The Gospel According to … Your Life (Titus 3:8-15)
Preached by Pastor Phil Layton at Gold Country Baptist Church on September 7, 2008
This morning in our study we are going to look at the Gospel, not the Gospel According to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but the Gospel According to Your Life. What does your life communicate about the gospel? What message are you communicating? In Titus 3 we will see today that your Christian life (if you are a Christian) is an open book that is to be a living gospel, a visual presentation of what you profess here today. Titus is all about living out the gospel in everyday real life.
Those who have experienced the good news of God’s grace will be evidenced by a life of good deeds as a result of God’s grace. Our will and works do not cause God’s saving mercy, but His saving mercy does cause good works, which we must be careful to do. We should want to do good deeds, not in order to earn God’s love, but in response to His unearned love that has changed our sinful hearts.
Titus 3:4-15 (NASB95) 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. 9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. 14 Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
This is our 17th message in our expository study of the book of Titus verse-by-verse, and a couple other messages thrown in on related themes to this study. And this morning we come to the last section (v. 8-15) of this wonderful book that I hope you have grown to love and appreciate as I have. Paul greeted Titus in the beginning of the letter with “grace to you and peace” and the last line of the book is on the same note: “Grace be with you all.” This book is all about grace and how our salvation which is all of grace must work itself out in our lives. Grace and godliness go together.
Look at the 2nd half of verse 8: “so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.”
Then look at verse 14: “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs”
This is also how chapter 1 began: “… be ready for every good deed”
So the final passage begins and ends with, as bookends, this theme of good deeds, which are not optional and must be pursued. When you have an inclusio – the term for book-ending a section of Scripture with the same phrase or truth – this device helps you understand the big idea in the original message. The gospel’s “good news” must be reflected in good deeds in your life.
Many argue this is the theme of the book as a whole as well, and so rather than give you 2 or 3 or 4 points, this morning we’re just going to have really one main point which is the point of the book: The good news of the gospel must be reflected in good deeds in your life. Gospel truth is connected to godliness. This is also how the book began. I want you to see this theme in context:
Titus 1:1 (NASB95) 1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness
The truth of God and godliness go together. Those who are elected or chosen by God are to live according to the truth and to bear fruit consistent with the faith. It reminds me of the words of Jesus in John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you would bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain”
This past Monday we were at Apple Hill and our family rode on the hay ride tour and the guide explained how they choose and plant trees to bear fruit that will last, and this is the spiritual image Jesus uses in that chapter.
Titus 1 goes on in verses 6-9 to describe the fruit of godliness that must be manifested in the life of the godly men who would lead the church by their example of good deeds.
Verses 10 thru the end of the chapter then describe the corrupted fruit of those in the church who lack good deeds, and actually deny God by the deeds of their life. They’re like bad apples.
15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled [NIV “corrupted”]. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
So in our text in Titus 3, when Paul commands believers to “learn to / be careful to engage in good deeds” it is in contrast to false believers who profess but don’t possess a true relational knowledge of God, and who are worthless for any good deeds.
In Titus 2, Paul lays down the fruit of the godly life and deeds of older men and women which is to be an example of godliness for other believers.
7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine …
Notice the clear connection in that verse between good deeds and pure doctrine, a connection which this book keeps making over and over. What God joins together let no man put asunder. We must not divorce the good news from good works. Vs. 9-10 again make the connection between the gospel and godly living, in fact living godly deeds is the best gospel banner in a pagan world.
9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
Right before launching into the gospel, Titus 2:10 used a visual word “adorn” as the purpose for living out the gospel in how we work in a pagan society – he says that we may adorn the doctrine or teaching of our Savior by our lives.
In other words, order it in such a way as to make it attractive or beautiful to those who see.
The word translated “adorn” is cosmeo – a word we get the English term “cosmetics” which many women use to adorn their face to make it attractive or draw attention to their beauty, to put in order what may be out of order in the morning to make beautiful. That’s what our lives are to do with our beautiful Lord Jesus – draw attention and attract by adornment of our daily lives!
In extrabiblical Jewish literature (3 Macc 3.5) this word described how Jews ‘adorned their style of life with the good deeds of upright people’ … Paul says here this can be done even by slaves!
It’s been pointed out that this final purpose clause in the chapter ‘marks the motivation crescendo of the whole … the climactic effect achieved by its placement at the end, by its language, and by its missiological thrust … So slaves … at the bottom of the human hierarcy, are able through the splendor of their conduct, to honor God and increase the attractiveness of the gospel in the hearts of the pagans.” Ordinarily, it was the well-to-do benefactors, not slaves or the masses, who gave “adornments” to cities and leaders in return for public recognition. But life in Christ involved many reversals.’
