Religious people often attempt to authorize their religious practices and programs by labeling them "good works." This label is too often attached, not upon the basis of Bible authority, but upon the basis of human preference, and of the end justifying the means. These folks reason that if some good is accomplished by their action, then God must be pleased with it. Of course, this is human reasoning, and it arrogantly assumes that man’s approval of a thing makes it approved also by God! Jesus taught the danger of this reasoning in Matthew 7:22, 23. He said that "many" will stand before Him in the day of judgment and claim justification on the basis that they had performed "many wonderful works." The modern day my-work-is-a-"good-work" crowd might assume that such people will most certainly be admitted into Heaven, but not so! Jesus said that He is going to tell these people to "depart from" Him, for He "never knew" them! What had they done that was so wrong that they will be barred from Heaven? They had worked "iniquity" (lawlessness) (vs. 23). Though their works were esteemed as "wonderful" by them, they were not so esteemed by God. Jesus classified these so-called "wonderful works" as acts of rebellion against God. It is sinful to invent "good works" and perform them "in the name of" Christ.
The Bible teaches that the "good works" that saints are to practice have been "prepared beforehand" by God (Ephesians 2:10). They are not human inventions, but divine inventions. They were not designed by men, but by God. They reflect, not man’s wisdom, but God’s wisdom. But, where do we learn of these works? Paul answers this question in his words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. After describing the Scriptures as being inspired and all-sufficient, Paul says that the Scriptures "thoroughly furnish us unto every good work." If one wishes to know what works are "good works" he must consult the "Scriptures." He does not consult other humans (Matthew 15:9), nor does he turn to the desires of his own heart (Prov. 14:12; Jeremiah 10:23). Men work "iniquity" when, in the name of Jesus, they produce and practice their own "religious" works and activities.
- Tim Haile
[This article appeared in the Bowling Green Daily News on January 5, 2007 courtesy of the Parkway church of Christ.]