The True Grace of God

The True Grace of God

Titus 2:11-12

  • “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

One of the more popular themes in religious circles of our day is that of grace. Since the time of the Reformation, it has been recognized that grace, or “the unmerited favor of God,” is a leading feature of salvation in the New Testament. John tells us that “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17b). Paul stresses that we are “justified as a gift by [God’s] grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24; cf. Titus 3:7) and it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). We realize that there is nothing that we can do that would merit salvation or make us deserving of God’s redemptive favor. If anyone is ever saved, it must be by God’s grace that is given us “in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4).

Many people in our contemporary age have taken this legitimate and precious blessing of our merciful God and transformed it into something different from what it means in Scripture. They suppose that since we are saved by grace, we need not be careful about obeying the Lord. They reason, “Since we are acceptable to God because of His grace and not because of our perfect obedience or works, we need not be very concerned about following God too closely, obeying Him too scrupulously, or seeking to determine the precise will of God in Scripture.” In other words, we see almost a carelessness in life, a resistance to diligent Scripture study, and a disdain of conscientious obedience to the teachings of God’s word. This prevalent attitude in certain religious circles of our day entirely misunderstands the significance of grace in the New Testament and undermines the repeated emphasis on obeying God.

Paul rejoiced in the grace of God. He knew that everything good that he was must be credited to God’s grace at work in his life (1 Cor. 15:10). His words convey the blessings of salvation by grace: “As sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21). Some may respond, “If grace reigns in the presence of sin, let us sin even more so that God may display an abundance of grace!” Paul responds, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1b-2; cf. v. 15ff; Jude 4). Instead of allowing us to sin with impunity, grace motivates us to die to sin and live for righteousness (vv. 16,18,19), obedience (v. 16), and holiness (vv. 19,22).

This is the same theme we find in the passage from Titus. The grace of God indeed has brought “salvation to all men” (v. 11) and we rejoice in this truth. But what else does this grace do? It “instructs” in both a negative and positive way. First, it teaches us to “deny” ungodliness and worldly desires (Titus 2:12). Why do some of those who emphasize grace live in an “ungodly” manner? Why do they seek to gratify “worldly desires”? They have been unwilling to learn what grace really means. Second, God’s grace teaches us to live sensibly, righteously, and godly “in the present age.” Why are so few willing to conduct themselves in a sensible, “self-controlled” (NIV), and self-restrained manner? Why is true righteous living so rare? Why is simple godliness seldom seen? It may be that the grace of God has been misunderstood or perverted!

True grace is offered in Christ who “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed” and who purified “for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (v. 14). Grace impels us to turn from lawless deeds to good deeds! Grace does not tolerate loose living, careless living, worldly living, or disobedient living. Grace compels us to live faithful, holy, pure, careful, obedient lives. The God of grace does grant forgiveness of confessed and forsaken sin, but He refuses to bestow it on the unrepentant (1 John 1:9; Prov. 28:13; Rom. 2:4-5; 2 Pet. 3:9). In view of the widespread perversion of saving grace in the religious world today, surely this is a startling principle of our God!

Richard Hollerman

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