Someone has said ‘The motivation for good deeds is gratitude for the undeserved, unmerited grace of God. The effect is Christlikeness. The goal is evangelism.’ Now notice in the end of Titus 2 how the gospel flows in to the theme of godly living and good deeds again:
Titus 2:11-14 (NASB95) 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
God’s salvation and grace is a free gift, but it’s a gift that comes with instructions as verse 12 says. It tells us to deny sin and to live godly lives, and it also graciously gives the power to do so.
13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
So there it is again, right at the end of this gospel, it says we were redeemed from sinful deeds so we can be zealous for good deeds.
This is what chapter 3 does as well at the end of the gospel (v. 4-7)
Titus 3:8 also flows from the gospel to good works. There is a responsibility that comes with blessing, as we’ve seen before. The result of God’s blessing through the gospel at the end of Titus 3:7 is that we would be “heirs according to the hope of eternal life”
In the Greco-Roman world, “heirs” was a legal term and was found on ancient inscriptions of Asia Minor to refer to a son after he was succeeded to the inheritance as representative of his father, and there were obligations that went along with it. An heir is one who receives or is entitled legally to receive in the future some endowment or quality from a parent or predecessor.
Moulton and Milligan’s work on Greek papyri: "In the inscriptions the one thing most often emphasized is the obligation of the [heir] to fulfill certain conditions devolving upon him as an heir. When Paul insists that only those who fulfill the conditions of heirship are truly heirs, he is making use of a well-known principle." If you’re a true son and heir, you shall live accordingly.
It’s on the heels of this statement that we are heirs that Paul moves into Titus 3:8:
7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds.
The gospel produces good deeds or you don’t have the right gospel. Titus 3:8 says believing in God is not the end, it’s the beginning. We who truly believe, it says “will be careful to engage in good deeds” but it says in the first half of the verse Titus must speak these things confidently (the things of the gospel in v. 4-7) to remind the believers of their duty (like v. 1 says). This language of speaking confidently is strong. Here’s some of the other versions:
“I want you to affirm constantly” (NKJV)
“I want you to stress these things” (NIV)
“I want you to insist on these things” (ESV)
“these things” refers to the glorious gospel Paul just finished explaining in verses 4-7 which are to have a practical outworking in the verses that follow. The language puts great importance here.
Verse 8 begins with “this is a trustworthy / faithful saying” which is an expression Paul uses 4 times, each with weighty important truths to his other son in the faith, Timothy. And each have something to do with the gospel or gospel ministry:
1 Tim 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost
1 Timothy 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.
1 Timothy 4:8-10 … godliness is profitable for all things … It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God … the Savior
2 Timothy 2:10-11 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of [the elect] those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him
So this statement in Titus 3:8 is in the caliber of those statements:
This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
The “so that” statement concerns those who have believed - perfect tense verse – which means that they began to trust in the past and it continues to have effects in the present. This is not a temporary or superficial profession but it’s a continual possession of saving faith
The verse says believers need to “be careful to engage in good deeds” – this word for “careful” speaks of care, thought, heed, reflection, care or attention - bestowed on a person or thing. Here it is to be careful by good deeds to be full of care towards others.
Perhaps related to the root word for “mind”, this word “careful” means to exercise thought, give sustained thought to something, be intent on, be careful, be thoughtful, consider, think seriously about, reflect, fix one's attention on, ponder, be concerned about, take careful thought, give heed or concentrate upon.
Spurgeon applied the verse this way: ‘Remember, you are saved by grace, and not by works of righteousness; but after you are saved there comes in this precept, “Be careful to maintain good works.” This precept is special in its direction. To the sinner, that he may be saved, we say not a word concerning good works, except to remind him that he has none of them. To the believer who is saved, we say ten thousand words concerning good works, beseeching him to bring forth much fruit, that so he may be Christ’s disciple. There is all the difference between the living and the dead: the living we arouse to work; the dead must first receive life … For living works you must have a living faith, and for loving works you must have a loving faith. When we know and trust God, then with holy intelligence and sacred confidence we work his pleasure. Good works must be done freely … He desires the spontaneous zeal of consecrated souls who rejoice to do his will, because they are not their own, but bought with the precious blood of Jesus. It is the heartiness of our work which is the heart of it. To those who have renewed hearts, this exhortation is addressed- “Be careful to maintain [or engage in] good works.”’
The word “engage” means literally to set or place before, but in this context means to have an interest in or show concern for carrying out good deeds. Salvation is to find practical, visible expression in the believer’s new devotion to good works. Several of the English versions use the phrase “devoted to good deeds.”
“These things are good and profitable for men.”
This is in contrast to the next verse which discusses something neither good or profitable, but what is in fact unprofitable and worthless: “foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” What exactly where these controversies? We don’t know for sure.
