Heidelbasics: Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Chuck Muether
86. Since, then, we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we do good works?
Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image, that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for His blessing, and that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ.
87. Can they, then, not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, unrepentant life?
By no means, for, as Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God.
The law of God is said to be theological (reflects God), pedagogical (restrains evil), and ethical (reveals what is pleasing to God). What is wonderfully instructive about the law is that it teaches us how to be thankful.
We are not transformed into the new man and then released back into the world to try to figure things out. Indeed, Christ has redeemed us by His blood, but it does not end there.
Our Lord renews us by His Holy Spirit, so that we continue to conform after His image. One of the critical pieces to the messianic ministry as recorded in all the gospel accounts was the Savior giving thanks to the Father. “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).
It is interesting to observe that shortly before our Redeemer is crucified, he institutes the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and gives thanks to the Father, who ultimately sacrifices His Son that we might be redeemed. The heavy heart of the Lord Jesus Christ did not put off that which is due to the Father–gratitude for the bread, which reflects the broken body to come. Even in suffering, our Lord blessed the Father’s name.
Dear friend, in our giving thanks, we are also assured of our faith and godly walk. Genuine ongoing gratitude is not an isolated exercise, but a manifestation of a heart that has truly changed. The psalmist sums up our duty and delight well: “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever” (Ps. 86:12). The more the believer grows in knowledge and grace, the more thankfulness will be shown in thought, word, and deed. Thanks be to God that we have been given the blessing of returning thanks.