INTERSECT: Good Works and the Christian Life: A Look at Titus, Part 1
If the pastor of any Free Will Baptist church quizzed his congregation about Ephesians 2:8-9, what would be the result? For example, let’s say he pulled out one word and had a fill-in-the-blank quiz: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of ________________________ , lest any man should boast.”
Did you get it right? Even if you could not answer it on the spot, most folks within our churches understand, at least intellectually, that works do not save us. While we maintain that good works do not save us, what exactly is the role of good works in the life of a Christian? What is the proper motivation for good works in the local church?
The short letter from Paul to Titus speaks volumes about good works. It is a key theme that surfaces in the book. A cursory glance at the letter reveals the following references to “good works”: Titus is urged to show “thyself a pattern of good works” (2:7). The purpose of Christ’s redemptive work is to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (2:14).
One of the essentials Titus is tasked with reminding people is “to be ready for every good work” (3:1). A healthy reminder is provided in Titus 3:5 that salvation is not based on merit, but grace: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.”
Post-belief action is summarized by careful devotion or maintenance of good works, “they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (3:8). “And let our’s [our people] also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (3:14).
From these references, the following basic expectations emerge for the individual Christian and the local church. We will frame them each of these as “Be” statements:
BE a model of good works.
BE zealous for good works.
BE ready for good works.
BE devoted to good works.
Looking in and Looking Ahead
Space will not allow further exploration of these expectations. In the next issue, however, we will explore these four responsibilities and ask questions to, hopefully, spur us on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). As you contemplate the theme of stewardship in this issue of ONE Magazine, don’t forget the stewardship represented by a life of good works.
While we are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, the saving faith described in the Bible is never alone; it is always accompanied by good works. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
About the Writer: Dr. Barry Raper pastors Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, and directs
the Pastoral Program at Welch College. Learn more about Welch College: www.welch.edu.