It is no overstatement to say that we were brought to Jesus Christ for a life of good works. In Ephesians, after recounting and reveling in the great grace in which God has delivered us into the kingdom of Christ, Paul says “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). More must be said, but if this point slips past us or is not given its due weight in our minds and affections, we will not understand God’s design for our lives:
You have been recreated by the grace of the Spirit in Jesus Christ to live for God in the doing of good deeds—living in a way that pleases him. All objections and excuses must fade away in light of this truth, and we must be convinced that as Christ came to do the Father’s will, so he leads us forward in life as his new creation to do the same.
This series is designed to encourage us to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). This post continues to answer the question “What are good works?” In the last post we saw the first four of my eleven answers to that question, and this post is about numbers five and six:
- Good works are actions done in obedience to God’s commands.
- Good works are done in faith.
- Good works arise from a renewed will and God’s continued supply of the Spirit.
- Good works are sincere, please God, and are progressive in nature.
- Good works manifest the love of God to him and our neighbors.
- Good works are the imitation of Christ by the Spirit.
- Good works require mortification and sacrifice.
- Good works are pleasing to God.
- Good works verify the validity of our faith.
- Good works are rewarded by God.
- Good works bring praise and glory to Christ.
Good works manifest the love of God to him and our neighbors.
Jesus taught that the summary of the Law was to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We could go deep into the design of that life of love by thinking about the life to which Adam was called in the garden: a life of walking with God in obedience and communion, and a life of productive service as a family in the world. This call is renewed in the good news of reconciliation with God through the promised son, Jesus Christ. Everywhere that promise is made, the people of that promise were called to live first unto God, and then in keeping with that to become agents of blessing within the human family. One need only look closely at Genesis 17 where God established circumcision as the sacrament of his covenant with Abraham to see that the life of God’s people is one of service to him and blessing to the world. “Walk before me” the Lord says, “and be blameless”...”you shall be the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:1-8). This fatherhood of many nations was both a calling and a promise, a task and a gift, in which many sons would reflect Father Abraham’s image: turning from our nature’s bondage for a life with God, in which being blessed we would become those in whom “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). The Lord says “I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:19). From Abraham, we could, and should, see that the design of salvation is one in which God graciously brings us into communion with himself through Christ in order to then bless and make us a blessing unto a future inheritance that we recieve as a gracious reward for faithfulness. Yet, for now, let it suffice to say that Abraham demonstrates the design of the life to which we are called: love of God and blessing to the world.
Good works are the imitation of Christ by the Spirit.
If Abraham shows us how to live, Jesus is life itself (John 1:4). As the sun to the moon in brightness, so the life of Christ outshines every lesser light of the saints and in fact is the light by which which they are illumined. It is not merely that Abraham was like Christ, but that his imitation of Christ is due to being filled with Christ’s life by the Spirit. This is one reason that the Holy Spirit in being given to us, to live in us, is called the “Spirit of His Son” (Galatians 4:6). To have Christ is to be a Christian, to be a Christian is to be made like Christ.
Christ Jesus is “the true light” (John 1:9, 8:12) and promises that “whoever follows [him] will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”, and having that “light” in him, we ourselves have become “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16). This structure is replete in the Bible: He is the one who for our sakes became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9), his blessed people are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). He is the servant of the LORD (Isaiah 42), yet we are also his servants (Matthew 10:25). He is the Son over the house of God , and we are his household (Hebrews 3:6). He is the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14), and we are saints in him (1 Corinthians 1:2). He is the Melchizedekian King and Priest (Hebrews 7); we are a kingdom of priests (Revelation 20:6). He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and we take up our own cross (Matthew 16:24), count our lives and achievements as nothing (Philippians 3:8), give up our lives for serving Jesus (Matthew 10:39), lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16), and pour out our lives to God as a sacrifice (Romans 12:1, Ephesians 5:2, Philippians 2:17). He endured the cross for glory hating the shame of it (Hebrews 12:2), we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16) but persevere in a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:2-5). He crushed the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15, Matthew 22:44), and soon the serpent will be crushed under our feet (Romans 16:20).
This is the design of salvation in Jesus Christ: that he would be the firstborn among many brothers who are conformed to his image (Romans 8:29). None will eclipse his glory or take his unique place as the only begotten Son, but a great innumerable multitude, more than the sands of the sea or stars in the heavens, will reflect his multifaceted glory. As sons in the Son we live in imitation of him out of the life that is in him and unto a glory that magnifies him.