In school your teachers may have told you there’s no stupid questions, but Paul says there are a lot of foolish questions and controversies and arguments and it would be stupid or unwise for Titus to get into every such debate. Don’t cast pearls before swine, and don’t be detracted from doing good deeds by people who just want to argue about things that don’t promote good deeds, wasting your time on trying to reason with the unreasonable troublemakers.
1 Timothy 1:3-8 (NASB95) 3 As I urged you … remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 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. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
In Titus 3:10-11, Paul says there are some cases where someone becomes factious and divisive in the church, and they need to be given a warning, then another warning, then they need to be rejected or avoided or shunned or put out, if need be. The word referred to those who cause divisive factions and parties (chap. 1 mentions the circumcision party, cf. party of Sadducees, Pharisees, etc., later meant “heretic” but not in NT times). We saw these guys in Titus 1 where it says there are many rebellious or insubordinate men who must be silenced, they are not to be given a platform, and if they continue to be unrepentant and unsubmissive to the church leaders in chapter 1 who are to reprove them, the time comes for the church discipline process for the shepherds to protect the flock.
In Titus 3:12, Paul changes the tone to two good brothers in the Lord of his who he will send to help Titus whom he hopes to see in Nicopolis – Artemas and Tychichus. Artemas we don’t know anything about, but Tychicus is mentioned a few times. In the last chapter of both Colossians (4:7) and Ephesians (6:20-21), Paul describes Tychicus as “our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-slave in the Lord” and Paul writes “I have sent him to you for this very purpose … that he may encourage or comfort your hearts,” What a reputation and commendation!
Titus 3:13 moves on to practical examples of showing good deeds. “Diligently help” them, Paul says, “so that nothing is lacking.” We don’t know who Zenas the lawyer is, but Apollos is a familiar figure who the book of Acts describes as mighty in the scriptures and effective at refuting the Jews and a powerful spokesman for the Messiah, thus an ideal person to fill the need in Titus with the Jewish troublemakers and circumcision party.
The important thing is that good deeds are to be practically shown especially to fellow faithful servants in the body, so that there is no lack and as the next verse says, so we won’t be unfruitful. When an apple tree hardly bears any fruit, there’s not much use to the owner
Jesus said in John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. [some have more fruit than others, but Jesus is clear that all truly connected to Him will have fruit. How can we bear more fruit?]
… 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned … 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
True disciples, true Christians, are known not by some intellectual past decision with their mind or a prayer with their lips, but by fruit
Matthew 7:17-21 (NASB95) 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven …
True saving faith in the Lord alone is at the root of salvation, but good works are the inevitable fruit of salvation. Arthur W Pink wrote: ‘The "good works" are not for the directing of attention to ourselves, but to Him who has wrought them in us. They are to be of such a character and quality that even the ungodly will know they proceed from some higher source than fallen human nature. Supernatural fruit requires a supernatural root, and as this is recognized, the Husbandman is glorified thereby ... only those are good works which are done in obedience to the will of God (Rom. 6:16), from a principle of love to Him (Heb. 10:24), in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17), and to the glory of God by Him (1 Cor. 10:31).
… Unless our reading and study of the Scriptures is making us better soldiers of Jesus Christ, better citizens of the country in which we sojourn, better members of our earthly homes (kinder, gentler, more unselfish), "throughly furnished unto all good works," it is profiting us little or nothing.’
Titus 3:14 says: “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”
How do we “learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs”? Here’s some suggested applications:
- Abide in Christ (as I read earlier – it is impossible to bear fruit apart from Him, continuing, remaining with Him)
- Get to know needs in the body and meet them if you can (Acts 2 records how the early church fellowshipped, broke bread together, shared spiritually as well as physically, and there was not a need among them). If you aren’t getting to know people, you’re not gonna know needs God might use you to meet. Talk with people, volunteer to help deacons …
- Encourage others by example and exhortation to good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
- Meditate often on God’s saving you to glorify Him
Titus 3:4-7 clearly stressed God’s sovereignty in salvation (man’s action not even mentioned) but in v. 8-15 our responsibility is emphasized, which Scripture does equally and frequently.
God is sovereign in salvation, it is all by His work, but we are responsible and very active in our sanctification. We live by (and because of) the life God gave us in regeneration, as we saw last time. A corpse that has been resurrected and has been given a new heart cannot help but show signs of life, and the same is true of the spiritual dead who were given spiritual life. There will be signs of life, and fruit, but we also need to learn to live out good deeds.
Last week we ended with Ephesians 2:4-9 which is the great exposition of how we are saved from our spiritual deadness and sin by grace through faith, and verse 10 of the gospel there also flows naturally into this theme of good works: “For you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” – we’re not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works. In fact, James 2 says faith without works is dead, it’s not true genuine saving faith, it is a said faith, an empty profession or mental assent.
