Trust in Jesus Alone - Titus 1:15-16
If you’ve ever spoken with a financial advisor about investing for the future, the advisor probably warned you of the consequences of failing to diversify your portfolio. They say you should invest in many companies and funds rather than just one, because if you invest in only one, and that one fails, you lose everything.
After all, you shouldn’t “put all your eggs in one basket,” right? We all know that saying. Picture a young child on a farm who goes out to collect the eggs from the hen house. The child puts all the eggs in one basket. And walking home, that basket breaks, hits the ground, and all the eggs break. So diversify.
It’s good advice. You don’t want to put all your trust in one basket or one investment. However, we tend to think this way when it comes to how we can be made right with God – how we can been seen as good in his eyes.
We naturally trust not in the saving work of Jesus alone, but in additional things as well to make us feel that we are pure or good.
However, God doesn’t require, nor does he accept, a diversified portfolio. The Scriptures tell us to put all of our eggs in one basket – the righteousness of Jesus. The Scriptures tell us to put all of our trust in one investment – the saving work of Jesus.
And because God doesn’t require or accept a diversified portfolio, we should consider the consequences of trusting in additional things to make us right with God?
So what are those consequences?
You’ll notice the outline on page six of the worship guide. In these two verses of Titus 1, Paul assures us that without trust in the work of Jesus alone:
- a person’s guilt is permanent
- their profession is empty (meaning their public claim of faith in Jesus)
- and their works are worthless.
So let’s look at these together.
First, without trust in the work of Jesus alone, a person’s guilt is permanent. (v.15)
Paul makes this statement after having described lies taught to the new believers in Crete. The lies amounted to additional things that must be done or not done to be truly right with God. The idea is that faith in the work of Jesus, trust in him, is not enough. And the Cretan people were prone to believing these things, as all of us are. All of us are prone to wander from God. Now we learn a bit more about the consequences of the lies. Paul says,
- “To the pure, all things are pure.” The false teachers said various things made a person unclean or impure. This was rooted in Old Testament ceremonial law, but also had some Greek philosophy mixed in, which held that the physical world is bad and all of these God-given things were inherently impure.
- So, regardless of trust in Jesus, if the men were not circumcised, they were not pure.
- If they ate certain foods, the people were impure.
- If they married and then engaged in a sexual relationship, they were not pure.
- But Jesus and later the apostles addressed the issue of purity.
- In Mark 7, Jesus said “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Jesus is talking about the results of being a sinner.
- And God gave the apostle Peter a vision to explain this to him. Acts 10 says, “He became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common (or defiled).”
- For Hebrews before the time of Jesus, God gave them laws to follow to set them apart from those who worshipped false gods and practiced all kinds of immorality. This included what seems to the modern mind to be arbitrary restrictions on certain foods.
- But the point us that these restrictions caused them to avoid table fellowship with those who worshipped false gods. There have been health benefits at that time, but the main point was that God was separating the Hebrews to make them a nation that worshipped only him.
- However, Jesus clarifies that what makes a person unclean was their sin, not the foods they ate.
- Again, Mark 7, “And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
- Many Hebrews at that time were perfectly happy to carry on with their sinful ways while feeling pure because they obeyed the clean laws. They didn’t understand the point.
- Jesus came to do what the ceremonial laws would never do – actually make a person clean in the sight of God. Before Jesus, these laws simply pointed to the Messiah who would come to make God’s people pure.
- So when Paul says, “To the pure, all things are pure,” he means “To those who have been made morally and religiously clean by Jesus, all things are ceremonially clean”
- The next part of verse 15 says “but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure;”
- Clearly, if Paul associates “defiled” with “unbelieving,” he associates “clean” with “believing” or trusting, in Jesus.
- So he’s saying, “To those who remain morally and religiously unclean, all things are ceremonially unclean.”
- For those who have not put all trust in Jesus to make them pure, nothing they do or do not do will make them pure. Nothing they abstain from, no ritual that they perform, will make them clean. Because being unclean is a matter of the sins within a person. It has nothing to do with abstinence from foods or performance of rituals.
- And being “defiled” is connected to Paul’s diagnosis here. He says that “both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”
- The “mind” refers to their understanding of what is moral and good. Sin clouds that understanding.
- And their conscience, that inner compass that helps us distinguish between good and bad and urges us to do what is right, is confused by sin.
- Ultimately, these people can’t evaluate what is pure. They haven’t experienced the renewal of the mind that Paul describes in Romans 12. And so they think that these additional things are removing their guilt.
This may seem curious to you. Why would these people think that these sorts of things could remove their guilt? Here’s a question for you to consider: how do you deal with your guilt? You feel guilty for things – things you’ve said and done, or not said and not done. Your guilt motivates you to look for ways to make it go away. Guilt makes us feel unclean; it makes us feel dirty, ashamed. Guilt is a burden. So if we do something for which we feel guilty, we reason it away or try to make up for it...
We vow to be different, we do something good, we try to compensate for our mistake. But no matter what, you can’t go back and change what you did. What is done is done. So much of what people do and says a response to the pain of regret and the burden of guilt. Much of the anxiousness that plagues people today is a result of guilt, and what follows are various attempts to feel pure or clean. But see, if you trust in the pure record of Jesus, his perfect life and his atoning death, his purity is imputed or credited to you. We read about this earlier from 2 Cor. 5:21. And your impurity was washed away by the shedding of his innocent blood. Romans 3 says, “the wages of sin is death.” Death came into the world because of sin. Sin demands death. Only Christianity believes that sin was completely dealt with by a death. At that death a debt was paid.
