Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

The Trinitarian Shape of Good Works

In the following passage, Niels Hemmingsen discusses what is requisite for works to be good. Truly good works come only from faith, which comes only from the the word of the Gospel and its application by the Holy Spirit, who “is given by the Father and the Son.” The shape of good works, then, is Trinitarian, and springs from the mercy wrought in Christ according to the Father’s eternal counsel, manifested in the hearts of believers by the indwelling Holy Spirit. As God conforms us to the image of the Son, the Son is truly Emmanuel–God with us–by the work of the Spirit. As the Spirit works, “we seek the presence and governance of the Mediator in all our actions,” and thus seek to conform those actions to will of God. This is the pattern for works we would call good in a specifically Christian sense, in which there is a harmony between motive and external act.




Therefore, for good works to be done the following things are required in order. 1. Knowledge of Christ. 2. Trust in Christ. 3. The vivification by which Christ vivifies us through the Gospel and pours into us the Holy Spirit. For there can be no love, no obedience, unless mercy and reconciliation on account of a Mediator have been first apprehended. In this consolation, the Godhead dwells in the heart, because the eternal Father through the Son, who consoles us with the word of the Gospel, is truly efficacious there, and the Holy Spirit, who sets happiness and invocation alight, is given by the Father and the Son, according to the following passage: “I shall pour out the Spirit of grace and of prayers.” Likewise: “We shall come and make our dwelling with him.” Likewise, in the third chapter of 2 Corinthians: “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are transformed according to his image,” that is, beholding the logos, who is the image of the eternal Father, and who displays the presence and goodness of God in consolation, we are made similar to his image, with the Holy Spirit setting our hearts alight. Thus at that time the Son is Emmanuel, for through him the Godhead vivifies, protects, governs, bears us, guides our plans and their issues 1, as he says: “I am the vine, you are the branches, without me you can do nothing.” While we think of these things, the invocation of God is set alight, by which we seek the presence and governance of the Mediator in all our actions.2 (Enchiridion Theologicum, pp. 181-2)


  1. In the sense of “outcomes.”
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.