“But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:21)
In Scripture we often see prepositional phrases such as “in Christ” or “in God” or “in the Spirit”. The little Greek word that is usually translated “in” is often made clearer when we properly translate it “in connection with.” In the verse before us we read that for a Christian it becomes “clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” A person’s good works can only be accomplished if they are carried out in connection with God. Our acts of love, our acts of avoiding evil, and even our faith in Jesus as our savior can only be carried out in connection with God.
When the end of the verse says that our works “have been carried out,” this is translated “wrought” in the King James. The Greek is actually the verb for “work,” so our translation can read, “…so that it may be clearly seen that his [a Christian’s] works have been worked in connection with God.” Simply stated, we can only work good works if we are connected to God. So how are we then connected to God?
Because of The Fall, mankind stands totally disconnected from God, and we neither desire to nor are we able to make a connection with God. We will never be able to thank God enough that He reached out to connect us to Himself. God the Father loved the world this way: He sent His only Son; indeed He sent the Son to be the “snake on the pole”, that is, to die on the cross to reconnect us to Himself.
As polluted, darkened sinners we could not stand in God’s presence. The Son of God created THE connection with His Father by willingly bearing our sins in His body on the tree, thus removing the darkness and pollution of our sins. In His resurrection the Son then brings justification to fallen man.
But still we individually are not connected to God. Thus the Holy Spirit (uniquely discussed by Jesus in the initial verses of John 3), comes to us through the Word. Through this Word of Christ (which includes Holy Baptism), the Spirit brings forgiveness and regeneration to the hearts of individuals, bringing individuals to faith in Jesus. We then stand graciously reconnected to God.
However we do not just sit around and twiddle our thumbs. Saint Paul was inspired to write that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them [Ep 2:10].” The Lord Jesus would declare, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples [Jn 15:8].” Those branches (supposed Christians) that do not bear fruit, the Father takes away and burns [15:2ff]. Jesus would also explain of such good works: “…apart from me you can do nothing [15:5].”
Indeed as we have been connected to God by faith in Christ Jesus—a faith also wrought by God—we cannot help but produce good works, even as a branch connected to the Vine (Jesus) will naturally produce fruit. Such good works will especially be performed within our respective vocations as we serve each other and God by being godly spouses, children, parents, citizens, church-members and the like.
The verse we are now considering is expressing this truth. Because God—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—has connected us to himself, we are now empowered to produce good works: …whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been worked in connection with God.