4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
I love Paul’s placement of this part in his letter. He talked about being obedient, he warned against false teachings, he reminded us of our own foolishness and imperfection, and now he begins his closing by reminding us that all the things he has said has nothing to do with our salvation or hope.
He tells us of the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s regeneration of our sinful selves and renewing of our minds. Too often we get caught up into thinking that our good deeds amount to our righteousness. Maybe you are caught up in it today without even thinking about it. Friends, it is a lie. Our good deeds do not pave a way to heaven!
It is only by God’s grace, His free love, that we are even able to have a relationship with Him, let alone spend eternity with Him. This is not to say good deeds aren’t warranted, rather we must be careful that we do not think we are a “good person” because we do them. Rather, we do them because God has changed our hearts to desire to do them simply for the sake of doing them! This is the “litmus test” of our motivations. Why do we do what we do? Good deeds are for the benefit of others and the Kingdom of God, not our own self-righteousness. As Jesus said in His sermon on the mount, “those who do things to be noticed by others have already received their reward.” Rather the reward of doing things for the Glory of God is exactly that: God Glorified. It benefits men (and women) when God is glorified in their lives. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone you know who claims to have witnessed the Glory of God. Their lives are forever changed.
Don’t let the devil confuse you and make you think this is contrary to James’ writing on “faith without deeds is dead.” Rather his meaning is that if we truly believe in God and have a relationship with Him, we will be compelled to perform good deeds as a result of the Glory of God within us.