Conclusion To: Understanding Good Works

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As we have learned in previous postings, what makes a good work good is whether or not God calls it good.  Furthermore, we have also learned that the motive of the work and its source are important to assess.  In other words, we have learned that good works done out of impure motives or works that are done out of a source other than God cannot be classified as truly good.  It is as if there are two dimensions of good works: a horizontal one dimensional view where works are done for the sake of self and done for reasons pertaining to this life[1]; a horizontal-vertical two dimensional view where works are done in this life in view of one’s vertical relationship with God.[2]  One dimensional works, though externally good, cannot be classified as truly good, whereas, the two dimensional works are truly good because they are sourced in and driven by God.  Keep in mind that it isn’t the Christian’s motive the makes the good work good but that the Christian is rooted in God who prepared the good works in advance for him/her to do.  It is most helpful for us to focus less on the goodness of the work, and more on the eyes of the one who declares the work to be good.  Good works carried forth horizontally towards one's neighbor are viewed vertically by God and horizontally, by mankind's opinion.  What makes a work truly good has more to do with God's opinion rather than mankind's opinion or mankind's pious motive.  In other words, a person's ill motives poison the goodness of the work but a person's pious motives do not make a work anymore good for the good works were prepared and made read long in advance by God.  R.C.H. Lenski comments on Ephesians 2:10 and this subject saying, "All the ways of holiness and righteousness are God's design and preparation.   We need not puzzle about  and search for what may please God, he has long ago mapped out the entire course.  What Paul says is not that God prepared us that we should walk in good works, but that he prepared the good works."[3]  The works are produced by the Holy Spirit and done by the Christian out of love for God and their neighbor.[4]  The prepared good works, "spring forth from faith and are done unto Christ."[5]  
We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

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[1] Works in the one dimensional realm are done for the purpose of things in the horizontal realm and are done in view of things under the sun.
[2] Works in the two dimensional realm are done in the context of a divine relationship in the vertical realm and done in view of God’s mercy. 
[3] R.C.H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament: Ephesians (Hendrickson Publishing, 2001), 427.
[4] Warren Olsen & David Rinden. Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, Question 235 (Faith and Fellowship Press, 1988)
[5] Lenski, 427.