Trained by Saving Grace: Titus 2:11-14
INTRODUCTION: The destination of Paul’s epistle to Titus was the Island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. The professing Christians on the Island of Crete were not devoted to doing good. Instead, their lives were characterized by a “me-centered” approach to life. There was a huge gap between belief and behavior.
This epistle addressed to Titus says so much about Christianity in our generation -- self-centeredness, looking out for number one, aggressive self-assertiveness are all too common. The Church has assimilated much of today’s consumer market mentality; it’s a mentality that is all about perceived needs; actually it’s all about self.
But when we open the Scriptures, we find that market values cannot coexist with Kingdom values. The world says live for self; grace says abandon yourself to God. These two sets of values are at war. The Lord is not passive in this battle of the ages. He is the Destroyer of our subjective (self-centered) outlook on life. He overturns the “market trader stalls” in our lives and we watch in submissive awe at how active He is.
God is a correcting Father. Those who are truly the Father’s own will find that He will not permit self-centered values to remain in their lives. Self-centered values will always fail us. God will not have us lose the battle for our precious souls when He has deemed us “Conquerors through Christ” (Rom 8:37).
Paul’s readers needed to understand that a self-centered outlook leads to ungodly behavior. The believers on the Isle of Crete needed to hear grace teachingabout how to live in agreement with the truth of the Gospel. So do we! Consider the parallels between the culture of Crete and our own: they idolized youth, freedom of choice, materialism. They imagined that money brings freedom of choice to obtain what you want. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The motivators of their culture closely resemble our own. We’re going to see in our text that God’s grace provides an entirely different set of motivators than the world.
Genuine Christian living is holiness and self-denial mixed with a tender and generous heart toward others. It requires supernatural power to live this way. Our instincts of self-preservation are so strong that our lower natures respond to life with a sinful “me first” attitude.
It’s exactly at this juncture that the Gospel of Christ is meant to deliver people out of the “me first” prison into the joyful self-forgetfulness of the love and grace of God.
The Scriptural call to live this way is not without wonderful incentives. God’s grace, our “Teacher” instructs us in the truth that once you have tasted God’s forgiving mercy, the endless ocean of His love and compassion are yours forever. The believer has been transferred from one kingdom to another, from the sphere of darkness, sin, and death, to the kingdom of life and light and eternal blessedness. Thus the exercise of God’s infinite goodness toward you is the rationale for you to abandon yourself to God.
PROPOSITION: We’re going to look at grace as the argument for godly living. Our purpose is to find out what grace is teaching us in order that we might please the Lord with godly living.
I. God’s grace appearing to helpless sinners (v. 11)
II. God’s grace instructing believers in the art of living (v. 12)
III. God’s grace instilling hope in the hearts of Christians (v. 13)
IV. God’s grace purifying the redeemed to live as God’s possession (v. 14)
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
I. God’s Grace has Appeared to Sinners in their Helplessness (v. 11).
The word “for” opens Paul’s argument for holy living; godly living is the theme of chapter two. Paul’s case for godly living is built upon God’s purpose in redemption, namely that believers should live a life of separation unto God in all their conduct. Holy living is God’s purpose for you if you know Christ as Savior and you have tasted His glorious forgiving grace.
Our text states that the grace of God “has appeared,” or been manifested to all men (“all” meaning all classes and all people groups of mankind). “Grace appearing” addresses the historic reality of Christ’s incarnation, birth, life, ministry, atoning death, and resurrection. When Christ came into the world, He preached the Kingdom of God, He cleansed lepers, raised the dead, fed the multitudes, healed the sick. The Only begotten Son of God broke into a world of moral darkness and ruin. Scripture describes His appearance as the Sunrise from on high shining upon those sitting in darkness and sitting in the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79). He brought hope into a hopeless world; He brought life and truth into a darkened and dying world (note the fact that sinners are bound by the “three deaths” – physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death – for the redeemed, Christ’s work of salvation reverses all three of these forms of death).
