God is Concerned with Good works

Christians who love the word are a grace alone people. We affirm that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We do not believe that our good works in any way contribute to our being saved. We do not believe that religious ceremonies or religious artifacts contribute to our salvation. Our standing before God as redeemed is entirely of God’s grace through faith.

We are saved through faith alone. But, saving faith does not remain alone. As James pointed out so clearly, faith without works is dead. Saving faith will be accompanied by a changed life, a life of good works. And we see a very similar reminder in the letter of Paul to Titus.

Titus 2:11-14 – 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

A student of Paul will know that he is very clear about the fact that we are saved through faith apart from works. Yet, as we see here, the salvation of our souls has an aim and a result that includes our change. In verse 11, we see that we have grace. In verse 12, we see that the grace of God trains us to renounce evil passions and to live different, new, godly lives. In verse 13, we await the return of Christ with anticipation. And then, in verse 14, we again see gospel followed by life change.

Look at the purposes of Jesus in verse 14: “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” He gave himself to redeem us. That is salvation by grace alone through faith alone. He gave himself to redeem us and purify for himself a people zealous for good works. That is the result of a new, righteous, lawful, God-honoring body of believers. Christ did not save us to make us rebels against the good. Christ did not save us so that we will throw off the word and ways of God. Christ saved us apart from any works on our behalf. But Christ changes us so that we will long to put away evil and become a pure people for the Lord’s glory.

So, Christian, do not think that God is unconcerned with your purity or obedience. Yes, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. But your faith must not remain alone. A goal of God’s in your salvation is that you become a person who honors him through your obedience and a new purity that stands out as different in a darkened world.

Naaman and a Picture of the Gospel

There are pictures of the gospel to be found all through Scripture. God wants his people to see that his ways and his truth have never changed. So, even in times when the plan of God to save a people by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone was still only hinted at in shadow, God turned certain events to help us see how he would work.

Consider the story of Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5. Naaman had a dreadful disease from which he needed healing. He went to Israel looking for a cure from the Lord. When he approached Elisha the prophet, Elisha gave him simple instructions. The foreign general was to wash in the Jordan 7 times, and he would be restored.

Watch how Naaman responded to Elisha, and you will see something of the problem many have with the gospel.

2 Kings 5:9-14 – 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Naaman was offended. He was offended that Elisha did not treat him with extra respect because of his rank. He was offended that Elisha did not come out and perform some sort of religious ceremony. There was no sacrifice. There was no dancing or anointing. It was just a command to go and wash in the river. When Naaman finally relented enough to do what he was told, however, he was healed.

In our world, people struggle with the gospel for a variety of reasons. Of course, in our day, many are so in love with their sin that they want nothing to do with the gospel. They want nothing to do with the God who would limit their evil. But there are those who struggle with the gospel because it seems too simple. They believe that more must be required of a person to be truly made right with the Creator. They assume that religious rights and rituals, sacrifices and bowings, ceremonies and mystical chants must be required for something as significant as the salvation of a soul.

Here is the amazingly good news. God saves sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. A person does not have to pass through some sort of ritualistic testing ground to be saved. We do not have to climb the highest mountain or sleep for 40 days in the cold. No, in order to be saved, a person merely turns from his own sinful desire to control his life, trusts in Jesus, and is saved. When a believing sinner turns to Jesus for life, that sinner finds that God has already done all the work to save him. God has provided the righteousness that we could never live. God has provided the sacrificial substitute in Jesus. God has even given us the faith to believe. All the work to save us, absolutely all of it, was done by the Lord. And so we simply let go of trying to make ourselves right with God and surrender to Jesus in faith. Then, like Naaman simply slipping into the Jordan River, we find that we are made whole by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.