3.16-17 Calvin's Institutes: What Incentives Are There To Do Good Works?
From Lane Chapter 20 by Claire Brettell
Although the gaining of merit by works toward justification are not tolerated by Calvin, he suggests that faith and works are encouraged and strengthened by the transformation which comes through justification. Adding, "For we dream neither of a faith devoid of good works nor of a justification that stands without them… faith and good works must cleave together" (3.16.1, page 798). And so, from this the incentive becomes a response and therefore part of justification, but not merit toward it.
Calvin reminds us that through our faith, we hold on to the mercy of God in Christ, and that it is through this freedom then, that we respond and see our primary incentive to do good works as reflected in Matthew 5:16, 'that God may be glorified in us' (3.16.3 page 800 & 3.17.1 page 804). Which shares our incentive, once again as more of a response than anything else.
With the use of scriptural passages Calvin reinforces his stance of a believer's freedom from sin, and the presence of a holy calling which lead us to "love one another as God has loved us" (I John 4:11). Shares a believer's motive to do good works as a response to the example of Christ to us (3.16.2, page 800). And because a believer's good works are an example of Christ's free gift, they can also be seen as a gift to "him who first loved us" (I John 4:19), the incentive to do good works, as I see Calvin sharing, then becomes an offering. Similarly, as one freely worships and freely loves God, one also freely serves God, the incentive being simply a freely given response to all that is freely given in and through Christ (3.16.2, page 799).
And as such we might also take on the holy motivations of God, and so I think too, that our incentives might also become holy and this would explain why they are not so easily described.
Now, because our good works are not merited to us toward justification we cannot be assured of our salvation by our good works, and the value of our good works is reflective only of who God is in them, what can possibly be our incentive to do good works? Other than simply a grateful response? What thoughts would you share with the group?