Your Works Matter

I have recently seen a lot of social media posts allegedly quoting Martin Luther:  God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does!  And while I agree with the notion, I had to find out for myself…because usually these sorts of quotes are actually misquotes. In this case, I found that Luther had never said this.  If you quote an author, tell us the book and page number, please!

Read here if you are interested:

Last week opened with the acknowledgement that we are saved by His mercy, not our deeds.  It is fair to say God does not need our good deeds–He has no needs. Today’s discussion begins in Titus 3:8-11.

This week we open with the latter half of verse eight, to hear about the Christian’s call to good works, wherein Paul instructs Titus to ensure that the church in Crete will “devote themselves to good works.”  (2:14; 3:14).  A Christian’s belief (sound doctrine) should flow out of their heart in action (good deeds).  Or as Ephesians teaches us, we are saved unto the works God has set aside for us to walk in!

Our lives have purpose and meaning.

Good deeds in place of what? The church was learning they ought not be like those Cretens who are liars, or like all the many citizens that were insubordinate and violent. John Stott quotes an ancient historian, Polybius, who relates that in Crete, the crowds of citizens were continually involved in “insurrections, murders and internecine wars.”  They were overtaken by Rome in 67BC, and most citizens remained insubordinate from that time. 1  Rather than orient our lives likewise, we are careful to engage in good deeds.

Careful, intentional, involving heart mind and body–not rushing headlong into something that appears good but is run by heretics, not rushing into something that proves later to be foolish but we had good intentions.  Careful.  We consider the who, what, where, when, why and how beforehand.  

We pray!!!  We ask for His guidance, and we hold everything up to the WORD!  We do not compromise in order to engage in what the culture around us considers good–we seek out God’s definition of good, and His means of doing good.

We do not do our deeds to earn favor from God, but because our faith works, and it works through love.  We serve God, and our neighbors. If I do these good deeds and have not love, I am nothing!  So we must be careful about motivation.  Our work can be good, and glorifying to God when done in love, and when it is good from His perspective.

Whose Image?

Though Titus is instructed to teach the whole church to be careful to engage in good deeds, we see elsewhere wisdom geared especially for women. Rather than define our self worth and flaunt that in front of the church in order to gain status or approval, we ought to be more concerned with how we actually live.

To be conformed to Christ’s image is not a matter of rich, fine, expensive clothing. 1 Timothy 2:10  “but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works.”  This is what women should adorn themselves with!  In the church, we ought to “profess godliness,” we ought to recognize that we love Him, want to learn from Him, want to be conformed to His image rather than to the culture around us. And to do so is to engage in good deeds.  

Rather than join the masses, we shine His light.  We let them see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven!  Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13

So then, seek the good of your neighbor: 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

We do not avoid Law, rather…

We avoid controversies over it!  Verse 9  We avoid foolish conversations that do not work toward the goal of “presenting every man complete”  see Colossians 1:28 and 1 Timothy 1:5.  We ought to recognize when a situation calls for wisdom, or for walking away.  Would we be throwing pearls before swine? 

Geneologies?  In the church there is no place for “I’m ok because my dad is an elder” or “my grandparents founded this church, I’m good.”  Nope.  Read Philippians 3, Paul assures us that his amazing lineage had nothing to do with his salvation.  James reminds us that any such lineage should never motivate our deeds or any sort of favoritism.  

Law?  It is good when used lawfully, end of story!  1 Timothy 1:9-11

Paul addressed the same ideas well in 1 Timothy 1:3-4

…not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.  

Think of it this way–God’s intended outcome, faith, comes by hearing of the Word of God.  The other ideas do not work toward this.  Rather than “update” our message, we stick to God’s original revelation, the inspired Word.  Teaching and preaching must spring from the Word, with God’s desired intent. Paul’s gospel did not vary.   

Avoid False Teachers 

The Greek literally implies that we turn ourselves around so as to no longer hear their teaching.  Elders ought to warn a person who is not sound in their teaching, and then warn again.  But then we reject a factious man after a first and second warning.  In other words, this rejection is not a knee jerk reaction. 

This one promotes dissension rather than fellowship.  

Such a man is perverted and sinning, being self-condemned.  The kindness of the LORD has not brought this man into the fold, he resists.  His own actions reveal to us the state he is in, self-condemned.  Most people in this situation do not actually condemn themselves, they fight hard to change the church, change the gospel, change the definitions of love, fellowship, forgiveness, etc.  They want to do whatever it takes to be in, while not being constrained by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5).  

Sometimes it is these consequences of being removed from the fellowship will usher him back in.  They are self-condemned, but they are not beyond mercy.   Church discipline is what the Spirit uses in some of these cases.  In other cases, the separation makes it all too apparent that a wolf was among us.  Restoration is the goal, therefore we can never pretend one such as this is not sinning.

2 Peter 2:2, what happens if we believe consequences should not be issued?  The whole church suffers.  When an elder, teacher, or any other member of the church is factious, bringing in foolish controversies and false teachings–and they are warned several times, but refuse correction, the LOVING thing to do is to protect the church from their perversion.  

And perhaps throughout the week, we could be praying for one another:  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; 2:16-17

photo by Aaron Burden on unsplash

  1. John Stott. Guard the Truth. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996).

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