The women of SBC studied Titus in the fall of 2018.
The study of Titus helped clarify good works within our gospel of grace. This was an important exercise, because to misunderstand its place is to fall prey to any number of serious errors. To elevate good works prior to salvation is to leave people lost in their sin, mistakenly believing that they can work to gain right standing with God. To elevate good works after salvation in an effort to be “more good”, tightens the strangle hold of legalism.
Yet to neglect the importance of good works after salvation leads a Christian into a lifestyle of license, rendering them spiritually useless, or worse, destructive to the cause of Christ. Grace and good works, far from being conflicting or unrelated concepts, are beautifully integrated components in the ambassadorial role Christians play in God’s ongoing work of redemption.
In the introduction to his brief letter to Titus, who was ministering on the island of Crete, the Apostle Paul identifies key themes that can be traced throughout the letter:
- Good works are essential in the life of a professing Christian
- Good works are inseparable from and dependent upon good doctrine
- Our future hope is what motivates our present godliness.
In chapter one, Paul’s instruction on godly living is directed to the Elders who are God’s plan for church leadership and protection, and who Titus was to install in every town. As follows each body of practical instruction in each chapter of Titus, Paul proceeds to provide the rationale for the instruction. In this case, the lifestyle of detestable, unqualified, and self-appointed leaders was upsetting entire families and contradicting God’s commands and character in the public square. At the close of this chapter, though negatively phrased and positively terrifying for those who desire to honour God, a first reason why good works matter in the life of a Christian can be extracted. When Christians live a post-salvation life devoted to good works:
- We won’t deny God by our lifestyle. (1:16)
In chapter two, Paul expands his instruction on godly living to encompass the various groups that make up the Church. Each group was to be instructed in a personal lifestyle that was consistent with sound doctrine. That instruction contained an important division of labour in the church that is so often neglected, it requires mention in this summary. While it was the Elders who were made responsible for the instruction in sound doctrine and practice for the older men, the younger men and the older women, it was the older women who were charged with instructing the younger women. Sprinkled throughout this practical passage and in the striking and comprehensive gospel rationale that follows it, many more reasons why good works matter in the life of a Christian are provided, either explicitly or implicitly:
- It protects God’s word from being reviled. (2:5)
- It silences spiritual opponents. (2:8)
- It adorns the gospel. (2:10)
- God’s epic and inclusive recue warrant it. (2:11)
- God’s grace enables it. (2:12)
- The future pay-off is worth it. (2:13)
- Jesus Christ wants it. (2:14)
In chapter three, Paul further broadens his instruction by telling Titus to teach a corporate church lifestyle that blesses the culture. While the first two chapters describe what the Culture should observe in a Christian’s life, Chapter 3 describes what the Culture should experience at a Christian’s hands.
After that practical instruction, Paul provides another reason good works matter in the life of a Christian:
- It provides hope of recue and change. (3:3-7)
By painting a beautiful picture of gospel transformation and reminding Christians that their good works could never merit their salvation, Paul cultivates a “Before and After” mentality toward the culture which promotes compassion, instead of perpetuating an “Us vs. Them” mentality which breeds condescension.
And finally, the latter part of chapter 3 presents readers with a final reason that good works matter in the life of a Christian:
- It is good for us. (3:8-14)
Instead of investing time in discussions and squabbles that are unprofitable and worthless, and instead of being unfruitful or unproductive in meeting needs, a devotion to a post-salvation life of good works is simply good for people – for those who are the recipients of the initial work, for those who witness the work, for those that render the work and for those who may ultimately come to a point of saving faith because they have come face to face with the grace to which those otherwise impossible good works, have to be attributed.
The message of Titus reminds readers that while good works are never prerequisites to salvation, they should most certainly be products of our salvation and promoters of the salvation of others. When a person receives and rightly understands God’s grace, it creates an overwhelming response of gratitude, hearty enough to fuel a lifetime of good works which points to the glory of God, ultimately bringing people face to face with the same saving grace that has rescued us.
This course was taught by Janet Surette