Jesus is the brightness of the Father’s glory. He is the Son of righteousness, the Light of the world. The O.T. world was given Messianic promises, types, and shadows, but the actual appearance of Messiah and the Gospel of grace was long hidden in the secret loving counsels of God until the fullness of time (2 Tim 1:9-10; Rom 16:25-27). So bright and illuminating is the grace of Jesus Christ that believers who live in this present Gospel age are designated in Scripture as being of the “Day” (1 Thess 5:5, 8).
Grace has been made manifest in the salvation Christ has purchased. What is the grace of God? You’ve no doubt heard the acrostic, GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Another, slightly longer definition is, “Grace is God’s active favor bestowing the greatest gift upon those who deserve the greatest punishment.”
(EXAMPLE: A farmer visited his banker one fall day. The farmer says, “You know how deeply in debt I am, well I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that my harvest is too small to pay anything back on the loans, but the good news is I’m still going to do business with you!”) In a way it pictures our relationship with God – we are morally bankrupt, debtors in the sight of God’s law, yet because of His grace in Christ God consents to still “do business with us.” But God does not simplytolerate the believing sinner. God accepts us in the Beloved to the glory of God. He adopts us, He bestows sonship upon us.
God’s grace unlocks the prison of self, and sin, and subjectivism. But grace is not the tossing keys to prisoners so that they can release themselves (grace is not a scheme for saving oneself). No, grace brings life and new hearts to those who are dead in sin. Grace comes bringing regeneration – new life (Titus 3:4-7), yes, grace grants even the ability to believe the Gospel and repent of sin (Eph 2:5-6; Phil 1:29)!
Grace penetrates our personal moral and spiritual darkness and ruin. It rescues us from the greatest possible destruction – God’s curse upon sin. Grace then bestows upon us the greatest possible honor and blessings of God upon our soul and body throughout eternity. Grace communicates the heart of God, His compassion and kindness toward us – grace meets us in our failure and moral ugliness and extends divine mercy toward us.
APPLICATION: Is it true that the Lord of Glory suffered and died for your sins 2000 years ago, then took up His life again on resurrection morning? If the eternal benefits of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection belong to you, then your life will be different. Why? Because the grace of God delivers sinners out of the “me first” prison. V. 11 -- Grace comes “bringing salvation;” it cannot fail to deliver those who believe its message.
The grace of the Gospel leads us from a self-directed life into joyful self-forgetfulness in which we love God and others. This is Paul’s point in verse 11; the grace of God comes bringing deliverance (from a selfish, sinful lifestyle), therefore it is our motivation for godliness.
Some of Paul’s readers in Crete were still living a self-directed life. They were treating grace as if it were a license to pursue self-centered goals. Paul addresses that problem in v. 12. We’re going to discover in v. 12 that grace is not merely a “ticket” to heaven; grace not only saves, but also teaches us how to live. Grace is a lifestyle that dramatically changes our entire orientation. It teaches us that friendship with the world is completely inconsistent for the true believer. If you are a genuine partaker of God’s grace, then you will be motivated to live a godly and upright life. You won’t attempt to straddle Christianity and the world.
We’ve seen that in Lord’s incarnation, God’s grace appeared bringing the glorious news of life in Christ to dead, rebellious, helpless sinners. AND, that this grace comes to those sitting chained up in the dark prison cells of sin. But grace is also our teacher; grace makes it plain to us that we must live our lives differently, renouncing (turning our backs upon) our former way of life.
II. God’s Grace Instructs Believers in the Art of Living (v. 12).
Grace brings us under God’s instruction and discipline. Grace “goes to work” in the lives of the saved as a teacher (grace is personified here as a pedagogue, or personal tutor who trains, guides, encourages, disciplines – even chastises, andcorrects us). This is often quite trying to our flesh. For grace constantly teaches us to not allow our lower natures to set the standard for our behavior.
EXAMPLE: I get to watch the preschoolers in my neighborhood play by our lake. They do what comes natural – whatever their lower natures dictate. They grab, say “mine,” hit back, cast insults, boast, boss, pout, accumulate toys, throw tantrums, etc. They’re not interested in an external standard that governs their behavior. As believers, we still have lower natures with desires that must be denied. Notice the order in verse 12, FIRST there is a denial of our lower nature, then, positive obedience follows.
