good Works

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A major controversy at the Reformation was whether a Christian was put in a right relationship with God by reason of his good works, as seemed to be suggested by Jas. 2: 14, or by faith in Christ, as Luther and others interpreted Rom. 3: 24, 27. The Reformers argued that Catholics insisted on good works—acts of devotion, almsgiving, penitence, pilgrimages, and the like—as the means for earning salvation and was a relapse into the legalism condemned by Paul. Catholics replied that such good works, which brought ‘sanctification’, were themselves a response to ‘*grace’. Paul certainly did not undervalue the evidence of good works (Phil. 2: 12), and his heavy emphasis on ‘working for the good of all’ (Gal. 5: 22–6: 10) and ‘laying aside the works of darkness’ (Rom. 13) blunts some of the sharp contrast between Judaism and Paulinism.

Subjects: Biblical Studies — Early Modern History (1500 to 1700).

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