Pastor Scott Andrews | January 16, 2022
It’s been said, it doesn’t matter what religion you believe, as long as you believe it sincerely and follow it faithfully. Believe any religion, keeps its tenants, you’ll be fine. All roads, after all lead to heaven. Of course, that presents a problem if the teachings of one religion contradict the teachings of another. If they are, in fact, polar opposites. You see, how can two contradictory truth claims be equally true at the same time? Let’s just consider for a moment how a person gets to heaven, however heaven is defined, by various world religions.
Consider, for example, the teachings of Hinduism. For the Hindu, heaven is the Brahman. Salvation or moksha occurs when the worshipper is freed from the cycle of reincarnation and the soul is united with god. You become free by ridding yourself of bad karma, which is the result of evil actions or even evil intent. This release can be achieved in three different ways: through selfless devotion to and service of a particular god, through understanding the nature of the universe, or by mastering the actions needed to fully appease the gods.
So don’t miss that – ultimately, salvation is achieved by getting rid of bad actions and being good. Good deeds merit good karma, and absorption into the Brahman.
Similar are the teachings of Buddhism. For the Buddhist, heaven is Nirvana. The founder of Buddhism, Siddharta Gautama, having forsaken family wealth, traveled from place to place, teaching four basic truths:
- Life is suffering.
- This suffering is caused by ignorance.
- The only way to overcome suffering is to overcome ignorance and earthly attachments.
- And you overcome ignorance by following the Eightfold Pathway:
- Right views
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right contemplation
Do that well, and you can reach Nirvana. So don’t miss that – do these eight things well, and it’s enlightenment or heaven for you.
Consider the teachings of Islam. Muslims believe salvation comes to those who obey Allah sufficiently such that good deeds outweigh the bad. Muslims hope that repeating what Muhammad did and said will be enough to get to heaven, but they also recite extra prayers, fast, go on pilgrimages, and perform good works in hope of tipping the scales. Martyrdom in service to Allah is the only work guaranteed to send a worshiper to paradise.
Here’s what I want you to note: similar to all those belief systems – world religions – is the idea that you earn your way to heaven. That good deeds merit the attention of the gods, and you will make it. If you make it. If not, you have to come back as a fish or something.
So, let’s talk about Christianity for a moment. How are followers of Christianity assured of heaven? The Biblical answer is, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Meaning, it is not good works that earn salvation. And so…if I said to you, true or false: heaven awaits those who do good deeds. All the world religions would say true, right? Most of us would say false, right? Because, we recognize salvation is not attained by good deeds. Good deeds do not produce salvation.
But what if I said it this way. True or false: heaven awaits those saved who do good deeds. You’re not sure how to answer that, are you? You see, here’s the biblical truth: Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, which in turn produces good deeds. We’ve perhaps heard it this way before – salvation is by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone. To be clear, good words never produce salvation, but true salvation always produces good works.
Do you see – the order is critically important. It is not that faith and good deeds are opposites – oh no. But the order is important. We do not do good deeds to merit salvation – we do good deeds because we have received salvation – unearned, undeserved. Grace.
This is the significant difference between Christianity and other world religions. Other religions are spelled, d-o. Do these things, hold your breath, and you might make it. Christianity, conversely, is spelled d-o-n-e. It is not what you do, but what Christ has done. Christ, the Son of God, took on human flesh at the incarnation, lived a perfect life – one we could never live – and died not for His own sins but for ours. And by simple faith in the finished work of Christ – death, burial and resurrection for sinners – you can be saved. Sins forgiven. Cleansed. Changed. New life in Christ, producing good works that God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are finishing our study of the book of Titus today, and a main theme through the book has been good deeds – good works. Paul said it over and over, because faith and good deeds are not opposites – they just must come in the right order. Consider these verses:
1:16 – They [that is, the false teachers] profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. Do you see – they say they know God – I guess we could say, they say they’re saved. But their deeds are detestable, disobedient – they are worthless for any good deed. Because if we know God, good deeds follow.
2:1 – But as for you, [Titus] speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Then he goes on to tell how that sound doctrine should produce good works – for old men, old women, young women and young men. In fact, 2:7 says, “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified. In other words, having been saved, sound doctrine then produces good deeds.
2:14 – who [that is, Jesus] 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. Did you see the order – Jesus died to redeem us and purify us as a people who then do good deeds.
3:1 – Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed. It’s all over the book.
3:8 – This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed in God will be careful to engage in good deeds. There it is again – notice the order – those who have already believed will then be careful to engage in good deeds. To be careful means to concentrate on – to intentionally pursue good deeds.
3:14 – Our people [I love that – our people, people who have become so by the atoning work of Christ] our people must also learn to engage in good deeds. Notice, it’s not automatic – it must be intentionally learned.