Notice that grace our teacher follows the normal order found in repentance – first there is a repudiation of sin (we turn our backs on sin in order to turn toward God in obedience). The word, “deny” means simply that you say “no” to ungodliness and worldly desires. That is you do not give consent to the delights and pleasures offered to you by sin’s temptations. Grace teaches you to reject sin’s solicitations. This side of glory you will always be assaulted by temptations. Your calling is to withhold consent from those temptations.
EXAMPLE: When I consider the moral confusion that has taken our nation captive, it’s heart-breaking to witness the lies that are being foisted upon our youth. One of the lies used to justify sin is: “I’m just being true to who I am.” As if our sinful desires define who we are. By contrast, grace teaches us that we belong to God and that our Father’s commands are to define our conduct as His beloved children.
As you study verse 12, you’ll notice that grace trains us first in self-mastery, orself-control (denying self as we turn away from worldly desires – those worldly desires consisting of an inordinate desire or lust for pleasure, possessions, or power). Second, grace trains us in righteousness, or sensible living (fairness, justice, and integrity toward others). Third, grace trains us in godliness (to be godly is to be devoted to God in obedience, love, and loyalty to Him). All three of these of these areas of training are connected; you cannot have one without the other.
This is God’s grace training us how to live. When you meet someone who is living this way, you will notice that their life is different. And you will be much more inclined to listen to them when they talk about God (thus the reason for the command to “adorn the God our Savior in every respect” – Titus 2:10). What we say we believe must match the way we live!
Grace educates our minds – it schools us in the reason for living godly lives. And what are those reasons? First of all, God has shown us in the cross of Christ His righteous wrath and ferocity against sin (the cross is not only the message of God’s love, it is also a very sobering monument to the fact that each of us deserves to die). If you have tasted God’s grace then you fear God – the fear of God keeps you from sin. You bow before the moral majesty of God knowing that what God says about moral sowing and reaping is unbreakable (Gal 6:6-10; Rom 2:4-10; 6:21-22). Therefore we wage a constant war against sin in our own lives.
Secondly, grace teaches us that as believers we have been “radically adjusted” (so to speak) to God’s righteous and loving character – through the saving work of Christ grace has put us in tune with God to fellowship with the Holy One. We have been made right with God (Rom 1:17; 3:21-26). Now our loyalty to God is born of our affection for Him as His children. Grace educates us; it gives us the reason and rationale for love to God and neighbor instead of living lives of selfishness.
By the good seed of the Gospel of grace, God has shown us that He is there and that He cares for us, so much so, that He has given His only begotten Son in order to bring us to Himself. Therefore to live selfishly puts us at odds with ultimate reality (God Himself and His perfect plan).
It’s clear from this text that God’s grace trains every true believer in the art of living. How we need to understand that this very text describes the Holy Spirit’s teaching curriculum for us. Passages like our text guard from self-deception. Those yet to be educated by God’s grace have little fear of God and have no interest in serving Him. Titus 2 goes off like an alarm clock in the conscience; it wakes our slumbering consciences to the truth of what it means to be a partaker of God’s grace. Beloved, no one sleeps his way to heaven. Those bound for heaven are diligent students of grace, their teacher – they are “awake” in class learning the lessons taught by grace.
We’ve seen that God’s grace has appeared to helpless sinners, and that God’s grace instructs believers in the art of living. But grace not only instructs our minds, but also our hearts in hope (how needed this is in a world that often lives on the edge of despair).
III. God’s Grace Instills Hope in the Hearts of Believers (v. 13).
By the power of grace, the Christian is awaiting the blessed hope; the appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We think about characteristics that define the Christian – he is forgiven, he loves God and the truth, he denies worldly lusts, he practices righteousness, but verse 13 provides another very important characteristic of the Christian; he is a person who is waiting.
