Evangelicals believe that faith alone establishes your salvation. How do they resolve Titus 1:16?

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

While I understand that evangelicals don't directly recommend doing abominable, disobedient and reprobating good work - they also generally don't believe that you can lose your salvation, which this passage seems to imply.

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    I've edited the question for broader applicability. The accepted answer still applies. Feel free to re-edit or let me know if this is an unwelcome change. Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 18:30

2 Answers 2


Laying the Groundwork

The Transformation of Salvation

It is important to note that, according to the Bible, the following things occur at the moment of salvation by faith alone:

  • We, who were once dead, are made alive in Christ:

    When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. (Colossians 2:13)

  • We, who were once in the dominion of darkness, are brought into the kingdom of Jesus

    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

  • We, who were once alienated from God, hostile to God (or enemies of God) have now become the children of God by virtue of a new birth:

    And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds" (Colossians 1:21)

    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

  • We, who were one sinful, are now a holy nation, made righteous and renewed in our spirits:

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified [declared righteous] as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

    Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (Colossians 3:9-10)

The Impact of the Transformation

So, at the moment of salvation, a very significant transformation has occurred. We are changed at the very core of our beings so that our desires have changed and our spirits are now alive. Indeed, we have the Holy Spirit Himself indwelling us:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

What this results in is a drastic change in desires. Someone who has truly put their faith in Christ should have new desires, and their salvation should naturally result in a change in their actions.

So, you should see the impact of their faith in the works that they do, but it is not a salvation by works. Put another way, we believe that salvation is by faith alone, but a genuine faith will inevitably result in a change in actions and behavior. If you observe no change in desires or actions, then it is cause to doubt the genuineness of the faith.

Titus 1:16

From an evangelical perspective, the verse you cited is not speaking about those who truly believe in Christ, but whose actions have failed to change. Rather, it is speaking of those whose faith is not genuine and whose actions reveal this to be true. Jesus Himself indicated that "by their fruits you will know them" in Matthew 7:16.


So, if you observe someone professing faith in Christ who is doing abominable things without shame or repentance, we should not conclude that this is someone who has truly put his or her faith in Christ, been brought out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, made a new creation, forgiven, cleansed, made righteous, made alive and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, but who is failing to reflect in any way the life of a Christian. Rather we should conclude that no change has really taken place and, as a result, no true faith has been exercised.

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    While most "Evangelical" denominations would give the answer in your last paragraph, there are indeed some (particularly among Baptists) that teach a version of Once Saved Always Saved that says these people are saved and can basically do anything and will never lose their salvation, only lose rewards. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 21:31
  • @davidbrainerd I agree that they can do anything they want, but my position is that a true believer will have different "wants". Thus, their fruit will reveal whether or not they are truly following Christ.
    – Narnian
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 12:05
  • An undue emphasis on faith alone that makes it sound like faith can ever actually be alone, however, has a tendency to produce those who are not truly following Christ but just looking for a quick fix, which I think was the point of the OP. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:17

James 1;22

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 2;19,20,21,22,23,26

a. 19 Thou believest that there is one God, thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble.

b. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

c. 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the alter?

d. 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

e. 23 And the scripture was ful-filled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

f. 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Salvation is conditional!

  • How do you mean salvation is conditional exsactly? Because you did not sight salvation scriptures and also in relation to at least John 3.
    – rob
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 4:24
  • Matthew 22;39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    – V. Rollins
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 4:43
  • Was that suppose to answer my question?
    – rob
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 7:10
  • Matther 22;39 is one half of the great commandment Jesus gave the disciples. It is incomplete, as is Titus 1;16 A careful examination of Titus 1 should reveal your answer.
    – V. Rollins
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 20:36
  • Our faith has to be manifested in action; submission of our will, turn from our ways, and follow the examples of Jesus. Not only hearers and thinkers, but doers.
    – V. Rollins
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 17:17

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