Friday, January 8, 2016

Two Effects of Grace – Titus 2:11-12

For 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. (NASU)

The first and most commonly acknowledge effect of grace is salvation. Almost every Christian knows that it is by grace we have been saved (Eph 2:8). Just exactly how grace works or appears is a matter of great controversy among Christian denominations. The biggest divide is regarding the way that grace comes to a person so that they can be saved.
  •  Some believe that grace is imparted through the Church by participation in the sacraments,[1] specifically baptism. This is not just a Roman Catholic view but also the view of some Protestant denominations including those who believe that not only must you be baptized, but you must be baptized in their tub.
  •  Others believe that baptism of an infant saves the person even though they must later make a profession of faith at a later date. The grace received at baptism then enables them to make that decision.[2]
  •  Then there is the doctrine that grace is irresistible so that when God gives it at His time and choosing, the person upon whom it is bestowed is so moved that it is impossible for them to resist repentance and salvation.[3]
  •  Others believe that when God bestows His grace on a person it simple means that the person is then able to exercise his freedom to choose salvation. Before receiving God’s grace, he was only capable of rejecting salvation.[4]
  •  Some believe that this grace is given to everyone so that salvation is entirely dependent upon the person and not God’s choosing.[5]
  •  Others believe in universal salvation in that His grace brings everyone to salvation.[6]

As is evident, there is much confusion within Christianity over how grace saves. If Titus 2:11 were the only verse in the Bible that explains grace we would probably agree with those who believe in universal salvation, however that would rely on thinking that bringing (making available) and accepting salvation are the same. Furthermore, basing universal salvation on the word bringing would be totally inaccurate because the word was added by translators and does not appear in the original Greek. A literal translation is, “For the saving grace of God was manifested to all men” (Titus 2:11 Young’s Literal Translation). This makes it obvious that His save grace has come and that all can see it but does not imply that it brings salvation to everyone. While this doesn’t answer all the questions, it does eliminate universal salvation. A detailed answer for all the other options is not within the scope of this study.

A quick look at Ephesians 2:8-9 sheds light on several of the options above when taken for what it says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (KJV). Grace does the saving, because it is through faith, something that can only come about by hearing, seeing (deaf sign language), or reading and then understanding (Rom 10:14). This eliminates all forms of salvation by infant baptism since an infant cannot understand nor reason what to believe. Since it is a gift of God and it is not of ourselves, then that eliminates other concepts. It means that any action we take whether it is adult baptism or rituals to gain grace or elicit God’s approval must be eliminated as the source of grace to actualize our salvation.

This leaves only two options. The first is the Calvinist doctrine that grace is irresistible. The second is the Arminian doctrine that grace enables a person to choose salvation. Both of these depend on God giving the grace without a person earning it in any way. The Roman Catholic position does not fit simply because grace is earned by participating in the sacraments though some may argue that it is essentially the same as the Arminian position. I agree with the Calvinistic approach because salvation is then 100% God centered. The Arminian approach depends on man’s choosing salvation in cooperation with God. If God is not in total control, then man essentially usurps God’s choice by either refusing to accept salvation or by rejecting it at a later date either of which negates God’s election (Eph 1:4).

Godly Lives
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. (1 Cor 3:10 NKJV)

I seldom hear of anyone explaining the instructional concept of grace and it is probably with good reason. It doesn’t shout out its presence in the same way saving grace does. Except for Titus 2:12, it is hidden behind the other concepts in a verse or it is the foundation supporting them. In 1 Corinthians 3:10 grace is prominent but what it is doing can only be discovered by looking at what it accomplishes. In this case, Paul received wisdom by God’s grace. He understood that he was building the church on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:9, 11).

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God's grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. (2 Cor 1:12 NLT)

In this verse, it is clear that God’s grace enabled Paul to live a life of holinesses and minister sincerely to the Corinthians because he was depending on God’s grace instead of human wisdom. This echoes his declaration to Titus. In Paul’s life, he had been instructed by God’s grace to live godly and deny all the temptations for abuse that his position as an Apostle afforded. It is a good example that anyone in ministry should heed. If this were the attitude of all ministry leaders whether pastors of mega-churches or parachurch leaders, we wouldn’t see moral failures or abusive cults. Even if all we do is write a blog or hand out tracts, we need God’s grace to teach us how to live godly lives and avoid the strong allure of the world to be recognized by people.

In our daily reading program, we just read from Matthew 6, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 1 is a stern warning not to practice our righteousness, charity, good deeds, piety, alms, kindness (all from different translations) before men to gain their approval. Grace teaches us that living a godly life does not include trying to impress others how godly we are. Paul lived this but had to depend on God’s grace to accomplish it.

May God’s grace be sufficient to get you through whatever you are facing at this time. Rely on His grace because it is the power of Christ resting on you (2 Cor 12:9).

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids, USA.: Baker Academic, 2013), 837, Kindle.
[2] Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn Wright, eds., introduction to Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ(Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007).
[3] Erickson, 848-851.
[4] Ibid., 844-845.
[5] Ibid., 852-853.
[6] Ibid.,942.

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