Week Six: The Appearance of the Grace of God, Titus 2:11-15

Good morning.  I know that the last time we were all together for discussion on Titus, there were many of us who actually weren’t here – myself included.  I did, however, thoroughly enjoy reading Whitney’s notes as I posted them here.  If you, too, were not here, and have not read them yet, I strongly encourage you to do so.   I very much appreciated her transparency when she talked about how easy it is to “adorn the Gospel” when we are at church, in our small groups, here at bible study, but behind the closed doors of our home, or in our families it is harder.  And the weight of the necessity to still do so struck me when she said this:

The way you live your life within your household on a day-to-day basis either gives credibility to the gospel to those watching your life or it discredits the gospel to those watching your life.

 I also cannot express how grateful I am that Paul did not stop at verse 10!  Let’s read last week’s passage before we move on to this week’s.

Titus 2:1-10

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

 

If Paul had stopped there, we might feel discouraged.  That’s a lot of stuff that I struggle with, and a lot of responsibility given that my actions are affecting the way others view the Gospel.  I would feel pretty – well, defeated.

But!  He didn’t stop there, and so we won’t.  He starts the next verse with this extremely crucial, vital, and even encouraging word: For.  We might also say, “because.”  Paul is transitioning here to explain the how and why we need to be like the list he just gave us.  Let’s dig in to that.

Let’s read this week’s passage:

Titus 2:11-15

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

 

First let’s talk about the HOW.

How are we supposed to do what Paul just finished telling us to do?  It’s about our focus.  Verse 11 says the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.  Can you grasp the depth of how amazing that sentence alone is?  The grace of God has appeared.

There’s an exercise I learned during a study of spiritual disciplines that I would like us to try here.  It’s a method of reading a verse over and over, emphasizing a different word each time.  I helps you to slow down and process what the words actually are.  Listen as I walk through this for you:

For the grace of God has appeared.

For the grace of God has appeared.

For the grace of God has appeared.

For the grace of God has appeared.

For the grace of God has appeared.

For the grace of God has appeared.

For the grace of God has appeared.

 

Isn’t that amazing to consider?  Paul is so efficiently beautiful in this sentence.  It kind of sums up the Bible.  In six words.  Creation, Fall, Savior, Grace, Faith, Repentance.  Those are my six words, and still Paul’s six carry the weight, emotion, and – well – grace needed to explain what Christ has done better than I could.  Even now, this is the hardest point for me to express.  All of what we believe centers on this – That God, in his goodness and grace, sent his Son, who is also God, to take on flesh and live a sinless life to be offered as payment for our sinful lives, so that we, when we place our faith in him and repent, might be reconciled to him, to live in right relationship with him for all eternity.  The grace of God has appeared – in the form of Jesus Christ.  The Creator entered into His creation in order to save it.

That grace is now training us.  It’s not a flip-the-switch change, think training for a marathon.  I know, look at me, I have absolutely ZERO experience training for a marathon.  But I have trained for other things, and it is not something you just wake up one day and decide to do.  We have plenty of runners here (and let me offer my admiration for what you all do) – how many of you got up one morning, without training, and ran a marathon?  Or even a 5k?

So is grace, like a personal trainer, walking with us saying – no don’t do that, try harder, put your all into it?  No.  One commentator said this:

The gospel of grace affects one’s present behavior, on the one hand, by focusing on God’s unmerited favor in the past.  But the Gospel also promotes godly living by focusing on the future. Christians look forward to the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Tim. 4:8). It is crucial, moreover, to see that this One whom Christians look forward to meeting is the same One who gave Himself for us to redeem[1]

 

We train by being in the Word, focusing on what Christ has done!  When we truly grasp the immenseness of the Gospel, we cannot help but be changed!  It affects EVERYTHING we say and do.

We also train by focusing on waiting.  Look at verses 12-13.

training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

 

Our blessed hope.  The appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.  This is talking about his return. Jesus did not stay dead, and he will not stay gone.  He is coming back!  As we take our focus off of the here and now, and instead pursue that eternal perspective, the temptations to ungodliness and worldly passions lose their grip.  When you are gripped, instead,  with the reality that the gospel is about the now AND the not yet, it becomes a little easier to wait.  Hope is a good thing.

 

Now the WHY.

You know, one of my husband’s favorite sayings to my children is “Do nothing without purpose.”  He has even said it to me more than a few times when we have had discussions about parenting.  Jesus was much the same way.  Everything he did or said had a purpose.  God’s plan to save us was no different.  It wasn’t because he missed us.  Or because we deserved it.  No, look:

14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

 

To purify for himself a people for his own possession.  How amazing is that!  You were redeemed and set free FOR him!  If you heard Michael’s sermon this last week, you heard that it was for God’s glory that you have been redeemed!   I don’t know about you, but for this abandoned, rejected, sinful daughter to be told I was redeemed for the purpose of belonging to him, of bringing glory to his name – words fail to describe the overwhelming gratitude I feel.  How about you?

 

In your homework, you were asked to examine this verse, and notice the order of the steps.

  1. Jesus gave himself for us.
  2. To redeem us from all lawlessness
  3. To purify for himself a people for his own possession.
  4. Who are zealous for good works.

 

Notice, he did not redeem people who were already pure and zealous.  Those came after.  That leads back to the HOW.

 

How then, in the light of all of this, are we supposed to be good reflections of the gospel to the world around us?  First, we have to KNOW the gospel.  We have to BELIEVE the gospel.  If we know and believe, then we know the truth.  What truth?  Look back at verse 14.  Notice the verbs.  Gave.  Redeem.  Purify.  Who was doing all that? Not us.  Jesus!  The HOW is that we don’t!  Not on our own anyway.  It is only through that overwhelming gratitude I mentioned before, that response to the magnitude of what Christ has done that we are able to reflect the Gospel even a little!  We become zealous for good works because of his zealousness in saving us!

 

To be clear, you were not saved BY your good works, but FOR His good works.

 

I will be honest.  That desire will not remain if you are not remaining focused on what he has done.  Be in the Word.  Be in fellowship with other believers.  Pray. Study.  Seek first the Kingdom of God.  Keep it in front of you so you don’t forget.  Where is your hope?

 

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

  1. My hope is built on nothing less
    Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
    But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

  2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
    I rest on His unchanging grace;
    In every high and stormy gale
    My anchor holds within the veil.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

  3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
    Support me in the whelming flood;
    When every earthly prop gives way,
    He then is all my Hope and Stay.
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

  4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
    Oh, may I then in Him be found,
    Clothed in His righteousness alone,
    Faultless to stand before the throne!
    On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
    All other ground is sinking sand.

 

As I was preparing for this lesson, I kept finding myself overwhelmed with emotion.  I would cry as I would try to explain to my kids why I was struggling to get words on paper, as I would talk to some  friends about the overwhelming joy and awe I felt as I considered the grace of God appearing, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  And then as I considered the immense hope we have as we await the return of the bridegroom for his bride, the church.  I had this weight, this desire to have you understand and feel what I feel – to be consumed by joy at what Christ has done, and to then be zealous for his good works.  Paul has certainly begun in this letter to become more expressive as he teaches.  We will see it increase even more next week.  I pray that as you continue in your study of God’s Word, you would be more and more consumed by his grace and peace.

 

[1] Litfin, A. D. (1985). Titus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (Tt 2:13–14). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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