8 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. (Titus 3:8)
Through the Bible: Titus 1-3
I’ve heard it said that Jesus was crucified between two heresies.
On one side is legalism. By now in our journey through scripture you are very acquainted with the idea that grace alone is not sufficient for salvation, that it has to be accompanied by a long list of rules, regulations, and rituals. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus constantly did battle with the Pharisees and teachers of the law over this point. So did Paul, as he argued against the Judaizers who believed that salvation came through Jesus and adherence to the law.
On the other side is what is called “antinomianism.” It’s the idea that because we are saved by grace, nothing we do matters. Our behavior is irrelevant, because all has been forgiven.
To be sure, Paul clearly taught salvation by grace alone, through faith, and not by works (see Ephesians 2:8-9). But as his letter to Titus teaches us, doing good still matters. Check out Paul’s teaching in Titus 3:1:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work… (Titus 3:1)
The verb “remind” in 3:1 is an active imperative, better translated as “Keep reminding.” Christians need to continually be reminded that our conduct, behavior, and actions are important.
However, they don’t save us! Just three verses later, Paul writes:
4“ But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,(Titus 3:4-6)
For Paul, good works are both the evidence that we are saved and the reason for our salvation.
This was even more important for Titus, living in a culture where everyone seemed to be “liars, evil beasts, and gluttons” (1:12). People in a godless culture are looking for evidence that what we claim to believe makes a difference—not only in our own lives, but a difference to the culture around us. Good works are that evidence.
That being said, when Paul gives the qualifications for elders in chapter 1, notice that an elder’s “to be” list is longer than his “to do” list. There are really only two things an elder is to do: “instruct in sound doctrine, and rebuke those who contradict it” (1:9). Everything else on the list is about character and integrity. Be above reproach. Don’t be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy. Be hospitable. Love what is good. Be self-controlled and upright.
So, doing good matters. But being good also matters. Beloved, our world needs both.