Do Our Good Works Really Matter?


In his book, Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright writes at length about the meaning of the future resurrection and it’s relationship to the present life here on earth. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants a clearer Biblical understanding about the Christian relationship and responsibility to this world and how it relates to God’s purposes and eternity.

In the following passage from the book, Wright is commenting on I Corinthians 15:58:

Paul, we remind ourselves, has just written the longest and densest chapter in any of his letters, discussing the future resurrection of the body in great and complex detail. How might we expect him to finish such a chapter? By saying, “Therefore, since you have such a great hope, sit back and relax because you know God’s got a great future in store for you”? No. Instead, he says, “Therefore, my beloved ones, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”

“What does he mean? How does believing in the future resurrection lead to getting on with work in the present? Quite straightforwardly. The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throughout the letter, is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. And if this applies to ethics, as in I Corinthians 6, it certainly also applies to the various vocations to which God’s people are called.

What you do in the present–by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbour as yourself–will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it, “Until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away”). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

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