A Pattern of Good Works

...in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. (Titus 2:7–8, NKJV)

Christianity lived right and well, is the most sensible lifestyle on the planet. But many things done in the name of Christ have nothing to do with him…not the biblically revealed Christ anyway. Is that a big deal? Certainly. Extra-Christian behaviors can skew the public’s impression of true Christianity — especially within that growing pool of non-discriminant thinkers.

One problem is that some of us grind-away at social or behavioral issues that are not well-defined in the Bible — and this is not a problem in itself. But when a Christian presents one of these pet behavioral standards as biblical doctrine, this is a problem. We Christians should know enough to take our ideas out of the Bible (exegesis) and not inject our own ideas back into it (eisegesis)… the people of the world do enough of that for both of us!

Additionally, some people insist that Christians should engage in puritanical behaviors. These may overlap with biblical behaviors, but where the Bible is all about freedom, puritanical behavior is all about restriction. So, although these behaviors might look alike at times, they are really core-opposites! Yet people demand puritanism of Christians — and I can see why. The Puritans were known for an overt holiness that was characterized by a strict lifestyle. Were they legitimately godly? I think so. Should we desire to be seen as godly? Yes. Would their 400-year-old lifestyle translate reasonably into a contemporary Christian life? No. We do not share the same moment in time. Our obligation is (as everyone’s is) to seek God in our own time — because biblical truth transcends time.

I must confess; trying to get people to see what is actually in the Bible (as opposed to what is projected by the popular consciousness) feels like a losing battle… but it is well worth the fight because no one needs to invent any doctrines; God’s word is whole as it stands! The Bible gives us sensible instructions for living an abundant life. As such, a person can live both practicably and biblically.

In Titus, Paul lists some behaviors that would help any person in his dealings with any other reasonable person… and there is no need to wax extra-biblical with the doctrine. He showed the relationship between doctrine and behavior by contrasting the “bad actors” with the good. In this case, the Judaizers were all talk — and they established a pattern of bad works.

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:16) (Emphasis mine). 

But Paul encouraged Titus to do the opposite — which will trigger the opposite effect.

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—“ (Titus 2:1–3)

Yes… actions do speak louder than words. Therefore, showing “a pattern of good works” is important for a Christian. But we must do this on God’s terms. Remember, salvation comes by grace through faith — and not through good works… patterned or otherwise! (Ephesians 2:8-9). But a pattern of good works should follow a true salvation (Ephesians 2:10). If you stay close to the Father, listen to the Spirit and study God’s word with no bias, there will be a light in front of you, a trail of good works behind you and a voice saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” on a distant shore.

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