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Grace Notes

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GOOD WORKS
by Philip Owen

             Paul has provided the New Testament church with a proper understanding of how to treat the issue of good works.  When setting forth the means and method of salvation, Paul explained that human works have no place (e.g., Rom. 4:4, 5; 11:6; Eph. 2:8, 9), for salvation is exclusively the work of God through Christ.  But when dealing with the walk of a believer, Paul is equally adamant that good works are a priority.  In fact, believers have been saved in order that they might produce good works—deeds that glorify the Lord through faithfulness to His Word.  (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” [Eph. 2:10].)  Nowhere is this truth stressed more heavily than in Paul’s epistle to Titus.  Some form of the phrase is mentioned no fewer than six times in this brief epistle.  In contrast with unbelievers, particularly false teachers, who are “unto every good work reprobate [“worthless’] (1:16),” believers are to be:

            “A pattern of good works (2:7).”  Paul exhorts Titus, in particular, and young men by extension to be “a pattern [“example,” “model”] of good works.  Believers are to live in such a way that when viewed by others, particularly other Christians, their lives can be imitated for God’s glory.  If others do what I do, say what I say, and go where I go, will their lives glorify the Lord or replicate sin?  We are models and examples whether or not we wish to be.  Believers are to model good works.

            “Zealous of good works (2:14).”  If the first citation above takes our breath away with its sobering responsibility, the next is even more intense.  Paul writes that the purpose of Christ’s sacrificial redemption was that we might be redeemed “from all iniquity” and that He might “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”  In the Greek, the adjective is actually a noun:  “[a] zealot of good works.”  A zealot is an “uncompromising partisan,” according to Vine, one who sees things ever and only one way, one whose loyalty is total and without exception.  In the natural world, such zeal can blind and mislead a zealot.  But believers are required to maintain that kind of attitude regarding the good works approved of God.  We are to be fervent believers of what God says and fervent doers of what God requires.  Such zeal is both safe and blessed.

            “Ready to every good work (3:1).”  Living the life of a believer entails consideration and preparation.  Our lives are not an “If-it-feels-good-do-it” kind of adventure.  We are to make no provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14); rather, we are to order our lives so that we are prepared to do what is right and to be a blessing as each opportunity arises.  Just as we anticipate and prepare for the future natural needs of our family, the possibility of natural disasters, and a host of more mundane things, so we are to prepare to do good as each occasion affords. 

            “Careful to maintain good works (3:8).”  Paul exhorts Titus to “affirm constantly” a certain truth, namely, “that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain [“practice,” “engage in”] good works.”  We might have felt that after exhorting us to make our lives a pattern of good works, to be zealots of good works, and to be ready to every good work that the message was sufficiently clear.  But no.  This truth requires constant affirmation.  Our great and guiding concern should be to practice good works.  Pleasing the Lord should be a believer’s habitual way of life.  We should expect the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, our pastor, our brethren, and our believing relatives to be constantly encouraging us toward a godly walk.  Having been bought with a price, we do not have the liberty to be casual or careless about good works because we have been called to righteousness.

            “Learn[ing] to maintain good works (3:14).”  This additional exhortation might seem superfluous following, as it does, the four previous exhaustive ones.  But Paul adds that these good works are to provide “for necessary uses,” i.e., to meet urgent needs.  It is a reminder that doing good works involves daily, practical life.  It requires us to set aside what is personally comfortable, convenient, and profitable for the blessing of others and the glory of the Lord.  Such is the on-going way of blessing.

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