Over the last couple of weeks we've spent time on modesty which is an issue of the heart bent on keeping myself and others Holy. And then we looked at Self-control as the power of the Holy Spirit exhibited in a believer to do the right thing even when you don't' want to. All of this in the context of clothing.
"Women are neither to dress immodestly so as to exploit their feminine charm hindering their brethren from worship, nor are they to overdo their dress provoking their Christian sisters to jealousy."1
So now you know what not to do, but what are you "supposed to do?" Paul has already provided two positives by requesting modesty and self-control. These two will take care of the question, "What not to wear?" It's the third that provides the answer to the question, "Where am I supposed to focus?" or perhaps better stated, "What to wear?"
With that question we're stepping out of the closet and into real life if you will. Keep in mind that the concept of adornment goes beyond putting clothing on but on the broader level indicates getting something in order. So Paul is saying,
"Don't get yourselves ready for church by putting on fancy clothing as if that's the end of it all, get yourselves ready for church by doing good works. THAT, and that only is the proper preparation for a woman who claims to be a Christian."
You see the flow there I think, even though we've spent two weeks on clothing the real issue is whether or not your life actually reflects a life committed to Jesus. Clothing is just a specific symptom of a larger issue. The Christian faith is not about Knowledge it's about believing and in the same way, The Christian walk is not about apparel, it's about action. Real faith is going to effect real life. In other words you're going to have good works if you're faith is authentic.
Look again at what Paul writes there in 1 Timothy 2:8-10 paying special attention to verse 10. The proper way to prepare for worship isn't with fancy duds, but rather with faithful deeds.
Now we know that Good works are not a way to get saved. The Bible says that no one is good enough, in fact everyone is wicked at the core. So when the Bible talks about good works, and it does that a lot, what are good works?
Good Works are Needed Works
Salvation and good deeds come right after each other in Titus Chapter 3. In the fifth verse we read, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…"
Just a few verses down he reminds Titus, "…our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful…" (Titus 3:14 )
I don't know if you ever wonder "what am I supposed to do since I'm a Christian." Here's a good start to that answer: do good works. Notice that the quick and dirty definition of good works is simply meeting "urgent needs." Now ask yourself if you know of any urgent needs. Most of you are probably thinking, "Yeah I've got a couple urgent needs myself."
Good deeds or good works rather, are external rather than internal. So look outside of you and yours and determine where someone has a need that you can fill in the name of Jesus.
Kids need watching, do it. Clothing is needed, provide it. People are lonely, visit them. Lawns need cutting, Volunteer. Someone needs prayer and encouragement, provide it. Someone is struck with emergency bills and they can't meet it, see if you can help them.
Good deeds is a wide open field and I can't even begin to delve into the smallest percentage of the possibilities available. But I don't need to. Open you're eyes to the folks around you at work, at home and in the neighborhood who have a need and ask yourself and God the question, "Is that a need I can fill in the name of Christ?"
If a need comes up, the Christian thing to do is to do something about it. So we come back to our Text in Timothy where Paul is correcting the Ephesian ladies and to them and us he is saying in effect that Good works are what Christians do.
Good Works are Christian Works
Not just in church, but in life let good works be the guiding principle in your behavior so that it's Christ who gets the glory instead of your body or your wardrobe. Just exactly who are we trying to point the world to? The answer to that question should be that we are infatuated with the idea that the world sees Jesus Christ in us. That is really the point of these two verses (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
Notice please that Paul says these are "proper for women making a claim to godliness." "Making a claim to godliness" is a translation of one participle which is translated everywhere else as promising. The idea is that there are women who are promising or rather proclaiming in a public setting that they are followers of Jesus Christ. It is necessary, Paul says that these women be known for being people of good works.
It's not just about show either. All of the Scriptures it becomes evident that saving faith is a working faith. "Good works are the necessary response by the believer to God's grace and mercy and are one of the purposes for which Christ came. Any theology that sees Christ's work merely as a means to salvation, divorcing it from any notion of obedience and behavior, falls short of the theology of the [Pastoral letters]…"2 not to mention the rest of the New Testament.
Christianity is a lot more than a prayer we pray to accept Jesus. Search through the pages of scripture and you'll find a relative few references to that sacred moment of repentance and yet by an order of magnitude you'll find more frequent references are made to the "effect" that believing has on daily life. Paul isn't asking for something unique here. He's saying, "Ladies, if you're going to claim to be a believer saved and sanctified by the blood of Christ Jesus than prove it. The way you prove it is with good works; because good works are what real Christians do."
Good works are Evangelistic Works
I was flipping through the radio dial this week and happened on a station where the guy was reading some poetry, and just as I was reaching for the scan button again the guy signed off his little program with "be well, do good and keep in touch." I wouldn't have thought much about it I suppose if I hadn't been in the mode of thinking already about "doing good works." But it struck me as intriguing that God calls us as Christians to a model of behavior which is standardized on his righteousness and which believers and unbelievers alike recognize as desirable.
What does Jesus say? "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
There is a purpose for the good works that Jesus Calls us too. Over in first Peter there's a similar exhortation: "having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1Pet 2:12).
In brief one of the reasons for us to be "good works people" is so that your passion for serving will ultimately manifest itself in the salvation of people around you. On the other side, don't fall into the trap of thinking that "all I have to do is be a good person and people will get saved." But at the same time we need to recognize that we do need to do Good works because in some way it opens up the path towards salvation for people even when they are hostile to Christianity. Think about it for just a moment, even if people are hostile to Christianity it's still hard to be hostile about a Christian individual who is doing good.
Good Works are God's Works
Eph 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them…"
When you read that, pay attention to the fact that God has prepared good works for you to do. Mine are for me, yours are for you. The reason that God has prepared these good works for you is so that you'll do them. Now, I can't see anywhere in scripture that it's going be like, "Oh you missed the boat, I had you set to do a good work in Bangladesh and you're not even on the right continent!" God has planned for you to do good works right where you are, and if you are going to be obedient to God you're going to see urgent needs, and you're going to meet them if you can. Doing good works is our duty as a Christian.
So let's do a pop quiz. Ready? Here are the questions.
- Are you meeting any needs because of Christ?
- Are you serving in a way that points to Christ?
- Does your life open the channel of communication about Jesus or does it close it?
- Are you keeping your eyes open for the works that God has planned for you?
Here in 1 Timothy, Paul is talking to the ladies in particular saying, "are you more focused on God or on your body?" I really wanted to name this little sub-series, "God Loves Beautiful Women." But he has a different view of beauty than we do. God's definition of an attractive woman, it's not minier skirts but mightier faith. In both the eyes of God and godly men, there is something immensely attractive about godliness which outshines the years and doesn't fade like earthly beauty. Clothe yourselves with Christlike behavior let Good deeds be the chief beautifier in your life.
D. Mounce, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles,
Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 116.