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Paul’s letter to Titus shares many similarities to Paul’s letters to Timothy.
All three are known as the Pastoral Epistles.
All three are letters of advice to young pastors.
All three are calls to defend and proclaim the apostolic faith by teaching sound doctrine and sound behavior.
It is in this last area that Titus has a unique place in the New Testament, for to an even greater decree than the letters to Timothy, it is a call to sound behavior.
In just three short chapters, the Greek word for “work” or “deed” is used eight times.
However, it is not just the frequency of this word, but where it is found in the letter that make it such a prominent theme in Titus.
It is a key word because it is found in all the key locations in Paul’s letter to Titus.
For example, in his warning about false teachers Paul sums up his description of them with these words:
Notice that in just one verse, Paul uses the word “work” twice!
The absence of good works, he says, exposes false professions of faith and by implication, false teachers.
In addition, the lack of true saving faith makes a person totally incapable of any good work!
This is not a teaching that is unique to Paul.
The other apostle’s taught this as well and this should not surprise us because this is what Jesus taught.
In other words...
A Profession of Faith is Not Necessarily True Faith
This is found in the opening words of Titus 1:16 in these words, “They profess to know God...”.
Even today many profess a faith in Jesus and even more in some kind of supreme being they call “god,” but the profession of faith is not the same thing as true saving faith.
As I said earlier Paul was not the only apostle to teach this.
Jesus’ brother James wrote this:
True, saving faith necessarily produces the fruit of good works.
In the verses proceeding the famous quote by Jesus in Matthew 7:21 that we looked at moments ago, Jesus said this:
In other words...
True Faith Works
This truth is reflected in Titus 1:16 in these words, “…but they deny him by their works.”
Just as the lack of good fruit and the presence of bad fruit are a sign of a diseased tree, so the lack of good works and the presence of bad works is a sign of a diseased person.
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it may come as a surprise to some of you that all the Reformers insisted on the necessity of good works.
Now to be clear, all of them insisted, contrary to opponents in the Roman church, that faith, not works, is the necessary basis of our salvation.
Martin Luther famously wrote:
“Works indeed are good, and God strictly requires them of us, but they do not make us holy.”
The great truth that the Luther rediscovered was the righteousness that comes by faith.
He discovered this truth as he was teaching from the book of Romans.
For there he read:
Consequently, he would defiantly answer his opponents:
“Do we work nothing for the obtaining of this righteousness?
I answer: Nothing at all.”
In this they were merely reflecting the teaching of the Bible.
In a verse we will be examining in greater detail in a few weeks, Paul writes this:
The Reformers were insistent that good works are not the necessary cause of justification, however, they were just as insistent that good works are the necessary fruit of justification.
A few generations after the Reformation, George Whitefield, a true son of the Reformation, would put it this way:
“Good works have their proper place: they justify our faith, though not our persons; they follow it, and evidence our justification in the sight of men.”
I find George Whitefield’s statement very helpful—we are justified by faith and our faith is justified by our works.
Now if you take this statement in the wrong way it can appear that what the gospel gives with one hand, it takes away with the other.
Someone might ask, “What good is it if I am saved through faith alone, if I must produce good works to have saving faith?”
This would be a problem and a contradiction if the good works faith produces come from human effort and desire, but that is not at all what the Bible says or the Reformers taught.
For both Scripture and the Reformers teach:
Good Works are the Product of True Faith
We can see this in the closing words of Titus 1:16, “They are…unfit for any good work.”
Good works require a “fitness” in the person who produces them.
We don’t become “fit” by doing good works, rather we must be “fit” in order to produce them in the first place!
Let’s look again at that verse from Titus 3:15 I quoted earlier:
Perhaps you didn’t notice it the first time we looked at this verse together this morning, but now I am sure you see it: “he saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
Salvation does not just include a forgiveness of sins and a crediting of Christ’s righteousness to us in order that we can stand justified before a holy God, but it also includes an internal “regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Now we will be examining in more detail how the Holy Spirit does this through the gospel when we come to chapters 2 and 3 of Titus, however I am concerned that some of you might misapply this doctrine in a way that would undermine your assurance of salvation.
So you will not do this, turn with me to Titus 2:11-12:
Notice that the grace of God trains us to renounce bad works and put on good works.
Training is a process, it is not instantaneous.
In fact, it is a training that all of Christ’s people will be actively engaged in until this present age comes to an end.
In the next two verse Paul continues:
I find it helpful to think about the Christian life like the stock market.
You can’t focus on the short term ups and downs, but on the long term trends.
Looking at the stock market in the long term clearly demonstrates that it goes up.
The Christian life is like this—in the short term we may have our ups and downs, but when you look at the long term trend you discover that the Holy Spirit is indeed transforming you to become more like Jesus.
Some of you this morning are in the midst of a spiritual bear market.
All this talk about the necessity of good works is making you uncomfortable.
That is not all bad.
When we are in sin we need to repent.
Repentance is like an investor making adjustments to his or her portfolio.
Perhaps in a very real sense you are investing your life in the wrong things.
The apostle John spoke of this when he wrote:
Talk about bad investments!
Repentance is selling your shares of “worldliness” and investing in “godliness”!
Getting back Titus, it is Christ who redeems us from bad investments and makes us zealous for good investments.
Where is our faith right now?
Is it in Jesus Christ alone?
Only Christ can redeem us from sin and only Christ can teach us how to produce the fruits of good works.
Don’t just profess faith in Christ, really place your faith in Christ.
You see, this is the first fruit of true faith—faith in Christ.
Let that faith be real, not just empty words, because—Actions Speak Louder Than Words!”
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