For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (Titus 2:11).
|"Close of the Crucifixion" by Gustave Doré|
Immediately significant in verse 11 is the connecting word, “for.” This ties the entire paragraph (Tit. 2:11-14) to the earlier verses (Tit. 2:1-10) where Paul sketches a picture of godly living. Godly living pervades every gender, age, and social class: older men(Tit. 2:1), older women (Tit. 2:2), younger men (Tit. 2:6), younger women (Tit. 2:4), and slaves (Tit. 2:9). The reason why every person, regardless of their gender or age or social class should live godly is because of the appearing of God’s grace. Grace as we commonly define it, is God’s unmerited favor. In this instance, however, Paul is giving a more exact specification of grace. This grace has 1) appeared and 2) brought salvation for all. Clearly, the grace Paul is referring to is the Gospel work of Jesus: His life, death, resurrection and ascension. In Paul’s day the word “appear” (Greek, epiphaino) was used to describe the arrival of a mythical hero, or god, or the emperor. Here, Paul refers to the triumphant appearance of Someone greater than the emperor: the Lord of All and the King of Kings.
This grace has brought salvation for all. Before we understand what this phrase means, we need to clarify what it doesn't mean. God’s Gospel provision for all does not mean that all will be saved. Christ closed His Sermon on the Mount this way, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14). In a terrifying passage (Matt. 7:21-23) Jesus describes some who believed they were His followers. They declare their good works before Him and He replies by saying, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23). Although God’s saving grace is made available to all, not all will be saved. Even some who think they are saved, are not. In light of this perilous reality, Paul urges us to examine whether our faith is genuine (2 Cor. 5:5-10). James further adds that faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:14-26). Genuine conversion always manifests in changed living.
What, then, does God’s universally appearing, saving grace accomplish? Its accomplishment is that Jesus' Gospel work has been made salvation available to every person throughout all ages. We know this because God “is not willing that any should persist but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). He “wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). His love is for all: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Jesus died, “tasting death for everyman” (Heb. 2:9) so that His death wasn't for the elect alone, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn. 2:2).
Where the Future is Already Taking Place
So in this conversation of genuine Christianity marked by godly living because of God's grace, why does Paul include a phrase affirming the possibility of salvation for all? Paul has already described what godly living accomplishes. Godly living ensures “that word of God may not be reviled” (Tit. 2:5). It protects against accusation, “that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (Tit. 2:8). Those who live godly lives “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Tit. 2:10).
That last phrase from 2:10, is the key to understanding why Paul includes the universal hope of verse 11. We live godly lives to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. When we showcase the Gospel before all people, we are adorning, showing the Gospel’s beauties to all. We function as a telescope pointing curious observers to a huge, stunning, beautiful galaxy. We live godly lives in front of all men because all men are savable. When old men (Tit. 2:1) and old women (Tit. 2:2) live godly lives, it adorns the Gospel to old men and old women. When young men (Tit. 2:6), and young women (Tit. 2:4) live godly lives it adorns the Gospel to young men and women. When slaves live godly lives (Tit. 2:9) it adorns the Gospel to other slaves. There is a totality in the scope of witnessing present in godly living. We are to live godly lives to showcase the Gospel. Our living godly lives stirs the hungry appetites of unbelievers. The Gospel life is the changed life, adorning and commending the Gospel’s power. This right living is the visible expression of right belief. Everyone longs for more than they have. That’s why we stuff ourselves with food, drink, sex and play and come up empty. Though these things are good and right, they cannot satisfy. They were never meant to. Only Jesus can satisfy. Only He can fill our cravings.
"Paul is not trying to persuade Christians to see their life as attractive, in the sense of being easy. Instead, he expects that unbelievers will be attracted to this new life in Christ. Paul is saying that unbelievers will find life in Christ compelling, even though that life is often counter-cultural and frequently costly…If people are attracted to our lives, they may start to show an interest in our message"~Tim Chester 1
At the Last Supper after He washed his disciple’s feet, Jesus made a stunning claim, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”(Jn. 13:34-35). Love is an amazing witness. By Christian's love for one another, all people see the wonder of the Gospel. The church, the assembly of believers, should be marked by love. Christians should be the most loving people because they have been loved by the One whose love matters most. A loving Christianity creates compelling community. The world desperately needs to see this loving, Christian witness. The world needs to see the love of Christians for them and for each other. Tim Chester writes: 2
The resurrection of Jesus was an eschatological event: it took place in the past, but it was also the first act of the coming age. The church is an eschatological community: we live under the reign of the future coming King. We're the place on earth where the future is already taking placeThe church is a foretaste of the age to come when this world will be under the earthly reign of the good King. May we live our lives godly and lovingly as "worthy of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:27).
Below is a sermon I preached on Titus 2:11-14 called, "God's Grace: Foundation of the Christian Life"
God's Grace: The Foundation of Christian Life from Desert Heights Church on Vimeo.
1 Tim Chester, Titus For You (Nottingham, England: The Good Book Company, 2014), 73-88.
2 Tim Chester, Ordinary Hero: Living the Cross and Resurrection in Everyday Life (Nottingham, England: The Good Book Company, 2013), 8.