Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WORK . . . FOR SALVATION”

Titus 3.5

 

It happens routinely when someone is converted to Jesus Christ. She is excited about her new life in Christ. She is enthusiastic with the thought that she has a real relationship with Jesus Christ and that God is now her heavenly Father. She is comfortable that she is now prepared for eternity. Therefore, she tells people.

What surprises most new Christians is the negative reaction they receive from all the broad-minded people they tell about their newfound life in Jesus Christ. For some reason, tolerant friends, liberal-minded co-workers, and sometimes even family members, are not at all thrilled to hear about a soul set free from sin.

I well remember a young engineer who called his mother and told her that he had become a Christian. She was not happy about it at all, and very pointedly told him that he had not just become a Christian, because she remembered when he had become a Christian. No, she remembered when he went forward in a church service at the age of 13 and was baptized. She could not have remembered when he was previously saved, because he was not previously saved. There was no possible way that guy used to be a Christian.

I also remember when he called up his dad and told him that he had been saved. His dad was even angrier than his mom had been. They had both been raised on farms during the Depression, but it was his dad who had been exposed to any number of redneck Elmer Gantry preachers, effectively ruining him for anything religious.

Thus, the young man’s conversion to Christ even more severely affected his relationship with his dad than it had with his mom. To this day, I don’t think he has been able to enjoy the intimacy and the confidence he used to have with his dad, even after decades of trying. And it is so sad, because his dad is quite lonely.

I know a fellow who has been a Christian for more than 32 years, has been married to the same woman for 31 years, has completed several courses of theological education after his secular education, has published articles in Christian periodicals, has co-authored a book, has pastored the same church for more than 20 years, and has still not ever been asked a single question about his life-changing experience, about the Bible he studies and preaches, or about Christianity in general, by his family. I find that very odd.

Yet, his experiences are not very unusual for a Christian. I am sure many Christians are a bit more astute in their observations of others than he was, and know without being told that their exuberance about being a new believer will not be shared by others . . . so they don’t tell them. They will tell strangers. They will tell casual acquaintances. But they will not tell loved ones or family members without exercising real caution.

Why do some parents get upset with a child for becoming a Christian? Why are they not excited that their son’s whole course of life has changed for the better? Why do they not rejoice along with the kid? As well, why do some Christians know that they need to be very careful about arousing the indignation of their loved ones by telling them of their encounter with Jesus Christ?

So that you won’t think I am only spouting my opinion about such things, let me take you to two passages of scripture on my way to addressing this issue I have brought up.

First, turn to Romans 3.20, where Paul draws a conclusion from his well developed discussion showing that no one is justified in the sight of God by obeying the Law: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

In other words, since the function of law is to show sin, to reveal shortcoming, to expose wrongdoing, obedience cannot possibly give a sinner standing in the sight of God. To illustrate: Someone who is guilty of tax evasion does himself no good in tax court by obeying traffic laws. Obeying a law, any law or set of laws, does not remedy anyone’s already existing guilt.

Now turn to Titus 3.5, which is my text for this morning, and which is a portion of scripture that is broader in scope than the verse we just read. Whereas Romans 3.20 dealt with God’s Law and the ability of that Law to justify a sinner, Titus 3.5 (and we will confine ourselves to the first phrase) deals with all sorts of good deeds and with the whole subject of salvation, rather than focusing on justification.

Titus 3.5 begins, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” Therefore, instead of the narrowly defined obedience to the Law, Paul is here dealing with the much broader “works of righteousness,” which would be all sorts of good deeds, and not just obeying laws.

As well, read all of Titus 3.5 and you will see the verse deals with salvation, which is a broader subject than the topic of justification found in Romans 3.20. Whereas justification has to do with your standing before God, salvation is inclusive of such topics as forgiveness of sins, adoption into the family of God, deliverance from the penalty of sins, deliverance from the power of sins in your life, eventual deliverance from the presence of sin when you get to heaven, and a whole host of other issues, including justification.

You may also notice that both passages are essentially negative in their thrust. Romans 3.20 shows that sinners are not justified in the sight of God by obeying the law. So much for people who think they can earn their way to heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments.

Titus 3.5 shows that sinners are not saved by works of righteousness they have done. So much for thinking your key to the pearly gates is that wing to the children’s hospital you built.

Yes, there certainly will be a large number of shocked and surprised people come Judgment Day. Four truths are essential to better understanding of this negative truth:

 

First, SINNERS NEED TO BE SAVED

 

I find it astonishing that so few people actually think when it comes to dealing with spiritual matters. For some reason, folks think that there is one part of your brain that uses logic, and then there is another part of the brain that deals with religious and spiritual matters, but that compartmentalization is, in itself, illogical in the extreme.