An unbeliever is someone who is NOT waiting. The unsaved person says to himself, “Life is too short for me to serve God and to be morally pure and good.” We are surrounded by people who are not waiting. In our sexualized culture of aggressive sensuality, people live pleasure-demanding lives. But the Christian waits. He is enabled by grace to spurn the pleasures of sin in order to follow Christ and gain eternal pleasure in the world to come. He looks beyond this life to the Blessed Hope.
There is a principle evident here (as well as in the rest of Scripture) – to the degree that a person is enamored with the world (and consequently lives in the flesh) he is ignorant of the importance of the promise of eternal life. As Christ and the Apostles teach us so eloquently, if you are awaiting the blessed hope, then your affections will be in a different sphere than this present world. Therefore, the hope of glory is a very powerful antidote to worldly living.
V. 13 tells us that the believer is awaiting the appearing of God’s glory. God’s glory is so incredible, so majestic, so mighty, so ravishing to the soul, that it transforms the believer when he sees it (whether by faith – 2 Cor 3:18, or at Christ’s appearing, by sight – 1 Jn 3:2). The moment you see Christ’s glory your whole being will experience a quantum leap of transformation – you’ll instantly be made like Christ as you enter eternal blessing with God’s people. When the Lord’s glory appears you will be raised incorruptible, the entire universe will be renewed (Rom 8:19-21; Rev 21).
Once this anticipation of glory gets into your heart you will never be the same person. This is because grace is educating your hopes and making you content to shun sin, and follow Christ. Just as the glories of heaven expose the lying lusts (attachments) of this world, so also the luster of this world blinds people to the glories of heaven. The world and eternal glory work against each other.
The world has a complete disregard for the glory of the Lord. Those who are of the world pay no attention to God’s glory; they give it no thought. Even though God’s majesty is evident everyday in His works, His glory is concealed from the unbeliever. Because of spiritual blindness, men are kept from seeing God’s glory (they are blinded to even the simplest manifestations of God’s majesty seen in a butterfly or in a thunderstorm).
When we consider God’s glory, it is only the Christian who knows what God is doing in human history. Human history is a theater, or stage for God’s glory. God is bringing His purposes of His Kingdom to pass through His servants. The story of mankind is catapulting toward its consummation when God in Christ will invade human history at His glorious return.
The believer eagerly awaits this promised appearing of Christ. He knows that when Christ’s glory appears it will be the Father’s vindication of Christ as rightful Lord of the universe (remember that 2000 years ago Christ’s glory was hidden behind His mortal human flesh).
For the present, Christ’s glory is out of view – we perceive His glory by faith in His infallible Word, but a day is coming soon in which Christ’s glory will be the focal point of the universe. It will captivate our attention forever. It will be the source of blessedness of the redeemed and the holy angels forever. Those taught by grace long to see this glory, and Jesus longs for us to see His glory (Jn 17:24).
Verse 13 teaches us that Christ is God. When Christ appears, the divine glory of the Godhead will be manifested in Him. God cannot be separated from His glory.Christ’s appearing will be the revelation of the “glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The two nouns, “God, and “Savior” are joined by a conjunction and preceded by one article. This Greek construction supports the fact that verse 13 is referring to one Person, Christ Jesus who is God.
In the NT Greek, “blessed hope” and “glorious appearing” are also under one article so that the reader might view one event (Christ’s return) from two aspects – the two aspects are 1.) our hope realized in Christ, and 2.) the glory of God appearing in Christ.
Our hope realized means that what began as the appearance of God’s grace at the first coming of Christ will be brought to completion at Christ’s return. This is why Christ’s Second Coming is sometimes referred to as our salvation. “. . . Lift your heads for your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). “. . . Salvation is nearer to us than when we believed” (Rom 13:11). Seeing the glory of Christ is the last phase of your salvation – it will be the redemption of your body (Rom 8:23).
Patient waiting for Christ’s appearing modifies our living. It prepares us to live with Him. Our affections are kept in tune with the fact that the “blessed hope” refers to the bliss, happiness, and delight of being in Christ’s presence. As we exercise this hope we are blessed now with a spirit that is patient, joyful, hopeful, and stable. Blissful expectation (hope through grace) gives us an immovable foundation that fills the believer with gratitude; it produces preparedness for the eternal weight of glory that is coming.
