These few verses are the entire Gospel in its perfect and pure form.
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. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The 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.
1. GOD’S LOVE
It was God’s love and goodness revealed in Jesus that saved us, not by works, but rather, the mercy of God. We can’t earn salvation. It’s a gift. So we don’t work for it, we simply believe it and receive it.
2. BE BORN AGAIN
We must be born again; it’s what Paul refers to here as the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Read John 2. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the spirit gives birth to spirit. This is only available through faith in Jesus, who has poured our his spirit. We MUST be born again – we must be renewed, and like a caterpillar into a butterfly, we too must become ‘regenerated’ – a new creation through new birth.
3. JUSTIFICATION & INHERITANCE
SO THAT – wherever you see these two words in scripture, ‘so that’, it means something WAS done and now there is an expectation that something WILL BE done or achieved as a response. We are born again SO THAT we might be justified as righteous before God. Without being born again, we remain unjustified before God, for it is in being born again that we can take hold of our justification.
** Notice that justification leads to inheritance! Through justification we become heirs in the kingdom of God – this is sonship (for only a son can be an heir) – yet this is not a gender word, it is a positional word. We are positioned as sons, co heirs with Christ!**
4. GOOD WORKS OF WORSHIP
The second SO THAT – Now that we are justified (considered righteous and not guilty) and born again through faith in Jesus, Paul INSISTS that we take these things he had been speaking about and be changed by them. Why? SO THAT as a result of believing and accepting what Jesus HAS DONE, those who believe (that’s us) would now be ‘careful to devote themselves to good works. YES! Devoted to works! Good works can’t save us but without them we show no proof that we have believed the gospel. This is Active Grace, the cycle of grace, A call to a disciplined life of worship and service. Works don’t save you, but they do validate your faith. James said, without works faith is dead.
You can’t be born again, saved and holy yet continue to live a life characterised by sin. In fact, it is because we are saved by grace that we do good works! So to validate and demonstrate that we have truly received and value the grace of God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, our lives become an overflow of good works – not in an attempt to earn anything (since we have it already how can we earn it?), for we saved by grace through faith, but our works are a worshipful response to the goodness of God as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12) abounding in every good work prepared in advance for us to do. Grace without works, it just doesn’t work.
Ephesians 2:10 // For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for goodworks, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Matthew 5:16 // In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your goodworks and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
1 Timothy 6:18 // They are to do good, to be rich in goodworks, to be generous and ready to share
Titus 2:7 // Show yourself in all respects to be a model of goodworks
Titus 3:14 // And let our people learn to devote themselves to goodworks
Hebrews 10:24 // And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and goodworks
ONE MORE THING…
Perhaps the most controversial scripture on along this line of thought is found in James, he makes a statement and then poses a very… very important question:
James 2:14 // What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?