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Works of God

WORKS OF GOD. “The works of God” or “...of Jesus” is a common phrase in the Bible denoting both the things made by Him and also the acts done by Him. Words particularly used in this connection are ἔργον, G2240, “work”; μεγαλει̂α, “mighty acts”; μεγάλα, “great things”; ποίημα, G4473, “workmanship”; and ἐνέργεια, G1918, “working.”

The OT

The divine works.

Creation.

With its strong doctrine of creation the Bible naturally uses ergon to describe the totality of God’s creative work. It does this in an active sense for the actual work of God, e.g. Genesis 2:2f. It also uses the term in a passive sense for the thing made (cf. Ps 8:6). The active and passive merge into one another; God’s work of creating has resulted in the work of creation.

The passive is more common and much clearer in the pl. with reference to the individual phenomena of nature. The heavens are the works of God’s fingers (Ps 8:3). All creatures are works of His hands. This is esp. true of men; with this plea they seek the divine protection and mercy (138:8, et al.). Believers, or the descendants of Jacob, are specifically described as the works of God’s hands (90:16 LXX; Isa 29:23). God’s historical works are also in their own way creative.

History.

The OT speaks also of God’s acts in history. These are in the first instance acts of deliverance. The events of the Exodus are the basic works of God for Israel. These works are often miracles; i.e. mighty acts transcending the normal course of history. Nor do the works cease with the entry into Canaan. The basic acts of redemption are a constant guarantee of new works of God. One finds these in, e.g., the deliverance from the Assyrians or the restoration from exile.

If God’s works are predominantly works of deliverance, they have a reverse side. The deliverance of the Israelites at the Red Sea meant the overthrow of the Egyptians. The people delivered by the judges were also delivered up to their enemies when they sinned. The prophets in particular proclaim works of judgment on a rebellious and obdurate people (Isa 28:21). The individual knows the works of God (cf. the Pss). God’s works have also an eschatological dimension (cf. Isa 60:21).

The human response.

Meditation.

God’s works demand responsive action on the part of man. First, man is to consider these works. Various words are used in this regard. He is not to forget the great things that God has done (Ps 77:11), but he is to meditate upon them (77:12). This will give him assurance in the day of trouble.

Thanksgiving and praise.


Proclamation.

Finally, man is to declare God’s mighty works. He teaches them to his children (Ps 78:4). He also sets them forth to others. Making known to the sons of men the mighty acts of God is the basic task which gives unity to the whole life of ministry and worship (145:12).

The NT

Creation.

What the NT has to say about God’s works is essentially the same as that which is found in the OT. The new thing is that the works now bear a common reference to Jesus Christ. It is by Him that they are done. The works of God are thus in a very real sense the works of Jesus. God the Father works in and through the Son.

This may be seen already in creation. All things were created by Christ (Col 1:16). God made the worlds by Him (Heb 1:2). Hence, the works of creation are His works. John brings this out more explicitly when he says that all things were made through the Logos; “without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).

Salvation.

Acts.

The main emphasis in the NT, however, is on the saving works of God performed in Jesus Christ. Rather oddly, there is little reference to these in the synoptists, who simply record the works with their culmination in the crucifixion and resurrection. The acts are their own witnesses. Only in relation to the Baptist’s question is there mention of the works of Christ (Matt 11:2).

In the primitive preaching of Acts, however, the picture changes. Empowered by the Spirit, the apostles declare the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11). Jesus is approved of God by the miracles, wonders, and signs which God has done by Him (2:22). Wonders will still be done in His name (4:30). If healing is a work of God, so, too, is the missionary activity for which Barnabas and Saul are separated (13:2). Jesus continues to do mighty works through the Spirit.

John.


Paul.

Paul, too, emphasizes the work of God. Unlike John, however, he is primarily concerned with this work as the present ministry of the word. The Corinthians are his work in the Lord (1 Cor 9:1). The work of God is edification (Rom 15:2). All Christians take part in this (1 Cor 15:58). Yet there is no real synergism, for God begins and performs the work in them (Phil 1:6). In the last resort, the Christians who work are themselves God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10). The work of Christians is still the work of God and redounds to His glory and praise.

Bibliography

G. E. Wright, God Who Acts (1952); G. Bertram, TDNT, II (ET, 1964), 635-643.