The phrase “good works” arrested my attention while reading Titus in the New King James Version of the Bible. Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders and expected him to be a model of good works the elders could imitate. He exhorted Titus to be zealous and ready to perform good works. Twice, he addressed the need to maintain good works.
The emphasis on good works made me wonder what Paul considered a good work? More importantly, what does God consider a good work? Instead of assuming that we know what is “good”, we should allow the Bible to define a “good work.”
A good work in the Biblical sense does not originate in human reasoning. God has already determined the good works he desires us to do (Ephesians 2:10). He decided the good Jesus would do and recorded those works in the Old Testament before Jesus was born. Had Jesus varied from the prophecies spoken about him, his works, no matter how charitable, would not have been a “good work” ordained by God.
One way to know we are doing a good work is the response of the people. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The last time you did a good work who was glorified? Did people walk away in awe of God or in awe of you?
Since only God is truly good, the only “good works” are the ones he leads us to do. Jesus told the Jews that he could do “nothing of himself but what he sees the Father do; for whatever he does the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). If Jesus could do “nothing of himself”, how much more are you and I incapable of doing good works without the guidance of God’s Spirit?
Another test of a good work is the ability to perform it. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). In all things, at all times we should have all we need to fulfill the good work God has given us to do. If we don’t, we may not be doing God’s work.
It is an insult to God’s ability when we beg for finances or even ask God’s people to fund our good work. We have not because we are not asking God for the things we need. We ask God and receive not because our good work originated in our desire. God is not obligated to pay for something that he has not ordered.
Some Jews asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may do the works of God?” (John 6:28) I found Jesus answer surprising. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). In other words, if they believed in Jesus, they would do the works of God. Master this good work, we will fulfill the good God has already prepared for us to do.