But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23

In our study of the fruit the Spirit, I’ve made the case that this fruit is a picture of a transformed life.  This is what God desires to do in our lives as we put off the old self and put on the new self.  It is rightly called the fruit of Spirit (singular) and not the fruits of the Spirit (plural) as all of these characteristics together describe the work God desires to do in us.

We come this week to the sixth characteristic: goodness.  We know that our goodness is not the basis of our salvation; however, as the fruit of the Spirit suggests, it is the inevitable result of our salvation.  In other words, we are not saved by good works but for good works.  Our study of goodness takes us to the book of Titus.  This is part of Paul’s pastoral epistles and in it he labors to make the link between faith (what we believe) and practice (how we behave).  Not surprisingly, the topic of goodness comes up quite a bit.  We’ll look at Titus 3:1-9 to discover what Paul has to say about goodness.

#1 Goodness is a clear command from Scripture.

1Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  Titus 3:1-2

Paul wants to be sure that Titus reminds the Cretans, to whom Titus was ministering, “to be ready for every good work.”  This is a repeated theme throughout the letter as this is not the first or second or even third time he has stressed the importance of doing good.  Apparently they did not have the best reputation since one of their own prophets said “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons (Titus 1:12)”  Sound like an exaggeration?  Paul didn’t think so.  “This testimony is true (1:13),” he says.  Wow!  How would you like that said about the people in your town?  Paul doesn’t want it to be said anymore, hence the emphasis on doing good.

The letter to Titus isn’t the only letter to emphasize the importance of good works.  We see this throughout the Bible.  The author of Hebrews exhorts us saying “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (10:24).”  Paul tells the Galatians to “not grow weary of doing good (6:9).”  The Psalmist says simply,  “Trust in the Lord, and do good (37:4).”  Many of the Prophets were concerned about doing good, including Isaiah who writes in the opening verses of his book, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression (1:17).”  Moses instructed the people to do good giving a command with a promise,  “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers (Deuteronomy 6:18).”

#2 Yet we are reminded of our inability to produce goodness within ourselves.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  Titus 3:3

As we’ve already seen, this whole idea of “doing good” is found through out the Bible.  Not just in Titus but in the rest of Paul’s letters as well.  And not just in the New Testament but in the Old Testament as well.  The Bible is very clear:  we are to do good.  But, of course, we have a problem because the Bible also reminds us of our utter inability to do good.  Paul describes us here as “foolish, disobedient…passing our days in malice.”  Nothing about this sounds good.  And notice that Paul includes himself in this verdict.  He says “we ourselves” once conducted our lives in this way.  And this isn’t the only place we are reminded of our depravity.  I won’t be exhaustive here but consider two passages.

The prophet Jeremiah calls for Israel to reject evil and to do good, and yet he writes: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil (13:23).”  What is saying?  He is saying that evil is such a part of your nature, you will never be able to do good.  This is exactly the case that Paul makes in Romans 3 where he writes, “no one does good, not even one (3:12).”

Some people believe that the Bible cannot command us do something that we have no ability to do.  But as we’ve seen, this is not the case.  The demands of the law do not descend to human ability but neither can human ability ascend to meet the demands of the law.  In short, we have a problem!  The good we are called to do, we have no ability to do.

#3 The goodness of our Savior does what our goodness cannot.

4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

The Bible calls us to do good but tells us we cannot do it.  The good news is that Jesus does what we cannot.  Goodness and loving kindness have appeared to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  He has saved us not because of our good works but because of his good works.  We are reminded that the gospel does not say “Behave,” it says “Believe.”  If our salvation was based on our good behavior, we would be utterly lost.  We need to hold Scripture up to our lives as mirror to see our need for what it is.  We are incapable of good and need to receive the goodness of God.

Charles Spurgeon put it this way in a sermon, “Our imaginary goodness is more difficult to conquer than our actual sin.”  We need to see our lack of goodness so that we might readily receive the goodness of Jesus offered to us in the gospel.

#4 We are not saved by good works but for good works.

8The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  Titus 3:8-9

So the gospel is not about behaving, it’s about believing.  It’s not about doing, it’s about what has been done.  However, notice what Paul writes immediately after laying out the beautiful truth of the gospel.  He says that those who have “believed in God” should “devote themselves to good works.”  So there is a place for behaving.  There is a place for doing.  Good works are not the foundation of the gospel but an adornment to the gospel.  Good works are not the roots but rather the fruit of our faith.  We are not saved by good works but for good works.

Perhaps out of fear of “legalism” many completely ignore these gospel imperatives.  They are worried (I guess) that if they emphasize what the Bible calls us to do, that somehow people will fall into works righteousness.  This is exactly what was going on in the early church which led Paul to exclaim in Romans 6:1 “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” His conclusion?  “By no means!”

It matters to God how we live our lives.  One of the signs that we have surrendered our lives to him, that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, is the presence of goodness in our lives.  The fruit of the Spirit is goodness.  Because we believe, we behave.  Because of what has been done for us, we are called to do.  This is not to add in any way to our salvation because our salvation is already complete in Christ.  Nor is this to gain the favor with God.  Jesus was very straightforward with this disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15).”  How do we demonstrate our love for Jesus?  He says we will keep his commandments.  Obedience or goodness is our response to the gospel.

Notice that Paul calls us to a specific kind of goodness.  He says we should devote ourselves to good works because they are “excellent and profitable for people.”  We are called to profitable goodness.  Profitable goodness benefits other people.  Apparently the Cretans believed themselves to be doing good in their heady theological debates about the law but it resulted only in “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels” which were “unprofitable and worthless.”  This is not the gospel goodness to which we have been called.  We are called to do good that benefits others.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think Paul means when he says to be ready for every good work?  What practical steps can we take to be ready?
  2. Why are good works insufficient for salvation?  What would you say to someone who believed they had to be good to go to heaven?
  3. What do we learn in this passage about the goodness and loving kindness of God?
  4. How does the gospel provide us with the proper motivation for good works?
  5. Sometimes we fail to do good because we lack the courage to carry out what we know is good.  Why do you think this is?  What can we do about it?


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