Examples and Expressions of Good Works
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

In 1992, a family in Beattyville, Kentucky lost two teenage sons in a car wreck.  Darkness like nothing she had ever known settled over Rosemary. Yet she found solace in her faith. … Not long after her loss, Rosemary began a ministry called Fellow Travelers, a ministry to other parents who have lost a child. … Every day, Rosemary reads the newspaper and searches the Internet for child obituaries.  She either calls the families or sends them special packets consisting of books on loss, a music CD, and a notebook of inspirational messages.  She gets about 50 e-mails a day from people requesting one of her packets.  More than 5,000 packets — paid for by Rosemary and her husband — have been sent all over the world. “We are here to help other people,” said Rosemary. 'It gives me great joy to think God is using me to help others'” (Bussabarger in Larson/Elshof). By the way, Rosemary is still sending out her packets daily some 17 years later!

Jesus said in Matthew 10:42: “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  Someone once remarked that we like to think in terms of giving as donating $1,000 to help somebody.  “Let’s give some great sum that could really impress others!” But this is not usually how God desires it to happen.  What God does is He gives us rolls of quarters each day, and He would prefer that we give quarters of love, kindness, and help all day long to everybody that we meet (Craddock)!  Somehow these small acts seem so insignificant to us, but such is not the case who those who are helped!  A cup of cold water on a hot summer's day can be a significant gift!  People notice when someone serves them warmly.  Today we want to look at three examples of good works and three interesting expressions about good works from various passages.

The first example of one who did good works is Jesus. We find this interesting exchange between Jesus and the Jews in John 10:31ff: “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered them, 'Many good works I have shown you from My Father.  For which of these works do you stone Me?”  We see here very clearly that Jesus is claiming to have done good works, and He challenges these hostile Jews by asking them for which good work are they about to kill Him.  Now notice their response: “For a good work, we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”  It is interesting that the Jews do not deny that Jesus had done good works, but they immediate switch their charge to blasphemy.  Then notice Jesus' interesting response in verse 37: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”  Jesus' good works from God show that He really is divine.  The apostle John makes this further statement at the very end of his Gospel: “And there are many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose the even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  John admits that his Gospel contains only a few of Jesus' good works; there were many many more!  Finally, the apostle Peter, in one of his sermons in Acts 10:38, affirmed: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”  These passages underscore very clearly that Jesus is a powerful example of One who did good works!

Secondly, we see that Christians can do good works.  A great example is seen in Sister Tabitha.  Luke describes her in this way in Acts 9:36: “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcus. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.”  We know that others told Peter how Dorcus had used her sewing skills to make clothing for them.  Then we read of the great miracle where Peter brings this industrious sister back to life again!  Now turn to Hebrews 10:24 where we find this admonition: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, nor forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  The expression “stir up love and good works” is literally that we may spur one another on to love and good works, just as a rider spurs a horse to action!  And isn't it interesting how this can so often take place when we assemble together for worship!  It is wonderful to see some brother or sister launch a good work in a Bible class, in the foyer, or in the parking lot!  You can see that they are excited about helping others, and their genuine enthusiasm becomes contagious as other members want to help too!  Then the job gets done, and all involved come to worship again filled with joy that they have been able to serve others in Jesus' name!  One other interesting passage is found in Revelation 14:13-14: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.  'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.'”  When Christians die, they leave behind a legacy of good works for which they will be remembered and rewarded!  Our good works live on in the lives of others!  So we see clearly from these passages that Christians should be doing good works!

The last example is that churches can be doing works.  First of all, in Colossians 1:9-10, we find an interesting prayer of the apostle Paul for the congregation at Colosse: “For this reason, we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God ....”  Notice how Paul says that he is praying that this church will walk or will live worthy of the Lord.  “Being 'worthy of the Lord' is a phrase that occurs in ancient pagan inscriptions throughout Asia Minor, and it pictures a person being weighted on scales to determine their worth” (Nelson Study Bible). How can a Christian live in a manner that adequately reflects their love for the Lord?  Notice the three things that Paul specifically mentions in his prayers for this congregation as a whole: that they be fully pleasing to Christ [they are living to do His will], that they be fruitful in every good work [such good works are a tangible demonstrations of their love for Him], and that they be ever increasing in their understanding of the true and living God [as opposed to the pagan gods in their surroundings]. Paul is praying that this church will be manifesting good works.  Secondly, the church in Philippi does a good work by sending the apostle Paul a gift when he was imprisoned, for which he is very grateful (Phil. 4:14-20). Thirdly, we see in Acts 21:15ff and 2 Corinthians 8-9 that several churches pooled their financial resources together to send aid to their suffering brethren in Jerusalem.  These passages clearly show us that churches should be doing good works.

