Study 5 THE WONDROUS GRACE OF GOD
THE LETTERS TO TITUS AND PHILEMON
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Titus 2: 11 – 14)
This classic passage gives us the clearest statement of the grace of God in the New Testament. What is the grace of God? It has been defined as ‘the favour of God shown to the undeserving.’ The late Dr W. H. Griffith Thomas pointed out that grace may be viewed from three standpoints: What grace is in God, what grace is in Christ, and what grace is in the believer. ‘Grace in God is God’s mercy pitying, God’s wisdom planning, God’s power preparing and God’s love providing. God’s grace thus stretches from Eden to Calvary. Grace in Christ is saving grace suggested by Jesus, sanctifying grace suggested by Christ, sovereign grace implied by Lord, and satisfying grace by the little word our. Paul was able to say that he was what he was “by the grace of God” (1 Corinthians 15:10).’ Another definition worthy of note is that ‘God’s grace is His active favour bestowing the greatest gift upon those who have deserved the greatest punishment.’ Notice that verse 11 begins with the word ‘For’. Paul has been giving Titus instructions as to how he is to teach various classes of people, and he connects this with the outline of doctrine that is contained in verses 11-14, showing us again the connection between belief and behaviour, creed and conduct. To simplify this study we are using an intriguing outline published by Mr. George Goodman in ‘Words of Life and Beauty’ in 1898.
1. WHAT GRACE BROUGHT
What did grace bring? Grace brought salvation (verse 11). Notice that only the grace of God brings salvation; the law did not do it, science does not do it, psychology cannot do it, humanism will not do it and philosophy is unable to do it. None of these can save, but the grace of God evolved a method of saving men and women - look up Ephesians 2:8-10. Notice three things about the salvation that grace has brought:-
- Salvation is embodied in a Person. The Person is Jesus Christ the Lord, whose name ’Jesus’ means ‘Saviour’. In verse 11 there is a reference to the Incarnation - compare Matthew 1:21 with Acts 4:12, also compare Luke 2:27-30 and 19:19, both of which emphasise that salvation is in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- It is a full and a free salvation. If grace provides it, it must be so. It means that salvation is altogether of God’s providing, and therefore it is entirely free for the taking. This is the meaning of ’grace’ - refer again to Ephesians 2:8-10.
- It is available to all people, everywhere. This is the significance of the words ’all men’. This salvation is universal in its scope. It does not mean that when Jesus came all men saw Him appear; it means He came to make salvation available to everyone - thank God! - look up Romans 10:12-13.
2. WHAT GRACE TAUGHT
Notice verse 12, ‘It teaches us…’ which means that grace trains us or disciplines us. Many people think that salvation means having our sins forgiven and receiving a new life, but it is much more than this. The grace that saves us goes on to sanctify us in two ways:-
- Negatively – ‘No to ungodliness and worldly passions’. The word ‘No’ means just that; the word ‘ungodliness’ refers to all that is unlike God - compare Romans 1:18-32. The words ’worldly passions’ refer to any unspiritual desires, and Hendriksen says that in the scriptural usage of this word ‘passions’, the following may be included: inordinate sexual desire, the liquor mania, excessive yearning for material possessions, longing for pleasure, power, self-pleasing - compare 1 John 2:16; Titus 3:3.
- Positively - we should ’live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.’ To be saved is not just to receive a ticket to Heaven; it is to be ’self-controlled’ (our self-ward attitude), ‘upright’ (our man-ward attitude), and ‘godly’ (our God-ward attitude).
How do you fit in to this picture? Now the Apostle tells us:-
3. WHAT GRACE WROUGHT
We have this in verse 13. The fact that the grace of God has brought salvation means that we have a ‘blessed hope’. What is the Christian’s ‘blessed hope’? It is the personal return of Jesus Christ. The word ‘hope’ does not imply uncertainty; it means ‘a confident expectation’. The hope of Christ’s coming is blessed indeed. Think of the One who is coming and see how He is described in verse 13, and think how He is coming - first to rapture the Church into His presence - look up John 14:3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, and then to reign in great glory - look up Revelation 1:7, and compare Matthew 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 9. We as Christians are to live looking up! Do we live like this? Where do we look? - at the world, its upsets, unrest and sins, or are we looking for Him? Compare Luke 21:28. Now notice:-
4. WHAT GRACE SOUGHT
What did God’s grace seek? What was the great objective of the Incarnation? The answer is in verse 14: ‘to purify for himself a people’. It means a ’different’ people, a people ’of His very own’. This is marvellous - that the Lord should seek us because He wanted us for Himself! This is why Jesus died: First, ‘to redeem us from all wickedness’, and then, ‘to purify for himself a people …eager to do what is good.’ Here, then, we have a description of the kind of people that grace seeks:-
- (1) A Redeemed people - a Saved people.
- (2) A Cleansed people - a Sanctified people.
- (3) An Eager people - a Serving people.
In case we have emphasised grace to the exclusion of works, Paul’s paragraph closes on the note of good works. We do not work in order to be saved, but when we are saved, then we work with great eagerness for the glory of God.