Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers in their early years, is said to have begun training camp by gathering all of the players around him and, while holding up a football, said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
There wasn’t one of those men who didn’t know what a football was, but that wasn’t Lombardi’s point. He wanted all of his players and coaches to know that the fundamentals of the game were important and would be stressed. If you forget the fundamentals, you’ll lose games – lots of them.
In the epistle he wrote to Titus, the apostle Paul laid down fundamental truth. He said,
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 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. (Titus 3:1-8)
Two bedrock truths are emphasized in this paragraph:
First, sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. We can never be right with God through our own efforts or good deeds. The only hope we have is God’s grace extended to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ. That’s the gospel we preach.
Second, salvation by grace alone through faith alone produces good works or deeds. When God justifies us by His grace, the inevitable result will be good deeds. One of the evidences of true faith in Christ is the presence of good works. As the Reformers put it, we’re saved by faith alone, but never by a faith that is alone.
Both faith and works have a part to play in the life of Christian. We aren’t saved by works, but they are part of the proof that we are saved. In other words, we don’t do good works in order to get saved, we do them because we are saved.
Gentlemen, this is a football.