Now let's look at three interesting expressions about good works.  The first is found in 2 Corinthians 9:8 where the apostle Paul affirms: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  Sometimes doing good works can be costly.  But isn't Paul assuring us here that God has the capacity to continue to provide us with more blessings, so that we, in turn, can continue to do more good works? You see, when we do good works God also gets to work!  One commentator puts it this way: “There is no risk in generous giving [for good works done in Jesus' name], for God will always recompense the giver with [enough] for his own needs and [with] enough to give to 'every good work' [in the future] (Clines).  As a child, a girl vividly remembers her alcoholic mother “weaving down the hall of their ranch home in Houston, glass of scotch in hand, to wake her up at 2:00 a.m., just to make sure she was asleep.  Then the girl would have to wake her mom up at 7:00 to try to get her off to work.  This girl later became converted, and she was asked to become a leader of a group which ministered to mothers.  She wondered if she really should take this job opportunity: 'How could God use me—who had never been mothered—to nurture other mothers?'  The answer came she said as she looked into the eyes of other sisters and saw them mirroring her own need.  Then she made this remarkable statement: 'God will take my deficits and help them to become my offering'” (Morgan in Larson/Elshof).  If Jesus could make 150 gallons of wine out of water for a wedding reception, could make 12 baskets containing leftovers after feeding a crowd of 5000 from five loaves and two fish, and could cause fishermen to catch 153 large fish by just casting their net on the right side of their boat, then we can believe that He will continue to supply our needs so that we may continue to do good works in His name! God and Christ will work so that we “may have an abundance for every good work”!

The next expression is found in 1 Timothy 6.  Let's start reading with verse 17 where Paul gives Timothy some instructions for wealthy members who are in the church at Ephesus: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”  “Well, Bro. Paul, that passages was talking about rich members of the church, and I certainly don't fall into that category.”  Oh beloved, think again: if you own a car, eat three meals a day, have at least four changes of clothing, and have indoor plumbing and a refrigerator, then you are very rich according the standards of most people in the world!  Did you catch Paul's expression?  If we are rich in material goods, then we need to be rich in good works! By doing good works, we will be making investments for our treasures in heaven, and then when Jesus comes again, we will be ready to lay hold on eternal life!  Let's be rich in good works!

The last expression is found in Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  God, who raised Jesus and established a new covenant, can also make all of us complete, or equipped, or prepared for every good work in order to accomplish His will.  Jesus works in and among us to help us to achieve those good works that will be pleasing to God!  Aren't we thankful that the great Shepherd is helping us!  He'll continually work with us and develop us so that we may be complete, equipped, or prepared to do every good work that will help to accomplish God's will right here where we live.  This prayer should provide great strength for us when we, as a congregation, might be fearful of trying some new good work. Jesus will enable us to get the job done!  That's what being “complete in every good work” means!

So we have seen three examples of doing good works: Jesus did them, Christians did them, and churches did them!  Members' hands become Jesus' hands in order to do good works in service others!  Then we saw how God will help us have an abundance for every good work, so we can be rich in good works, and Jesus will help us to be complete in or prepared for good works.  After telling the story about the good Samaritan, Jesus asked the lawyer who had questioned him, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”  And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”  Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise!”  What good works will our congregation be known for?

Jesus will help you to do good works, but you must first make Him the Lord and Commander of your life! If you haven't obeyed the Gospel, it is a great time to do so.  You must believe that Jesus is God's Son, then you must repent or determine to get out of the sinning business, then you must confess that you want to make Jesus your Master, and then you must be buried in the waters of baptism so that your sins can be washed away and you can be resurrected to live a life transformed by God's Spirit Who will then live within you!  Then show your appreciation of your freedom from Satan by living a life filled with good works!  If you've grown weary in good works, why not ask for Jesus' to help to find new ways that you can serve others?  Cups of cold water, quarters of kindness, and help to other mothers and parents suffering losses are still badly needed!