Blog 136: 3.18.1 - 3.18.5

Justin Taylor
If we are justified by faith alone apart from works, how are we to understand the Scriptural (including Pauline) teaching that we are judged and rewarded according to deeds?
It's important to note at the outset that Calvin believes (rightly in my view) that these passages are referring to eternal life (not some extra heavenly rewards), and that they describe what will happen to believers (they are not hypothetical or applied only to unbelievers).
Calvin's main point is that such deeds in the lives of believers are not the cause of eternal life, but rather an essential preparatory step on the way to immortality. We have to remember the essential distinction that we are sons with an inheritance, not servants seeking to earn our wages.
In response to the second, he argues that works are not the cause of salvation, and uses Jesus' parable of the tenents to demonstrate the role of grace in works, as the blessings of reward were promised before the works were accomplished. So eternal blessedness is not caused by the things we do, but rather by the adoption that our Father accomplished. In that way, the blessings of eternal life are still the result of mercy.
Calvin goes on to show that the way God has designed salvation is to give us comfort, not pride. It is humbling to remember that even our best works are unworthy in his sight were it not for his infinite mercy and goodness in destroying what is unworthy in such works.
May God help us to work out our salvation and strive for the holiness and purity that are essential requirements for glory--all the while glorying in his free  grace that covers our sins and makes us look more like Jesus.