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Last time we heard the simple gospel message, that God saves sinners. God saved us, says Paul, through regeneration, justification, and adoption. He brings dead sinners to life, declares guilty sinners righteous, and gives alienated sinners a place in his family.
In verse eight Paul continues his thought with a fourth key word of salvation: sanctification. The word isn't used but the idea is explicit: believers must devote themselves to good works. Believers are God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
Good works are contrary to the evil works we commit when we live according to the flesh, like those described in Titus 3:3.
But here Paul contrasts good works with a single evil work, namely divisiveness. Devote yourselves to good works "but avoid foolish controversies" (9). Good works are profitable. The foolish controversies of divisive people are "unprofitable and worthless" (3:9).
Paul's comment on the conversion of a man named Onesimus is applicable to every believer: "Formerly he was useless … but now he is indeed useful" (Phile. 1:11). How should regenerated, justified, adopted believers live?