The Good Works of God’s People

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” —Titus 2:13,14

THE Scriptures clearly reveal that while the followers of the Master are justified by their faith in the redeeming blood of Christ, this faith must be demonstrated by zealous participation in the good works of the Lord which he has outlined in the Bible for his people of the Gospel Age. These works of self-sacrifice are on behalf of others. Paul sums them up beautifully, saying, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”—Gal. 6:10

The Lord’s “peculiar people” have the wonderful example of Jesus as an inspiration to faithfulness in laying down their lives in the divine cause. The Scriptures inform us that Jesus went about doing good by preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and illustrating the blessings of the kingdom by the many miracles which he performed. A prophecy concerning Jesus, which is quoted in John 2:17, reads, “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.”—Ps. 69:8,9

It was because of Jesus’ zeal in the service of his Heavenly Father that he became a hated alien and stranger to the people of his own nation, even to his own family. It was his consuming zeal as the great Lightbearer that finally led to his death on Calvary’s cross. Our zeal as the followers of the Master will also lead to persecution, and to being ostracized by the world. Even in this day of liberalism and tolerance the true follower of Jesus will find himself more or less alienated from the world because his aims and viewpoints are out of harmony with those of the world.

The Apostle Peter wrote, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Pet. 2:9) The Revised Standard Version, instead of saying that we should “show forth the praises” of the Lord, reads, “that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him.” Certainly if we declare the wonderful deeds of the Lord—his great plan of the ages—we will be showing forth his praises.

“A Chosen Generation”

In this wonderful text the Apostle Peter first of all says that the Lord’s people of the Gospel Age are a “chosen generation.” In chapter 1, verse 2 he explains that we became God’s chosen, or elect, people “through sanctification of the Spirit.” The sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit is in reality the power of the inspired Word in our lives, even as Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth.”—John 17:17

The “sanctification of the Spirit” is a setting apart to do the holy will of our Heavenly Father. It meant this for Jesus, and it led to his sacrificial death. If the Holy Spirit is truly working in our lives it will likewise lead us in the way of sacrifice, and if we continue faithful this also will lead us into death. It means that we will be planted together in the likeness of Jesus’ death. It means that even as it was with Jesus, we also will go about doing good, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and assuring the people that in God’s due time there shall be no more pain, no more death, and that all tears will be wiped away.

“A Royal Priesthood”

In ancient Israel the priests were God’s representatives in their work of blessing the people. One of their important functions was the offering of sacrifice. Jesus is our great High Priest, and as underpriests we also have the privilege of offering sacrifice. We do not offer bulls and goats and other animals as the priests of Israel did. Instead, we offer ourselves. Peter wrote, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up … sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”—I Pet. 2:5

Paul confirms this statement by Peter, saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) Paul also wrote, “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”—Heb. 3:1

The sacrificial work of the Gospel-Age priests is holy, not because of the priests themselves, according to the flesh, are perfect, but because their sacrifices have been made holy by the blood of Christ. This is why the works of these peculiar people are described as being “good.” If we are faithfully following Jesus we will be consumed entirely by these good works. As we have noted, our sacrifices are not of animals, but of ourselves. They are sacrifices which are manifested in doing good unto all men, and especially to the household of faith.

These good works of sacrifice are chiefly in making known the glad tidings of the kingdom, although no faithful Christian will turn aside from rendering temporal aid to a brother in Christ when he sees that a real need exists. Concerning the work of proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, the Daily Manna comment for April 30 is to the point. It reads:

“The very object of being called into the light is that we may let it shine. If we do not let it shine we are unworthy of it, and the treasure will be taken away and we will be left in darkness. If indeed we have received the light and have consecrated ourselves fully to God, let us ask ourselves, What am I doing to show forth the praises of him who hath called me out of darkness? Am I going forth with these tidings to my neighbors near and far? Can I truly affirm that I am:

“All for Jesus, all for Jesus—
   All my being’s ransomed powers;
All my thoughts, and words, and doings,
   All my days and all my hours”?

“An Holy Nation”

Peter also says that we are a “holy nation,” or holy people. Basic to all the qualities of the followers of the Master is their holiness. As we have seen, they are holy because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and have their fleshly imperfections covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness. God told the Israelites that if they obeyed his Law they would be a “holy nation” unto him. We quote: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

This language is similar to that used by Peter concerning the royal priesthood and holy nation of the Gospel Age. The vast majority of the ancient Israelites failed to inherit the wonderful promise made to them because they were not faithful to the Lord and to his Law, and this serves as a warning to us of the Gospel Age of the vital importance of being faithful to the terms of our calling, for the promises made to us are even more far-reaching in that they include the hope of the divine nature. They are “exceeding great and precious promises.”—II Pet. 1:4

Jesus said of the holy nation, or people, of which we are a part, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”—Matt. 5:14-16

“A Peculiar People”

While our good works are done on behalf of others, primarily they are to glorify the Lord. Peter suggests this in his statement that we are “peculiar people; that … [we] should show forth the praises of him who hath called … [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (I Pet. 2:9) When the King James Version of the Bible was translated the word “peculiar” did not have the connotation often given to it today; namely, to be odd.