As the Holy Spirit imparts peace and hopefulness to the believer whose heart is taught by grace, there will be strength to resist the temptations and provocations that assault us. The believer animated by hope is enabled by grace to look beyond this life in order to experience something of Christ’s presence now. Hope through grace trains us in godliness.
Look at our text again in verse 13. Can it be said of you that you are “Looking for the Blessed Hope?” Which of the glories has captivated you? Is it the false glory of this age, or the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior?
If you are not sure, praise God, Scripture does not leave you to waver between the two glories. You are commanded to practice setting your affections on things above where Christ is (Col 3:1-3). Paul is urging His readers to meditate by faith NOW on the glory to be revealed on the last day; for in this way your heart will be educated by grace.
We’ve seen that grace has appeared to hopeless sinners, we’ve seen that grace instructs us in the art of living, and that grace plants hope in our hearts. But there is a fourth activity of grace that is also life-changing.
IV. God’s Grace Purifies the Saints to Live as God’s Possession (v. 14).
Notice the purpose of Christ’s work of redemption – it is that believers might be a people for God’s own possession with a zest for good deeds. The purpose behind God’s grace is to rescue us from wickedness and make us a people marked out by the fact that we are eagerly pursuing good in our lives.
Within the same sentence (which Paul began in v. 11), he reverts from the subject of future glory (v. 13) to Christ’s historic work on Calvary (v. 14) as the foundation for our sanctification.
V. 14 says that Christ “gave” Himself for us. This stresses that His death was both voluntary and substitutionary. The giving of Himself is the greatest of all gifts because of our sinfulness and ill-desert.
Notice the intent: He gave Himself for us (suffering in our place) that He might redeem us from every lawless deed. “To redeem” is to obtain release by the payment of a price. (EXAMPLE: Imagine a relative of yours was jailed for some offense and that you were given the money to pay his bail. You pay the bail and then come home and announce that your relative is still in jail because the bail “didn’t work; he is still confined.” Your relatives would reply, “What do you mean it didn’t work?”
This story has a direct parallel to redemption. If Christ has redeemed you, paying the price of your release, you will be released from a life of sinfulness. It is impossible that His death will not affect the release of those for whom it is designed. But countless folks professing religion live as if the price paid by Christ “didn’t work.” They are still living in the prison house of their sins.)
Paul wrote to a Mediterranean world that was very familiar with the concept of slaves obtaining freedom by means of the payment of a redemption price.Beloved, the price of your freedom from the sphere and dominion of sin was the death of the Son of God. The death of Christ is mighty to save. It effectually procures release from lawlessness, and it purifies us to be His chosen people devoted to good works. That means that those who know Christ as Savior will have transformed lives. The redeemed will not remain “in the jail” of sin’s bondage.
The reason is that grace necessarily brings with it newness of life. (To go on serving sin nullifies, and makes void, and cancels out the blessings of redemption. It’s like choosing to return to jail, darkness, and chains.)
Notice in v. 14 the power of redemption to purify us from every lawless deed.Sin here is defined as “lawlessness.” All wickedness is embodied in this definition; transgression is self-will expressed as defiance of God’s standard of right and wrong – thus lawlessness is the essence of sin (1 Jn 3:4).
(APPLICATION: Does v. 14 express your personal testimony of salvation? Can you say of yourself, “This verse describes me? I was living in defiance of God’s standard, but the grace of God has redeemed me from every lawless deed.” Brethren we must mark down the fact that the Gospel invitation is for those who know themselves to be lawless in the sight of God.)
Redemption delivers “from” – from the dominion and sphere of sin that you might operate in a new sphere; the realm of restored fellowship with God. This blood-bought cleansing is for the purpose of washing you to live with God; that you might be a purified people to live as God’s own possession.
