Obstacles to Faith

Misunderstood: The Apostolic Genius of Explaining Good Deeds by Sharing the Gospel

Chip Scivique

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)  Anytime believers engage in good deeds, the goal is always that people would see something of the glory of God and be stirred within to praise Him.  But almost without exception, when believers do good deeds, their motives and source of strength, or the significance of the deeds are misunderstood, and observers do not praise the God of the Bible.  Therefore, when believers serve in the Name of Christ, their good deeds require an explanation that leads people to glorify God.  In most cases, the best way to explain our good deeds is to share the Gospel or some portion of Gospel truth.

For example, in Acts 3, Peter and John heal a man who had been lame from birth.  When people see the man walking, they are amazed.  But they misunderstand the good deed and think that Peter and John have healed the lame man by their own power.  Peter responds, “…why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” (3:12) Then, Peter explains the healing by sharing the Gospel.  The flow of Peter’s explanation is:

  • Jesus Christ is God’s Son and Servant (13);
  • He died unjustly on a cross (14-15) and was raised from the dead (15); and
  • It is faith in the resurrected Jesus that has healed this man (16).
  • Therefore, repent, be forgiven and restored to the Lord (17-21),
  • And look forward to the restoration of all things in Christ Jesus (17-26).

Peter’s explanation climaxes in an awesome invitation: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you …” (3:19).  And Peter ends with an awesome promise that Jesus came not only to redeem humankind, but also to restore all that is broken in the world (3:17-26).

In Acts 14, the same thing happens.  When Paul and Barnabus heal a lame man in Lystra, the crowds misinterpret the event and assume that Paul and Barnabus are gods.  Interpreting the healing through their religious and cultural grid, they think Paul is Hermes and that Barnabus is Zeus - so the priest of Zeus brings oxen and garlands to sacrifice to them!  Paul and Barnabus are understandably alarmed and begin shouting to the crowd that they are not gods but simply men who preach the gospel so that the people of Lystra may turn from the worship of false gods to the living God (14:8-18).

Good deeds are often misinterpreted in our time as well.  While receiving help in rebuilding his home after the tsunami, a Thai villager said to a Cru staff member, “Your god is going to give you a lot of merit.”  Because he naturally interpreted gospel-motivated deeds through his Buddhist worldview, the villager assumed that the motive for helping him was to make merit with the Christian god and build good karma.  This opened a door of opportunity.  The Cru staff member explained that God does not give merit but something better.  The Thai villager was shocked.  What could be better than merit that builds good karma?  Answer: Grace.  A deep conversation about the grace of God in Christ Jesus ensued.

So, when we engage in good deeds of any kind, we need to make clear connections between our deeds and the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus.  The best way to do this is to talk about Jesus and the Gospel of His salvation.  God will then use the Gospel – adorned by our deeds - to open the eyes of the lost to what a glorious Savior Jesus is, and they will glorify the Father who sent Him.

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