Last week, we looked at the familiar verse – 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. – Ephesians 2:10, ESV
Works in Scripture
When the conversational context is scripture, and we hear the word “works,” our tendency is either to think of “good works,” as in our verse above, or to think of works of righteousness. But the Bible speaks of myriad different works.
The Works of the Law:
Job asked, “How can a man be just before God?” in Job 9:2. It’s a great question, so much so that, after millennia, humanity still wrestles with that same question. The apostle Paul states that no man will be justified by works of the Law (Galatians 2:16), and emphasizes that same point again in 3:11.
The Works of the Flesh:
In Galatians 5:19-21, we find a list of sixteen revolting, fleshly activities and attitudes. Among them are sexual immorality, sorcery, rage, idolatry, orgies, and finally Paul concludes with, “and stuff like that” (v. 21), because a comprehensive list would be extensive. These works of the flesh are what we left behind when we were crucified with Christ, and yet live (Galatians 2:20).
The Works of the Darkness:
The Roman of the age would be thought strange if he did not give way to nighttime feasts and debauchery, denying himself no carnal pleasure. Then, with the next sunrise, he would be decked out in pristine Roman costuming in antithetical contrast to what had transpired the night before. Romans 13:12 refers to these pleasures as “the works of darkness.”
The Works of Death:
Hebrews 6:1 urges us to move beyond works that lead to death (Some translations call them “dead works”). The writer says it again in 9:14 saying we cleansed our conscience from works that lead to death. We know from Romans 6:13, that the wages, or price tag, for sin is death.
The Works of Religion:
Actually, the text in Titus 3:5 calls them “works of righteousness,” but the context is one of our tendency to perform religious and moral activities in an effort to “be a good person,” thereby scoring points with God. It is the “faith plus works” road to salvation. The entire letter to the Galatians is an address against this theology.
Isaiah says that even our righteous acts are abominable. “and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Isaiah is speaking of menstrual cloths. If that describes our righteousness, I shudder to think what my sin looks like to our holy God.
Hearkening back to last week’s blog posting, we are God’s poiema (ποίημα) – God’s poem – hand-crafted by the master artist for a reason, with a purpose. We are created “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10b, ESV).
God is working in the Christ-follower, enabling him or her to do those good works prepared in advance. Similarly, the unbeliever is working and likewise being directed. The unbeliever is “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2, ESV).
As Christ-followers, we “abound in every good work” as God’s grace abounds to us (2 Corinthians 9:8). We bear fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10). We are “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17) whether we feel equipped or not.
We engage in our good works regardless of the circumstances. The apostle Paul’s prayer was that Christ would be honored through him whether in his life or his death (Philippians 1:20–21). Perhaps this relates to our works being characterized as “spiritual sacrifices” offered to God (Hebrews 13:16).
You may be thinking, “But I don’t know what to do.”
Understand, my friend, you don’t have to dream up these works. They were prepared in advance for you to walk in them. Listen to your heart, your conscience. You’ll know.
…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13, ESV
Since the works are prepared in advance, and since God is working within us to accomplish his pleasure, all that is left for us to do is to yield, to allow God to accomplish his good pleasure through us.