By Dick Blackford
Congregations often engage in practices that are questioned and defended on the basis that these are “good and wonderful works.” But are these from heaven or from men? In whose eyes are they good works? Inspiration recognizes two kinds of good works. Those in the eyes of men and those in the eyes of God. This was recognized even in the Old Testament.
Balaam said to Balak, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind, but what the Lord saith, that will I speak.” Note the contrast between doing good of mine own mind and doing what the Lord said. He could not do good of his own mind if it meant going beyond the commandment of the Lord. See the distinction? There is a difference between the good works that are “of men” and good works that are “of God.”
Matthew 7:22, 23
The New Testament makes this same distinction. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not . . . in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Jesus called their “wonderful works” iniquity! Wonderful works in the eyes of men are not necessarily wonderful works in the eyes of God. They claimed they had done these things in the name of Jesus. Just because someone claims to be acting in the name of another person doesn’t make it so unless that person has really authorized him to do so. Affixing the Lord’s name to a practice or project does not automatically mean he authorizes or endorses it.
When the Pharisees were keeping the traditions of washing their hands, pots, cups, and vessels, they considered these as good works and questioned why Jesus’ disciples did not do likewise. Jesus responded, “But in vain do they worship me teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). These were good works in the eyes of men but not in the eyes of God.
2 Timothy 3:16, 17
The Scriptures claim to be profitable for everything we need in religion. They “thoroughly furnish unto every good work.” There is not a good work which the Lord wants us to do that is not furnished in Scripture. The church is authorized to engage in evangelism (1 Thess.1:8; 1 Tim. 3:15). It is authorized to engage in benevolence by taking care of its needy (Acts 6:1-7). It is authorized to engage in edification (Eph. 4:16).
In Whose Eyes Are These Good and Wonderful Works?
Churches are sponsoring bingo, mothers-day-out, adopt-a-highway, gymnasiums, video arcade, men’s macarena class, fireworks, antique car show, church operated day care centers, schools (where secular education is taught for a fee), food court, car wash, coal mines, apartment complexes, and financial planning classes (how to invest in the stock market, etc.)
Do these fall under evangelism, benevolence or edification? If evangelism, benevolence and edification can be done without any of these (and they can!) then they are no part of evangelism, benevolence, or edification, nor are they necessary to the process. They are good works which community organizations may do to make life better on earth “here and now,” but they are not authorized for the church to do. Church financed institutional boards, separate and apart from the local church, which are set up to decide how to spend the churches’ money in evangelism, benevolence or edification are not authorized in the Scriptures.
We cannot do these “in the name of Jesus” if we cannot find where such things are authorized. We need to be extremely careful lest we substitute “good works” in the eyes of men for those authorized by God. The Scriptures furnish us for every good work in the eyes of God.
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