Grace: The Key That Unlocks the Bible-Titus 2:11-15

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Key Verse: 2:11

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people."

Just how important is grace? Grace (charis) occurs 156 times in the N.T. J.I. Packer, the well respected British theologian and author, says, "In the New Testament, ‘grace' is a word of central importance - the keyword, in fact, of Christianity. The thought of grace is the key that unlocks the New Testament; and it is the only key that does so. However well we may know the New Testament, we cannot get inside its meaning till we know something of what grace is."

Whether we realize it or not, the entire Bible centers on grace and reveals grace, for grace is the way our God operates. But grace is counter-intuitive to all human beings including Christians, who function on the basis of the law, which is blessing and reward based on merit, not grace.

  • Major Distinction: Grace distinguishes between Christianity and all other religions in the world. All humanistic ideologies and religions, including Christianity wrongly understood and wrongly communicated, teaches that God/"the heavens" blesses us/saves us according to our work, effort or sincerity in being good and repentant. Only Christianity among all religions teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith (in Christ), which is the gift of God (Eph 2:8-9).
  • Man's Inability: In other words, the doctrine of grace teaches us explicitly that there is nothing that any man can do to bring about his own salvation. Even our faith/belief/trust in Jesus gives us no credit whatsoever, because our faith, which is God's divine work in us, is not in our "work" of faith, but our trust in a person--Jesus--who alone is able to save us.
  • Old Testament (OT)--Grace Precedes Law: Grace is not just a NT teaching on salvation, but OT as well. The 10 Commandments (Exo 20:2-17) is preceded by the grace of God's deliverance (Exo 20:1). Christians do not keep the 10 Commandments to be saved, but because God has already saved/delivered them.
  • OT Pattern/Order--1. Grace, 2. Law, 3 Reward/Punishment (Alec Motyer): Ex 19:4-6 shows this order. The Bible is understood when this order is understood. Grace always comes 1st. The order in the Bible is that we 1st receive grace, then next we obey. The Bible never teaches that we obey in order to receive grace.

In a sermon, "On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God" (Ex 19:1-25), Tim Keller explains this order of:

  1. Grace: The saving acts of the Lord (Ex 19:4). God carried them on eagle's wings.
  2. Law: Our responsive obedience (Ex 19:5). When they realize God's grace, they want to obey God.
  3. Blessing: The blessing obedience brings (Ex 19:6). When they obey because of grace, God blesses them.

Titus 2:11-14 is the heart of Titus. The ESV Study Bible refers to it as "Gospel Basics," where Paul gives the theological basis for the lifestyles he describes in Titus 2:1-10, which make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. Christians should live this way because (“for”) the grace of God that saves also instructs its recipients to live in a new way. One cannot truly claim to be a recipient of saving grace without also being a pupil of “training grace.” This change in lifestyle is rooted in the atonement (Titus 2:14) and the expectation of Christ’s return (Titus 2:13). Titus 2:11-14 answers the question why Christians ought to obey the exhortations in Titus 2:1-10. It is because of the grace of God. "For the grace of God has appeared..." (Titus 2:11). What happens when the grace of God appears? Let's see what happens when the grace of God appears:

Grace transforms/motivates/enables (Titus 2:11). Grace teaches (Titus 2:12). Grace waits/looks (Titus 2:13). Grace works/redeems/purifies (Titus 2:14). Grace gives authority/confidence (Titus 2:15).

I. Grace Transforms (Titus 2:11)

When grace appears, grace transforms. As much as we want to, we cannot change ourselves because of our sins. Sin resists God. Sin rebels against God (Rom 8:7). But grace changes and transforms us so that we desire to live in accordance with his Word and obey the exhortations in Titus 2:1-10. Grace brings/offers salvation to all people (Titus 2:11).

This does not mean universalism, that all men will be saved. Paul had just addressed the false teachers and their false teachings (Titus 1:10-16) that forfeits God's grace offered to them. "All" does not mean all people without exception. "All" means all people without distinction, whether slave or free, Jew or Gentile (Gal 3:28), from every tribe, nation and people (Rev 5:9).

God has shown us His grace through His Son. When we know and taste His grace, we will reveal the grace of God in the way we live. God gives our hearts the power and the desire to live a holy life not grudgingly but willingly. When grace is lived out/adorned in our life, we make the gospel attractive (Titus 2:10).

II. Grace Teaches (Titus 2:12)

Grace not only transforms and changes us. Grace also teaches us. Grace "teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). How do you know that you are saved by grace? You can say "No" and "Yes": "No" to ungodliness and "Yes" to godliness. Where grace reigns, grace trains. God teaches/trains us in grace in 3 areas--in relation to:

  1. Self: We have self-control (Gal 5:23), self-mastery over worldly passions.
  2. Others: We live an upright life in relationship with others; we love our neighbors.
  3. God: We live a godly life of devotion in an ungodly age (Mt 6:33; 1 Cor 10:31).

