Every true believer knows we are saved by grace through faith, apart from good works (Rom. 4:5; Titus 3:5). This does not mean, however, that good works have no place in the dispensation of grace, for right after affirming that we are saved without works (Eph. 2:8,9), Paul quickly asserts that, as new creatures in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), we are created to walk in the good works He has ordained for us (Eph. 2:10). If you have ever wondered what kind of works God expects us to “maintain” (Titus 3:8,14) in our Christian walk, we hope the following brief study of the phrase “good work(s)” in Scripture will help.
For the Ladies
To begin with, in Acts 9 we meet Dorcas, a woman “full of good works” (9:36). She was evidently quite the seamstress, for her good works are later defined by a reference to “the coats and garments which Dorcas made” (v. 39). In those days, it could be said of many a virtuous woman that “she seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands” (Prov. 31:13 cf. vv. 22,24). Thus we know that when a Christian woman performs the many duties of a wife and mother, she is walking in the good works in which she was created to walk.
To this must be added the testimony of the Apostle Paul, who speaks of widows who were “well reported of for good works” (I Tim. 5:10). He then goes on to describe things like bringing up children, hospitality, and caring for the sick as good works with which godly women can adorn themselves (I Tim. 2:9,10).
For the Men
In the natural accompaniment to these instructions to godly women, Paul instructs the man of God to “labour, working with his hands the thing which is good” (Eph. 4:28). Well, if Christian men are told to work the thing which is good, wouldn’t going to work be a good work? You would think so, especially since God plans to reward men for “whatsoever good thing any man doeth” on the job (Eph. 6:8).
We doubt that most Christians consider these everyday responsibilities as good works, but God says they are. And if being good husbands and fathers and wives and mothers be viewed as good works, it is not a stretch to suggest that being a good citizen would also be found in that category, especially since we are told “to obey magistrates” and, in so doing, “be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1).
For the Rich
Next, Paul told Timothy to “charge them that are rich…that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (I Tim. 6:17,18). Obviously the financial support of the Lord’s work and less fortunate brethren also constitute good works in God’s eyes (cf. II Cor. 9:6-8). While few of us are rich, all of us can participate in good works of this sort in some measure.
This then opens up a wide field in the category of good works, for we can give our time, our talent, and our efforts to the Lord’s work as well as our finances, and there are innumerable ways we can “do good unto all men, especially…the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
For Us All
In time past, rebuilding the temple was a “good work” (Neh. 2:18). Today God’s temple is found in the physical bodies of individual believers (I Cor. 6:19,20), and in the Body of Christ (3:16,17), and so you would think that building up believers and local churches would be good works today. If ministering to the physical body of the Lord was considered a “good work” (Matt. 26:6-10), surely ministering to the Body of Christ would be as well. If the Lord defined “good works” as feeding the multitudes, opening the eyes of the blind, and helping the lame to walk (John 10:32), then surely “to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28) by opening the eyes of their understanding (Eph. 1:18) so they can “walk worthy” of their vocation (Eph. 4:1) would be good works as well.
Since “all Scripture” is given that we might be “throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16,17), then the reproof, correction and instruction of the saints mentioned here must also be considered “good works.” Of course, it goes without saying that “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (I Tim. 3:1). In this passage, Paul is talking about the qualifications of a spiritual leader. Thus if a man is interested in doing good works, we believe the pastoral ministry tops the list of good works in which he can engage for the Lord.
So how about it, Christian friend? Are you walking in the good works you were created to walk in? It is your only hope of a happy, fulfilling Christian life. No creature of God is happy unless he is doing what he was created to do. Birds were created to fly, horses were created to run, and neither are happy when kept from doing what they were created to do. Your only hope for a truly satisfying Christian life is to be “fruitful in every good work” (Col. 1:10)! What’s more, it is the only way to please the One “who gave Himself for us, that He might…purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.