Five times in these three short chapters, Paul mentions good deeds – and the critical order is clear. We have believed, and because we have believed, it changes our lives. Now we pursue – we devote ourselves to good deeds, not to be saved, but because we have been saved.
That’s what the last passage said a couple weeks ago. Again, he just told them at the beginning of the chapter, remind them to be ready for every good deed. Malign no one, be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration. Because, verse 3, we didn’t use to be that way. We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. That’s who we were.
But no more – something happened that changed the course of our lives – and it wasn’t our goodness – it wasn’t our doing good. You see, we didn’t change the course of our lives – we didn’t produce good works that made us good. Oh no. Verses 4-7:
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.
Do you see – He saved us, not because of righteous deeds, because we didn’t have any. We were incapable of producing any – but by His mercy, He washed us, cleansed us, purified us, made us alive – that is, regenerated us – and renewed us by His Spirit. Renewed speaks of this ongoing process of sanctification so that we become more like Him – more holy, more doing of good deeds. Which then becomes evidence that we have been saved – this doing good deeds.
Which brings us to our text today – verses 8 to the end of the chapter – but let’s just read verses 8-11 to start with. Read.
Let me give you the outline of the text as we jump into it:
- Profitable Things to Do (8)
- Unprofitable Things to Avoid (9-11)
- Helping Those Doing Good Deeds (12-15)
Paul starts with some familiar words, “This is a trustworthy statement.” It’s like saying, you can take that to the bank. Or when I say, to be clear. I’m just like Paul, to be clear. He has said those words five times in the pastoral epistles, referring to five sayings:
I Timothy 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 of all. Notice – God sent His Son to save sinners – not good people since there aren’t any – sinners, bad people – of whom I was the worst. I didn’t deserve saving, but He saved me anyway.
I 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.
I Timothy 4:8-9 – for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. I love this one, coming at the first of the year. Bodily discipline – getting up at 5:00 am to go to the gym and work out – that’s a good resolution – do that, but know this – it is only of a little profit or value. But godliness – now that’s profitable for all things, holding out promise for this life, and the life to come. So make some spiritual resolutions.
II Timothy 2:11-13 – It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
And then of course, ours in Titus 3:8, This is a trustworthy statement. Almost everyone agrees this refers to that great sentence preceding, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us….
It’s likely all these sayings were well-known in the early church – either hymns or sayings that were known by the church – perhaps introduced by Paul or others. They carried great, gospel truth. So Paul goes on, this is such a great saying, I want you to speak confidently regarding this truth – the false teachers we’re going to talk about in verses 9-11, they’re adding to that, saying keeping some aspects of the Law – doing good deeds helps in salvation. Nope – salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. Salvation is not earned or merited, but simply by God’s rich mercy toward us.
So that – purpose clause – keep reminding them of these things, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. Do you see – the gospel is a reminder to us to do good deeds – to be like our Father. He can tell us, over and over in this book, do good deeds because in His kindness, love, mercy and grace, God has done so much for us. We have been given much more, infinitely more, than we deserve. We have been justified by His grace, made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. How then can we not do good? Train yourself, be careful to engage in good deeds. To engage in could be translated, to devote themselves. You see, it’s in the middle voice, which means it is something we do to ourselves. We devote ourselves to do good works.
Now notice, good deeds are something we do – we are commanded to do – it requires effort on our part – it doesn’t just happen automatically. What good deeds? Well, for starters, all that Paul has shared in this letter – to old men, old women, young women, young men, to bond-slaves. To citizens, to all people. Note how the gospel affects every area of our lives: family life, church life, work life, lives as citizens. The point is, we should look to do good in every sphere of life. Not just those in which there is some beneficial return – we are good because the Spirit has made us alive and is renewing us, so we do good deeds wherever we are.
Notice the last part of verse 8 – these things, these good deeds, are good and profitable for men. Profitable, helpful, useful, valuable, advantageous for all men. Not just other believers – others in the family of Christ – but all men. This world should be a better place because we’re here. Do you see? Our presence as salt and light should bring goodness to those around us. Some Christians need to be reminded of that. We are so busy fighting everyone, we don’t have time to do good. And listen, we don’t get to take a break because we’re at work or at a ballgame or in the grocery store. We are always looking for opportunities to engage in good deeds. We are now, by nature, good people.
In verses 9-11, Paul then talks about things that are unprofitable and worthless to all. So, be careful to engage in good deeds, but avoid the following four things, because these are not helpful, these are not profitable:
- First, avoid foolish controversies, which is the umbrella category. Foolish is the word from which we get our word moron. It could be translated, stupid. Avoid stupid controversies, for which there is no benefit and no clear answer. Paul is not saying we don’t have theological discussions and even disagreements about truths which we advocate. The idea is speculations, about which there is not nor can be clarity. They are discussions which go beyond the clear teaching of Scripture and have no benefit.
