Grace Saves Us and Trains Us
Stonebrook Church – 9/18/2016 – Matt Heerema
Titus 2:11–15 (ESV)
11 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.
And this final verse, written to Titus the teacher of the church goes out to all appointed church overseers, and has been a great encouragement and admonishment for many preachers throughout the ages. Myself included. I want to say that I welcome feedback, critique, and even questions about my understanding and teaching. What the scripture does not allow, is for you to disregard me, or for me to disregard another duly appointed overseer of the church. So, feedback, questions, critique, disagreement, all welcome. However, not disregard what is said.
With that said, let’s walk through Paul’s admonishment to Titus, step by step, and then talk through it’s application.
The first thing we see in our passage today is the word “FOR”. An important conjunction that should immediately cause us to zoom back out. Brad brought this up last week. In verses 1-10, we are given some pretty heavy admonishment about how Titus is to instruct the various age groups to relate to one another and to conduct themselves. This week, we are given the basis for the kind of life we are to live. Last week’s message, the preceding 10 verses, were about the life that “accords with sound doctrine”, this week is that doctrine that gives rise to that kind of life. We are to conduct ourselves the way Paul commands here “FOR”, or “because” the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, and training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.
What does Paul mean by “The Grace of God?” He’s using a sort of shorthand to indicate everything God has done on our behalf. He is going to unpack this for us a little in verse 14, and then quite a bit more in chapter 3.
Bringing Salvation for all people
Let’s pause for a moment on this phrase “bringing salvation for all people”. This phrase could catch us up a bit. Does this mean that all people will eventually be saved? It is evident from the rest of the scriptures that this is not the case. The thought here is that God holds out the offer of salvation to all kinds of people, rather than just Jews or some other special people group determined by some attribute like nationality or background, but rather, as we will see later in chapter 3, God effectively works in all kinds of people to show them mercy, regenerate them (or cause them to be born again), renew them, and justify them by His grace alone, and not by anything we’ve done to deserve it.
We see here that God’s grace also trains, or teaches us, to renounce two things: ungodliness, and worldly passions. Let’s define those briefly.
Ungodliness & Worldly passions
Ungodliness and worldliness are related thoughts here. And a simple way of thinking about them is this: MANliness or man-centeredness, instead of GODliness. Primary concern for our selves and the things we want to do and the way we want to go without regard for the way God would have us go.
God is our good, loving, wise creator. He made us, and He designed us to live a certain way. We are designed to orient ourselves to the rest of creation, toward our fellow human beings, and toward Him, our creator, in a certain way, and ever since Adam and Eve’s first sin in the garden, we have been trying to “do life” a different way. We have desired to be the ones who decide what is right and what is good and what is healthy, rather than following God’s revealed order on these things.
- Worldliness is going along with the way the rest of culture is going.
- Worldliness is having concern for our reputation, comfort, safety, and personal gain — in ways that go against God’s commands, and God’s design.
- Worldliness is when our primary concern is what other people are thinking of us, rather than what God is thinking of us.
- Worldliness is when our concern for our comfort and safety cause us to ignore or neglect God’s commands.
- Worldliness is when our concern for our reputation or fame among men is greater than our concern for God’s reputation or fame among men.
- Worldliness is anytime we act like our faith has no real bearing on a situation or decision. “This is work, and that’s church.” “This is politics, that’s religion…”
Grace trains us to renounce these things, but it also trains us in a positive way. Specifically Paul lists three virtues here. Self-control, uprightness, godliness.
Now obviously this is not a comprehensive list. There are other virtues listed elsewhere in the Bible, so why these three? Well, some scholars have noticed that these words bear a striking resemblance to what became known as “The four cardinal virtues”. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and others actually articulated verbatim, two of these, self-control and uprightness, and the idea of Godliness here is very similar to the third: prudence, or wisdom, in the way that it is described in Plato’s republic, and elsewhere.
Since Titus is situated on the island of Crete, which is a Greek civilization, it would make sense that he would appeal to common ground in terms of virtue. In fact, verse 1-10 very closely resemble similar lists of exhortation for household order found in Greek and Roman culture at that time.
In essence Paul is saying: “you all know what an upstanding and moral life looks like.” Indeed Paul says in Romans that the law of God is written on our hearts. But Paul clarifies that the motivation, and in fact the direction and power-source for these virtues do not begin and end with man, but rather this teaching “appears” from God.
"The Cardinal Virtues"
In the present age
It is also notable that Paul says we are to live this way in this present age, meaning right now. Starting today. Not waiting till later in this life, and not something that is put off till the next.
Waiting for our blessed hope
Theres actually a fourth thing that Grace trains us to do. In fact, I think that this is where Paul brings up the fourth cardinal virtue of courage. “Waiting four our blessed hope.” And this hope piece is very significant. In fact I think that this is the primary way grace trains us: by helping us to set our eyes, not on the circumstances around us, not on the world around us, not within ourselves, but forward to Christ’s return when He will right every wrong, and finally bring justice and destroy sin and death.
Paul is saying: grace trains us to live a certain way in this life, and to look forward eagerly to the next life.
Our Blessed Hope: JESUS
And then he goes on to describe Jesus’s work. Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness. Which is a very very good thing, isn’t it, because we all fail to follow the way of life laid out in verses 1-10 perfectly, don’t we?
Jesus died to purify us in our impurity, and to gather for himself a people who are zealous for good works. And this is where I want to get in to our application today.
I have been intrigued by the statement in verse 11 that “grace trains us”. How does grace train us?
I think we’d all agree, most of us anyhow, that the Bible exhorts us to good deeds, or good works. And I have seen many approaches to trying to instruct Christians, young and old, to live out these good works, to live lives that are full of the virtue described in these verses and others like it.
Usually the instruction includes action steps to try to help us train ourselves to increasingly exhibit virtue and perform good works. But here it says that it is grace that trains us. How does grace train us?
Application: How Grace Trains Us
[Explanation of this chart: ]
- Using an old formula: “Law and Gospel” –
- Law – not the mosaic law, but God’s standard/requirements/commands (has lead to confusion
- Gospel – Christ’s work on our behalf.
- God’s righteous standard (“The Law”) – Good works that we are to be zealous for.
- Result: we always fall short of God’s perfect standard.
- Response: repent and believe / remember the Gospel!
- The Gospel: God’s work on our behalf: Christ has done all the work necessary to cleanse us.
- Result: Christ’s perfect life of obedience is counted as ours!
- Response: Desire to follow him, and obey him! Obey his commands/standard
- Which leads us back to an awareness of our shortcoming,
- And on and on.. – All of life is to be one of repentance (Martin Luther, Theses 1)
- “Gospel math” – Whoever has been forgiven much, loves much
- We grow in our love for God as we grow in our awareness of his forgiveness of us.
- All of our sins were “future sins” when Christ died for them.
- We have all been forgiven a mountain of debt. That mountain becomes clear to us in time as we sin, and realize “He forgave that too!”
- Common errors: Errors of imbalance. Failure to hold both these spheres together
- Moralism: primary focus in teaching on what we should do “Get better! Behave more!” Leads to pride or despair
- Legalism: Full-blown heresy, you get “right with God” through your actions.
- Cheap grace: Focus on a watered-down definition of Grace to the exclusion of “Zeal for good works.” – “God cuts us slack” vs. God sacrificed his son, for our sins.
- Antinomianism: full-blown heresy – We don’t have to do anything! God always just forgives. Jude 4 “Pervert the Gospel of Grace by their sensuality.”
Application: Strive for good works: outlined in chapters 2 & 3 – full awareness of God’s pleasure with you because of Jesus work.