The Book of James, What are Good Works? - Lesson 14
Before we continue in our study of the third chapter of James, I thought it best to take a short detour and use one lesson to look to the Bible and get a more detailed answer to the question we discussed last week.
The question that the book of James prompts us to ask is: "What are good works?"
If we have been created in Christ Jesus unto good works we should know what good works are so as to insure that we do what God has placed us here to do.
James provides a few examples of good works, the visiting of the fatherless and widows who are afflicted and the provision of a coat and food to brothers and sisters who are destitute.
These examples, of course are not the sum total of good works, but they provide us some help as they portray the stretching out of hands for the benefit of others.
But James simply uses these examples to sharpen our iron regarding this subject.
We can sharpen our iron further of course by rightly dividing the word of God and knowing that no scripture is to stand alone but we are to study all scripture to know fully what good works God is expecting of us.
Now of course, as is in all else in our spiritual life, the great example of good works is found in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Even as a young boy, he told his parents, I must be about my fatherís business and that business was good works.
When confronted by the Jews, John records his words in John 10:32, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
When Peter saw a salvation work take place on gentiles in Joppa he recalled to them in Acts 10:38, the good works of Christ.
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
Notice that the result of Godís anointing of Jesus was evidenced in going about doing good, and healing.
Good works in scripture are also called good fruits.
When we get into chapter 3 of James we will meet verse 17,
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
The message that accompanied baptism by John the Baptist was to bring forth fruits meet or suitable for repentance.
In other words, you have repented, now therefore go out and do good works that will follow true repentance.
Paul told the Philippians in 1:11 that they were to be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Notice in that verse that the fruits come, the good works come because of Jesus Christ.
He is the head, we are the body.
It is an immutable law that the physical body can do nothing without the physical head.
And so it is in the spiritual as we are told in John 15:4-5 the branch can do nothing without the vine.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Connection to Jesus Christ is paramount in the production of fruit that pleases God.
For all pleasing fruit is produced in us by God through our connection to Jesus Christ.
The vine does not produce visible fruit but visible fruit comes on the branch and is only possible because of its connection to the vine.
Isaiah told us from where our works come from in the Old Testament in 6:12, LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.
And in the New Testament it is said in this way in Philippians 2:13, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
God does not leave us on our own as to how to do good works for His word is given to us to furnish us with all that we need.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Also remember that the fruit of the Spirit is given that your good works will be performed according to Godís specifications.
The fruit of the Spirit is not your work but Godís work in you and that fruit is given to you that you do good works as Jesus Christ would have done good works.
The Spiritís good works in you, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance are not given to lie fallow but are given that you do indeed, do good works as Christ would do good works.
They are the box of tools with which God expects you to accomplish good works in Christ Jesus.
For all of our works according to Colossians 3:17 are to be done in Christís name.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
We are to follow the example of God in that we are His workmanship.
We are the fruit of His work and therefore as He bears fruit we are also to bear fruit.
Ephesians 2:10, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
And according to Colossians 3:12-14 that walk will be walked in a holy and beloved manner, accompanied by mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, and forgiveness, all motivated by love.
By the example of a disciple named Tabitha as reported by Luke in Acts 9:36, we are to be full of good works, for her life was one of almsdeeds, which are acts of compassion toward the poor.
We have already read in John 15 where we are taught that those who abide in Christ will bear much fruit.
According to Titus 2:14 we are to be zealous of good works and by 1 Timothy 6:18 we are told to be rich in good works.
Again Titus tells us to maintain good works, Thessalonians tells us to be established in every good work
Colossians tells us we are to be fruitful in every good work.
Hebrews tells us to be perfect in every good work and to provoke each other to every good work.
Timothy tells us to be prepared unto every good work, and Corinthians tells us to abound in every good work.
Jesus Christ was careful to tell us in Matthew to avoid a showy display of good works for he told us to take heed that ye do not your alms before men.
