The topic of ‘Good Works’ covers a huge range of topics, in fact almost all Christian activities fit within this umbrella – teaching Sunday school, preaching, cleaning the buildings, sitting on committees, leading in an organisation, helping someone with a flat tyre, sharing our faith, sharing our life with others etc, etc. I want to look at five areas relating to good works.
1) The Origin Of Good Works
Where did good works originate? Well the first chapter of the Bible is full of God working for a day, and then proclaiming that his work is good. Every day he created more stuff, proclaiming that it was ‘good’ and on the sixth day he created mankind in his image, and looked over all he created and proclaimed that it was “very good”
2) The ULTIMATE Good Work
‘By his stripes we are healed’ – Easter time focuses our minds on the ultimate good work – Jesus death and resurrection. If you ask people what man’s biggest problem is, you will receive quite a variety of answers. The bible however is clear, the biggest problem we all face is that by nature we are objects of God’s wrath (Eph 2:3). Easter is a big solution to a big problem. It is only by this good work that we are even able to approach God, and to be part of the kingdom, and part of any fellowship.
Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We are saved by grace, through faith, and where do we get the faith? It is the free gift of God. It is the only way to remove God’s wrath from us, we were dead in our sins (Eph 2:4) and God gave us the gift of life. What do we contribute to this? Nothing. Think of Lazarus. He was dead. Jesus called him and made him alive again – this is what God does to us. We are dead, and he calls us to life. How much did Lazarus contribute to this situation? We have nothing to do with our move from death to life – it is the gift of God and the work of God. The only thing we contribute is the need for it! It is “not by works, so that no one can boast” – works come after faith, not before it.
Interestingly v10 goes on to state our purpose – “or we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” – we are created to do good works.
3) We Are Equipped To Do Good Works
2 Tim 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This is why people write things like this –the scripture is full of power, just waiting to be discovered. It is much more than a book; it is God’s living word. Each time we study it we become more equipped to do the work of the Lord, and isn’t it interesting that we see that phrase again – we are fully equipped to do ‘every good work’!
4) Why Do We Do Good Works?
Eph 2:10 states that we are created to do good works. Why? Well, the ultimate reason is to give glory to God. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) . In reality our motives are unlikely to be pure, but that is what we should be aiming for. We do what we do so that others will see and give glory to God, not to us. When speaking to unbelievers it is important to point out that we are not ‘good people’ or ‘better people than others’ or whatever way they want to put it, but rather, if there is anything good, or better about us, it is not of ourselves, it is the work of God within us. If people look at us and say “those are great people” then they have missed the point. We only do what we do through the redeeming work of Jesus. We don’t boast in ourselves, only in our Saviour.
Another motivation for doing good works is that we are obeying what we are commanded in Matthew 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” – we are actually commanded to accumulate goodies for ourselves in the next life – God is so good that when we are doing what He says, He is actually storing up a future reward for us too! You might think that this is a bad motivation, but in actual fact, when our hearts are right, we know that God always wants the best for us, so to do what He commands in any case is ultimately doing what is best for yourself. This way God gets even more glory.
5) How Should We Do Good Works?
Col 3:17 – “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. Whatever we do, we should do it in the name of Jesus, and with thankful hearts that he has given us all we need.
We are created in God’s image, and he is the original author of good works. It is because of the ultimate good work of Easter that we are able to do any good, not through anything of ourselves, but from God. We are equipped by the power of God, through fellowship and studying the scriptures. We do good works to bring glory to God, and so that souls might be won into the Kingdom of those who bring glory to God. How? Like everything, we do it in the name of Jesus, giving thanks.