Good works are by definition to some people following rules and regulations. Why? Because religious people believe in doing good works as a means to earning their salvation. But the Bible does not teach this. They believe good works is about living moral lives. Believe it or not there are people who don’t know God who live morally better than some people who attend church every Sunday. Our works does not and cannot justify us. First off, what does “works” mean according to the Scriptures? Good works are works that expand God’s Kingdom that involves unbelievers becoming disciples of Christ. If all you did you was pass out a sandwich to a homeless person, but you did not point them to Christ you did not engage in good works, you were just being a humanitarian. Not a bad thing, it’s just not what the Bible teaches about good works. You gave a homeless person a sandwich, but didn’t tell them about Jesus, that was for your own spiritual ego to make you feel like you’ve done God’s will. Jesus told us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and visit those incarcerated for the purpose of pointing people to Him, not just for the sake of participating in altruistic deeds.
We are saved unto good works. We don’t work to be saved, we work because we are saved. God saved us so that He can use us to save other people. It is all about the Kingdom and making disciples. That’s why we exist! Our focus is not simply humanitarian efforts; it is a good place to attempt to introduce Jesus to people who are in need, but humanitarian efforts alone is not and should not be the focus of Christians. We see Jesus in the Scriptures do humanitarian acts, He feed a group of 5,000 people who were hungry, but it was all for the Kingdom. After He fed them , He then gave them an invitation into the Kingdom which they rejected. He was a defense attorney for the woman caught adultery in that He presented evidence to the people who wanted to stone her and showed them that they were was just as guilty as she was, and He ended up saving her life. So, yes Jesus did humanitarian acts, but His focus was the Kingdom and giving people access to it.
Furthermore, good works is not obedience, keeping the commandments, attending church or living moral lives. Yes, we are supposed to do these things, but in and of themselves is not good works. Good works always leads to the Kingdom. If you are not winning souls to the Kingdom the religious practices you do faithfully are called dead works. Dead works is any work that is done in attempt to be right with or maintain a right standing with God (Hebrews 6:1). In short, religious people practice dead works. People who have a relationship with God practice in good works. A dead work may seem like a good work on the basis that it is a good thing,but does not allow us to gain salvation or eternal life. Only by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus are we saved and have eternal life. Any work we try to perform to make ourselves worthy of God or to obtain eternal live, is dead works. When a person tries to get to Heaven on their works alone, this is dead works. The good works God has prepared for us is so unbelievers become disciples for the expansion of His Kingdom. We don’t go at it alone, the Holy Spirit empowers us do good works.
God uses our lives as works of art hence the Scriptures says were are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Workmanship speaks of God’s work of art— people look at art and admire the artist. When people look at our lives they are supposed to be pointed to God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven. We are God’s message to the world; we are God’s artwork to the world. Feeding the hungry and helping those in need are good things to do, but if not done with the intent of them confessing Christ as Lord and Savior, it can turn out to be a bad thing in that they still go to hell. True good works is going to lead to evangelism and discipleship for the expansion of God’s Kingdom. Always!
Below is an excellent resource written by scholar and theologian Dr. Dana Carson, that expounds on the seven foundational tenets of the faith: