Real Christianity is about good works; that being works driven from a genuine ‘justified’ faith, or good faith as foundational for the works of love.
Now good works, according to The Good Works Reader by Thomas C. Oden--a cast over the early Church Fathers--can be defined according to seven motifs: provision, relief, inclusion, forbearance, growth, stewardship, and grace.
The opposites to these seven motifs of good works are, of course, the great sins of injustice viz, poverty, suffering, exclusion, coercion, neglect, loss of value, and works-righteousness.
According to the Reader, “All good works stem from justification by grace alone through faith alone,” and this is shown by the Fathers, well before Luther and Calvin and the Reformation period.
In fact, the Reader beckons us back even further to the Incarnation. For what fuller picture of good works could anyone ever get other than Christ himself?
He showed himself to be ‘the Bread of Life’ (John 6:35), ‘the Easy Yoke with a Light Burden’ (Matthew 11:30), the inclusive friend to outsiders in Luke, the gracious suffering servant (as prophesied in Isaiah 52-53 etc) during his final 24 hours, the lord who beckons, ‘follow me,’ the protector or his Father’s house (John 2:16), and finally, he showed himself disgusted by one type of person only; the legalistic Pharisaic person--the typical hypocritical religious leader of his time.
There are two errors of Christianity that sit either side of good ‘justified’ works: works without faith; and faith without works of love.
Wherever we go in our journey with God, we’ll always be skating between these two lines; and sitting on the knife-edge of the ‘good works’ of faith brings the inevitable swinging of the pendulum back and forth between works without sufficient faith i.e. works done from fear or the wrong reason, and ‘cheap grace’ i.e. faith without works.
And at last we reach the real purpose of the faith. Good Works with Justification (with the latter uppermost propelling faith irresistibly toward the works). Good works, done from justification by grace alone through faith alone, show real unadulterated, faith-filled love in all its glory--the love of Jesus Christ, our eternal Lord.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Reference: Thomas C. Oden, The Good Works Reader (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), pp. 356-7.