Good Works – Titus 3

Read the Passage: Titus 3

Live Peaceably (3:1–8)

At Titus 2:14, Paul wrote that believers ought to be “zealous for good works.” In the first half of Titus 3, Paul explains what this looks like for Christians living the fallen world. Paul exhorts Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). This same teaching can be found in Rom. 13:1–7, as well as at 1 Pet. 2:12–17. The idea here is that the gospel does not remove believers from the world, nor exempt Christians from obeying non-Christians; rather, the gospel makes believers better citizens within the world. Paul writes, “Speak evil of no one . . . be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:2). Observe that in his earlier letters Paul admonished Christians to live quiet, peaceable, and ordered lives (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; 1 Tim. 2:2), for this confirms the gospel and attracts others to it.

Some believers may be tempted to think that they ought to withdraw from the world or to live separately within the world. This notion rests upon the faulty idea that the lost do not deserve humility from Christians and/or the fear that interaction with unbelievers may tarnish believers. By way of correcting this notion, Paul reminds his readers that all believers were once lost in sin, and that Jesus humbled Himself via His incarnation and subsequent redeemed mankind—all without sacrificing or affecting His own holiness. Indeed, in various contexts, when Christians manifest humility and submission before the watching world, they are displaying gospel truths that will shame the lost (cf. Titus 2:8) and perhaps even lead some toward salvation (cf. 1 Cor. 7:14; 1 Pet. 3:1–2). Since Christians are redeemed by Jesus and have become His heirs, they ought to take on the character of Christ.

The principle that Christians are “heirs of God and join heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17) that Paul mentions at Titus 3:7 is a foundational biblical teaching that is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament by other authors (cf. Acts 26:18; Jas. 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:3–4). At Titus 3:8 Paul summaries the implications of this principle, writing, “Those who believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.” Paul even labels this idea a “faithful saying” (Titus 3:8), which is a phrase he uses five times in the Pastoral Epistles (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11), but only here in the book of Titus. Note the important distinction Paul makes in this larger passage—that is, “works of righteousness” (Titus 3:5) do not lead to salvation, but “good works” (Titus 3:8) are the necessary result of salvation. This distinction is important, for it is a motivation for Christian living.

Avoid Disputes (3:9–11)

Positively speaking, the gospel ought to provoke Christians to engage in good works. Negatively speaking, the gospel should move believers to avoid dissension. As he had done at 1 Tim. 1:4 and 2 Tim. 2:23, so here at Titus 3:9 Paul admonished Titus to “avoid foolish disputes.” Paul is not saying that it is always wrong for believers to disagree, or even to engage in an argument; rather, he is exhorting Christians not to be quarrelsome or contentious. Some people are naturally combative, hostile, and even belligerent, as they seem to enjoy arguing for the sport of it. Yet, here Paul teaches that argumentation that arises from a cantankerous spirit is to be avoided, for this is not a mark of a peaceful and quiet life that confirms the hope of the gospel. Next, at Titus 3:10, as he alludes to the act of church discipline (cf. Matt. 18:15–17), Paul writes that believers should “reject a divisive man.”

Final Greetings (3:12–15)

As was his custom, as he closed his letter to Titus, Paul gave a personal update and discussed his plans for four co-workers with whom Titus would have been familiar. First, Paul mentions Artemas, about whom nothing else is known. Second, Paul refers to Tychicus, who is not as well-known as Timothy or Titus, but is mentioned five times in the New Testament, each citation in conjunction with Paul’s ministry (cf. Acts 20:4; Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12). Third, Paul lists a lawyer named Zenas who is only mentioned here in Paul’s epistles. Fourth, Paul mentioned Apollos, the Christian orator from Alexandria who appears ten times in the New Testament, mostly in the book of 1 Corinthians (cf. Acts 18:24; 19:1; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4–6, 22; 4:6; 16:12; Titus 3:13). In conclusion, Paul again exhorts believers toward good works and gives a final farewell.

Application Questions:

  1. Do most Christians do a good job of reflecting the gospel in the public square? Are your interactions with the lost characterized by peace and kindness?
  2. Can you recall any meaningful interactions with mature Christians when you were lost? If so, how did such encounters shape your view of the gospel & the church?
  3. Why do all religions, except for Christianity, teach a works-based salvation scheme? Why is mankind drawn toward the idea of self-salvation?
  4. How can believers discern when it is best to correct an erring brother, and when it is better to avoid an argument (cf. Matt. 7:6; 15:14; Prov. 9:7; 26:4; 1 Tim. 6:5)?
  5. Are you bothered or encouraged by the fact that most believers will never receive earthly recognition for their Christian service?