that be okay? Again, the answer is absolutely not. When we stand before God, we need perfection. And nothing that we have done will ever be perfect. That is why salvation is all of Christ or nothing. Christ alone is able to save us from the penalty due to our sins. That is why faith saves, because faith is specifically the act of abandoning hope in ourselves and reaching out to Christ alone as our hope, trusting him and resting in him alone for the forgiveness of our sins and right standing with God. We cannot rely even a tiny, tiny bit on anything we have done (Titus 3:4-7).
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Romans 5:12-21. What does this passage teach about what it means to be “in Adam” or to be “in Christ”? How do you get to be in one position or the other? Can you do enough good works to get you into Christ?