We are studying Paul’s letter to Titus to learn how to ‘live Christian’ in this present world. We invite you to read the introduction to this series for some historical background.
So far in our series of studies we have seen the importance of godly leadership (elders) in the local church. The first step in Living Christian in this present world is to have the right leaders in local churches. The ministry of elders is to oversee the spiritual growth of church members (discipleship) in addition to impacting their community for the Gospel (evangelism). It’s an easy process to understand, but difficult to implement because of the many oppositions to God’s plan for His people.
We looked at the qualities of a sound church in the last two parts of our study. The people groups mentioned were:
- Older men
- Older women
- Younger women
- Younger men
The next portion of Paul’s letter to Titus looks more closely at God’s Grace and what it teaches His people.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
I remember memorizing these verses almost 50 years ago. I was a new Christian and one of our pastors emphasized its importance to living the Christian life. Here’s what we learn:
First, the Grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. We observe two things:
- The Grace of God brings salvation
- The Grace of God has appeared to all men
Second, the Grace of God teaches us. We observe nine things:
- denying ungodliness and worldly lusts
- we should live soberly
- we should live righteously
- we should live godly in the present age
- looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ
- who gave Himself for us
- that He might redeem us from every lawless deed
- and purify for Himself His own special people
- zealous for good works
Third, Paul gave Titus some important advice. We observe four things:
- Speak these things
- Rebuke with all authority
- Let no one despise you
Once we’ve made our observations, we can begin the process of coming to the correct interpretation. I say the correct interpretation because there is only one interpretation that is correct. That is the one that aligns with the purpose of the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write to Titus. My personal opinion or the personal opinion of any Bible teacher is of no particular importance in Bible study. Many teachers have many opinions. What does matter is what the Author of the Bible meant and intended when He inspired the Scripture.
We can determine the correct interpretation of any Scripture by following a basic process, which we’ve written about extensively the last 45+ years. You can read more about the interpretative (interpretive) process here and here.
The Grace Of God
Paul wrote Titus that the “grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Some scholars have written that the Grace of God is the theological basis for Christian behavior. We live Christian because of God’s Grace. We do not accomplish the task of Living Christian in this present world because we were born with an innate ability to do that or were smart enough to figure out how to do accomplish that. We were born with no ability to accomplish God’s will for our lives. We are not smart enough to figure out how to do that. In fact, as Paul wrote the Ephesians, we were “were dead in trespasses and sins” and God “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1, 5-6). Paul went on to write that the salvation of God can’t be earned or deserved. It is His free gift. (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Grace of God “that brings salvation” is the Greek word σωτήριος and means “brings saving, salvation” and has the idea of applied salvation. It is a saving that is applied to someone.
The Grace of God that brings salvation “has appeared to all men.” What does that mean?
The word “appeared” is Ἐπεφάνη and means “to show forth, shine upon, to appear.” We get the English word epiphany from the Greek word. If someone has an “epiphany,” it means they had “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). The “sudden manifestation” connected to the appearance of God’s Grace occurred when the Son of God became flesh.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
This is significant to our understanding of how the Grace of God appeared to all men. The Apostle John went on to write this:
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.John 1:17-18
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only One who can declare God to the world. No other religious teacher has ever lived or will ever live who can represent the God of Heaven. As Jesus said to one of His apostles:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.John 14:6
The “appearance” of Jesus Christ two-thousand years ago is what brings salvation to “all men.” The word ἀνθρώποις means “humans.” God in the Old Testament said through the prophets that He would save members of humanity who had become sinners and would do that through the appearing, dying and rising of His Anointed Son.
One of the questions I hear from non-Christians is how this verse can be true given that millions of people now and in the past have never heard the name of Jesus Christ. They ask how the salvation of God has “appeared to all men” when all people haven’t seen Jesus or heard about Him. This question should be addressed and answered. The answer is in understanding the intent of the Author, the Holy Spirit.
God is Triune, which means He is one Being and three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Trinity is involved in the process of salvation appearing to all people:
- God the Father sent God the Son to live perfectly, die, rise from the dead ascend to Heaven and return to rule the world at a future time (Gospels, Acts, Apostolic Letters)
- God the Son sent God the Spirit to testify about Jesus and His salvation through convicting the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8)
- God the Spirit testifies about Jesus, convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, saves sinners and seals them as a guarantee of our inheritance until we are with God in Heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14), and sends the redeemed to tell others about the appearance of God’s Salvation through faith in Christ (John 14; Acts 1; 2 Corinthians 5; Romans 10).
Two-thousand years of Christianity demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has been, and continues to be, highly effective in reaching nations with the Gospel of Salvation. History also demonstrates the opposition from Satan to the Gospel. The devil opposed the birth and childhood of Christ (Matthew 2) and the ministry of Christ (Matthew 4). Satan also opposes all Christians in their lives and ministries (Ephesians 6; 2 Timothy 2; 1 Peter 5). Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, are taking the Gospel that has appeared to all men to all men (humans), but Satan opposes them. The fact that not all people in the world have heard the Gospel does not mean that the Grace of God that brings salvation has not “appeared” to all men. The Gospel is available to the entire world and Christians are and will continue to be involved in getting the Gospel message to a great multitude of “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9).
God the Father did His work of sending His Son to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). God the Son did His work of giving His life as a ransom for many and giving the Holy Spirit to those who believed in Him (John 20:22; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). God the Spirit did His work of testifying about Christ (John 15:26), convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8), saving us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) and sealing believers as the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).
We will look deeper into how God’s Grace teaches His people to live godly in the next part of our special study about Living Christian in the Present World.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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