Works, are they good or bad?


During a discussion about works at my men’s Bible study I stated that the definition was clear, (open mouth insert foot) works were things that we think we have to do and other (being obedient) things we do were not work because we want to do them. After thinking about my statement I discovered some clouds that made things not so clear.

And as I state often, I need to study those thoughts and comments with what scripture states. So I did and this is what I found.

Work; mentioned 683 times in the Bible. Some of the most important verses about work(s) tell us to work for the Lord, do it for His glory, and abounding in His work 

Colossians 3:23, Proverbs 16:3, 1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Corinthians 15:58, 1 Corinthians 16:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, Colossians 3:17, James 2:18, James 2:26
Psalm 90:17.

What are works? Works are a person’s actions or deeds. In the context of salvation, works refers to good deeds we do, especially religious or charitable acts.

Our works do nothing to earn or maintain salvation. 

It was the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ that justifies sinners (Romans 3:24). “Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, . . . because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). We begin by faith, and we continue in faith: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3).

Works are the product of faith. 

Those who have true faith in Jesus Christ will be “eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14). John the Baptist called for “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The book of James emphasizes the nature of true saving faith as that which results in good works: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” and “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:17,26). Grace through faith saves, and that faith is manifest in works. If someone claims to have faith yet exhibits no good works, his or her faith is “dead,” or nonexistent.

Our works cannot justify us.

The good things we do cannot make up for the bad things we do. You could do a hundred, a thousand, a million good works, and they can’t pay for a single sin you have committed.

The way God designed the universe, good works are meant to be natural. They should flow from each created being easily and freely. They are our duty to do (Luke 17:10), our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Scripture tells us that there are good works and there are bad works.  Bad works lead to death and are profitable to no one.

“Dead works”

“Dead works” (works of the flesh) avail nothing. Dead works are the works of our hands. These are works of self-righteousness. Twice the book of Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (14:12; 16:25). 

A dead work is any work that is done in an attempt to be right with or maintain our right standing with God. An attempt to clean what has already been cleaned, making the work useless.

An easy way to determine if you are performing dead works is that anything we do out of guilt or fear to appease God, trying to be right with Him, is a dead work because we are already right with God by the blood of Jesus Christ. Dead works indicate a lack of understanding and doubt about God’s promise in John 3:16, and many other verses. They indicate a lack of understanding about our righteousness in Christ. Dead works are generated from worry, fear, and guilt, the children of doubt.

The godless labor we do may appear good to us and even receive the applause of others, but heaven finds it repulsive and defiled by sin.

The “dead works” to be repented of are works performed by those who are “separated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). These works may be religious in nature, but they are “dead” in that they cannot bring spiritual life. Such works may appear virtuous and even sincerely pious, but they are not rooted in faith in Christ or love of God and so are useless in terms of salvation and eternal life. Repenting of one’s own works is foundational to trusting Christ and is thus called an “elementary doctrine” of Christ (Hebrews 6:1).

Hebrews 9:13-14, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God,  purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Hebrews 6:1-2, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

“Good works”

Are we to work for the Lord, yes we are but we are under His control and conditions and we are reminded that works will not get us into heaven; Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” All of our labors are useless, and thus dead, if they do not point to the worship of God. Any significance and esteem we attain from our labor apart from the end of bringing God glory and establishing His rule upon the earth is misplaced.

To be validated our good works must be directed to bring all praise, worship, glory, and tribute to God.

We were created to do good works; Eph 2:10, 10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” They were created for others to see and point to God who gets the glory; Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Works are required for salvation—but Scripture is clear that those works are Christ’s, not ours. 

He was the only one who could fulfill that work as He fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross reconciled us to God, Romans 5:10, and as He died, Jesus proclaimed that the work was finished, John 19:30, Now we are invited to enter into God’s rest by faith: “Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works” Hebrews 4:10.

Salvation is by grace, which precludes works.

Grace is, by definition, unearned, and Scripture makes it clear that God’s grace in salvation destroys the argument for human effort: “If by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” Romans 11:6, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2:8-9, Biblically, faith is the cause of salvation, while works are the evidence of it.

Now the dilemma I see is answering the question “are good works required, or when we do them we are just being obedient, and if just obedience are they really works? Or are we just picking on words that are insignificant?

Scripture states; Matthew 16:27, For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

1 Thessalonians 1:3, “we remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

When Jesus was standing on the shore of the sea of Capernaum, some came up to Him and said, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:28-29).  Jesus was clear “the Work was completed by God.” Are the things we do considered “work or obedience?”

 Paul had a lot to say about good works so could these things be considered loving God and our neighbors as ourselves and not works?

“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14, emphasis added throughout).

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).

“And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).

Are these things considered “works” or just loving our neighbor as commanded?

Paul told Timothy that the teachings of the Bible are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

God does pay attention to our works. The Bible says what we do will be judged (2 Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:34-40). And we can be encouraged that God will not forget “your work and labor of love … in that you have ministered to the saints” (Hebrews 6:10).

In Matthew 25:34-36 Jesus gives several specific examples in His parable of the sheep and goats, at Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. “This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did,” Acts 9:36, 39.

 I am saying that grace through faith naturally produces (good) works, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

With the above in mind and the Scriptures I studied I found my answer to the question of what is a work, which I stated “it is clear a work was something you had to do not what you wanted to do” is not as clear as I thought! So I retract my answer and now say “to be determined.” But I can say the discussion of works is a grey issue unless to becomes a factor in your question of salvation. I read it is not. If you believe works are conditions of salvation I understand that Scripture states you believe a different gospel.

Comments anyone?   

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