Why Insist on Justification by Grace?
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 Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
It’s a glorious sentence, replete with joy fuel, and is rightly well-known and much loved. But why did Paul write it? Why was he so insistent that Titus preach justification by grace, and salvation that comes not by our works, but according to God’s mercy? He tells us in the next clause:
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that ...
So that what? So that we could rest in the certainty that our works don’t matter? So that we could live in freedom from moral constraints? No:
... 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.
Wait: what? You should preach justification by grace and not works, so that people devote themselves to good works? You’re saying that the best way to empower people to live in righteousness is to stress that their righteousness is not the basis of their salvation? You think the best way to produce the fruit Roman Catholics (rightly) want is to teach Protestant doctrine?
Yes, sir. Happy Reformation 500.