(EXAMPLE: Our self-willed “lawless” rebellion produced defilement in God’s sight. God cannot live with the defiled any more than you could live with a decomposing animal in your bedroom. Radical cleansing is needed.)
APPLICATION: To be cleansed for the purpose of living as God’s own precious possession brings with it the very reasonable, rational response (this is grace educating us). Our response to God’s mercy is to voluntarily yield ourselves to Him as His possession for a life of good works (Rom 12:1-2).
A true, voluntary response is to be enthusiastic about what is good; it is to be zealous about good works. The redeemed have been delivered from the doom of sin and death and have been brought into a unique relationship with God. (All who are eager for His return are also eager for good works.)
Oh what strong, fortifying “medicine” this text is for us. The Church today is under siege from moral laxity (God’s commands are treated as optional; lawlessness has come in through the back door of the Church disguised as freedom). How we desperately need grace as our teacher to educate our heads, our hope, our hearts, and our whole inner life that we might be trained up to follow Christ.
(EXAMPLE: I’m sure you’ve noticed that when tragedy strikes in our nation, it is common for a performer to sing the hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Certainly in a time of crisis even the world recognizes the need for divine compassion. But the grace of God John Newton wrote about in his famous hymn is not what people imagine it to be. The grace unfolded in our text is the transforming power of God that delivers from sin and makes men new in Christ.)
The Biblical teaching of the Gospel of grace transforms people’s lives. It powerfully leads away from sin and self-centeredness to godliness. It never fails to do so in a genuinely redeemed person. By the death of Christ, grace consecrates us to God for a life of good works.
We’ve seen that, 1.) the grace of God has appeared to helpless sinners. 2.) It educates believers in that art of living, 3.) it instills hope in the heart, and 4.) it purifies the redeemed to live lives of fruitfulness as those who belong to God.
CONCLUSION: True freedom is when God is at the center of your life and not self. Self-centeredness can only be defeated by the resources of the Gospel. Only by the power of the Gospel of grace can you break out of self-centeredness to godly living.
God Almighty is meeting you this morning in the truth of this text of Scripture. Our passage in Titus 2 is the wonderful summary of the full-orbed, overarching blueprint of the Christian life. Titus 2 marks out the path of the “Narrow Way,” spoken of by our Lord.
By Titus 2 we may examine ourselves to see if we are following Christ. (When we read the Gospels we find that assurance of salvation is reserved for those who are following Christ – Luke 9:23-26; Jn 12:26.)
Now if you took a road trip in your car and you found that you had made a wrong turn that took you 20 miles out of your way you would correct your course as soon as possible knowing you would never reach your destination without that course correction – how much more so serious then is the destination of eternal life?
Titus 2 is a road map of the Narrow Way that leads to life. Many of you need to make the necessary course correction (what the Bible calls repentance). If that is your need, make it your prayer. Here is a suggested prayer for returning to the path of obedience taught by God’s grace:
“Gracious Father, I confess that I have believed the world’s lie that life is about me, self interest, and my freedom of choice. Lord I confess that I have brought my own unhappiness upon myself by living a self-centered life. Father I also confess that my testimony as a Christian has not matched what I believe – there is a huge gap between the truth I say I believe and the way I live. Lord, I repent of this sin now, and by your grace in Christ’s blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I will live as your purified possession, zealous for good works. Amen”
Barker, Kenneth L. and John Kohlenberger III eds., NIV Bible Commentary, Titus, D.
Edmond Hiebert, Zondervan, 1994.
Benton, John, Straightening the Self-centered Church, the Message of Titus, Evangelical
Calvin, John, Calvin’s Commentary, Eerdmans Publishing, 1964.
Hendrickson, William, NTC, Baker, 1979.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Regency, 1961.
Guthrie, D., Motyer, J. A., et al, The New Bible Commentary: Revised, Eerdmans
Publishing, rp 1970.
Pfeiffer, Charles F., Everett F. Harrison, eds., The Wycliffe Bible Commentary,Moody
Rienecker, Fritz, Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the N.T., Regency, 1976.
Wells, David F., God in the Wasteland, Eerdmans, 1994.