How Can We Identify Good Works?

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            Now, that we understand that good works are a natural outpouring (i.e. fruit) of our justification, what do these good works look like?  Too often what can happen is that mankind begins to judge what actions are good works and what actions are not good works.  We become fruit inspectors, where we judge other people’s fruit to see if it meets up to our quality control expectations and whether or not the fruit that is coming forth is actually acceptable.  The problem here is not with the inspection but the standard that is used.  Often what happens is that a false standard develops where good works are judged and promoted within the church on the basis of manmade opinions.  What makes a good work good is not that it meets the social norms of a particular group, nor if it is deemed good by the opinion of man; rather a good work is good when it conforms to the standard of God’s Law.  This is why many statements of faith say that the Word is the sole source and guide for faith and conduct.  Quenstedt states, “The directing norm according to which good works are to be done and judged is the word of the divine Law, which offers an absolutely perfect rule of righteousness and divine holiness and prescribes both what should be done, and what should be omitted.”[1]
            What this means is that the standard of what makes a good work good is not dependent on the collective opinion and feelings of a local church body, it is contingent upon God’s Word.  Furthermore, this also means that a person’s good intentions behind the work or the societal benefit of the work does not make it good, for that would be again resorting to man’s standard.  Simply put, a good work is good when the Bible says that it is good.

Coming Next: "What Makes A Good Work Good?"
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[1] Quenstedt quoted in John Muller’s Christian Dogmatics (Concordia Publishing, 1934), 404.