Paul F. Pavao
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I use this newsletter to send Bible studies as much as once per week, sometimes less, but never more. See back issues.
On the home page, I promised answers to which of the many Christian voices can be trusted.
Trustworthy Christian Teaching Produces Results.
Jesus said that we would be able to separate true and false prophets by their results (Matt. 7:15-20). Good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. If the fruit you see is bad, be assured the tree is bad as well. That may be "judgmental" in the eyes of others, but it is a judgment Jesus commanded us to make. "Beware of false prophets who come to you cloaked as sheep," he said. That is a command.
What fruit is he talking about? In this passage, Jesus had just delivered a long speech full of teaching and commands which began in chapter 5. That speech is popularly known as "The Sermon on the Mount." It would be safe, then, to conclude that the fruit he is discussing is the behavior he described in the sermon.
Jesus goes on to say that those who hear and do the things in the sermon are like builders who used a solid foundation. Those who do not obey his sermon are like builders who use no foundation. Again, it is apparent that when Jesus refers to fruit, he is referring to the kind of behavior described in the Sermon on the Mount.
Trustworthy Christian Teaching Has a Strong Emphasis on Obedience
Jesus death was a payment. He was purchasing something. That something was us.
This all brings us to a glorious passage at the end of Titus 2:
The saving grace of God has appeared to everyone, teaching us to deny irreverence and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously, and reverently in this current age, looking forward to the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself his own people, zealous for good works. (vv. 11-14, from Greek)
We were slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17; Eph. 2:1-3), but Jesus bought us out of slavery to sin with his own blood. The purpose was to obtain a people that belong to him, a people that would be zealous for good works.
Since it is our Lord's purpose to have a people zealous for good works, Paul commands Timothy in the strongest of words to exhort the people of Crete to do good works. He follows the quote above with "These thing speak, encourage, and convict with all command. Let no one despise you" (Tit. 2:15). Just a few verses later, he said, "This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to confidently put forward that those who have believed in God should be caring about good works" (3:8).
The earliest known Christian sermon is ancient enough that it used to be attributed to a late-first-century bishop in Rome named Clement. While it is no longer attributed to Clement, it is from no later than AD 150 and still bears the title 2 Clement, less than a century after Paul and Peter were preaching and no more than 60 years after the apostle John died.
The writer of this sermon took Paul's letter to Titus to heart. He begins by speaking of Jesus' mercy toward us, and then ...
How do we confess him? By doing what he commands, not disobeying his commandments, and honoring him with our lips, but with our whole heart and whole understanding. ... Let us not, therefore, only call him Lord, for that will not save us [Cf. Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46). ... Therefore brothers, let us confess him in our deeds by loving one another, by not committing adultery, not speaking ill of each other ... We ought also to sympathize with one another, and to abstain from greed ... (2 Clement 3-4)
The writer goes on and on, exhorting his readers/listeners to give attention to good works. He is not alone. If there is anything that stands out in the earliest writings of the church, it is their exhortation to one another to do good works.