Good Works that Profit
“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. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”- Titus 3:8
Chapter 3 of Titus began with a call for believers to “be ready for every good work” and “to show perfect courtesy for all people,” (vv. 1–2), and Paul returns to this admonition in today’s passage after providing the theological basis for his charge. Lest any of us think that it is proper to serve only those who are “worthy,” God’s willingness to redeem us when we were foolish and hateful means that we must likewise seek the best even for our enemies if we are to be imitators of Him (vv. 3–7). Sound theology, then, is not merely a collection of abstract truths about our Creator but also a ground and motivation for fulfilling the call of Jesus that we serve one another (John 13:1–17).
In grounding our good works in the trustworthy biblical doctrines outlined in Titus 3:3–7, the apostle reminds us of the relationship of faith and works in our salvation. Tenets such as the supreme manifestation of God’s goodness in Christ Jesus, justification by grace, and the hope of eternal life are all things that we must believe in order to be saved. We do not add our good works to our faith in such things in order to merit divine favor; rather, we trust in the person and work of Jesus by faith alone and good works are the fruit of such faith (see also Luke 19:1–8; Gal. 5:2–6; James 2:14–26). John Calvin writes, “the design of Christian doctrine is that believers should exercise themselves in good works,” but “faith must go before in such a manner that good works may follow.”
For us to be devoted to good works, Paul says in Titus 3:8, church leaders must insist on “these things.” But while preachers and teachers are those primarily responsible to instruct us in biblical doctrine and the discernment of those works that are truly good, all believers must also train themselves and encourage one another in right doctrine and behavior. As we do so, we produce good works that are “excellent and profitable for people.” Loving service to the world is one of the means through which the Holy Spirit attracts men and women to the gospel (Matt. 5:14–16), so may we be quick to show others our faith by our works (James 2:18).
Authentic theology motivates us to do good works and gives us the ability to discern what kind of works are truly good from God’s perspective. Oftentimes we find ourselves motivated by what feels good now, but this is short sighted; we need biblical wisdom to discern what feels good from what is good. Similarly, something is wrong with us or our theology if our studies do not lead us to help others. Knowledge without love puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1).
Passages for Further Study