“This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” (Titus 3:8; NASB).
There is a popular question which debates whether the chicken or the egg was the first to arrive on earth (Gen. 1 solves that question quite handily). There is a theological corollary to that question: which comes first, faith or works? God is abundantly clear on that issue as well. First faith, then works. It is not that works are unnecessary or unimportant, however they are insufficient to satisfy the justice of God (Tt. 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9).
What then is the place of works in the life of the follower of Christ? Titus delineates a number of purposes for works.
- Righteous works validate the integrity of the gospel message to the world (2:7-8).
- Righteous works demonstrate the ability of God to purify His people (2:14-3:1).
- Righteous works are unprofitable to effect our righteousness, but they are profitable to meet the needs of others (3:8)
- Righteous works make a life worthwhile and fruitful (3:14).
There is a very subtle distinction between works done to effect salvation and works done as a result of salvation. The former are self-centered; the latter are other-centered. Jerry Bridges said it well in his book Transforming Grace, “Such a works-oriented motivation is essentially self-serving; it is prompted more by what we think we can gain or lose from God than by a grateful response to the grace He has already given us through Jesus Christ” [p. 79].
So work for God. Just be careful (that’s God’s word) to do it because you are a Christ follower, not because you want to earn God’s pleasure.
Good works cannot and do not produce righteousness, but righteousness can and does produce good works.