Friday, August 24, 2018

Good Works—What They Really Are

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Eph. 2:10 

Imagine for a moment that you’re a new believer in Christ.  The Lord opened the eyes of your heart to the glorious truth that your sins were nailed to the cross.   You have a new love for the Bible, a new interest in being around Christians, and a desire to tell people about the Lord.   You understand that your good works played no part in your salvation and because you love Christ  you want to serve Him. 
And then you came across Ephesians 2:10.   You wanted to understand what kind of good works you should be doing so you went to Amazon and typed in Christian good works.  More than 8,000 results come up.  The titles sounded interesting but you hesitated to buy any of them. 
 You felt a growing angst about the subject because you didn't want  to be selfish yet when you think about “doing good works” you have visions of serving in a refugee camp in a third world country.   Or maybe closer to home in a local soup kitchen.  Closer yet, maybe you should be inviting your neighbors over regularly for dinner parties with the intention of sharing the Gospel.   All are worthy endeavors. 
 But then you remembered the church has also been asking for help in the children’s ministry, so maybe that will qualify as good works.   
Those who had followed Jesus after the feeding of the five thousand asked the same question.   Only these people had ulterior motives.  They were interested in another free lunch when they asked,
“What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God? 
 Jesus answered,  “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:28-29
After they reminded Jesus that God had given their fathers manna in the wilderness, the Lord declared that He was the Bread of Life and that they didn’t believe in Him.   And then He said,
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me”. vs 37
The work of God is belief (or faith) which can only be bestowed by God in the hearts of His chosen ones.  Belief generates inward holiness which in turn produces outward godly character—not the other way around. 
Which brings us back to Ephesians 2:10.    We are “his workmanship” (not ours) and we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand”   So what exactly are the good works spoken of here?   
In his commentary on Ephesians 2:10 Charles Hodge writes,
“As the fact that men are elected unto holiness proves that holiness is not the ground for their election; so their being created unto good works shows that good works are not the ground on which they are made the subjects of this new creation, which is itself incipient salvation. 
The sense that we are the workmanship of God is explained in the following clause, created in Christ Jesus; for if any man is in Christ he is a new creature.  Union with him is a source of new life, and a life unto holiness; and therefore it is said created unto good works.  Holiness is the end of redemption, for Christ “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.”  1 
Holiness is the good work that is being performed in us by Christ Jesus.
As for serving the Lord in a tangible way it will look different for everyone.    We are under grace remember, and whatever we decide to do  the Lord wants us to do it cheerfully.    He has placed us all in different circumstances, and given us all different abilities, gifts, and means.    
I often think of the dear saints we have visited in nursing homes over the years.   How can they possibly serve?   One important way is to pray.  Prayer is probably the most neglected ministry of the church!  
However we decide to invest of our time or resources for the Lord it ought always to be done with gladness (Psalm 100:2), for the glory of God (I Cor. 10:31), and   generously but not under compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7).

 1 Geneva series of Commentaries:  Ephesians; Charles Hodge;  Banner of Truth; 2003; pg 78-79

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