Consider these few points to ponder: If sinners did not need to be saved, why was the Bible given to us? And it was given to us, but that is another sermon. If sinners did not need to be saved, why did Jesus come from heaven to be the Savior? And He did come from heaven to be the Savior, as well another sermon. If sinners did not need to be saved, why have Christian men and women down through the centuries given their lives to bring sinners to salvation, as opposed to moslems who took lives to force infidels to become moslems? That is a fact no one can refute.

Only Christianity declares that men are sinners who need to be saved from their sins. That is the message of the Bible, the reason the Son of God said He came to seek and to save that which was lost, and why godly Christians down through the centuries have given their lives to carry the message to the uttermost parts of the world.

You may very well disagree with my assertion that sinners need to be saved. Many people in this world deny that sinners need to be saved. Atheists deny it. Humanists deny it. Muslims deny it. Hindus deny it. Buddhists deny it. However, the Christian message is that sinners need saving. I assert it, the Bible declares it, and Jesus died to make it happen.

 

Next, SINNERS CAN BE SAVED

 

If sinners could not be saved, Jesus would not have suffered and bled and died on the cross. The very existence of so many people throughout the world who believe the Bible is testimony of their conviction that sinners can be saved.

Why would such men as the Apostle John, the Apostle Peter, the Apostle Paul, and countless martyrs down through the ages, have given their lives to preaching the saving message of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, unless they were convinced that sinners can be saved? After all, they were saved, so why cannot others be saved? Paul was the self-described chiefest of sinners, and yet he was saved. As well, he had been the most vicious persecutor of Christians, a man complicit in the death of the first Christian martyr, and yet he was saved. Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ three times, and yet he was saved. Augustine had been a thorough scoundrel, and yet he was saved. The woman at the well, in John chapter 4, who had been married five times and was living with a man not her husband, was saved. There are so many others, some here in this room.

The point that I seek to drive home is that sinners can be saved. What, exactly, is saved? To be saved has to do with being rescued, with being delivered from some present immediate danger, to being removed from a hazard to safety. In the Bible, saved has to do with being retrieved from imminent catastrophe that is brought on by your sins, that catastrophe being the wrath of God.

Is it guaranteed that sinners will be saved? No, it is not guaranteed. Most sinners, the vast majority of them to be accurate, will not be saved. So, there is no guarantee. There is no promise that you will be saved. In addition, many who think they will be saved, or hope they will be saved, or who think they are saved, will not be saved. Throughout the Bible, we read of presumptuous fools who are confident in their assurance, only to discover too late that they were not saved.

 

Third, SINNERS CAN DO NOTHING TO BE SAVED

 

It is implicit in our text that sinners must be saved. Elsewhere in the Bible, explicit statements are made that sinners must be saved. We also see that sinners can be saved. However, what is patently obvious from our text, and supported throughout the Bible, is that sinners can do nothing to be saved. How much clearer could Paul have stated it? “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” That means, although you must be saved, and although you can be saved, you cannot do anything to effect your salvation.

You cannot obey the Law in order to save yourself, because obedience to the Law saves no one, as I have already illustrated. But beyond that, no work of righteousness that you can do can save you. That means helping little old ladies across the street, while a wonderful deed in itself, helps no one get to heaven.

Here is another one: This is a Baptist church. For almost 2,000 years, Baptist churches have been baptizing people. However, does baptism save anyone? Ask yourself, Is baptism a work of righteousness? Is baptism a good deed, or is it a bad deed? Obviously, no bad deed would save anyone.

However, how can a good deed, even baptism, save someone if salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done”? So, even those of us who have the longest uninterrupted history of baptizing people in the world, almost 2,000 years, deny that baptism saves anyone.

We know from Romans 3.20 that obedience to the Law does not justify anyone in the sight of God. We know from Titus 3.5 that works of righteousness which we have done does not save anyone. Thus, we conclude that, so long as the Bible is internally consistent in what it teaches (and it is), you cannot do anything to save yourself.

This does not mean that many people do not think you can do things to save yourself. It just means they are wrong if they think works of righteousness will save them. Over the years, people have told me that they were saved by keeping the Ten Commandments. This is obviously not possible. I have had people tell me that being a church member saved them from their sins, but every pastor knows of church members who are going straight to Hell when they die. Still others think baptism saves people, but the Bible clearly teaches that baptism is to be reserved for those who are already saved from their sins. Some people have thought that giving money ensured salvation, but there are examples in the Bible where attempting to purchase salvation with money proved unsuccessful. I remember one woman telling me that she was going to heaven because she was good, despite the fact that the Bible twice states that “there is none good, no, not one.” Still others think they are saved by asking Jesus into their heart, or by trusting in their knowledge of Bible facts. This, too, is a form of works righteousness that does not save.

