The phrase “good works” arrested my attention while reading Titus in the New King James Version of the Bible. Paul exhorted Titus to be zealous and ready to perform good works. Twice, he addressed the need to maintain good works. Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders and expected him to be a model of good works the elders could imitate.
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 thoughts. 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 the good God desired of him.
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 you should have all you need to fulfill the good work God has given you to do. If you don’t, you may not be doing God’s work.
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, the key to doing the works of God is believing in Jesus.