Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 7, 1967
NUMBER 18, PAGE 11b-12a

What Is A Good Work?

L. T. Shiflett

There is a young man of my acquaintance of whom I am extremely fond and in whose well-being I am quite interested. He is a Baptist, having been reared by parents strongly committed to the tenets of that denomination. We have had numerous conversations about the scriptures, and we have discussed, with no semblance of rancor, some of our differences.

Recently the matter of instrumental music in worship came under consideration. In justifying music in worship, he supported it on the basis that it was a good work and argued that it was a good work because it bore good fruit. This brought us to an analysis of the scriptural criterion for making the determination of whether a work is a good work.

There is apparently a strong proclivity on the part of many persons to class as "good" those things which seem to them to be good. There is a concomitant tendency to justify ways and means of doing things on the basis of "the good they do." If these two points of view could be established from the scriptures, we should adopt them. If, however, the contrary is true, they should be abandoned.

As for the intuitive determination of good, consider these words from an inspired writer: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55: 8-9.) Where is the man who, in the face of this declaration from God, will presume to declare that his own assertion that a thing is good makes it so in the sight of God?

Consider Christ's rebuff of the young man who called Him "good Master." (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10: 18; Luke 18:19.) This makes abundantly clear the Lord's estimate of that which is good. Paul noted man's ability in this matter in Romans 3:10: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one."

If these passages do not suffice so to do, the effort to justify a work as a good one on an intuitive basis is nullified by Proverbs 16:15: "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

It is not the purpose of this article merely to refute a mistaken idea of the proper standard for good; it is also its purpose to bring scriptures to bear which will affirm that which is God's will in this matter.

In II Tim. 3:16-17, we find that the inspired scriptures completely furnish the man of God unto every good work. Note that this is a comprehensive statement - completely furnish unto every good work. Here is a work. Do the scriptures completely furnish one so to do? If so, it is a good work. If not, it is not a good work. The principle is simple and straightforward, but the application may not be so easy. This does not, however abrogate the validity of the principle.

Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21.) In this same context He said of those who mistakenly claimed to have done many mighty works in His name that they worked iniquity.

"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work." (II Thess. 2:16-17.)

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Heb. 13:20-21.)

Works which are good works are those which are the Father's will, for which the scriptures completely furnish us, in which our Lord Jesus will stablish us, and in which the God of peace will make us perfect. How can we look "unto Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith" unless we let Him establish our standards for good?