The good works of women are described in 1 Timothy for Holy woman will be reported of their good works in bringing up children, being hospitable by lodging strangers, washing the saints feet, relieving the afflicted.
Nehemiah knew that good works were remembered by God for in 13:14 he pleaded.
Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.
And the writer of Hebrews also reminded us that God remembers our good works.
Hebrews 6:9-10, But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
And in this memory of God our works will be judged whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:14, For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
And in 2 Corinthians 5:10, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
And in the judgment good works will be an evidence of faith.
Matthew 25:34-40, Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The doing of good works is to result in glory to God.
Jesus told us this when he told us he was the vine and we are the branches.
John 15:8, Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
And those good works are to lead others to glorify God.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
And in 1 Peter 2:12, Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
And with the doing of good works comes blessing as we have already learned in our study of James.
James 1:25, But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Now as we have gone though this analysis of the scripture regarding good works I think we can conclude that good works are works done in Christ Jesus.
They are works that are of benefit to others done in Jesusí name and that the results of those works will bring glory to God.
They are not works done to bring benefit to ourselves nor are they quid pro quo works, this for that works.
They are works done with the tools that the Spirit gives you to use, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
We are to do good works in the Spirit.
What are the good works done by this local church?
What does this part of the body of Christ accomplish for God that brings glory to God?
What are the good works that you do on a personal level apart from this church body?
We have seen from scripture that visiting the sick, the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, lodging strangers, bringing up children, meeting personal needs of the saints, relieving the afflicted, providing clothes and food to the destitute, all done in the name of Christ are good works.
These are just some examples.
But what about the good work of providing to children a Christian school with God fearing teachers?
What about the good work of providing a place and a preacher where the gospel can be proclaimed, and the Bible taught in Sunday school?
What about the good work of lending your ears to the preaching of the Bible and reining your mind in so that a transaction of mind can take place.
What about the good work of those who play instruments in our church service or use their voices in song for the glory of God?
What about the good work of congregational singing that is to bring glory and praise to our Father?
What about the good work of faithful attendance in every service of this church so that you may be helped in your preparation for every good work.
What about those behind the scenes that provide for our sound systems, provide for our meals from the kitchen, provide for the cleanliness of Godís buildings and campus, those who labor in our offices and classrooms?
What about the good work, year after year, of sending missionaries to many lands so that others, who can never repay this church, can hear of the good news of Jesus Christ?
What about the good work of providing good clean recreation to the community though our sports program?
Think also of the good works that are done by sending out Biblical materials for children and adults which will help those who teach and train others in the things of the Lord?
What about the good work of visiting the old folks in their last home, old folks who are totally incapable of returning anything to this church?
What about the good work of helping a brother build a house for himself and his family?
What about the good work of sending a letter to a loved one, a letter of witness of Godís goodness in providing a wonderful savior?
What about being sensitive to the needs of those in your own neighborhood or work site and lending a hand in their lives so that God will be glorified and His light shine so that darkness is dispelled?
What about the good work of a husband loving his wife and seeing that his children are trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
What about the good work of a faithful wife who day after day, year after year keeps her home clean and orderly, so that her family can have a place of peace.
I have heard and you have heard that if you donít do such and such (fill in the blank) you are not a good Christian.
If you do not witness to a dozen people a day you are a failure in the Lordís eyes.
If you do not preach on the street corner you donít have any good works to your credit.
These are manís words spoken by some man who wishes to use you for his benefit.
These are not Godís words.
Every part of the body of Christ is not an arm.
Some of us are arms, some of us are toes, some of us may be the strong back.
None of us are every part of the body.
But each part is to function for the benefit of the body and do its part for no part of the body is purposeless.
David saw to it that the reward given to those who stayed by the stuff was to be no different than the reward given to those that went down to the battle.
God has given you His word and His word is for you to let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Your good works are not to lift you up but are to be done so that God is glorified.
And therefore we are to do them in the name of Jesus Christ and this is accomplished by using the tools that Jesus Christ gives you in His word.