For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
I. OUR POSITION.
1. The people of God stand between two appearances (vers. 11, 13). We live in an age which is an interval between two appearings of the Lord from heaven. Believers in Jesus are shut off from the old economy by the first coming of our Lord. The times of man's ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. We are divided from the past by a wall of light, upon whose forefront we read the words Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Calvary. We date from the birth of the Virgin's son: we begin with Anno Domini. All the rest of time is before Christ, and is marked off from the Christian era. The dense darkness of the heathen ages begins to be broken when we reach the first appearing, and the dawn of a glorious day begins. We look forward to a second appearing. Our outlook for the close of this present era is another appearing — an appearing of glory rather than of grace. This is the terminus of the present age. We look from Anno Domini, in which He came the first time, to that greater Anno Domini, or year of our Lord, in which He shall come a second time, in all the splendour of His power, to reign in righteousness, and break the evil powers as with a rod of iron. See, then, where we are: we are compassed about, behind and before, with the appearings of our Lord. Behind us is our trust; before us is our hope.
2. Our position is further described as being in this present world, or age. We are living in the age which lies between the two blazing beacons of the Divine appearings; and we are called to hasten from one to the other. It is but a little time, and He that will come shall come, and will not tarry. Now it is this "present world": oh, how present it is! How sadly it surrounds us! Yet by faith we count these present things to be unsubstantial as a dream; and we look to the things which are not seen, and not present, as being real and eternal. We hurry through this Vanity Fair: before us lies the Celestial City and the coming of the Lord who is the King thereof.
II. I have to call your attention to THE INSTRUCTION which is given to us by the grace of God which has appeared unto all men. A better translation would be, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, disciplining us in order that we may deny ungodliness and worldly lusts."
1. Grace has a discipline. We generally think of law when we talk about schoolmasters and discipline; but grace itself has a discipline and a wonderful training power too. The manifestation of grace is preparing us for the manifestation of glory. What the law could not do, grace is doing. As soon as we come under the conscious enjoyment of the free grace of God, we find it to be a holy rule, a fatherly government, a heavenly training. We find, not self-indulgence, much less licentiousness; but on the contrary, the grace of God both restrains and constrains us; it makes us free to holiness, and delivers us from the law of sin and death by "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus."
2. Grace has its chosen disciples, for you cannot help noticing that while the eleventh verse says that "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men," yet it is clear that this grace of God has not exercised its holy discipline upon all men, and therefore the text changes its "all men" into "us."
3. The discipline of grace, according to the apostle, has three results — denying, living, looking.
(1) When a young man comes to college he usually has much to unlearn. If his education has been neglected, a sort of instinctive ignorance covers his mind with briars and brambles. If he has gone to some faulty school where the teaching is flimsy, his tutor has first of all to fetch out of him what he has been badly taught. The most difficult part of the training of young men is not to put the right thing into them, but to get the wrong thing out of them. We have learned lessons of worldly wisdom and carnal policy, and these we need to unlearn and deny. The Holy Spirit works this denying in us by the discipline of grace.
(2) But then you cannot be complete with a merely negative religion; you must have something positive; and so the next word is living — that "we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Observe, that the Holy Ghost expects us to live in this present world, and therefore we are not to exclude ourselves from it. This age is the battle field in which the soldier of Christ is to fight. Society is the place in which Christianity is to exhibit the graces of Christ. You are to shine in the darkness like a light. This life is described in a threefold way —
(a) You are, first, to live "soberly" — that is, for yourself. "Soberly" in all your eating and your drinking, and in the indulgence of all bodily appetites — that goes without saying. You are to live soberly in all your thinking, all your speaking, all your acting. There is to be sobriety in all your worldly pursuits. You are to have yourself well in hand: you are to be self-restrained.
(b) As to his fellow men the believer lives "righteously." I cannot understand that Christian who can do a dirty thing in business. Craft, cunning, over-reaching, misrepresentation, and deceit are no instruments for the hand of godly men. Dishonesty and falsehood are the opposites of godliness. A Christian man may be poor, but he must live righteously: he may lack sharpness, but he must not lack integrity. A Christian profession without uprightness is a lie. Grace must discipline us to righteous living.
(c) Towards God we are told in the text we are to be godly. Every man who has the grace of God in him indeed and of a truth, will think much of God. God will enter into all his calculations, God's presence will be his joy, God's strength will be his confidence, God's providence will be his inheritance, God's glory will be the chief end of his being, God's law the guide of his conversation. Now, if the grace of God, which has appeared so plainly to all men, has really come with its sacred discipline upon us, it is teaching us to live in this threefold manner.
(3) Once more, there is looking as well as living. One work of the grace of God is to cause us to be "looking for that blessed hope of the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." What is that "blessed hope"? Why, first, that when He comes we shall rise from the dead, if we have fallen asleep; and that, if we are alive and remain, we shall be changed at His appearing. Our hope is that we shall be approved of Him, and shall hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." This hope is not of debt, but of grace: though our Lord will give us a reward, it will not be according to the law of works. We expect to be like Jesus when we shall see Him as He is.
III. The text sets forth certain of OUR ENCOURAGEMENTS.
1. In this great battle for right, and truth, and holiness, what could we do if we were left alone? But our first encouragement is that grace has come to our rescue; for in the day when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared among men, He brought for us the grace of God to help us to overcome all iniquity. He that struggleth now against inbred sin has the Holy Spirit within him to help him. He that goes forth to fight against evil in other men by preaching the gospel has the same Holy Ghost going with the truth to make it like a fire and like a hammer.
2. A second encouragement is that another appearing is coming. He who bowed His head in weakness, and died in the moment of victory, is coming in all the glory of His endless life. When the hour shall strike He shall appear in the majesty of God to put an end to the dominion of sin, and bring in endless peace. Satan shall be bruised under our feet shortly; wherefore comfort one another with these words, and then prepare for further battle. Grind your swords, and be ready for close fighting! Trust in God, and keep your powder dry.
3. Another encouragement is that we are serving a glorious Master. The Christ whom we follow is not a dead prophet like Mahomet. Truly we preach Christ crucified; but we also believe in Christ risen from the dead, in Christ gone up on high, in Christ soon to come a second time. He lives, and He lives as the great God and our Saviour.
4. Then come the tender thoughts with which I finish, the memories of what the Lord has done for us to make us holy: "Who gave Himself for us." Special redemption, redemption with a wondrous price — "who gave Himself for us." He died — forget not that — died that your sins might die, died that every lust might be dragged into captivity at His chariot wheels. He gave Himself for you that you might give yourselves for Him. Again, He died that He might purify us — purify us unto Himself. How clean we must be if we are to be clean unto Him! The apostle finishes up by saying that we are to be a people "zealous of good works." Would to God that all Christian men and women were disciplined by Divine grace till they became zealous for good works! In holiness zeal is sobriety. We are not only to approve of good works, and speak for good works, but we are to be red hot for them. We are to be on fire for everything that is right and true.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,