Monday, December 5, 2011

The relationship between saving faith and good works

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
Titus 3:8

The "trustworthy saying" that Paul is referring to is his explanation of the gospel in Titus 3:4-7. The gospel is rooted in God's goodness and lovingkindness towards us. God saved us, and not any of our own actions, so that it is clearly a work of His mercy and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit. It came about all because of the work of Jesus for us so that we are justified by Christ's grace and given an eternal hope. We can put our trust in this truth.

Where the text goes next with the product of saving faith is vital to understand. Believing in Christ is not where faith ends. Saving faith is a living faith. It does something. Paul was so convinced of this that he told Titus to insist on these actions among the believers in Crete. Good works are typical for the church. We believe in God, and that is of inestimable personal value. But we also must devote ourselves to good works. We have to be very deliberate to do good in our world. We must pay attention both to what we believe AND to what we do. That phrasing tells me that if I am not careful, my default setting might be just to be content to believe in Christ and do very little with that faith.

Paul has shown that Christians are a people in whom a very visible lifestyle of good works must live (Titus 1:16; 2:14; 3:1). This command is the final point in that continuing argument that has woven itself throughout the short book of Titus. Faith is borne out in what we do. We bring the gospel message to the world by proclaiming it in WORD and DEED. Paul never expecting that the two concepts be separated.

There are results to such Christian living. The words used here to describe it indicate that good works flow from saving faith and that spiritual reality is both excellent and profitable. They are seen by society as good and are helpful to the world at large. At Christmas time the media will occasionally tell such a story. And the reality is that the Christian commitment to good works ought to ALWAYS impact the world. If the saving life in Christ truly changes us, we ought to in obedience to God, be changing our world in many excellent, profitable, and God-glorifying ways!

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