How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Ephesians 9: 14)
Normally we think of dead works as being another term for sins. Certainly this is true, for such works result in spiritual death. Furthermore, they are works which are performed by spiritually dead persons (Ephesians 2: 1, 2).
It is possible, however, that works which are good in themselves may actually be regarded by God as dead works. God of course requires good works of all His people (Galatians 6: 10). These good works are an expression of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5: 22, 23). But good works which are improperly motivated are not acceptable to God. Our good works can never be the basis for God’s acceptance into His family, for it is ”not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3: 5). When we rely upon our good works to gain acceptance before God, then these works of righteousness are regarded by Him as filthy rags.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time serve as an excellent example of men who are guilty of such dead works. In the familiar story of the Pharisee and the publican, the Pharisee prided himself in the fact that he fasted regularly twice a week and that he was faithful in paying tithes. These were commendable works in themselves, but the Pharisee found himself rejected by God because they were not done out of love but out of a feeling of superiority and piety which would put the publican to shame (Luke 18: 9-14).
The Pharisees not only thought to win the favor of God by their good works, but they also thought they would thereby win the favor of men. They made a public display of their almsgiving, their praying and their fasting (Matt. 6: 1-18).
Why we perform certain good works is more important in the sight of God than what good works we perform. True Christianity is based on the inner motivation of the heart.