- The next three are more specific and go together: avoid genealogies, strife and disputes about the Law. We saw in chapter 1, “For there are many rebellious men, empty talker and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision.” There was clearly a Jewish contingent who wanted to dispute over the place of the Law in the life of the believer, likely making certain legalistic aspects of the Law, like circumcision or dietary laws, still binding and evidence of greater spirituality. It was a rigorous devotion to rules and regulations. Further, the whole idea of genealogies were fanciful associations which tried to make some in the bloodline of a hero. For many it made Jewish ancestry of special importance – of greater value.
Paul had to deal with this in Ephesus with Timothy as well. He said in I Timothy 1:
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, 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.
So, don’t get off on that. About such people, Paul says in verses 10 and 11 of our text, “Reject a factious [that is, a divisive] man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverse and is sinning, being self-condemned.” The word for factious is the word from which we get our word heretic. We shouldn’t read our meaning of the word back into this word, but the idea is a self-willed, an arrogant, a divisive man who is willing to divide the church over things that don’t matter.
Here, Paul invokes the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18. These people are causing unnecessary division in the church family about matters that don’t matter. Warn them once, then again. If they refuse to listen and stop their divisive, factious behavior, reject them. The word speaks of discipline – if necessary, of removing them from the fellowship of the church. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 18, if a brother sins, go to him privately and confront his sin. If he refuses to listen, take two or three others with you. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he still refuses, remove him from your midst – the idea is excommunication. Treat him as an unbelieving sinner, because that’s how he’s acting.
Now, that action is ultimately meant to be redemptive. Yes, you discipline, occasionally even remove unrepentant sinners from your midst – for the purpose of seeing them repent, and return in fellowship with the church. You say, wow, that’s pretty severe for a person who is just factious, divisive. But I would point out two things. First, Paul says they are perverse, sinning, and self-condemned. And second, God is very serious about proper unity in His church. He will not tolerate unnecessary division, caused by things that do not matter.
Which bring us to our last point – which actually contains Paul’s closing instructions to Titus. But in them, we see that he expected Titus to do good to those who were serving Christ by serving Paul. These are examples of those doing good deeds, so Titus was to help them on their way. You see this mutual serving one another here in good deeds. Read verses 12-15 with me.
Paul mentions four men by name; two we’ve heard before, two only mentioned here in the NT. The first two are Artemas and Tychicus. Artemas is only mentioned here, while Tychicus is mentioned several other times – always as a helpful and faithful companion to Paul in the work of the ministry. We see him in Acts, Ephesians, Colossians and II Timothy. He was from Asia, western Turkey, and was always responding to being dispatched by Paul for various tasks, to include perhaps delivering Paul’s letters to Ephesus and Colossae. He was faithful to the end, because we find him in II Timothy, being sent by Paul to Ephesus. As he did send Tychicus to Ephesus, it’s possible he sent Artemas to Crete, and Tychicus never made it there.
Paul told Titus to come to him once either Tychicus or Artemas made it there. He would find Paul in Nicopolis, on the western side of Greece – a good place to spend the winter where Paul could continue his work.
He also mentioned two others: Zenas the lawyer and Apollos. These two likely carried this letter to Titus. Zenas is only mentioned here – we don’t know whether he was a lawyer in Greek law, or in Jewish law as a scribe. Apollos we know – he was a Jew from Alexandria, well-versed in the Scripture who served in Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla. These two, Zenas and Apollos were for some reason in Crete – perhaps on their way to Alexandria, to the south of Crete. We don’t know for sure, but since one was a lawyer and once was well-versed in Scripture, they were likely sent to deal with these false teachers.
But Paul gives instructions to Titus, telling him to make sure their needs are met – help them on their way so that they lack nothing. Fully provide for them as they do the work of ministry.
Now look at verse 14, “Our people [now he is talking about Christians – our people] must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs so that they will not be unfruitful.” Christians are supposed to engage in good deeds. Not just being nice, allowing people to cut in front of you in line with a smile – but meet pressing needs. We live in a world of increasing needs – and when we have the ability to meet pressing needs, we should do so. That’s what Christians do – we are generous, even sacrificial.
For example, I could not be more proud of our church for the way we have responded to the Afghan refugee crisis. We were the first to team up with Samaritan’s Purse to host a family – and we have two more families on the way. These are not Christian families – but they are people created in the image of God who have pressing needs. And we are meeting those needs. Dozens of you signed up to help. Many have provided material and financial resources. I am so proud of that. We are doing so because there are pressing needs – yes – but also to show them the love of Christ. Because you see, not any old religion will do – followed faithfully. People, all people, must know they are sinners in need of a savior – and His name is Jesus. We have a unique opportunity to meet needs – and I’m so thankful we are.
Finally, last verse ends with the way the letter began – and the way Paul ends all of his letters – with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. May it be with you all.