“Good Works”

By P. J. Casebolt

Our title is in quotation marks be-cause it is a common Bible term. It is also a common phrase used by brethren and by religious people in general to denote some of their activities, which in a Bible sense are not really “good works.”

The source of all good is God. Jesus said to the rich ruler, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God . . .” (Matt. 19:17). I do not understand that Jesus was disassociating from God. On the contrary, if God is the source of all good, and Jesus is good, then Jesus is associated with the Godhead. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).

“. . .God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John. 1:5). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world …” (John 8:12). Christians reflect light from God (Matt 5:16), and are to “be zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14), but the Godhead is light and is good.

Brethren, and religious people in general, sometimes ask the question, “Isn’t this a good work?” That all depends on where we get our definition of “good,” and whether our good is “mixed with faith” (Heb. 4:2), a faith that comes “by hearing the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), or whether our works are mixed with “evil, that good may come” (Rom. 3:8).

God never puts us in the position of having to disobey him in order to obey him. We are never put in a situation where our only alternative is to mix good works with iniquity (lawlessness).

Was it a “good work” to offer animal sacrifices under the Mosaic law? Saul not only offered sacrifices unto God, but he offered “the best of the sheep and of the oxen” (1 Sam. 15:15). Yet, his “good work” was put in the category of “rebellion . . . witchcraft … stubbornness . . . iniquity and idolatry” (v. 23). Saul allowed his “good” to be “evil spoken of” (cf. Rom. 14:16), by violating other conditions associated with his “good work” of offering sacrifices.

Zeal, like good works, must be circumscribed by lawful activity. “But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal. 4:18). But if we allow either zeal or “a good thing” to be corrupted by unlawful activity, they are rendered unacceptable before God.

In the judgment, Jesus said that many would claim to have done “many wonderful works” in his name, but that he would regard them as workers of iniquity (Matt. 7:21-23). God’s people are under the same restrictions as those which we bind upon the religious world when it comes to “good works.” We seem to have forgotten that the Scriptures will furnish us completely “unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).

When we violate one Scripture in order to obey another, we sin.

The church is God’s workmanship, created unto good works (Eph. 2:10). When we attempt to perform those good works of edification, benevolence, or preaching the gospel in a manner which violates the autonomy and all-sufficiency of the church, we turn such works into acts of iniquity.

Guardian of Truth XL: 9 p. 5
May 2, 1996