Meditations for Troubled Times
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12)
In our modern use of language, the word “grace” has numerous meanings. We say “grace” before meals. The power company might give a “grace period” to pay the electric bill. However, what is biblical grace? There’s a lot we could say to answer this question. In Titus 2:11, Paul simply says that grace is something which has appeared. In a sense, it’s embodied in Jesus Christ. He came into this world even though men did not deserve him. But for what purpose? Paul declares “to bring salvation for all people.” Jesus appeared to free sinners and forgive sinners through his suffering and death on the cross. In fact, he did this for “all people.”
However, in saying this, the Apostle is not announcing that “All are redeemed.” Such a notion goes against the rest of Scripture (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Instead, we need to remember how he is using the word “all.” If you are in a meeting and the person running it says, “All can go to lunch now,” does this mean everyone in the entire world? Of course not. The word “all” can be representative of a specific group, which is what we find in Titus 2:11. Salvation has been brought through Christ’s appearing for “all types of people”—men and women, young and old, social elites and country rednecks, black and white, Hispanics and Koreans, those who have grown up in the church, and those who have not. The Eternal Son was enfleshed to give himself as a sacrifice for sinners of all stripes, regardless of their backgrounds or the heinousness of their iniquities. Jesus came to graciously deliver sinners from sin’s curse.
But this is not all God’s grace does. Christ’s advent and saving acts also train in righteousness. “For the grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” When we experience God’s redeeming grace in Christ, we’re not just getting a glorious announcement, “You’re no longer condemned, but once and for all forgiven and righteous in God’s sight.” We get more. We get transforming grace to put off things like unforgiveness, discontentment, lust, anger, gossip, and lying. Then we are empowered to put on righteous opposites—self-control, personal devotion to the Lord, and godly speech. This is what God graciously does. Though we don’t deserve it, he transforms us and enables us to grow in holiness. Without his empowering grace, you and I would, morally, be like a little hamster on a spinning wheel— always running, but never going anywhere. Instead, God is active to change not only our status before him, but also our hearts, minds, and wills.
Does this maturity occur by simply “letting go and letting God”? Of course not. The word “train” in verse 12 tells us that God will graciously work, but I also must work. He’s exercising me and getting me into spiritual shape, which means I must move, too. As one of my seminary professors put it, “This is sweaty sanctification.” Do you want to grow? What do you need to do? Behold the grace of God as it appears in Christ. Look to Jesus. Consider him and his work (Hebrews 12:2-3). And then get busy perspiring. Work hard to die to self and live to your Savior. Even now in turbulent times like ours? Yes! Especially in 2020! Let God’s grace train you to resist ungodliness and to live righteously.