To what things do you look to rid yourself of your guilt? You may do good things and tell yourself they make up for bad things you once did. But nothing is going to change what you did. God doesn’t have a scale, where he put a weight on the good side for each good thing you do or bad thing you abstain from, so that your good will one day outweigh your bad. If you’ve trusted in Christ, does your conscience pour guilt on you. In 1 John 3, John refers to the conscience as the “heart”. He says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
If you are born again, you have a renewed conscience, which reminds you of how sinful you are. But the declaration of the work of God through Christ is greater than the accusation of your conscience.
Again, 1 John 3 says, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he (Jesus) is pure.”
Also, without trust in the work of Jesus alone, a person’s profession is empty. (v.16a)
That is, the profession of faith in Jesus. “Profess” means to acknowledge or declare publicly.
- This is how Paul describes the false teachers: “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.”
- They say they have this personal relationship with God. They say they are right with God. But their behavior contradicts this.
- If they were truly born again, and they understood the good news that is the gospel of Jesus, they wouldn’t be telling people to jump through various hoops to be rid of their guilt and clean in the sight of God.
- Paul describes this issue in greater detail in 1 Tim 4. He says, Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy (or set apart) by the word of God and prayer.
- When anything created by God is used according to its God-intended use, it is pure.
- Of course not all things are pure. Sexual immorality is not pure. Theft is not pure. Any evil, by definition, is not pure.
- Paul uses “all” back in verse 15 the way he uses “all” in other places in his letters. You have to read what he says in light of the argument he’s making and in light of the whole of holy Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, to know what “all” refers to.
- The fact that these teachers proclaim that trust in Jesus alone in not enough only serves to show that they in fact have not trusted in him alone, and so their public profession of faith in Jesus is empty or meaningless.
Jesus had said this years earlier. Saying a person’s name twice was a way of speaking to someone whom you know personally. It’s something like what we call being on a first-name basis. In Matthew 7, Jesus states, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And so even to those who claim to have done great things for Jesus, he could say, “I never knew you.” It is certainly possible, and in fact very common, for people to profess or claim a personal relationship with God through Jesus when in fact their lives show no evidence of such a relationship.
Don’t we all know people who would say they are Christians, yet their lives don’t reflect a trust in the work of Jesus alone? People who point to having repeated a prayer or having been baptized. Perhaps you profess faith in Jesus, but could your profession be meaningless? Is there anyone you need to lovingly warn, cautioning them that while they may profess Jesus with their mouths, their lives don’t reflect true belief?
In Matthew 7, Jesus stated, “You will recognize them by their fruits…A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” He said this specifically about false teachers, but is it not true of all people? In Matthew 3, Jesus said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Your life should increasingly demonstrate that you trust in Jesus alone. Out of this trust in him should come, as Galatians 5 says, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These things are how get God to save and bless you; they are a result of his salvation and blessing.
And finally, without trust in the work of Jesus alone, a person’s works are worthless. (v.16b)
Paul describes these false teachers, but it would follow that those who adhere to what they teach would be described the same way. Teachers produce followers who believe as they do.
- “They are detestable,”
- “unfit for any good work.”
The issues of purity and defilement are still in view here. To see the saving work of Jesus as insufficient to make a person pure – that is detestable. It is a flagrant insult to Jesus, one of the three persons of the Trinity, who atoning death doesn’t need anything added to it to remove sins. And to reject God-given things as impure is disobedient. Again, 1 Timothy 4, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
But to say that the person is “unfit for any good work.” Really? Any good work? Well, because the person is guilty and unfit in God’s eyes due to their rejection of Jesus, it follows that any work they do is not “good” in the sense that it gets them zero traction or benefit with God. It doesn’t justify them. Which is serious because this is the driving force of the good things people do apart from Christ. They do things to justify themselves, either to themselves or to others.
In Romans 3, as Paul makes his case for why all people, both Jews and non-Jews, are sinners, he references Psalm 14 when he writes, “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” You may think, “well wait, I know non-Christians who do good things.” This isn’t saying that non-believers don’t do things that benefit society and help others. But all the works of justice and benevolence and service amount to zero when it comes to removing the condemnation of sin. And so, ultimately, without trust in the work of Jesus, a person’s works are worthless.
Are you counting on your works to make you right with God? Is that why you do good things? To get something from God? To put God in a position to owe you? Do you ever do the right things for the wrong reasons? Are you like the child who obeys his or her parents, not because he or she loves what is right or loves the parents, but because without the outward obedience he or she loses some privilege? You look virtuous, but you’re not. Do you understand that this is what sin has done – it has naturally positioned each one of us away from God and others, and toward ourselves. Therefore while it may look different in the lives of various people, the disposition of someone without trust in Jesus alone is to serve themselves. Even when outwardly what they do looks selfless. So for this reason, the Scriptures are right when they say, “no one does good, not even one.” Not even one, apart from trust in the work of Jesus alone.
You need to go back and revisit your retirement investments from time to time. Make sure you’re diversified enough; drop poor funds and add new ones that are trending upward. But when it comes to being made right with God, put it all on Jesus. They tell you not to watch your investments daily because the stock market fluctuates so much. But daily, look at how much you’ve trusted on Jesus. Remember that you’re banking it all on him. This last song we sing perfectly expresses the joy of a heart awakened to these truths of trust in Jesus alone. “And Can it be?” It can be, and it is.