“The Reformation attacked this entire nomistic system at the roots when it took its position in the confession that sinners are justified by faith alone. By this act, after all, it all at once reversed the entire order of things.
Communion with God came about not by human exertion, but solely on the part of God, by a gift of His grace, so that religion was again given its place before morality.
If human beings received the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, adoption as children, and eternal life through faith alone, by grace, on account of the merits of Christ, then they did not need to exert themselves to earn all these benefits by good works.
They already possessed them in advance as a gift they had accepted by faith. The gratitude and joy that filled their hearts upon receiving all these benefits drove them to do good works before the thought that they had to do them even crossed their mind.
For the faith by which they accepted these benefits was a living faith, not a dead one, not a bare agreement with a historical truth, but a personal heartfelt trust in the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
In Justification that faith of course manifested itself only from its receptive side because in this connection everything depended on the acceptance of the righteousness offered and bestowed in Christ.
Yet, from its very inception, and at the same time as it justified, it was also a living, active, and forceful faith that renewed people and poured joy into their hearts.
Actually, therefore, it was not faith that justified and sanctified, but it was the one undivided and indivisible Christ who through faith gave Himself to believers for righteousness and sanctification, who was imputed and imparted to us on the part of God, and whom we therefore from the beginning possess in that faith as Christ for us and in us.”
–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, Vol. 4, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 4: 242–243.