God saves sinners without any good works on their part, but once sinners are truly saved, they cannot be without any good works. We need to remember that the regeneration we studied last week is far more than changing where we go when we die -- it is a change of our entire spiritual life. A changed life evidences that God’s regenerating grace truly took place. As we do good works, they should be out of love for God, not to earn His love (we can’t)
There’s a last application: Examine yourself to see if you’re saved.
Godliness is the result of God is in us – there is no salvation without sanctification, no grace without growth, no true regeneration if there is no change in your life.
J.C. Ryle wrote in the introduction to a book of biographical sketches of Christian leaders of the 18th century (such as George Whitefield and John Wesley) that what marked faithful preachers through the years is: ‘They taught constantly the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness. They never allowed for a moment that any church membership or religious profession was the proof of a man’s being a true Christian if he lived an ungodly life. A true Christian, they maintained, must always be known by his fruits; and those fruits must be plainly manifest and unmistakable in all relations of life. “No fruits, no grace,” was the unvarying tenor of their preaching.’
In Titus 2:11-14, after spending most of the chapter on how godly living looks like in everyday life in every segment of the church, Paul speaks of what empowers those who make the gospel believable and the doctrine of the Savior beautiful. Their lives are only explainable by and possible by (v. 11) God’s soul-satisfying grace-enabling salvation, and (v. 13) Christ-anticipating hope-filled future-looking faith we have in a great God and Savior who is not only Supreme but is Sufficient in everything, in our salvation and all we need!
Is He your Lord and Savior, and your satisfaction, your supreme love and joy? Or will you continue to worship things other than your Creator who owns you? Do you love your sin too much and you cherish your sinful ways so much that you will not bow before Jesus and surrender your life, but you will hold onto your sin with all your might all the way to an eternity separate from God where you’ll suffer His just punishment in the Lake of Fire?
Acts 3:19 says “Repent and turn to God that your sins may be wiped away and that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” This is true refreshment, true happiness, eternal enjoyment of the God for whose glory you are created for, to enjoy Him forever!
John Piper said it better than I ever could:
When you have faith in Jesus ... You rejoice in His glorious deity as Christ.
You rejoice in the humble, sinless, virgin-born humanity of Jesus.
You're satisfied by the universe-creating, miracle-working, power of Jesus.
You're satisfied by the covenant-keeping, law-fulfilling, righteousness performing, perfection-providing, obedience of Jesus.
You're satisfied by the wrath-bearing, justice-satisfying, sin-atoning, death of Jesus.
You're satisfied by the death-defeating, devil-destroying, heaven-opening, resurrection of Jesus.
And you're satisfied by the sovereign, interceding, ever present, never leaving us alone, triumphant reign of Jesus at the Father's right hand.
And if that doesn't delight you, then this verse will never make any sense to you:
"Not that we Lord it over your faith - we work with you for your joy.” [2 Corinthians 1:24. Paul is saying to them] I'm coming along side you for your joy. I will die for your joy. I will be beaten five times with thirty-nine lashes if I can just bring about joy in your heart, in Jesus above all things."
So will you embrace that? [Your duty to delight in God as the supreme value and central aim of your life] … or will you treat this as somehow icing on the cake, like so many people do?
We work with you for you joy. We work with you so that:
Jesus Christ would be seen and experienced as the supreme treasure of your life, in all that He is for you.
If Christ is not supreme in your hearts, if He is not Lord of your life, if you love your sin and not the Savior, and have never turned from your sins which you treasure and which you seek to find your joy in -- here is real joy, lasting joy offered to you in Jesus Christ if you repent and confess Him as Lord. God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation as Titus 2:11 says, but as v. 12 says you must deny ungodliness and worldly desires. Turn from the unsatisfying half-bit fleeting empty pleasures of this world, and make Jesus your treasure and His glory your greatest pleasure in this world.
As Steve Camp said, “To give all you have for all that He is, that is the gospel according to Jesus.”
As Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Not the desires you have before, but He will give you new desires, He will give you a new heart! The one who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, He now calls on you to take up your cross, follow Him, and there is a joy set before you as well if you surrender to Him and become a follower of King Jesus, in whose presence is fullness of joy and in whose right hands is infinite pleasures evermore.
He can be your Redeemer who delivers you from slavery to self and sin if you recognize your need for grace, if you repent of your sin and trust in Christ and what He did on the cross for you. You can do that in your own words in your own heart this very day, this very hour if you understand these truths and cry out for salvation.
 Phillip Towner, NICNT, 738-9.
 J. C. Ryle. Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 28.
 John Piper, from sermon to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007, at http://xausnips.blogspot.com/2007/04/others-john-piper-sermon-exerpt-sbts-27.html