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April-May 2017

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INTERSECT: Good Works and the Christian Life, Part Two


In the February-March issue, we considered how the New Testament letter of Titus challenges us with the important theme of good works. While we maintain we are saved by faith in Christ’s finished work—and not our own works—we can see clearly that good works are crucial for individuals who claim to follow Jesus. Several references to good works surface in this short exchange between Paul and this young church leader.

From these references, the following basic expectations emerge for the individual Christian and the local church. We will frame each as a “BE” statement:

  • Be a MODEL of good works. Titus is urged to show “thyself a pattern of good works” (2:7). This word for pattern is translated in the ESV as model and in the NIV and NASB as example. The apostle Paul frequently employs this type of language to call his readers to the responsibility to live in a way that invites imitation. We are familiar with his words in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” However, this call to imitation is not limited to Paul. He indicates in several contexts that disciples of Jesus are summoned to follow Jesus and in doing so become “examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe (1 Thessalonians 1:7).” Disciples at every stage need models or examples to follow. This is precisely why Titus is exhorted to show himself as a reliable pattern to follow in a fallen world.

  • Be ZEALOUS for good works. Later in chapter 2, we discover one of the purposes of Christ’s redemptive work, to “purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (2:14). Those who experience the grace of Jesus should be motivated or stirred with zeal or godly passion to serve Jesus. Followers of Jesus understand good works cannot save them, but Christ’s sacrifice for them makes their hearts all the more willing or eager to do good works. At some level, this word gets down to our hearts and forces us to check our desire for good works.

  • Be READY for good works. Paul tasked Titus with reminding people “to be ready for every good work” (3:1). He included several essential aspects of living out the faith: being subject to rulers and authorities, not slandering others, pursuing peacefulness, and demonstrating gentleness toward all people. Paul then recalled their pre-converted state to help them remember “we were also foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” Life-changing grace appeared in history and in their lives personally (3:3-7). Yet, it was necessary and right for Paul to remind these believers of something they already knew—be ready for good works.

  • Be DEVOTED to good works. Post-belief action is summarized by careful devotion or maintenance of good works: “They which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (3:8). After providing the Christians an opportunity to send Zenas and Apollos on their way (3:13), Paul’s letter closes with a call to keep it up when it comes to good works, “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help in cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (3:14). It is one thing to start a good work or ministry; it is even better to stick with it and have the patience and diligence required to maintain ministry.



The treatment of good works found here has caused me to ask myself some questions:

  • Are you consistently following Christ so others can safely follow your pattern?

  • Is your zeal or passion for good works at a lower or higher level than it was last year? Ten years ago?

  • Do you have a readiness or sense of preparing yourself for new works the Lord has in store for this year?

  • Have you grown weary in the maintenance of good works?

These are not comfortable questions. The answers require prayerful reflection and honesty before the Lord. As you read through this issue of ONE focused on the good work of outreach, I encourage you to ask the Lord to work in your heart and then through your hands to do good works for His glory.

About the Writer: Dr. Barry Raper pastors Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, and directs the Pastoral Program at Welch College. Learn more about Welch College:


©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists