We do good works out of love for God, to love our neighbor, and for our own joy.
Think of good works as acts of love to God or to our neighbor, such as obedience and charity. In the previous lesson we learned that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done; instead, it is a gift to those who repent of sin and have faith in Jesus Christ.
What is the purpose of doing good works if we don’t need them to go to heaven? Why fight against temptation? Why not enjoy sinful pleasures? Why give our money to the church and the needy when we could spend it all on ourselves? In other words, why be good if being good is not necessary for salvation? Even though we are not saved by good works, there are several important reasons to live a life devoted to good works.
First, we do good works to express our love to God. To be a Christian is to love God. This is the greatest of all the commandments. How do we express love for God? By obeying His commands, and by treating each other with love, mercy, and generosity. If you are not devoted to good works, then you don’t love God. And if you do not love God, then you are not saved. Good works are a way to express our gratitude to God for His saving work in our lives.
Second, we do good works to express our love for one another. The second most important command in the Bible is to love one another; to love your neighbor as yourself. Christians are to be known for their love. And this is the reason that we do good works. Good works are loving, while sin is unloving. We avoid sin because it is harmful to our friends and family.
Third, we do good works for our own joy. God’s commands are not meant to ruin our lives and keep us from having fun and being happy. In fact, the opposite is true. The purpose of God’s commands is to help us get the most enjoyment out of life. Sin not only offends God and hurts our neighbor, it hurts us. When we sin we hurt ourselves. When God says “Do not,” He means “Do not hurt yourself.” When God says “Do this,” He means “Do this and it will make you happy.” We do not avoid sin and do good simply for God’s pleasure, but for our own protection and prosperity.
Fourth, we do good works to enhance our witness. God has called us to be His witnesses, telling people the gospel of Jesus Christ so they can be saved if they want to. But lost people will not listen to Christians who are mean and sinful and hypocritical. To win a hearing with the lost we must earn their respect and trust. Before lost people will listen to our message, they must believe that we are authentic believers, and they must see that Christ is making a positive difference in our lives. We do good works so that our lives attract people to Christ rather than push them away.
Fifth, we do good works to confirm our salvation. The Bible says that those who are truly saved will gradually grow in love for God and others. Therefore, while good works do not save us, they are evidence that we have been saved. We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works, but if good works are absent from our lives, then we have reason to doubt our salvation. We do not do good works to get saved, but because we are saved.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are good works?
- If good works are not necessary for salvation, then why not just live a life of sin and selfishness?
- What are the different reasons for doing good works?
- Do you see in yourself the desire to please God, or are you careless about pleasing God? Explain.
- Do you see in yourself the desire to be kind and loving to others, or are you careless about others? Explain.
For Further Study:
- Matthew 5:16
- Mark 12:28-31
- 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Colossians 3:17
- 1 Timothy 2:9-10
- 1 Timothy 6:18
- Titus 2:11-14
- Titus 3:8
- James 2:17
- 1 John 1:6