III. Grace Waits (Titus 2:13)

Grace enables us to "wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). This is the Christian's ultimate hope. The question is what do we do while we wait in hope? Watch movies? Play video games? Go on vacation?

How did Jesus express his hope while on earth? Heb 12:2b says, "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Jesus' glorious hope gave him the joy to endure the cross and scorn its shame day by day till he was executed on the cross.

What did Jesus do practically to endure the cross? Jesus said, "“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (Jn 5:17). He also said, "I always do what pleases him" (Jn 8:29). Jesus is always working like his Father, and his single sole motivation for working is to please God.

How do we Christians express our hope? How do we wait for our glorious and blessed hope? In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25:1-13), there were 5 foolish virgins and 5 wise virgins. The former were foolish because they were unprepared for the bridegroom's return, while the latter were ready, prepared and waiting for his unannounced return at any time without warning.

A lady once asked John Wesley how he would live if he knew that he would die at midnight the next day. He replied, "Why, madam, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to Martin's house...talk and pray with the family as usual, retire myself to my room at 10 o'clock, commend myself to my Heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory." This may be a very good question to ask ourselves.

Does our Christian hope fuel our Christian life?

IV. Grace Works (Titus 2:14)

Grace works through what Jesus did for us. Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:14). God's work is always 2-fold with a negative and a positive purpose: 1) redeem us from wickedness, and 2) purify us to do what is good.

Jesus "gave himself for us." Gal 1:4 says that Jesus "gave himself for our sins." Jesus "gave himself" to redeem us, to rescue us, and to save us. This simply means that only Jesus can save us, for only Jesus could our worthy Substitute (2 Cor 5:21). Salvation is entirely God's work and never the result of man's effort. This is grace. This is the key to knowing God and unlocking the Bible.

How does grace work? Eph 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." That Christ "gave himself for us (for our sins)" (Titus 2:14; Gal 1:4) means that Christians are saved by grace alone, through faith, which is a gift from God.

But throughout history, Christians have feared that if they teach that salvation is by grace, it would lead to a carefree, irresponsible, godless life. So, they add "works" to grace. They say, suggest, or insinuate that grace alone is not enough; by saying, suggesting, or insinuating that we are saved by "grace and works," or "faith and works," or "faith and faithfulness," or "faith and bearing fruit," or "faith and __________." But Paul clearly says that we are saved only by grace and through faith and not by works in Eph 2:8-9. For some reason "not by works" scares Christians to this day and they hesitate to say boldly, clearly and precisely what the Bible says.

Paul, however, was not afraid or hesitant to say "not by works." In Galatians, Paul says clearly that if we add anything to grace and to the gospel, we are foolish and bewitched (Gal 3:1), and should be eternally condemned (Gal 1:8-9) and emasculated (Gal 5:12). Paul saved his strongest, harshest language for anyone who dares to add anything to the grace of God in the gospel. To Paul, grace alone was always sufficient (2 Cor 12:9).

Since we are saved by grace alone shall we just go on sinning (Rom 6:1, 15)? Are there no works in salvation? Eph 2:10 explains that we are not saved by good works, but for good works: "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." To Paul works is the evidence of grace, not the means of grace. No one gets grace by working more, yet when grace is working in us, good works abound.

V. Grace Gives Authority/Confidence (Titus 2:15)

Grace does not make us wimps. Instead, grace gives us authority and confidence. "These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you" (Titus 2:15). There are 2 kinds of authority. 1) Authority that comes from your rank or position. 2) Authority that comes from grace. Positional authority compels obedience out of fear. Authority that comes from grace promotes obedience that comes from love and gratitude.

Why do you obey God? Do you obey because you are afraid of your shepherd? Or do you obey because you realize that "the grace of God has appeared" (Titus 2:11) to you personally?

Being a Christian and living the Christian life is not primarily about obedience. Obedience is always secondary in the Bible. The problem may be that Christians tend to teach that obedience is primary by glossing over grace. Grace is the primary mover in the Bible, both OT and NT. Our God is an awesome and terrifying God. But he does not come to us to terrify us until we obey him. Rather God always comes to us in grace so that we want to obey him out of love and gratitude. Do you have a sense that "the grace of God has appeared" (Titus 2:11) to you?

Reference:

  1. “What the Grace of God Teaches” (Titus 2:11-15), Ligon Duncan, 1/16/2005.
  2. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus: Guard the Truth. (Bible Speaks Today.) John Stott. 2001.
  3. ESV Study Bible. 2008.
  4. The MacArthur Study Bible. NASB. 2006.

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