Question 34: Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through Christ alone, must we still do good works and obey God’s Word?
Answer: Yes, because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Spirit; so that our lives may show love and gratitude to God; so that we may be assured of our faith by the fruits; and so that by our godly behavior others may be won to Christ.
Christians often struggle with the question of assurance. How can I know that I truly belong to Christ? In one sense, assurance is tied up with our faith. We can know that we are saved because we truly trust in the promises of God to save us. If God is true to his word, and we are putting all our hope in him, then it follows that we should be assured of his faithfulness to us. Meditation on the promises of God (for example, in Romans 8:31-39) strengthens assurance like nothing else.
But while we shouldn’t doubt God’s side of that equation, sometimes we might be left wondering about our own side. I may not doubt God’s faithfulness to save all who believe, but I may doubt whether or not I truly believe. What do I do in those situations? Believers who wrestle with these normal struggles of faith should find comfort if they have ever felt any true conviction of sin leading to repentance. Furthermore, they should find strength for assurance in the fruit of their lives, evident in the obedience of good works. “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).
To any struggling believer who feels the pains of conscience over sin, who repents when he knows he has sinned, and who seeks to obey the Lord in his daily life (however imperfectly), I would say this: take heart. There is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in you. Give thanks to God for it, and then forget about what lies behind and continue striving toward what lies ahead, by faith (Phil. 3:13-14).
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: 1 John 1:5-2:6. What should we do when we know we have sinned? How will we demonstrate the truth of our faith in our own lives?