Thursday, 28 June 2018
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. Titus 3:8
Paul begins this verse with, “This is a faithful saying.” It is referring to what he has just stated in verses 4-7 concerning what God has done through Jesus Christ for believers. Understanding this, Paul then takes that thought and shows what our obligation is because of God’s grace and mercy towards us.
With this understanding, he continues with, “and these things I want you to affirm constantly.” The question then arises, “What things?” Is it something he has already said, or is it what he will say? The answer is “both.” Paul desires that what he will say next is something that those in Christ will stand fast on continuously, and practice constantly. It is certain that his words are directed towards believers, because he then says, “that those who have believed in God should be careful.”
Believing in God is something that people all over the world do, whether it is the true God or not. Paul, however, is referring to “God our Savior” noted in verse 4. He isn’t simply referring to “God” in a general sense, but to the One true God. The words of verses 4-7 apply to “God” as Paul intends, and thus it is the God revealed in Christianity that he is speaking of. With that understanding, he continues by saying “that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.”
People speak of “good works” all the time. Ten thousand commentaries speak of “works” as proof of salvation – “No works; not saved.” That is rather shallow concerning a gift which is “not of works.” If works are required to prove salvation, then the salvation was not actually “by grace through faith.” So the question then becomes, “What works?” If we are instructed to pursue good works by Paul here, then what is he speaking of?
The answer is that any work accomplished in faith is a “good work.” Any work not done in faith is not a good work. Something as simple as speaking to God is an action which is in faith, and it is a good work. Giving money to the church, if not done in faith, is not a good work. There is no such thing as works proving salvation. Rather, works done in faith demonstrate salvation, but they are not something that either “proves” or “guarantees” it. And so that leads to completing Paul’s thoughts in this verse.
He is referring to maintaining good works because, “These things are good and profitable to men.” Q: What things though? A: It is the things he said in verses 1 & 2 –
A person of faith will hopefully live in faith, demonstrating his faith in his conduct. This is not the default position though, and it is the reason why we read the Bible, study what Paul exhorts for us to do, and then apply it to our lives. To not do these things in no way indicates a person is not saved. Man is not the arbiter of who is and who is not saved. God is. However, we can say, “That person is not living out his life in accord with Scripture.” From there, it is our job to call the person to account for his inappropriate behavior, and to be willing to correct him in what is proper.
In the coming verses, Paul will show what inappropriate behavior is, contrasting it with what he said in verses 1 & 2. He will also then give a corrective action which faithful believers are to carry out when improper conduct continues to be exhibited.
Life application: As noted here, it is as common as sunny days in Florida for people to write commentaries about how works prove salvation. But they stop there, failing to explain what this means. Probably one reason for this is because they haven’t thought the issue through to a logical conclusion. But a second reason is surely that by saying, “Works prove salvation,” the commentator can then judge others for failing to do whatever good works he decides are necessary to meet his own agenda – giving money for a certain cause, cleaning the church bathrooms, or whatever. When a person doesn’t do as he wishes, he can then hold their salvation up like a carrot that must be grabbed for by fulfilling his own wishes. Let us not get caught in this trap. When someone says, “Works prove salvation,” then ask him, “What works?.” If he says anything other than “Works done in faith and as outlined in Scripture,” then tell him to take a hike.
Lord God, being obedient to Your word is not that difficult if we just keep what we are supposed to do in context. We live in the dispensation of Grace, and so we can simply turn to the letters of Paul, and there we can find our doctrine for this age. It is neither complicated, nor is it burdensome. Help us to rightly apply Scripture to our lives, and help us to live in faith, and to demonstrate that life of faith in works of faith which are pleasing to You. Amen.