"Every Good Work" - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Biblical Wisdom The College
August 6, 2021

"Every Good Work"

by Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, Chancellor/CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), The John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS, author, co-author, editor or contributor to over 35 books, including "Does God Care How We Worship?"

(Commencement Address, Geneva College, May 10, 2021, Abridged & Edited)

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Today, I simply want to give you encouragement, because you are graduating into an uncertain time and into a polarized world that could be a little bit scary and a little bit intimidating. I want to give you a word of encouragement as you graduate and step into the world to serve, perhaps to go on to do further education, perhaps to immediately enter into a field of vocation, and perhaps alongside of that, to make a marriage and a family, or whatever the Lord’s calling may be to you.

It boils down to this: Be who God created you to be; and do what God created you to do.

I am reminded of that great Reformed theologian, Gandalf, who once said, to Frodo, who was lamenting the time into which he had been born, “All we have to do is to decide what to do with the time that has been given us.” So, what are you to do? You have labored for a number of years to obtain this degree, and it is indeed a day of celebration. You have invested yourself in not only a liberal arts education, but in a liberal arts education that is grounded in scripture and in the Reformed faith. I was reading last night, the philosophy of education of Geneva College, and it was a real encouragement to me. I love seeing your core principles. I can tell it is woven into the fabric of an education at Geneva College.

A particular phrase has arrested my attention recently, as I have looked at the writing of the Apostle Paul. It is the little phrase “every good work.” You will know that when Paul uses the phrase, “works of the law,” he is usually criticizing someone or making a negative statement, but whenever he uses the phrase, every good work, he is commending something to Christians. I want to commend you to every good work.

In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Notice that Paul talks about what we were created for.

Now I want to take you to 2 Corinthians 9:8, where we read this, “God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good work.”

Then finally in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, the Apostle Paul says, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them. And that from childhood, you have known the sacred writings, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate or equipped for every good work.” Amen.

God has created you for every good work; God will give you grace for every good work; and the scriptures will equip you for every good work. That is what I want to think about with you for just a few moments this morning.

First, in Ephesians 2 Paul says that we are not saved by our good works, we are saved to good works. This is, of course, a great Protestant reformational principle: we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but we are saved to good works. In fact, the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “We were created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

We, like Abraham, are called out of the earth to be a blessing, to reflect God’s image, and to do every good work we are created for. That is not a burden; it is a blessing.

I love your core principles here at Geneva, and one of them is to engage the culture faithfully. Well, how do you faithfully engage a culture that increasingly views you as hateful simply because you believe things the Bible teaches? You engage that culture by being what God created you to be—His image—and doing every good work, whether the world loves you back or not.

If you hope only to be affirmed by the world when you do every good work, you will either become discouraged or you will sell out. Very often, you can love self sacrificially and that love can be rejected by the world. But if you know that God loves you, and God has created you for every good work, and God is equipping you by His grace for every work, then you know that the affirmation that you need comes from God, and you don’t need the affirmation of the world.

One of the things we are going to have to do in the Christian future is love a world that hates us and love them anyway. Knowing that God has loved us in Christ Jesus and saved us in Christ Jesus, we keep loving

in spite of the world’s rejection and opposition. It is one of the great things that is needed in our time. We need to stand firm in the truth, yes. We need to believe the things that the Bible says, yes, but we need to love selflessly, and in a self-giving way, even though the world rejects us. When you do that, you will be doing every good work. It’ll look all sorts of different ways. Some of you will be doing every good work in vocation. Some of you will be doing every good work in vocation and in family life. No matter what your call, God gives you the grace to serve Him in every arena and to do every good work.

We are facing many confusing challenges in our country, in our culture and in our world. Today, we think of the societal polarization and challenges that we are facing. The scriptures give us answers on how we are to conduct ourselves in those areas. They not only reveal to us the way of salvation, which is in Jesus Christ, they equip us for every good work. The Bible gives us answers and direction, and even more, it tells us why we do what we do, how to do what we do and to what end that we do it.

My encouragement to you this morning is that you will remember what you were created for: you were created to bear God’s image and to reflect that image in doing every good work. God’s grace will enable you to do it and you will be guided by the scriptures. Remember that because it will be hard sometimes to do every good work. God bless you as you serve the Lord in every arena of life.

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