For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
1. What does this grace teach us to deny? and the answer is "Ungodliness and worldly lusts."(1) Ungodliness means impiety, blasphemy, and all forms of public infidelity; and most certainly all such evils are condemned in the passage: but surely the mere negative form is intended to include far more than these. Ungodly means not godly, and points to the condition of the soul in which God is simply shut out. A godly man is a man in whom God dwells — a man who thinks, speaks, and acts for God. Even so an ungodly man is a man who simply thinks, speaks, and acts without any reference to God — he seeks his own pleasure or interest, and guides his conduct according to the maxims of sagacity and worldly prudence. He thus becomes rich, or learned, or eloquent, or victorious in battle; but seeing God was neither consulted nor cared for in the whole of it, he remains an ungodly man.
(2) But what are these worldly lusts, these cosmical desires? All that relates merely to the kosmos, or great material visible world — all that the men of the world hunt so eagerly after, and long to possess. Your quiet retreat in the bosom of green fields and enchanting scenery delights and satisfies you, and that is worldly lust; you make your calculation in the counting house, and look forward with contentment to the success of your mercantile speculations, and that is worldly lust; you set your heart upon excelling your fellow men, be it in science, or in wisdom, or in warfare, and that too is worldly lust. Everything whose end is in this fallen state of things is worldly lust; everything, however honest and noble and praiseworthy among men, which has not God for its motive and its end, is worldly lust.
2. But how are we to live?
(1) Soberly. This refers to our own character, and implies many of the duties that we owe to ourselves. It denotes soundness of mind, as well as temperance regarding the indulgence of the appetites.
(2) Righteously. This means justly, and sums up the duties which we owe to our fellow men. Justice is one of the exact virtues, which can be easily recognised and definitely measured; and hence it is the great palladium of the nations, the very basis of social intercourse and mercantile prosperity. Justice is a noble, but not one of the highest virtues, and therefore it is well fitted to be the common medium or life of a community. An act of injustice is recognisable and punishable; not so avarice, ambition, or forbidden pleasure; and here, too, we see its fitness for moulding and strengthening the natural character.
(3) This is the idea of natural justice, and forms the staple commodity with publicists and jurists; but righteousness, as defined in the person of Christ and in the Scriptures, is a much higher and nobler principle. Justice is based upon rights; and the Christian, as such, has none, save to love all men, and be put to death for this love, as his Master was. Right says, Smite the smiter till he gets his due; but the gospel says, Turn the other cheek.
(4) Lastly, we should live godly — viz., with God, in God, and for God. This is the glorious end, so far as this world is concerned, which the saving grace of God is intended and calculated to accomplish in the believing Church of Christ. Like their Divine Master, they are not of the world, though in it; and though in the midst of defilement, they remain undefiled. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
3. But what does this grace teach us to look for? I answer, in the first place, the apostle directs the believer's eye here, as elsewhere, to the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, as the centre and home of the longing heart.
(1) What is our position? It is that of waiting for, and looking for, the coming of the Lord — not waiting upon the Lord merely, which is also a duty, but waiting for the Lord from heaven, who shall change our vile bodies, and make them like unto His glorious body. He is the centre in which the ages, ceremonies, and dispensations all meet and have their stability — the unity which harmonises time and eternity, creation and Creator — the living fountain which sends forth the benediction of God over the ages, dispensations, and nations in a thousand streams. As the Jews hoped and waited, so we hope and wait. Our position is the same, and the Person whom we wait for is the same; they waited for His coming in the flesh, and we for His coming in glory.
(2) Is this hope an important doctrine of the New Testament? I answer, very important; for our text calls it the blessed hope, so that it is full of real blessing to the believer. What can be more blessed to the soul than the person of the adorable Redeemer, whom even unseen we love so ardently? All our hopes are about to be realised in His glorious appearing, when we shall be with Him and like Him forever.
(W. Graham, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,