He Saved Us, Not Because of Righteous Things We Had Done, But Because of His Mercy

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JEREMIAH 51:54-52:34 | TITUS 3:1-15 | PSALM 100:1-5 | PROVERBS 26:18-19

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The weeping prophet has come to the end of his prophecies. 

Jeremiah wraps up with a final foretelling of the doomsday that Babylon will soon see.  Not only does he speak these prophecies, but he writes them down and sends the scroll to Babylon to have it publicly read and then tossed into the mighty Euphrates. 

Any Babylonian with half an ear would have done well to have heard these words, and one can only wonder if there might have been any who might have made further inquiries and efforts to reverse these horrific prophecies against them! 

Regardless, Nebuchadnezzar’s reign will not last long. 

Next, there is some back-tracking of the account of the fall of Jerusalem, and in this way, the book of Jeremiah comes to a close.

We turn now to our reading of Paul’s letter to Titus, and continue to learn more about Paul’s intent in giving out these many detailed directives on personal and corporate conduct.  One can only hope that Paul’s attempts at clarity concerning the reasons advocated for doing good come through to his readers in the church. 

Paul starts out by offering a broad exhortation to be mindful of authority, and mentions in passing “to be ready to do whatever is good,” but it is only a few lines further that he lays out the plan of salvation and takes care to state unequivocally the non-association between our good works, also known as “righteous things” and the “kindness and love of God” who “because of his mercy” has “justified (us) by his grace” and made us “heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

So powerful and essential is this doctrine that Paul follows it up by saying, “And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

“Doing good” is a fundamental part of the Christian life, and a by-product of our “rebirth and renewal” in the new law of Christ. 

Remember, this is a new law, a new covenant between God and man which makes null and void the previous one, also known as the Mosaic Law. 

Paul has already addressed the old law earlier on in this very letter in pointing out the purpose of the law which was to make us aware of our sinful nature, but the fulfillment of the law has been accomplished by the work of Christ on the cross.  The knowledge, realization, and acceptance of this truth brings about salvation, i.e., the saving of one’s soul. 

The two most fundamental aspects of this phenomenon are:  Salvation cannot be earned by good works, and is free to all who believe in the saving grace of the work of Christ on the cross.

One might ask this question of Paul: You mean to say there’s nothing further I must do to earn it?  Perhaps a pilgrimage,  or a penance, or a feeding of the poor that would demonstrate and measure my good works to further earn meritorious favor with God? 

And Paul’s answer would be:  That’s right, you need do nothing more, but you would WANT to do it because it is the right thing to do, and because you can!

But enough of my paraphrasing Paul’s words.  In his own words, these are his fundamental statements that point to the fact that we are saved in order to do good.  Not the other way around! 

Paul says: 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Paul also has some very practical advice that is quite timeless in its relevance and appeal. 

He says to Titus, 9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. 

Is that sufficiently clear, gentle reader?  Paul’s rule of thumb is as simple as it comes:  once, twice, and that’s all, folks!

And in this way, Paul wraps us this short letter to Titus.  He has dwelt much on the business of advocating “doing good” and has backed that up with an infrastructure of contextual information and advice that is as broad as it is deep. 

But one last time, Paul exhorts Titus to instill in the church the good practice of doing good.  He goes on to say: 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. 

Finally, Paul ends his letter in his affectionate style of sending greetings to friends, and asking Titus to come and visit him in the winter.  His inimitable style is evident in these lines: 15 Everyone with me sends you greetings.  Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all.

Next, we turn to our Psalm of the day.  Psalm 100 is another Psalm that I have had committed to memory since my childhood, thanks to my mother.  I reproduce it in its entirety in the King James Version that I am familiar with:

1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

 2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

 3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

 4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

 5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Finally, a couple of verses from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, speaks of the ills of afflicting pain on another in a deceptive way.  He says:

18 Like a maniac shooting
   flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
   and says, “I was only joking!”

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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