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Fri Apr 24 Q 116: No Merit at All


116. But are all our works so reprobate that they cannot merit grace before God?
First, all that we do of ourselves, by our own nature, is vicious, and therefore cannot please God. He condemns them all.


I have yet to meet the person who is glad and eager to be told how bad he is of himself. It is our very badness that causes us to reject wanting to be told the true nature of our badness—which itself reveals the true nature of our badness, our evil, our reprobation. “No one who does good,” (Rom 3:12). We are so evil inherently that we cannot see how bad we are and do not wish to be told how bad we are. All that we do is vicious, extremely evil, for it comes from people who have evil hearts. Visibly we might do works that are good on a comparative scale of human measurement; some of our works might be compassionate toward those in need. However, before God, our works are the works of evil people. Our works cannot please God.


Grace, by nature, removes the need for merit. While some theological systems offer an oxymoronic “meritorious grace,” such a concept of grace differs vastly from the biblical concept of favor that comes as a gift that also enables us to do his will. It is that sort of grace that comes through Christ – because the Father honors his work on the Cross – which we need. For any so-called works of merit would still be classified as “vicious works of merit” or “works of vicious merit.” Works of that type do not merit grace; they need simply for grace to be grace. For whether they are works or meritorious works, they earn nothing before God when they come from creatures that are vicious by nature, for God condemns them and finds no merit in them at all.