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 has before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13).

Though the works of a man have no place in his salvation, for that is by grace through faith, and not of works, lest any man should boast, yet they have a very prominent place in God's purpose for those who are saved.

God's saints are to be "zealous of good works," and that they might be so "the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ … gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity" (Titus 2:14), and those who have believed in God are exhorted to "maintain good works." Indeed, if a man is careless as to this, he cannot be accounted as a Christian.

Our responsibility in this regard receives an added emphasis when it is seen that we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus with this end in view. The production of good works has been God's intention for us from the first. And, further, if we are God's workmanship we cannot plead that good works are an impossibility for us, for God's handiwork must be altogether suitable for the accomplishment of that for which it has been created.

It is as though a man made a loom; his inventive genius and powers have been concentrated upon the machine, and at last it is completed. It has been made with one object in view — the production of cloth. If it does not fulfil the purpose of the inventor it is only fit for the scrap-heap.

We will take the loom for an illustration of the Christian in this respect, and observe that no loom can produce cloth by its own effort or from within itself. It must be in contact, first of all, with the power-house; then is it prepared to receive the warp and woof from the weaver's hand, and as he works these into it, it works out the finished material. Now it is just this that the Scripture says of the Christians: "Work out your own salvation … for it is God that works in you." What a thought for us is this! We are not only God's workmanship, He Himself has prepared the loom; but such is His desire that we should produce the works for which He has prepared us that He stands over us as the watchful weaver, working in us all that is needful, so that we may be neither idle nor unfruitful.

On our part obedience is necessary, and fear and trembling. The loom of our illustration cannot hinder the purpose of its maker, though often, through the carelessness of the weaver, the work is marred, and much time is lost. In our case, however, there is no failure on God's part, the failure, shame to us, is on our part; by our insubjection and self-confidence we often stand in His way, and so waste the precious moments and spoil the work.

Let none think that these good works in which we are called to walk have a time value only. They have a time value, for they are to appear in the lives of God's redeemed people as the adornment of the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; but they have a further value for they are to appear in imperishable beauty when time has ceased to be. The loom of our illustration was made that it might produce material for the wedding robe of a noble princess; Christians are producing now "the righteousness of saints," which shall form that fair garment of "fine linen, clean and white," in which the Lamb's wife shall be arrayed on the great marriage day.

What a day that will be! Its advent will be greeted by the great "Allelujah" shout which, like the voice of mighty thunderings, shall roll throughout a rejoicing heaven. The Lamb shall be there, the cause of heaven's joy, in all the glory of His might, and fully recompensed for His sorrow and travail in death, for with Him shall appear His wife, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, arrayed in her raiment of needle work, the "fine linen, clean and white: for the line linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8).

What joy fills our hearts as we project our thoughts into that day! Shall we not discard all slothfulness, carelessness, and disobedience, and set ourselves with a holy determination to add our quota to that priceless raiment?

Let it not be supposed that only those who do the more prominent works are contributing to this garment. Often they are the ones who are doing the least towards it, for they are much before the eyes of men, and are in constant danger of working for the applause of men; and work which springs from such a motive cannot be acceptable to God.

It is often the lowliest of the saints, living in obscurity, and perhaps poverty and pain, who is most diligent in this work. When the motive for living is Christ, it matters not how menial the task, it will give the opportunity for the reproduction of the life of Jesus. And to follow in His footsteps, and to show out the blessed traits that shone in their perfection in Him is to be adding to the garment of "fine linen, clean and white." But for this there must be fear and trembling lest self should intrude and spoil the piece we weave, and there must be obedience to the will of God, which will is found in the Holy Scriptures: there alone can we discover what the good works are, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.