Last night our Bible study group discussed Titus Chapter 1, which ends: “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:15-16)
Titus, who was sound in his doctrine, had been authorized by Paul to appoint church elders in every city on the island of Crete. These men were to be equally grounded in sound doctrine and firmly committed to safeguarding biblical truth in their local assemblies. Paul was concerned that the appointed elders were equipped to identify false, unscrupulous or ignorant teachers and to be prepared to challenge any unbiblical doctrine that may distort, alter or add to the truth of the gospel of Christ.
Timothy was also given Paul’s advice about those who claim to know Christ, but their actions disprove their claim. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim 3:1-5)
There were many in Paul’s day that professed to know God but their deeds denied Him… and there are an increasing number of people today that have a form of godliness while denying the Lord Jesus as the one true God, the only Savior of mankind and the sole Mediator between God and man.
God offers salvation freely as a gift, but we aren’t forced to accept the gift. It’s a choice that’s part of Him giving us free will. Choosing salvation involves more than a verbal acknowledgement of Christ as savior. God doesn’t just care about what we say. He cares about the state of our hearts and how that translates into the way we live our lives. The Bible is very clear that there will be people who think they’re following God, but who won’t be in His kingdom because they’re not following Him in the way He commanded.
Key passages discussing grace and freely given salvation also have quite a bit to say about works. In Romans, for example, we’re told “the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Rom. 5:15).
It doesn’t stop there, though. Paul anticipates his readers’ questions, asking, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” and “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” Both are answered with an emphatic “Certainly not!” (Rom. 6:1-2, 15). When the gift of God frees us from servitude to sin we become servants of God, and servants are expected to work (Rom 6:15-23). Freedom from sin gives us the ability to obey God, not a license to disobey Him.
Salvation and works are even more explicitly discussed in Ephesians. Here, Paul talks with his readers about their former sinful lives and how they were raised from being dead in sins to live with Christ (Eph. 2:1-7). We used to be sinners under a death penalty, but now we’re cleansed from sin and alive in Jesus.
We are not saved by anything we can do, but we are saved so that we can do good works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10) Salvation isn’t where God stops with us; it’s where He starts. He’s working to make us like Him and He expects growth. We need to do something with the gifts He gives us, not set them on a shelf and go our own way.
We cannot live lives that deny Jesus Christ and expect to live and reign with Him in His kingdom. God’s faithfulness means He doesn’t give up on us, but it also means He holds true to His statements that only those who believe will enter eternal life. “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11-13)
John gives us a sign by which we can test ourselves to know if we truly have a saving relationship with Jesus. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” (1 Jn 2:3-5)
Make certain that you know Him, and believe in Him by faith. As Jesus Himself said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt 7:21-23)
Heavenly Father, we pray for Your churches and for the elders that oversee Your flock. We pray that they may be grounded in sound doctrine and firmly committed to safeguarding biblical truth in their local assemblies – in love. Helpus to be vigilant in searching the scriptures daily and keep us all from straying from the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ – so that Jesus may be glorified in our lives and in Your church. In Jesus name we pray, amen.