In our text (Titus 2:14) the word “peculiar” is translated from a Greek word meaning “special.” We are a special people, a people zealous of good works. Not many throughout the centuries since the creation and fall have been zealous for good works. Selfishness has dominated most of the world’s activities, so the fact that the Lord’s people are zealous for good works in itself makes them a very special people. However, they are special in that they have been called by God and invited to be partners with him and with his beloved Son in the outworking of his great plan of salvation.

In Peter’s statement that we are a peculiar people he uses a Greek word which means “purchased.” They are purchased at a very high price, even the precious blood of Christ, and this makes them a very special people indeed—a people set apart by God to be the light of the world, to be witnesses for Jesus and for the Word of God; and later, when the kingdom is established, to be associated with Jesus as priests and kings for the blessing of all the families of the earth. “Happy Zion, what a favored lot is thine.”

The King James Version reads that we are a peculiar, or purchased people, to “show forth the praises of him who hath called … [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The marginal translation uses the word “virtues” rather than “praises.” How marvelous are the virtues of our Heavenly Father! There are his cardinal attributes, Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Power, and all the other truly praiseworthy virtues which are associated with these.

And how can we show forth these virtues of our just and loving God? Simply by making known the harmony and beauty of his glorious plan of salvation. We can proclaim his mighty and loving works—not only those already accomplished, but those also which he reveals to us as being his future accomplishments, even the resurrection of the dead, and the giving to all mankind the opportunity, through Jesus, to obey and live.

We can also testify concerning God’s virtues in the marvelous manner in which, through the power of his Holy Spirit, he is dealing with us—how he guides, corrects, and strengthens us in our every time of need. What a privilege to tell of his loving-kindness which is shed abroad in our lives. Truly our God is a great God, and the high-sounding praises of his virtues should be upon our lips at all times.

One of the great facts of God’s loving-kindness toward us is that he has called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light.” How dark is the darkness in the world today, and how few there are who have been favored with the light of truth—the truth concerning God’s plan. We are enjoying this light of truth, not because of our own intelligence or wisdom, but because the Lord has called us to himself, through Jesus, and has opened the eyes and ears of our understanding so that we might know the mysteries of God.

To grasp the reality of this is to be filled with consuming zeal to participate as fully as possible in those “good works” of which all the people of God are truly zealous. No sacrifice will be too great, no labor too tiring, as we press on in the doing of these “good works” of the Lord. And how wonderful it is to realize that while at present the world shows little or no appreciation of the message, the time will come when a knowledge of his glory will fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9

Our Own Salvation

Another aspect of our work for which we should also be zealous is mentioned by Paul in Philippians 2:12,13. We quote: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” We are to “do good unto all men,” “especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” (Gal. 6:10) and besides, our being co-workers together with the Lord involves working out our own salvation.

How do we work out our own salvation? It is by obedience to the Word of God, zealously applying all its instruction as guides in our consecrated lives. Working out our own salvation does not mean a lessening of our zeal and activity as witnesses for Jesus and for the Word of God. We do not need to take time off from doing good unto all men in order to “work on” ourselves.” There is no time when the truth and its spirit exerts a more powerful influence in our lives than when we are using it faithfully in our efforts to bless others.

Working out our own salvation is simply a matter of applying the great precepts of the truth which we witness to others to our own hearts and lives. Laying down our lives in the ministry of the truth is God’s principal way of preparing us for the “great salvation,” and of proving our worthiness of it. This does not imply the necessity always of explaining the truth personally to others. We may well be participating in this united service of the Lord’s people through our faithfulness and zeal in caring for the needs of the home and family. We should do all things to the glory of the Lord, and when we do we are working out our own salvation.

Paul explains that as we work out our own salvation, God works in us “to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) Every aspect of our relationship with God and his service would be a failure but for his grace and help in every time of need. We should be laying down our lives for one another, and we should be faithfully bearing witness to the truth, but all our efforts would lead but to failure were it not for the fact that it was the Lord who began the good work in us, and who gives us the assurance that he will continue to work in us.

How wonderful it is to know that none of God’s promises fail! Because we know that this is true we can forge ahead in the doing of his will, knowing that he will guide us by his Spirit, and by his Spirit strengthen us for every task his will outlines for us. May the hope of glory at the end of the way stimulate us to greater faithfulness, as zealously we pursue that to which we have been called.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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