This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (Titus 3:8)
Some people like to claim that the Bible contradicts itself. Most of these claims are fairly silly, and can be dealt with easily. Some are a more involved, and take some effort to understand. Titus 3:8 speaks to one of these “more involved” matters.
The claimed contradiction is between Paul and James. The Apostle Paul was one of the champions of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone. The Apostle James emphasized the necessity of good works and a life that honors God.
If you took a single verse from James and a single verse from Paul and set them against each other, you might think there is a contradiction.
Then we read what Paul wrote here in Titus 3:8: those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. You might say that with that statement, Paul summarized the entire theme of the book of James!
Both Are Right
Paul definitely believed in good works, and that Christians should maintain them. In fact, he wanted Titus to affirm constantly this truth. It was a faithful saying. Paul would never say, “Just have faith, give no concern to good works.” Paul knew just as James wrote, that good works are an important part of the Christian life.
Yet, good works are not the reason why we are right with God. We are right with God because of who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross. What Paul and James want us to know is that if you are made right with God, it will show in good works. We are saved by grace through faith, but it is a living faith – the faith that saves will do something, and many good things for God, His people, and a needy world.
To put it another way, faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. We must never put the cart of works before the horse of grace.
Ask God for wisdom about your own life. Do you maintain good works? Are you good for something in the here-and-now, or are you good for nothing?