“For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand in order that we might walk in them.”
To clarify, then, the believer is a redeemed creation of God — God’s handiwork — and is thus at God’s disposal in terms of what he or she will become and should do. The “what to do,” Paul states, is that we are created for good works. But, what are good works? Or, to put it another way, what makes our works “good”?
As we might expect, the Heidelberg Catechism gives us a definition of what constitutes “good works.” Question 62 asks “But why can’t our good sporks be either all of or part of our righteousness before God?” In other words, is it possible that our works can be part of our salvation? The answer, of course is, “Absolutely not!” Our works are defiled by sin. Heidelberg answers the question in this manner:
“Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God must be totally perfect and entirely conformable to the divine law. In contrast, even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled by sin.”
How does this question assist us with the proposition that Paul is making here, that we have been created for good works? To begin with, it gives us the definition of what constitutes a good work. It must be “perfect and conformable to the divine law.” Perfection is a reference to being free from sin and the divine law is the law of God.
To anticipate the objection…”How can we be ‘created for good works’ when ‘none but God is good’?” Indeed, this is why Paul points out that the good works have been prepared by God that we might walk in them. Paul is not saying that the believer does truly good works in his own strength or power. Yet, in grace, God prepares good works for us to do, places us in a position to do those good works, and then brings about the good work by His own hand through us, graciously permitting us to participate in the process. We are like the child sitting on his father’s lap behind the steering wheel of a car and being allowed to touch the steering wheel. The father is doing the driving but we get to participate.
So, as we strive to grow in our faith, seeking out those good works which God has created us to walk in, what should govern our path? The simple answer is that the law of God should govern us. How do we know what work is good? We must examine the law and live by it. How rarely Christians do that, though. True, we are not saved by the Law, but that does not mean that the Law is invalid. It simply means that another has taken our place in the dock and will be judged by the Law as we deserve to be judged. Yet, as we seek to live out a life that is grateful to God for his good gift to us, our response ought to be to live according to the Law. And note…we don’t get to pick and choose, God gives us the Law as a whole and we ought to strive to obey it as a whole…part of which is keeping the Sabbath Day (as a whole day!), which has been almost uniformly ignored in the American church.
Christian, if you wish to live out those good works that God has prepared for you, start by practicing the Sabbath day as God designed the day to be practiced. Make it a day of rest and wholly seeking after God, not as an additional day of the weekend. See what God does with you from there.