“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
Obviously our text is not a complete sentence. It ends in a semicolon; which means that more is following. The complete thought includes also the verses 13 and 14. To these verses we will call attention, the Lord willing, in our next Meditation. What we must see now is the truth that the grace of God teaches us how to live in the present world. What we will see next time is: that this same grace of God makes us to hope for the final appearance of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The little conjunction “for” which introduces our text expresses the ground or reason for the entire preceding context. Not merely is our text connected to the two verses which immediately precede it, as some insist; but the text serves as ground for all that the apostle writes from the beginning of the chapter.
Titus is exhorted to speak that which becomes sound doctrine. He is to speak it in such a way that it applies to all: aged men and aged women, young women and young men, to servants in relation to their own masters. In the concluding verse of this chapter Titus is exhorted to speak the Word and exhort with all authority.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men!
For that reason and on this ground he is to preach the Word with authority to all!
The grace of God, that is, the grace that bringeth salvation, has appeared!
Most generally the grace of God is conceived of as unmerited favor. And we have no objection to this explanation of grace as such. It can be shown from Scripture that grace does have this interpretation. It must also certainly be admitted that whatever is implied as coming to us of grace is surely favor that is unmerited. We do, however, object when it is maintained that unmerited favor is the sole meaning of grace. We even insist that unmerited favor is not the fundamental idea of grace. We further insist that grace is a more comprehensive concept than is expressed in unmerited favor.
In Scripture in general, and in the text in particular, the fundamental idea of grace is beauty.
Grace is that goodness of God according to which He is beautiful and lovely in Himself.
When the Word of God speaks of God as the gracious God, as it so often does, the Word of God reflects, first of all, on the beauty and loveliness of God Himself. Apart from any relationship He may have with the creature, God is everlastingly the good and beautiful God. Though no man by searching can find out God so as to comprehend Him, for He is a great deep; nevertheless all the searching into His holy self-revelation will only produce a good and beautiful God. Negatively and reverently speaking, there is nothing that is ugly and repulsive in Him. In one word, He is the beauteous, infinitely perfect One.
When God reveals Himself to the creature, all that the creature can say is: How beautiful Thou art!
This is the grace of God in God Himself.
Moreover, when God gives His grace to the creature, it is His design to draw that creature to Himself in favor, whereby He blesses him and gives him beauty and glory, even though the creature is most undeserving, guilty, and corrupt.
This is the grace of God for the creature!
Undoubtedly it is this grace of God to which the text refers. The grace of God is that grace of which He is the sole possessor and dispenser. Grace therefore has its source and fountain head in God. If there is any grace revealed in the world, it must come from Him. That it is the grace of God, means that He is the one Who bestows it. It is His gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Eph. 2:8.
The grace that bringeth salvation!
The words “that bringeth” are commentary, and inserted by the translator. There can be no serious objection to the translation provided that we do not conclude two separate ideas here: grace and salvation. Literally we read: “For the grace of God, salvation to all men, hath appeared.” Very plainly the apostle identifies salvation with grace. In other words, he says, “the grace of God which is salvation, hath appeared, etc.” The meaning is: the grace of God which realizes salvation, the purpose of which is to make us beautiful as God is beautiful, hath appeared.
O, you knew it all the time, that this grace of God which realizes salvation has appeared in and through Christ Jesus, and through the Spirit of Christ. Of this the apostle speaks in the verses to which we call attention next time. Now, however, we must point out that the central appearance of the grace that saves is in the cross, the cross of Christ. There He redeems us by His precious blood. There He ransomed us from all iniquity. And by the Spirit of Christ this grace of God is sanctified to us. Not only does it appear objectively in the cross, but it also appears subjectively in our hearts and in all God’s people.
As we have pointed out before in another connection, this grace which realizes salvation is threefold. It is for us. It is in us. And it is through us, that is, it works in our spiritual consciousness so that we react to it. Though all three are inseparable, yet the latter receives the emphasis in our text. This is plain when we consider next what this grace of salvation does.
Negatively, it teaches us to say: No!
