God, Man Differ on Good Works

by Wayne Barber

In my travels as a conference speaker, I'm learning that a lot of people don't have a clue to the meaning of many of the biblical terms we've used for years. For example, the term "righteousness." The Greek word for righteousness is dikaiosúne and refers to what a righteous person does. A person becomes righteous by the grace of God and what they do as a result of that is righteousness. A synonym for righteousness is "good works."

But there are two kinds of "good works"-the kind that is produced by well-intentioned flesh and the kind that only is produced by faith. Are both kinds equally "good"?

Isaiah powerfully disabuses us of this notion: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away"(Is. 64:6 nasv). Obviously, man's understanding of "good works" does not line up with God's understanding.

Wayne BarberPaul, in Romans 1:17, sheds more light: "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘but the righteous man shall live by faith.'" Paul says the righteousness of God-the absolutely perfect work of God-is revealed by faith. The Greek word apokalúpto literally means to remove a veil or covering; to make manifest or reveal a thing previously secret or unknown. A person will never know the "righteousness" of God until faith is enacted in his life and he receives Christ in his heart.

Paul goes on to say that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. Beyond our initial comprehension of the righteousness of God when we first receive Christ in our hearts, we now are to live by faith so that daily we witness for ourselves the difference between what we can do for God and what God and God alone can do through us.

Again, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul says: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them." Wow! We can't come up with them in a committee meeting. These works were created before the foundation of the world. We can only walk in them. When we learn to walk by faith, then it is no longer us, but Christ living in and through us. We are able to participate with Him in the good works that only He can do through us.

Why is it that this sounds so off base? Because we have been programmed since our salvation experience to believe that God is pleased with our performance for Him. But in fact, God is only impressed with us to the degree that He looks at us and sees Himself in us.

Paul wrote to Timothy that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). This is so clear. The Word of God must be that which renews a believer's mind.

It is the track he runs on. It shows him when he gets off track ("profitable for teaching); it shows him how to get back on track ("profitable for reproof"); and it teaches him how to stay on track ("profitable for correction"). It is profitable for training in what? Righteousness! It is the Word of God which enables faith, which when enacted produces righteousness, or good works.

What is the bottom line? Unless a person is living a surrendered life to Christ and to His Word, he is not producing righteousness. He is not walking in the "good works." What he considers to be good is "filthy rags" which still reek of the stench of flesh. Wow! You mean my attitude towards God and to His Word and Will have everything to do with whether or not my life is producing "righteousness"? Absolutely.

We have so conveniently substituted "what we do at church" for what God has ordained in our lives. It's a sad day, for we have substituted bells and whistles for what the normal Christian life really is.