No, it is very clear in the Bible that salvation does not come by works of righteousness that anyone has done. This is because unsaved people are not capable of doing works of righteousness, first, and because, secondly, God cannot be bought off with the bribes of sinners trying to buy their way out of Hell.

 

Finally, SALVATION MUST THEREFORE BE BY GRACE

 

Let me drive this home with two verses from God’s Word.

First, there is Romans 11.6: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” This verse is a classic example of the logical law of the excluded middle. A and B, with A not B and B not A. Therefore, either A or B must be correct, though they cannot both be true. Applied to salvation, this means that either a sinner is saved by doing good works or he is not saved by doing good works, and the opposite of being saved by doing good works is being saved by grace, which is unmerited favor. Notice that salvation cannot come from a combination of the two, since they are diametrically opposed to each other. Salvation is either earned by working for it, or is a gift that is given by grace, undeserved favor. Romans 11.6 tells us that if you worked for it it was not grace, and if you got it by grace it was not earned by working for it. Either the one or the other.

Now turn to Ephesians 2.5 and 8. At the end of Ephesians 2.5, Paul writes, “For by grace ye are saved.” Then, at the beginning of Ephesians 2.8, he writes, “For by grace are ye saved.” What do you think Paul is trying to communicate to the Ephesians? That a person’s salvation comes by grace. In addition, that must necessarily mean that you do not work for it, you cannot successfully work for it. This would suggest that salvation is God’s gift to a sinner, something strongly supported by Romans 6.23, where were we read that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

To restate the four points; you need to be saved, you can be saved, but you can do nothing to save yourself, meaning that salvation must be by grace. Now let me finish my answer to you concerning the reactions of family and friends when they are told, or when they find out, a sinner has been saved.

All religions except for Christianity, and even many supposedly Christian denominations, believe that the way a sinner makes his way to heaven is by doing good things. The more good things you do, the greater likelihood you have of getting to heaven . . . they think. So, along comes someone they know who seems quite sure, possibly even positive, that she is going to heaven. The assumption is made by family and friends that the reason she is so sure she is going to heaven is because she thinks she is good enough to go to heaven.

Of course, that is not the reason at all with a real Christian, since a real Christians knows two things: First, there is no such thing as a really good person (everyone is sinful). Second, every real Christian knows that salvation is a gift from God that is given to people who actually deserve nothing from God but punishment. The problem, of course, is that family and friends are very naturally judgmental. Everyone tends to be judgmental. Being that way, they naturally conclude that the reason she thinks she is going to heaven is because she thinks she is good enough to go to heaven. Of course, they reason, that must mean she thinks she is better than me, because I doubt that I am going to heaven.

Well, let me tell you, no mom or dad will for long put up with a son who thinks he is better than his mom or dad, or with a daughter who thinks she is better than her mom or dad . . . especially when that kid’s sins are so glaringly obvious to mom or dad.

Suppose a mother has assured herself that she is a Christian. Though she is greatly loved by her children, no child is convinced that his chain-smoking, booze-drinking, like-a-sailor-cussing, never-going-to-church mom is really a Christian. So, getting saved and giving up the cigarettes and booze and other stuff can be very threatening to her, and she frequently does not like it at all. It suggests to her that she might not really be a Christian. Frequently, her greatest fear is that her Christian child might believe that she has not been a good mother, and that she has not raised her children correctly.

Suppose a dad, on the other hand, has no interest in convincing anyone that he is a Christian. Quite the contrary, suppose he is a very free thinker. His issue is likely to be the thought of having a son who might think he was better than his dad. But no one is a Christian because he is better than anyone, but despite his awareness of his terrible wickedness.

You see, it is this erroneous notion of how someone becomes a Christian, thinking that you become sure of heaven by doing good, and that you are more sure than other people of heaven because you are better than they are . . . . That is what in great measure creates the friction, and sometimes hostility.

It also explains why so many people love to catch a Christian committing a sin, which they think makes the Christian a terrible hypocrite. No matter how many times the Christian admits to being sinful, and explains that you cannot be a Christian unless you own up to your sinfulness, they won’t listen. They got you, and they’re not letting go, because they think they have an advantage over you now. They caught you in a sin.

However, no one is good, and no one does good, at least not good in the eyes of God. No one does good as a way of saving himself. Not possible. Salvation is by grace, meaning that it is not earned and it is definitely not deserved.

So, will you catch me in a sin? Of course, you will. I am a sinner. However, I am a sinner who has given up on trying to work for my salvation, because it is not possible. Now, I rely upon God’s grace to save me, because all the work was done for me by His Son, Jesus Christ, Who loved me and Who gave Himself for me.

You, too, might want to consider this Savior who paid it all, so that no one else has to, because no one else can.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org