The Doing of Good Works
“All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12)
Is the apostle Paul using hyperbolic language here? Does he really mean no one does good, not even one? Unbelievers do good works. They do lots of good works. Or, do they? In Romans 14:23 scripture says, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” And 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That is not a suggestion. It’s a commandment. Everything we do should ultimately be done for the glory of God because humans were created for the glory of God. Humans were created to worship God. Thus, while unbelievers do many good things, many good works, they do not do those good works for God’s glory. They may do them for selfish reasons so that others will think highly of them. They may perform good deeds so that others might be indebted to them, or they may do good works to boost their own self-esteem and feel better about themselves. Whatever the reason unbelievers engage in good works, they do not do those good works for the glory of God. In the Heidelberg Catechism, question 91 asks this question: "What do we do that is good?" Answer: "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." In the end, the good that we do is only good if it proceeds from a heart of faith and is ultimately done for God’s glory.
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