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Defining "Works"

Discussion in 'Controversial Christian Theology' started by Saint Steven, Feb 3, 2021.

  1. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    Lots of discussion lately about "works".
    When compared with discussions about "grace" and "faith", we are pretty quick to define the terms.
    But, what about "works"? It seems to go undefined, and appears to mean different things to different Christians. What's your definition?

    Additionally, I would like to discuss a few aspects that I find interesting about works.
    1) The good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
    2) The "do nothing" works of Jesus. (John 5:19) Imitating the Father.
    3) Wood, hay and stubble works. (1 Corinthians 3:12-14)
    4) No work "works". (Romans 4:4-5) Trusting God, not self.

    Ephesians 2:10 NIV
    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    John 5:19 NIV
    Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

    1 Corinthians 3:12-14 NIV
    If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.

    Romans 4:4-5 NIV
    Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
     
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  2. GDL

    GDL Well-Known Member

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    What's your definition?
     
  3. GDL

    GDL Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean by the "do nothing" works of Jesus? How does "imitating the Father" equate to "do nothing"?
     
  4. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Triangulating THE WAY out of the void! Supporter

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    From my limited perspective and understanding of the N.T., and in very short order, I'm inclined to say that there are really three "works" in the N.T.

    First, Steve, to my mind, in looking at the four types of works you've listed in the OP, I would group together #1 and #2 and say they are really two aspects of the same thing, "Goods deeds of faith," which come about from the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit in our identification with Christ. We can just call these "Good deeds of love."

    Your third item in the OP list is something a little more mysterious and I think Paul is referring to how God allows each of us to express ourselves with our own PRAXIS [i.e. our own Theory & Practice] as we build upon the Foundation of the Gospel through faith we have been given.

    The fourth item is one that I think gets confused with the first two, and that is "Works of the Law" wherein some folks, like the church in Galatia that Paul wrote to, have the mistaken idea that following the O.T. Law (given through Moses) will somehow provide salvific effect. "Works of the Law" as referenced by Paul are not the same as "works of faith/good deeds."

    So, in brief, that's how I see this issue. I think for all of the studiousness that folks attempt to have over the various central texts we so often pour over, like the letters to the Romans, the Galatians, even James, etc, we often get confused when reading Paul as he refers to "Works of the Law" on the one hand and "Works (Good Deeds in faith)" on the other.

    All in all, it's too bad we have a hard time taking Ephesians 2:10 as seriously (or in connection) with Ephesians 2:8-9.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  5. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    Thanks for your reply. Good post.
    I was hoping that someone would bring up the "works of the law" aspect. Worth exploring.

    However, I don't think that is what Romans 4:4-5 is in reference to. Though there is discussion of the "works of the law" is chapter three, chapter four begins like this.

    Romans 4:1-3
    What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
     
  6. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    Yes. In order to hammer home the "by grace, not by works" message, verse ten is most often left out. And I want us to discuss the "prepared in advance for us to do" aspect. What does it mean? Compare KJV below. (that we should walk in them)

    Ephesians 2:10 NIV
    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    Ephesians 2:10 KJV
    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
     
  7. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Triangulating THE WAY out of the void! Supporter

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    Well, I understand your point, but I'm going to have to unfortunately disagree with you on your reading of Romans 4:1-3, bro. ^_^ ... I hope we can still be friends.
     
  8. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Triangulating THE WAY out of the void! Supporter

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    I agree with you here, and for me, I'd much rather look at the Greek language rather than various English versions.
     
  9. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    No worries.
    One simple test is to take the phrase "works of the law" and use it to replace "works" in the scripture in question. (Romans 4:4-5) Then we can see if the verse still works. (no pun intended)

    Now to the one who [does the] "works of the law", wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not [do the] "works of the law" but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
     
  10. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    Could you hunt that down for us?
     
  11. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Triangulating THE WAY out of the void! Supporter

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  12. 2PhiloVoid

    2PhiloVoid Triangulating THE WAY out of the void! Supporter

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    I appreciate your stance in applying logic and consistency here, Steven. :heart: The only thing is that your test, here, isn't one that I think I've seen used in any of my various sources on Hermeneutics and Exegesis. So, I don't know just how effective this application will be for our overall efforts to understand Paul.
     
  13. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    "We've never done it that way before." is the enemy of progress. - lol
     
  14. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    That is the answer, or at least one answer, to your question. There are good works, bad works, and the works of the law. Good works are things such as charity towards others that we are commanded to do. Bad works equates to sin or evil. The works of the law are such things as animal sacrifice, observance of sabbaths, keeping dietary laws, refraining from handling lizards, etc. Paul spoke of the "works of the law" to the Colossians:

    Col 2:20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—

    Col 2:21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,”

    As you've pointed out:

    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    Those are the "good works" we are commanded to do, and also the works we will be judged for:

    Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
     
  15. Butterball1

    Butterball1 Well-Known Member

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    There are different types/kinds of works in the BIble, works of God (John 9:3), works of Satan (1 John 3:8), works of righteousness (Acts of the Apostles 10:35), works of unrighteousness (Romans 2:8) works of faith (Galatians 5:6), works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19), works of obedience in submitting to God's commands (Romans 10:3) works/deeds required by the OT law (Galatians 3:2) works of merit one can boast about (Ephesians 2:9) good works (Titus 3:8) etc, etc.

    All works therefore are not the same and no one verse (as Romans 4:5 or Ephesians 2:9) eliminates ALL works of all types/kinds. For some works (righteousness, obedience) save while others works do (works of the flesh, works of merit, works required by the OT law) do not save.
     
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  16. Hazelelponi

    Hazelelponi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Prepared in advance for us to do, made of gold and silver and precious metals = worship God in Spirit and in Truth. (Part of worship is also action; to do the things God loves).
     
  17. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    Thanks. Reminded me of this.

    Romans 12:1-2
    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
     
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  18. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    Jesus didn't consider his works to be self-employment.

    John 4:34
    “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
     
  19. Saint Steven

    Saint Steven You can call me Steve Supporter

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    John 6:28-29
    Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
    29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
     
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  20. OldWiseGuy

    OldWiseGuy Wake me when it's soup. Supporter

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    Your works is what you do all day long. How you do them confers spiritual growth...or not.
     
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