“Don’t Be A Mercenary” – Calvin on Rom 4:4

I am one of “those people” who thinks that God created us to do good works (read Eph 2), so it is not a contradiction or problem at all that we are saved by grace, but are expected to do good works. Yet some might read into Rom 4:4-5 the idea that God doesn’t want our works, he wants to give us mercy and grace, and he just wants our “faith” (whatever that means).

Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. (Rom 4:4-5 )

I found Calvin’s discussion of these verses to be quite cogent – we are expected to do good works, we must be a “worker” in that sense, but we should never feel that God owes us something for our work.

It is not he, whom he calls [here “one who works”], who is given to good works, to which all the children of God ought to attend, but the person who seeks to merit something by his works: and in a similar way he calls him no worker who depends not on the merit of what he does. He would not, indeed, have the faithful to be idle; but he only forbids them to be mercenaries, so as to demand any thing from God, as though it were justly their due.