For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
I. The apostle sets forth, as the foundation of all, THE APPEARANCE OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Grace, the theological term which, to many of us, sounds so cold and unreal and remote, is all throbbing with tenderness and warm with life if we understand what it means. It means the pulsation of the heart of God pouring a tide of gracious love on sinful men, who do not deserve one drop of it to fall upon them, and who dwell so far beneath His loftiness that the love is made still more wonderful by the condescension which makes it possible. The lofty loves the low, and the love is grace. The righteous loves the sinful, and the love is grace. Then, says my text, there is something which has made this Divine love of God, so wonderful in its loftiness, and equally wonderful in its passing by men's sinfulness, visible to men. The grace, has "appeared." Scientists can make sounds visible by the symmetrical lines into which heaps of sand upon a bit of paper are cast by the vibration of a string. God has made invisible love plain to the sight of all men, because He has sent us His Son.
II. NOTICE THE UNIVERSAL SWEEP OF THIS GRACE. The words should be read, "The grace of God, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared." It brings salvation to all men. It does not follow from that, that all men take the salvation which it brings. Notice the underlying theory of a universal need that lies in these words. The grace brings salvation to all men, because all men need that more than any thing else. In the notion of salvation there lies the two ideas of danger and of disease. It is healing and it is safety; therefore, if it be offered to all, it is because all men are sick of a sore disease, and stand in imminent and deadly peril. That is the only theory of men's deepest need which is true to the facts of human existence.
III. NOTICE THE GREAT WORK OF THIS GRACE MADE VISIBLE. It seems to be a wonderful descent from "the grace of God which bringeth salvation to all hath appeared" to "teaching us." Is that all? Is that worth much? If by "teaching" we mean merely a reiteration in words, addressed to the understanding or the heart, of the great principles of morality and conduct, it is a very poor thing, and a tremendous come down from the apostle's previous words. Such an office is not what the world wants. To try to cure the world's evils by teaching, in that narrow sense of the expression, is something like trying to put a fire out by reading the Riot Act to the flames. You want fire engines, and not paper proclamations, in order to stay their devouring course. But it is to be noticed that the expression here, in the original, means a great deal more than that kind of teaching. It means correcting, or chastening. Our Physician has in His great medicine chest balm and bandages for all wounds. But He has also a terrible array of gleaming blades with sharp edges, and of materials for cauterising and burning away proud flesh. And if ever we are to be made good and pure, as God wants to make us, it must be through a discipline that will often be agony, and will often be pain, and against the grain. For the one thing that God wants to do with men is to bring their wills into entire harmony with His. And we cannot have that done without much treatment which will inflict in love beneficent pain. No man can live beside that Lord without being rebuked moment by moment, and put to wholesome shame day by day, when he contrasts himself with that serene and radiant pattern and embodiment of all perfection. And no man can receive into his heart the powers of the world to come, the might of an indwelling Spirit, without that Spirit exercising as its first function that which Christ Himself told us it would perform (John 16:8).
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,