When Grace Appeared

Beloved, you cannot reduce sound doctrine, or what some call “the gospel” to one passage, one paragraph, three points, or even an outline.  The church has done great damage to those she ministers to, when preaching “at” with the same three points, or when so emphasizing something to the excluding of the whole of God’s Redemptive History–the whole of Scripture.  How can they know Jesus in truth, have a full view of the Trinity, or even that a robust theology will unfold as they grow (1 Peter 2:1-2).  More on this in the month of April when I begin a series on Apologetics, Tradition, and Creeds!  

Notice from this section into the beginning of chapter three a “timeline” that does not suit our western minds–it skips all over from eternal truths, to moments in history, to the present, to the future–but not in “order.”   We need all of this whirling around in our hearts and minds, not a reduced outline of three very neat points. 

This timeline that goes back and forth from eternal truths, to the present reality, to the historical facts, to the present again, to the future hope, back to history…etc will carry us through the forming of a strong, deeply rooted church (as in Crete) or through various trials in life.  Three points (only, merely) will fail us, have us questioning faith and reason and whether Christianity has a point, will have us “deconstructing our faith” as we pridefully work our way through “knowing better” and “knowing the real Jesus that the silly church missed.”  (I know, I’ve been there.)

Ministry is not suitable for twitter, IG, TikTok, or other platforms where you must reduce, put in headlines, be witty, be so civil that you exchange the truth for a watered down pithy statement with no meaning, or a cleverly devised tale.  Ministry is meant to be full, robust, patient and gradual, face to face, in Communion with the One True God and His people, where two or more are gathered…. True Christianity does not come in cleverness of speech, the world’s ideas do (please, pause here to slowly read through 1 Corinthians 1-2).

To all men

In light of all that, we resume our study of Titus!  2:11  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men…”  Eternal God, Incarnation.  Grace personified. The God who created time, space and matter bound Himself to His creation by being born.  This was the only way to be the Mediator of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31,  see the post here; and Hebrews 9-10; and Luke 22:20)

His salvation is for all, not just those born Israelites, who have known the oracles of God and have been waiting for His Messiah.  He came for all men. This is what we preach, exhort, teach, spread.  With a hearty Amen!  The weightier matters of election cannot be understood apart from the indwelling Spirit.  But in Crete, at the founding of the local churches there, God will show how His grace extends to all races of men, even those spoken ill of earlier in Titus 1:12.  

Salvation and Instruction  

“instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires”  see Matthew 28:18-20; John 15:16-17, 26-27.  Can you think of examples of Jesus and the Apostles teaching us to deny ungodliness?  What is ungodliness? Roughly defined, ungodliness is anything contrary to the character of God, to His holiness. Have you begun to see that you must hate and put off what He hates?  Are you willing to understand that He is holy, that sin really is a problem, and that He has clearly defined sin?

Have you begun to see that worldly desires do not define you?  Sometimes these desires are the most difficult for a new convert to put off, or for one “deconstructing their faith” to put off–for they say “but I am…”  We are easily mastered by emotions, passions, and desires for things that would pull your heart away from God.  Desire is not evil–but desires that are not spiritual, or of the Holy Spirit must be recognized for what they are.  

Do you set your mind on things above, or things on earth?  Do you set your mind on things of the Spirit, or of the flesh?  Do you look to things unseen, or merely to things seen?  Colossians 3; Romans 8; 2 Corinthians 4.  It is important for us to be well versed in these particular chapters as we grow, musing upon them, praying through them, trusting the Spirit to be at work in us through the Word.  

And to live!

To live sensibly, righteously, godly…  Three words we must embrace, acknowledging that His Words are sweeter than honey–even these three words.  

Sensibly, self controlled, in the Spirit–Who will produce His fruit in you!   See 2:2, 5, 6.  This word is also repeated throughout the other epistles.  We who are His will grow to delight in submitting to His care, His Providence, His teaching in His Word, His authority in controlling us.  Paul told the Corinthians church that he was contolled by the love of Christ–may be it of us too!  You and me, controlled by Love Himself!

Righteously.  Not self righteous, but according to His righteousness, see Philippians 3.  He works His righteousness into us, as we are conformed to His image, Romans 8:29; a process that seems so slow to us, but God is pleased with His work in us, and will be faithful to complete it.

Godly.  See Titus 1:1!  Having been remade in His image (see Colossians 3:10, and surrounding verses for context), this word describes your most truest self–the you that is really you, the you created by God to reflect His glory, the you that abides in Christ therefore will have the fulness of joy all the pleasures at His right hand forevermore (see John 15:11 and Psalm 16). Becoming godly is such a slow, patient process that He faithfully carries out in us.

in the present age–seems like an odd phrase to make a meditation of, but sit in this prayerfully sometime.  This present time is not all there is.  It is not going to last forever.  Time is fleeting, we are but a vapor.  We may live 80 years, or less, or perhaps more.  Then–paradise!  Yet, when we remember we are in the present, and we are dependant, and live according to the moment, walking only three miles per hour with Jesus (as Pastor Tre encourages us to do), then being sensible, righteous and godly does not feel overwhelming or out of reach. His grace enables our obedience to this call.

(vs 13) looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,

Come LORD JESUS!!!  Oh to be in the land where righteousness dwells, and where You have wiped all my tears, and I be with You forever, seeing You as You really are!!!  The Thessalonians were known for living while looking, so can we.  The most heavenly minded are the most earthly good–because they are not caught in the rat race. They are not defined by temporal achievements or possessions. They are not anchored to a fickle worldview. When we are heavenly minded, we can look away from temporal things and be assured that they are limited and will pass away. We live most fully in the present when we know the present age is not ultimate.

14a  who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed

Gave.  Freely.  Planned.  Justice must prevail, and every lawless deed deserves the wrath and curse of God. God’s definition of sin has not changed, His law must be satisfied. There is no injustice in Him.

Sing with me, or humor me by humming along:

When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God

John Newton
Laura Taylor
Indelible Grace, 2008; Laura Taylor Music, 2001

We were in desperate need of redemption, and that redemption is in Christ alone. For further reflection on this: Romans 3:21-31; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:24; Ephesians 1:7-10.

photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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