The topic that receives some discussion in our circles from time to time is how “Word and deed” ministries come together. On the one hand, we like to take some pride in the way we have a high view of Scripture, crossing our ‘tees’ and dotting our “i’s” carefully when it comes to doctrine and the teaching of God’s word. It’s an important aspect of any ministry. We all wish to be absolutely faithful to God’s word.
On the other hand, however, and without any disrespect intended, I wonder whether we are all that good with our ‘deed’ ministries. It’s not a question about whether ‘word and deed’ should go together, that’s a given. But are we on occasions reluctant in doing good ‘deeds’ lest we are labelled as ‘works’ driven for our salvation rather than ‘Word’ driven, trusting in Christ alone for our salvation?
I was reading the story of Dorcas’ (Tabitha) in Acts 9:36ff again this past week and it struck me that she was a lady known for her “good works and acts of charity”. She wasn’t known as a ‘preacher’ or as a ‘gossip’ or as ‘works’ driven, but as someone who was “full of good works and acts of charity”. It certainly seems from the account in Acts that she was much loved and well respected. When she died, many of the widows who had come to grieve her passing showed the various tunics and other garments that Dorcas had made while she was with them (v39).
I find this story interesting for sometimes we consider Word ministries as something particularly ‘spiritual’ and deed ministries as something less. Sometimes ‘good works and acts of charity’ are labelled as totally horizontal with no spiritual value.
I think that is very unfortunate, for Scripture recognizes both “Word and deed” as spiritual ministries. The Holy Spirit uses both to be a witness to the world we live in. Hence, ministers of the Word are no more special than the ‘Dorcas’ in our midst who have gifts of sowing and helping people with clothes to wear or some other gift.
It’s also worth noting that Dorcas was “full” of good works and acts of charity. So this wasn’t just a Sunday deed or a special event deed where she utilized her gift, but a constant use of her gift. And it is obvious that many widows had been helped by her. Doing good works and acts of charity was a way of life for her.
Jesus himself encouraged His hearers to let our light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mat 5:13). The apostle Paul often speaks about ‘deed’ ministry throughout his letters. In Titus 2:1-10 he speaks much about how we should be a model of good works (v7) so that in everything, they will adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour (v10). Likewise, Peter urges the Christians to keep their conduct honourable – so that they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 1:12).
Perhaps it is time for us to think about the spiritual value and encourage those who are full of good works and acts charity in our midst. We all know that good works and acts of charity can be done at any time, but so often things that can be done at any time tend to be done at no time for everybody expects someone to do it and in the finish no one does.
The Dorcas’ story ends with her being raised from the dead by the apostle Peter. These ‘good works and acts of charity’ along Peter’s work through the power of the Holy Spirit were designed to bring people to faith in Jesus (v42). So let us also encourage one another in good deeds and acts of mercy and may we be full of them. Let us pray that the Lord will use them to bring many to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. JZ
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.