Here’s the second part of the post I started last week on good works. This part comes after a wonderful discussion, which has given me some helpful insights on the letter. Any reading this who are fellow NC State/Meredith students are encouraged to come. It has been fun and insightful.
The first part of this post can be found here.
A basic recap: Many strands of protestantism have been quite uneasy with the notion of “good works,” envisioning the rather ugly strand of medieval catholicism which contained elements of earning or even purchasing salvation. In rejecting these excesses, we sometimes miss the message of Paul, who was very concerned that faith work itself out with good, christian service. This series is an exploration of the nature of good works in Titus, noting as I did previously that good works is more than simply small, discrete good deeds. In addition, I’d like to note that good works can mean something broader, perhaps akin to our usage when we use a phrase like, “my life’s work.”
With that established, we may move forward into Titus 2. Paul begins with the statement, “but you, teach that which fits with healthy (or sound) doctrine.” He then launches into things which fit with sound doctrine. He makes a distinction between the two: doctrine and practice. However he also weaves the two together. In this case, we have behavior which is expected of various groups of people, divided here by gender and age. In these divisions, I see Paul’s pastoral sensitivities. While we are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28) different people are subject to different expressions of the fallen nature.
These instructions on christian behavior work their way back to doctrine in verse 10. One of the reasons for christian service and behavior is to “adorn the doctrine of God our savior” (this instruction is given to slaves, but I think Paul is applying a general principle to a specific situation). Our behaviors and attitudes are to make the christian faith attractive. We then launch back into an exposition of doctrine, “For the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to all people.” Notice the connecting for. He continues, saying that this grace trains us to reject ungodliness and live upright lives. Furthermore, we do these things in eager expectation for the revealing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We then get a glimpse of God’s purpose in sending Christ, “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” There are allusions here to some of Paul’s other writings. Galatians 1:4 is paralleled, as is Ephesians 2:10. I’m convinced these allusions do matter, and allow us to bring those letters to bear on what Paul is saying here. That said, I haven’t yet figured out how that works out. I’m thinking I’ll explore it more on a post devoted to good works in general. Chapter 3 is chocked full of allusions to other Pauline writings. At the very least, there are parallels worth exploring.
In summing up this post, Titus 2 shows us that doctrine and practice, while certainly distinct, belong very closely together. Our christian service and behavior is intended to make the christian faith attractive to others. This outward expression is only possible because “the grace of God appeared.” Christian service must not be divorced from recognizing the God’s grace working in us. Nor can good works be dismissed with a notion of cheap grace, since us being empowered to do good works is a central reason for the grace of God appearing! I’ll be exploring that idea more in subsequent posts.