Grace and its Lessons
Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…

The "saving grace of God which has appeared to all men" is described by the apostle as "teaching us," or rather educating, training us in such a way as to secure the precious fruits that follow. It is a characteristic feature of the gospel that it does men good by putting them to school, by making them disciples, not simply for the purpose of communicating knowledge, but for that of forming and maturing character; for education in the highest, largest, and most emphatic sense. This pedagogical design of true religion is stamped upon all its institutions, and legible even in its phraseology. It is not by an unmeaning figure of speech that Christians are continually called disciples, that is, learners, pupils, and that the ministers of Christ are spoken of as teachers. The church is Christ's school; he who enters it must enter as a learner, a disciple, with as real and sincere a deference to his great teacher as the little child feels, when it trembles for the first time in the presence of a master. Such submission is the more imperative in this case, because more truly than in any other case the process of instruction is moral as well as intellectual; it is not mere teaching, it is training, education; not the mere acquisition of knowledge, although that does lie at the foundation, but the cultivation of the powers and affections, as a preparation for the joys and services of heaven, as well as for the duties and the trials of this present state. The design and the legitimate effect of this disciplinary process are distinctly stated in the text, with reference both to the present and the future; both in a negative and positive form. The negative design of all this training is that we deny, repudiate, or abjure allegiance to the sinful dispositions and affections which are paramount in fallen nature, but the objects of which perish in the using, being limited to this world, so that they may be described as "worldly lusts" or desires, and may be said, so far as they predominate, to put man on a level with the brutes, whose highest good is present enjoyment of the lowest kind. By all who would be saved, these worldly, temporal, and short-lived lusts must be denied, renounced; and this is never done without a simultaneous or previous denial of ungodliness, of all indifference and enmity to God, which is indeed the source of the other, for when human hearts are right towards God, the paramount control of worldly lusts becomes impossible. This, however, is only the negative part of the effect produced by the spiritual discipline to which we are subjected in the school of Christ. It has a positive side also. It teaches us how we are to live. In reference to himself, the true disciple in this school is educated to be sober or sound minded; the original expression denotes sanity as opposed to madness, not in its extreme forms merely, but in all its more familiar and less violent gradations — all those numberless and nameless aberrations of the judgment which give character to human conduct, even in the absence of gross crime or absolute insanity. In opposition to this "madness," the saving grace of God trains its subjects to be rational or sober, and thus in the highest sense and measure to be faithful to themselves. But at the same time it trains them to be faithful to others, to be just, in the wide sense of the term; including all that one can owe another — including, therefore, charity and mercy, no less than honesty and rigorous exactness in the discharge of legal obligations. Justice or rectitude, in this enlarged and noble sense, as opposed to every form of selfishness, is no less really a dictate and a consequence of spiritual training, than sanity or soundness of mind, as opposed to the chimeras and hallucinations of our state by nature. But "soberness" and "justice," in the wide sense which has just been put upon the terms, have never yet been found divorced from "godliness." As we have seen already, in considering the negative effects of training by Divine grace, it is man's relations to his God, that must adjust and determine his relations to his fellow creatures. The symmetrical position of the points in the circumference arises from their common relation to a common centre. Such are the objects and effects of Christian training, that is, of the method by which Christ trains His disciples, with respect to the present state or stage of man's existence, as distinguished from those future states or stages to which he cannot but look forward. For although the sobriety of mind produced by the discipline of God's grace, causes men of a morbid, penurious disposition to lose sight of present duties and enjoyments in a vague anticipation of the future, it is so far from excluding expectation altogether, that our very salvation is prospective. "We are saved in hope," and that hope is a blessed one; a hope of blessedness to be revealed and realised hereafter; a hope, that is, an object of hope, not yet fully enjoyed, but only "looked for," and to look for which is one of the effects and marks of thorough training in the school of Christ. This hope is neither selfish nor indefinite. It does not terminate upon ourselves, our own deliverance from suffering, and our own reception into heaven; nor does it lose itself in vague anticipations of a nameless good to be experienced hereafter. The Christian's hope is in the highest degree generous and well defined. It is generous, because it rises beyond personal interests, even the highest, even personal salvation, to the glory of the Saviour as the ultimate end to be desired and accomplished. It is well defined, because, instead of looking at this glory in the abstract, it gives it a concrete and personal embodiment; it is glory, not in the sense of the metaphysician or of the poet, but in that of the prophets, saints, and angels; it is manifested and apparent excellence, a glorious epiphany, analogous to that which marked Jehovah's presence in the Holy of holies, but unspeakably transcending it in permanence and brightness; the glorious appearance, not of any mere creature, even the most noble, but of God Himself, and yet not of God in His essence, which is inaccessible to sense, nor even in some special and distinct manifestation of the Father, or the Godhead, under an assumed or borrowed form of which the senses may take cognisance, but in the well known person of His Son, who is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and therefore it is not the untempered brightness of the Divine majesty, and holiness, and justice, which to us is, and must be, a consuming fire; and yet it is the manifested glory of God, of the great God — great in all conceivable perfections, but, as the object of this hope, emphatically great in mercy — great in the power, not to punish and destroy, but to forgive and save, to save the sinner, to save us; — the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let it not be overlooked, however, that the gospel, while it sets Christ before us as an object of believing expectation, sets Him also before us as an object of believing recollection, and thus brings into a delightful harmony the hope of favours yet to be experienced with gratitude for those experienced already. It is not simply as glorious person, human or Divine, that we look for His appearing; it is not simply as a Saviour or Deliverer from evil in the general; it is not simply as a potential Saviour or Deliverer, one who can save us if He will, and will if we should need it at some future time; not merely a Saviour whose ability and willingness to save are yet to be displayed and proved, but as an actual deliverer, as one who has already done His saving work, by giving Himself for us, the highest gift, it may in a certain sense be said, of which even He was capable, for us, His creatures, His rebellious subjects, His despisers, and His enemies! What, then, was His object? To redeem us, to buy us back from bondage, to save us by the payment of a ransom price, not only from the punishment of sin, but from its power, from its love, from its pollution, from its foul and hideous embrace, no less than from its sword and from its chains. It was to set us free from sin itself that Christ redeemed us; not from some sin, but from all sin; not that we should still remain, or afterwards fall back under the dominion of the very tyrant from whose power He redeemed us; not that we should merely exchange one hard master for another, or for many; — no, He "gave Himself for us," He laid down His life for us, He died upon the cross for us, "that He might redeem us from all iniquity." Nor was this deliverance from sin as well as punishment intended merely for our advantage, but for His. He had an end to accomplish for Himself. He died to purify us, not merely that we might be pure and therefore happy, but also to purify a people for Himself; a peculium, a possession of His own, a Church, a body of which He should be the Head, a kingdom of which he should be the Sovereign.

(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

WEB: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,

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