The True Worth of Our Good Works
We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
We have been “saved through faith…not of works…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)
We have been saved, not of works, but for good works. How vast the difference. How essential the apprehension of that difference to the health of the Christian life! Not of works which we have done, as the source whence salvation comes…..and yet for good works, as the fruit and outcome of salvation, as part of God’s work in us- the one thing for which we have been created anew. As worthless as are our works in procuring salvation, so infinite is their worth as that for which God has created and prepared us. Let us seek to hold these two truths in their fullness of spiritual meaning. The deeper our conviction that we have been saved, not of works, but of grace, the stronger the proof we should give that we have indeed been saved for good works.
If works could have saved us, there was no need for our redemption. Because our works were all sinful and vain, God undertook to make us anew- we are now His workmanship, and all the good works we do are His workmanship too.
So complete was sin’s ruin that God had to do the work of creation over again in Christ Jesus. In Him, and especially in His resurrection from the dead, He created us anew, after His own image, into the likeness of Christ.
In the power of that life and resurrection, we are able, we are perfectly fitted, for doing good works. We may rest assured that a Divine capacity for good works is the very law of our being. If we but know and believe in this our destiny- we can, we will, be fruitful unto every good work.
In Genesis as God created everything He established an unchangeable law. This law declared that “everything was to reproduce after it’s kind.”
“The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.”
We know this to be true for every fruit tree produces fruit after its kind. In other words apple trees produce apples and orange trees produce oranges and never will an apple tree produce oranges nor will an orange tree produce apples. Because these trees are in the order of God’s creation their fruit production is automatic. They just do what they are designed to do. It requires no planning and no extra effort. They just do what they have been created to do.
In the original creation, humans were created to be in the image of God and their work and lives were designed to reproduce the very works of God. This was true until that day when man chose to follow another master. In his rebellion against God, man lost his purpose and his way and no longer was capable to produce the good works of God. Instead his default was to produce after his new master, the devil. So man went from being in the image of God, producing good works to conforming into the image of the devil, doing everything imaginable of evil. We know this to be true even today. The sin nature in every human drives them to keep reproducing sinful works. These sinful works come as naturally as breathing. I’ve learned that we do not have to teach children to misbehave. Instead we have to teach them to do the right things and to make the right choices. Do you see how that we are reproducing after our own kind?
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
The Lord saw that the wickedness (depravity) of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination or intent of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. The [population of the] earth was corrupt [absolutely depraved—spiritually and morally putrid] in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence [desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power]. God looked on the earth and saw how debased and degenerate it was, for all humanity had corrupted their way on the earth and lost their true direction.
Though mankind attempted to produce good works and to return to the image of God, few were able to do that. By the way of sacrifice and circumcision and ritual, man sought to live in a way that pleased God. They discovered that their effort was temporary and they were required to continuously repeat the sacrifices and rituals again and again. In the law of Moses, it was required that at least annually a sacrifice had to be offered for the sins of the people. Though that was done, we still find that wickedness and sin continued to be practiced even by the people of God. You just have to read the history of the Old Testament to find proof of this. Those who wished to live in a manner pleasing to God attempted by their own works to do so only to fail again and again. The tragedy is that there are Christians who are vainly practicing the same methods, never realizing that it is futile effort.
The apostle Paul says that no human is good in the self, that we are all slaves to sin; therefore we act like who we are.
“As it is written and forever remains written, “ There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. “ There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God . “ All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one .” “ Their throat is an open grave; They [habitually] deceive with their tongues .” “ The venom of asps is beneath their lips .” “ Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” “ Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And they have not known the path of peace.” “ There is no fear of God [and His awesome power] before their eyes.”
But God has provided a way for our very nature to be changed and that is what occurs in salvation. Our very hearts are transformed and our desires are changed and in the work of salvation we are returned into our original created status of being “in the image of God, after His likeness.” We have no power to make this transition by ourselves; so we come as wretched sinners before a just God with nothing to bring to earn or qualify for the gift of this amazing grace of salvation. None of our works, our efforts, our rituals, or our deeds are sufficient for such a work. So God in His sovereign love and grace provides the means through Christ Jesus. And in Him we are made anew.
Jeremiah give us this beautiful picture of our remaking in the story of the potter’s house.
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will make you hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and saw that he was working at the wheel. But the vessel that he was making from clay was spoiled by the potter’s hand; so he made it over, reworking it and making it into another pot that seemed good to him.”
So now that God has remade us, and recreated us into His own image then ought not our works be the reflection of that creation and like the apple or orange tree, we produce these new works as naturally as they do. Since we have become new, the outflow of a transformed hear ought to be transformed works. All the effort and energy that was once spend engaged in doing the works of evil ought now to be repurposed to doing the works of righteousness. This should become an autonomous thing in the Christian’s life.
As Christians we must redefine who we are. We must confess that we are no longer sinners. We are now the children of God. Our nature has changed. Our hearts have been transformed. We are no longer the slaves to sin but we are now the servants of God and therefore we yield ourselves to the will and purposes of God. We have been changed!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore since we are in Christ Jesus and we are “new creatures”, the old ways have ceased and new ones have begun. We are now able to bear fruit after our kind. We produce the fruit of righteousness because we have been made righteous.
Jesus was clear with the identity of a believer in that the fruit one produces is the indicator of who they are.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, [teachers] who come to you dressed as sheep [appearing gentle and innocent], but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them [that is, by their contrived doctrine and self-focus]. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the unhealthy tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruit you will recognize them [as false prophets].
Good works may not have the power to save us, but good works are the automatic outflow and evidence that we have been born again. If we have received Christ then our lives ought to begin to model His in every way every day.
Dr. John Thompson