O, indeed, saving grace teaches us! It is a pedagogue. Like the teacher who instructs small children, so the grace of God, which saves, instructs us with good and practical doctrine. We are the children who must be taught, that is, the church of Christ, including Paul and Titus. Always the church is subject to the pedagogy of the grace of God which realizes salvation. There is no time when you graduate from the class. Never does the instruction cease. All our life long we are in the school of the Spirit of grace.
That we are taught to say No, first of all, is implied in the statement “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.” What we have here concretely is the doctrine of the antithesis. And this doctrine is as old as Paradise the first. You remember how God introduced this doctrine for the first when He placed man before the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To the one (the tree of life) man was to say: Yes; and to the other (the tree of knowledge of good and evil) man was to say: No. After the fall man could no longer speak as he should. In fact, even his speech was in reverse. Since the fall man says continually No to God; and he says Yes to evil. When grace which saves makes its appearance, we are taught to change our speech, as well as our lives. We are taught to say No to all ungodliness.
Ungodliness, as the word suggests, signifies what is thoroughly characteristic of the natural man, namely, that he will have nothing to do with God. Sometimes the word is translated: “impious.” Ungodliness is the withholding from God His due. It implies a standing in open opposition and rebellion against God.
To this the apostle adds: “and worldly lusts.” Naturally when man forsakes God, he goes to craving that which God has forbidden. It is the desire for what the world under sin proffers.
In respect to these, ungodliness and worldly lusts, grace teaches us to say emphatically: No! Grace hates all that is ugly, profane, and worldly. And it reveals this hatred in emphatically and consciously speaking against it.
Positively grace teaches us to say: Yes!
Not only does grace teach us to live antithetically, but also thetically. We must not only learn to say No to the evil; but we must also learn to say Yes to that which is good, the beautiful, the divine; to that which is pleasing to God, and in harmony with His gracious being and will.
This we do, first of all, by living soberly. And this must mean that we live temperately and discreetly, with a sound mind, and with complete control over our senses. Secondly, we are taught to live righteously, that is, justly, agreeably to the law of rectitude, and of what is right. Thirdly, we are taught to live godly, piously, in reverence with respect to God. In one word, it means to be God-like; and as God is beautiful, so are we to be beautiful in all our living.
And that, so long as we live in the present world!
Here the apostle does not have in mind the cosmological world, the world of creation, in distinction from heaven. Though, of course, it is true we also live in this created world. Rather, he has in mind the world from the point of view of this age, as it lies under the power of sin and darkness, the world as it develops in sin and wickedness. In that world we live. It is in that world that the new life of saving grace must come to manifestation, as it expresses itself in our Yes and No.
In that world we are to live the life that flows to us through the grace that saves, the life that is pleasing to God, that reflects His beauty over-against all that is ugly, evil, and corrupt.
This is the calling of all who have received the saving grace of God!
That this saving grace of God hath appeared unto all men, cannot mean, as the Arminian would have it, that God gives this saving grace to all men individually and universally. Against this philosophy all Scripture but also our text violently militates.
It should be abundantly clear that the grace of God is never common, but extremely particular. It beautifies only those to whom it is given in the sovereign good pleasure of God.
Here, as always in Scripture, the “all men” must be determined by the context in which these words are found.
If you look back into the context, you discover that the “all men” refers to all classes of men. They are enumerated for us as, “old men and old women” (vss. 2, 3) “young men and young women” (vss. 4-8) “servants and masters” (vss. 9, 10).
To all these classes of men Titus is commanded to preach and to teach with authority, because in respect to all classes of men the gospel is to come, in which appears the good news of the saving grace of God. And the divine reason is that God has His people not only among the rich, but also the poor; not only among the enlightened, but also the ignorant; not only among the aged, but also the young; not only among the masters, but also the servants or slaves.
And so in the multiformity of the church which God is gathering out of every nation, tribe, and tongue, there shall shine in rich variations the beauteous grace of God.
And when this present age is finished, and the counsel of God shall have been realized, there shall stand before Him a host which no man can number, and each one in that host reflecting to Him according to the capacity He has given, the wonderful grace of God.
And He shall forever be glorified!