Over the past few years, a new term has surfaced in the circles I engage with. Gospel-centered. Though I would consider myself to have always been “gospel centered” . . . . though the gospel has always been the power for those being saved . . . this relatively new resurgence has brought a keen focus and reminder that the gospel is not designed for just a “once and done” application.
Certainly the good news of the finished work of the cross on my behalf is the power for having been saved from the penalty of my sin in the past. But the gospel is also the ocean of grace in which I currently swim as I am now being saved, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God, from the power of the sin in my present. What’s more, ’tis grace that will lead us home. The grace of the gospel also reminding us that Jesus not only died to set us free, but that He rose again and ascended that we might one day be with Him. Grace alone, not how well we performed as Christians, will be the sole reason that, one day in the future, I am going to be saved from the very presence of sin when the Bride, the church, is received by the Bridegroom.
Thus, there is no boasting in anything we have done, or are doing, or will do, as far as meriting salvation, whether past, present, or future. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. Not of works . . . it is the gift of God.
But I as reminded by Paul’s letter to Titus that to think that being gospel-centered is mutually exclusive of good works would be a mistake. In fact, says the inspired Word of God, we should be devoted to good works.
. . . 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. (Titus 3:5-8 ESV)
Four times in this letter Paul talks about “good works.” Titus was to be “a model of good works” (2:7). Jesus redeemed and purified us so that we might be a people “zealous for good works” (2:14). As such, Titus was to encourage “our people” to “learn to devote themselves to good works” (3:14). Thus, because we, as God’s people, have been saved not by our own works, but by Another’s . . . because we have known regeneration and renewal through the richly given gift of the Spirit . . . because we have been justified by grace alone . . . because we have freely been made heirs of the hope of eternal life . . . in light of all this, because of the gospel, God’s people are to be “careful to devote themselves to good works” (3:8).
There should be no one working harder at good works than those who are gospel-centered. No one running the race more purposefully . . . no one fighting the good fight more courageously . . . no one laboring to harvest in the field more determinedly . . . no one working harder than those who know that their works could never save them.
Yet, they are those who are devoted to good works.
That’s the type of people that grace grows. Those who labor IN RESPONSE to all they have been freely given. Those who labor AS A REFLECTION of the image of the Son of God being formed in them. Those who labor in light of THE REWARD when, one day, standing before Jesus face to face they hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:23).
Far from being mutually exclusive, when God’s people are truly gospel-centered then God’s people will be truly devoted to good works.
All because of grace . . . All for God’s glory.