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Titus 2:11-14

I read Titus 2:11-14 a few years ago and caught myself saying out loud, “There it is!” At that time, I was a minister in training. I remember writing the text down thinking if the credentials board were to ask me to explain the concept of full salvation, this was going to be my go-to passage. Salvation is an act of God’s grace. Grace justifies, sanctifies and glorifies. Grace changes things for sure—for then, now and later. Grace redeems, purifies and heals! How about that—The very core of Christian theology is tucked right inside the book of Titus—an Epistle. In context, however, it makes perfect sense.

Leading up to this passage, Paul had written to the Cretan Christians giving specific and practical exhortations for Christian living. Paul’s heart was to make sure the church was a credible witness. Because he was concerned for their reputation, he addressed various groups in their culture and challenged them to a higher calling. Paul raised the bar in the area of piety, but he also wanted them to be marked by goodness. The truth is, living a good, victorious, and abundant Christian life as a lifestyle is hard. Actually, it’s impossible without the on-going grace of God. Paul knew that, therefore he followed up a few verses later with the theological foundation for the high expectations. Sound doctrine brings stability to the Christian life.

Paul begins in verse 11 with the Incarnation: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (NRSV). Christ is the embodied grace of God. When grace emerged on the scene appearing like the rising sun dawning upon darkness, a new era was ushered in. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied this was going to happen. Luke 1:78 says, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (NRSV). The appearance of Christ marked a new season, a new day.

Grace is divine love in which Christ’s redemptive work is based. But when Paul says this grace brings salvation to all, he isn’t teaching universalism. Redemption and reconciliation is offered to all who are willing to repent and truly want to be saved.

In verse 12, Paul tells us what grace can do for us in the here and now. It’s amazing! Grace teaches. Grace trains us “to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly” (NRSV). This idea of teaching carries more weight than the idea of just teaching a lesson. It is understood as the whole educational process and that includes discipline. This instruction establishes responsible Christian living.

We are to refuse, deny, and simply just say no to anything and everything that lacks reverence for God. This includes worldly desire for control, power, pleasure, and fame.

On the positive side, grace teaches us to make good, godly and upright choices with our desires guided and influenced by the Holy Spirit. I find it interesting how Zechariah prophesied this aspect of salvation too: “He has raised up a mighty Savior for us in the house of his servant David…that we being rescued from the hands of our enemies might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:69;73b). God raised up a Savior who purifies us as we cooperate with grace, in the very present.

In verse 13, Paul continues— there is grace for the future! Grace will sustain us until Christ appears at the second advent. “…While we wait for the blessed hope, the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NRSV). Paul packs a serious theological punch here: Jesus is God. Make no mistake, Jesus is divine. And let’s not forget, Paul got an eye full of His glory on the Damascus Road. Paul is saying, Christ is going to come to earth a second time, and this time not a bit of His glory will be veiled. He is coming for His people who eagerly expect His arrival—those who love Him!

In verse 14, Paul continues with his theological thought by writing about the doctrine of atonement. “He {Jesus Christ} it is, who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (NRSV). Christ did not have His life taken from Him, but rather He freely offered Himself as a sacrifice. He bought us back from bondage and lawlessness—a ransom from every sin. Paul continues by saying that Jesus did more than just secure our eternal destination, but He redeemed us for a purpose. This purpose was to be free, reconciled to God and to others. In fact, this was God’s original purpose. God wanted a people to belong to Him to bear His image in the world, bearing the fruit of goodness—enthusiastic about performing acts of kindness!

This Christmas as you listen closely to the good news of great joy that unto us a Savior is born, remember the salvation He offers is much more than a salvation that forgives sin and secures a spot in heaven for “someday.” This full salvation is a work of God’s grace. It pardons and purifies, redeeming us from the bondage of sin. Grace cleanses us from the sin nature bringing about healing and spiritual wholeness so that we can be zealous about peace and good will toward men. And this grace will lead us safely into His presence to dwell with Him forever. Glory to God in the highest! Grace changes everything. Grace has a name. It is Jesus. O come let us adore Him.