Difference between Works by Regenerate and Unregenerate

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Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
If the best works of the regenerated person are mixed with sin and require acceptance in Christ to be accepted, and if the reason why all works by the unregenerate are sin because their actions are corrupted by sin, then is it impossible for a regenerated person to also meet the criteria necessary for performing a truly good work?

Furthermore, "good" works by the unregenerate come from God, and good works done by the regenerate are worked in the person by the Spirit: any good in the action is produced by God. So is the only difference between works as performed by a regenerated person and works as performed by an unregenerated person that the regenerated person finds acceptance because they are in Christ?
 
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2ndViolinist

Puritan Board Freshman
Taking a stab...

As you said, even "...the best works of the regenerate person are mixed with sin..." so it is impossible for a regenerated person to perform a truly good work. We still try to do good works because we demonstrate our feeble love for God in that way.

"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." - Isaiah 64:6

I would say yes to your final question. The difference between the unregenerate person's good works and the Christian's is that ideally, the Christian performs theirs for the glory of God. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

By no means am I an authority on the subject (or any, really). These are just my $.02...
 
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Paul1976

Puritan Board Freshman
2nd Violinist is on the right track. Apart from Christ, we can do no good things. Anything good is done for the glory of God. No one can glorify God while living in open rebellion against Him.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So is the only difference between works as performed by a regenerated person and works as performed by an unregenerated person that the regenerated person finds acceptance because they are in Christ?

Yes, but only insofar as the legal acceptance of them is concerned. In the eyes of the law they always fall short of what is required; hence the necessity of Christ's righteousness for their acceptance. On the other hand, there is a "real" difference between the regenerate and the unregenerate in that the works of the regenerate (1) flow from a heart purified by faith even though there is an intermingling of remaining sin, (2) are sincerely done with an aim to the glory of God even though there are still imperfect motives joining with it, and (3) genuinely aim to be of benefit to one's neighbour for his good notwithstanding the remains of selfishness.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
MW said:
On the other hand, there is a "real" difference between the regenerate and the unregenerate in that the works of the regenerate (1) flow from a heart purified by faith even though there is an intermingling of remaining sin, (2) are sincerely done with an aim to the glory of God even though there are still imperfect motives joining with it, and (3) genuinely aim to benefit one's neighbour for their eternal good notwithstanding the remains of selfishness.
Do these points also fall under legal acceptance? They are the requirements for a work to be truly good and pleasing to God (i.e., acceptable). Hence, these are also differences so far as legal acceptance goes?

The regenerate are able to do the good. But if their works are tainted by sin, does that then mean they too cannot please God by their good works? And so they are in fact not able to do good but only are able to please God (which is the same as "legal acceptance"?) because they are in Christ?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Do these points also fall under legal acceptance? They are the requirements for a work to be truly good and pleasing to God (i.e., acceptable). Hence, these are also differences so far as legal acceptance goes?

Broadly, yes; but strictly when the terms "legal" and "real" are differentiated they are referring to two different aspects of the work of grace, and must be differentiated if one hopes to know the difference between justification and sanctification. They can't be separated but they have to be differentiated so as not to confuse them.

The regenerate are able to do the good. But if their works are tainted by sin, does that then mean they too cannot please God by their good works? And so they are in fact not able to do good but only are able to please God (which is the same as "legal acceptance"?) because they are in Christ?

In this respect believers are not "under the law." They are under grace in Christ so that sin shall not have this dominion over them.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks! From what I understand then, we have "legal acceptance," "what the law requires," and the "real." When it comes to what the law requires, the best deeds of both regenerate and unregenerate are sin, hence no righteousness can be merited. When it comes to legal acceptance, the works of the regenerate are accepted because they are in Christ, and so these works please God. When it comes to the "real," the regenerate have renewed wills and hearts that allows them to produce a truly good work that pleases God insofar as it is a work wrought by God in the believer, although the good work is accompanied by sin. The "real" for the unregenerate is that their wills and hearts are in bondage to sin and so they cannot produce a truly good work that pleases God, even though God works this work in them too?

Because the good works please God, although accompanied by sin, the believer is "under grace," not law, since the slightest corruption of sin entirely corrupts the work in the eyes of the law.

Edit: Maybe a better way to put it, the "real" for the regenerate is that they are able to do the good, and the good they do pleases God, despite the imperfections in their works, because they are under grace. For the unregenerate, they are always under the law, so their good works, despite their imperfections, cannot please God. But further still, the "real" for the unregenerate is that he has a will that can only do evil, so he cannot even do a truly good work in the first place?

If this is right, then I would ask: Why can't the unregenerate do a good work, while the regenerate can, if the reason why the "good" done by the unregenerate is not truly good is because the sin accompanying the action makes the action evil? Maybe I'm making things too complicated: it is not merely the sin that accompanies the work but the motive with which the work is done that makes the unregenerate differ from the believer, so far as the "real" is concerned? The unregenerate cannot do an act to the glory of God in the least, while the believer can do an act to the glory of God, however imperfectly?
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
is because the sin accompanying the action makes the action evil?

The unregenerate's action is evil of itself. It is not done to the glory of God or from a heart purified by faith or for the genuine good of others. Even though there may be a formal similarity between what they do and what the law commands, the fact is there is a great dissimilarity and non-conformity. The law requires full conformity in soul and body. Partial conformity is not proper conformity.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you. This is very helpful in sorting out and clarifying my learning on the matter.

MW said:
The unregenerate's action is evil of itself.
God delights in goodness and in the good works that he does. Would it be fair to say that God is pleased with the goodness of the action (which God works in the unregenerate)? Or is it not possible to abstract the action from the action as it is performed by the unregenerate (i.e., the action is in no sense and in no part pleasing to God)?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
God delights in goodness and in the good works that he does. Would it be fair to say that God is pleased with the goodness of the action (which God works in the unregenerate)? Or is it not possible to abstract the action from the action as it is performed by the unregenerate (i.e., the action is in no sense and in no part pleasing to God)?

In terms of Ps. 104, the Lord rejoices in and over His creation as such, but this means the works of sinners invite the divine displeasure all the more because they are destructive of the goodness of His creation in which He rejoices. From this proceeds the prayer that sinners would be consumed from the earth.

I think you can abstract the action in speculative terms just like you can dissect a frog, but once it is abstracted you have destroyed its life and power. It is impossible to do so ethically and practically because of the organic relation between actor and action. Like the tree and its fruit. An evil tree brings forth evil fruit. If it were accepted that an evil tree could bring forth good fruit it would introduce an ethical state to which holy Scripture would be irrelevant.
 
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