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Zealous of Good Works

(Titus 2)

Lesson 12 -- third quarter 2010
August 22, 2010

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2010

Introductory questions to chew

What I just said -- does it fit sound doctrine?

What do I know about being "sound in faith"?

What I just did -- does it fit holiness?

Does my life increase respect for God's Word?

If I were to go to someone to exhort him to be sober minded, what would I tell him?

And how would I be a pattern of it?

My work ethic -- how has it beautified the doctrine of God?

What zeal for good works has redemption effected in me?

If I am not zealous of good works, am I God's, redeemed and purified?

Since works don't save us, why bother?

Galatians 2:16 says it three times: works justify no one. So we got the message loud and clear. But where do we go from here? If works don't bring us salvation, or at least contribute significantly to it, then why bother with them?

Twice Galatians 2:16 stresses that salvation comes by faith. That's wonderful! But if we receive redemption only and solely through faith, why should we bother with good works?

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). When others see the good works that result from the redemptive work of Christ in our lives, they give glory to God. This verse also indicates that good works are one way in which we can cause our light to shine in this dark world.

"Walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10). Those who live in a way that fits with the Christian profession they make will be very productive when it comes to producing good fruit. Good works are the sweet, delightful, healthful fruit of saving faith.

"Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). Jesus died so that He might redeem and purify us. That makes us peculiar; that is, especially unique. He also has in mind that we have a burning zeal for doing good things. Thus the good works that spring from His redemption further brand us as unusual people in this world.

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17). Shall we say that good works give life to faith, or shall we more correctly say that good works reveal that our faith is living? I imagine the latter its more theologically correct, but either way, we see the mutually-dependent relationship between faith and works. This verse packs a powerful doctrinal punch despite its brevity. Works without faith are empty; faith without works is empty. Anyone who tries to divorce the two puts their life in peril!

"Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Do you still remember what the question is? This verse gives a very logical, reasonable answer: Works allow us to demonstrate our faith. The implications of this verse boggle the mind: Without works no one can prove his faith!

"Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12). This verse brings out two benefits of good works. First off, our good works contradict the character assassination indulged in by enemies of the cross. Secondly, visible good works cause even the heathen to glorify God.

"But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). The Jews of the Old Testament could offer animal sacrifices to God for His pleasure. God doesn't give us that option. However, we can please Him with the sacrifices of good works and generosity.

"Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). The Christian has a choice: good works or sin.

There we have it. Faith does not do away with works. In fact, they which have believed in God must "be careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8).

Rejecting worldly lusts

Titus 2:12 makes it very clear that those who have received grace and salvation from God must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. I suppose that leads to the natural question, What is lust?

Generally speaking, we think of it as the desire for that which is forbidden, especially in the realm of moral issues. One outstanding example of this dimension of lust is found in Matthew 5:18 -- "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

However, lust as used in the Bible is much broader than mere sexual immorality. It stretches to include such synonyms as desire, craving, and longing. In fact, if you were to use Strong's Concordance to track the use of the Greek word translated lust in Matthew 5:18 above, you would find it used in some interesting ways (for example, in Luke 15:16; 16:21; Acts 20:33, 1 Timothy 3:1 -- go ahead and check them out!). Also notice that Romans 7:7 establishes covet as another synonym, stating in part, "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet."

So, lust simply means "strong desire." If you did the Strong's exercise, you saw that these desires can be positive or negative, good or bad, godly or ungodly. That helps us understand why Titus 2:12 says we are to deny worldly lusts, as opposed to all lusts. In a similar vein, Romans 6:12 calls on us to resist the sinful lusts of our body -- "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."

In the past, we coddled our flesh and let its lusts dictate our living. We lived to fulfill "the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Ephesians 2:3). We spent our lives "serving divers lusts and pleasures," but that was when we were foolish and deceived (Titus 3:3)! Those were the days of walking after our own lusts (Jude 1:16). But this should no longer be the story of our lives! We spent sufficient time living that way, let's live the rest of time in the flesh to the will of God (1 Peter 4:2,3)!

The time is upon us to make no provision for the flesh, but to flee and deny lust (Romans 13:14; 2 Timothy 2:22). Rather than fashion ourselves according to our former lusts, we ought to abstain from them (1 Peter 1:14; 2:11). Otherwise the Word will become choked and unfruitful in us (Mark 4:19).

A substitute for worldly lusts

Why did Jesus die for us? According to Titus 2:14, He "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." He died to redeem us and purify us from all worldly lusts. He died to make us His own, putting into our lives godliness instead of ungodliness, and good works instead of selfish, worldly lusts.

Notice that Titus 3:8 calls us to carefulness in this area: "they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works."

Good works make a terrific replacement for worldly lusts. They also reveal the exquisite craftsmanship of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 2:10)!

This concludes my comments based on the alternate lesson developed by Christian Light Publications. To read my comments on the passage for the International Bible Study, click here: Finding Peace.

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