This post has been in process for a long time as I have gleaned references to “good works” from study over time in God’s Word. (It fits well as a chapter in Beyond a Mere Christianity.) It has been a blessing for me to put together these truths and to share them. It is longer than I had planned, with two sections; to bookmark if you need to come back to it. Comments are welcome.
Especially, I write this for three types of people: 1. those who think they have to work for their salvation; 2. those whose salvation has made them fruitful, but who overextend themselves thinking they can never do enough; 3. those who are fruitful in “good works” because they live in full dependence in the Lord’s working in and through them.
- Many people fit into the first category, as they are taught that they must put in a certain number of hours of service in their lifetime, so as to merit God’s approval. They believe they have to measure up to the guidelines set by their religious leaders. Their good works supposedly produce a good life and entrance into heaven.
I am reminded of the words sung by Julie Andrews playing the role of Maria von Trapp in Sound of Music. In the garden scene, in response to Georg von Trapp’s proposal, she sings, “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”
- We count in the second category those of the Christian faith who enjoy their service to the Lord and His church. “Good works” for some of these include sacrificing family relationships to serve God. They cannot do enough to satisfy their own expectations. Years ago, as a young mother, I committed myself to the church in many different roles. Jerry traveled in his job, leaving me with time that other women didn’t have; sometimes giving 200% without realizing that I was taking time away from my children. I remember growing up in the church with the main emphasis on the Great Commission and evangelism. Being a missionary became the ideal for many young women. One of today’s para-church organizations’ main thrust is to send young women on missions.
We have known such young women to give up thoughts of marriage, in the hopes that their work for Christ is pleasing to Him. Their lives have ended in disappointment, burned out after years of traveling and serving in foreign countries, with no hope for the future.
- In the third category are those who have learned through service and experience that the only “good works” truly acceptable to God are those that He works through them. These rely totally on the presence and the power of His Holy Spirit to teach, lead and fill them with wisdom, strength and grace.
In the following references, we will see what the Lord teaches about “good works.”
Jeremiah 48:7 speaks of the result of trusting in our own works.
Jesus spoke of those who prophesied in His name, cast out devils and in His name had done many wonderful works. He said He never knew them because their work was not according to the will of His Father. (Matthew 7:21-24).
Matthew 23:5 speaks of works done to be seen of men.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
In the books of Acts and James, we see that faith and repentance come before works.
“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John 6:28-29
“that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance (Acts 26:20).
“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” James 2:22
2 Timothy 1:9 teaches us that salvation is not according to our works but according to his purpose before the world began.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”
Nothing we can do can save us. The following verses which explain His work of righteousness for us is worth our meditation. It has been through meditation that I have come to understand the power of God that saves us and works all His will through us. Understanding these brings the fruit of good works from the root of faith that He has planted within us.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” Titus 3:5-8
Ephesians 2:10 teaches us that good works are God’s plan ~ making us His workmanship in our relationship with Christ ~ good works that God ordained before we ever knew Him, that we should walk in them ~ that we should do them in His timing.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
In the following we see that as His workmanship, in us and through us, He is the captain who begins and continues the work He has ordained for each of us.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13
The Will, Zeal and Skill
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” Ephesians 3:20
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:14 (11-14)
Skill in the work of the Lord comes from knowledge of Him. Paul prayed for the Colossian church that they would be filled with wisdom and knowledge of God for the work of the kingdom.
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” Colossians 1:10
Our works are based on wisdom and knowledge and done in meekness.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.”James 3:13
Good works are the result of faith, love, and patience of hope in our Lord.
“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” 1 Thessalonians 1:4
Good works are done in love for one another and with one another. Good works are not done in solitary, but as part of the whole of the body of Christ in our love and faith in Him. Faith is the root of the living Christ in us.
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:” Hebrews 10:24
“And let the beauty of the Lord be upon us and establish thou the work of our hands upon us. Yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it.” Psalm 90:17
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:” Revelation 2:26
From the beginning of time in creation, from generation to generation, all work is attributed to God. Everything accomplished in creation and redemption has been His work through His Son Jesus Christ. From the physical birth of man to spiritual birth by His Holy Spirit, all is the work of His holy will. He worked through the prophets in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we see how He worked through His Son to accomplish our redemption – salvation by faith in the work of Christ alone. From the new birth, to growth and maturity, to the end of this world and eternity, all is from Him and all to His glory.
Dear Father in heaven, before whom we live and do all our work, we thank you for saving us by your grace that we may in your will, with the zeal of your Spirit within us, in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ be skilled in all you have ordained for us. Let us live, be led, walk in the Spirit and rejoice to serve you now and forever. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Related Article on Philippians 2:13
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