The Sin of Indifference
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 24
Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?
Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
How can you say that the good we do doesn’t earn anything when God promises to reward it in this life and the next?
This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.
But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?
No. It is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not produce fruits of gratitude.
The Sin of Indifference
Wednesday, June 7: 1 Peter 2:4-12
We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved to do good works. This truth is most clearly stated in James: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder…faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:18-19,26). The Apostle Paul also teaches that the fruit of grace is partly revealed in the desire to pursue the good work of holy obedience. We are to develop our love for God in Christ (Philippians 1:9-11, 2:12-13, 3:12-14, 4:8-9) and to lead a life that imitates Him (Ephesians 4-5, 1 Peter 1:13-16). Therefore, we appreciate the concern that sovereign grace undermines the call to holy obedience. If our good work neither saves nor contributes to salvation, then why do the good works? The Catechism engages the challenge: “But doesn’t this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?” Unfortunately, many Christians have in fact turned the Biblical teaching on sovereign grace into a justification for sustained sinfulness (Romans 6:1-2). So, let’s state a critical truth. Indifference to holy obedience is sinful self-idolatry. Indifference takes place when we claim the name of Christ, but are content to live a lifestyle of unbelief. Why would we say this? Because Christians are those who are to be the display of God’s glory and wisdom – the fruit of forgiveness, restoration and reconciliation (Ephesians 1:12, 3:10-11). Peter helps us understand what Paul means when he teaches that Christians are to be the display of God’s glory: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:11-12). It is truth that we are saved “as we are.” Yet, it is selfish to think God will “leave us as we are” (Ephesians 2:8-10). The Bible answers the sin of indifference with both a warning a call. “You, my brothers were called to be free,” says Paul. “But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:13). Instead, “since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (5:25).
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn