Good Works or Bad Works?
The whole concept of “good works” has confused and divided people & churches since the original sin in the garden! Just a casual reading of Scripture uncovers this tension between some “good works” that are BAD & some “good works” that are GOOD— so, how do we know if our “good works” are GOOD or BAD? Do we need “good works”? What is the purpose of “good works”?
Defining God’s Gospel
The Apostle Paul brings some clarity to this tension by defining the Gospel for us in his letter to the Church of Corinth: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Cor. 15:1-4. So, let me define the gospel, Paul says— Christ died for our “sin.” Sin is a “missing of the mark.” To “sin” was a word that was originally used by hunters when they missed the target they were aiming at— “I have sinned.”
Missing The Mark
Applied in the spiritual sense, it means to “miss the mark” of God’s Law. To fail to keep it! Now, where there is a LAW, there is a LAW GIVER; and, God, the Creator, is that Law Giver. He is Holy, Just & Righteous in all His ways, Scripture informs us! And, as Creator, He has the ultimate authority to demand obedience from us, His creation! But, in Adam, we disobeyed Him; and, our sin separated us from our Holy Creator. So, Jesus came to die for our sins! That’s the Doctrine of Imputation— our sin was “imputed”; or, placed on Jesus; and, His righteousness is “imputed”; or, credited to our account when we repent of our sin & trust Jesus for our salvation.
The Good News Of The Resurrection
At the moment we trust Him, God “justifies” us— that means He declares us righteous! Paul also includes the good news of the Resurrection in his definition of the Gospel— Jesus was buried in a tomb & He rose bodily, from the dead, in power over sin on the 3rd day! That’s the Gospel; and, it’s not just something we preach! The Gospel impacts the rest of our life— it’s about “reconciliation”! The Gospel reconciles our hostile relationship with God, because of our sin; and, it reconciles ALL our relationships! The Gospel is also about “redemption”— it makes all things NEW! Jesus’ Gospel has the power to redeem every situation and every relationship!
So, What About Good Works?
In his letter to the Church of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul clears this up for us— “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” Eph 2:8-10. So, first, he makes a very clear statement that our salvation is an act of God’s grace! It’s only effective as we place our faith in His grace; not in our own works. It’s NOT from yourselves, he says. Then, he contrasts our “good works” that cannot save us; with, the “good works” that God creates us to do after we’ve been “reconciled” & “redeemed” in Christ! Our “good works” are BAD if we think they will save us! They produce false hope! God’s “good works”— in us— are simply evidence of true faith! Those “good works” are GOOD; because they are produced by God in us!