For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, etc. "Taking occasion from what he had just said of the connection between the conduct of Christians and the doctrine they professed to have received, and the connection of both with the glory of God, the apostle proceeds in these verses to ground the whole of his exhortations respecting the behavior of Christians in the essentially moral nature and design of the grace of God, as now manifested in the gospel' (Dr. Fairbairn). As if the apostle had said, "You must exhort all orders, those of every age and condition, of each sex, bond as well as free, to struggle after spiritual goodness because the 'grace of God,' or the gospel, has come to you." Our subject is the soul-culture of the world. Man requires training. He needs physical training, intellectual training, and, above all, spiritual training, the training of the soul into a higher life. We have here the instrument, the process, and the end of true soul-culture.
I. THE INSTRUMENT OF TRUE SOUL-CULTURE. What is it? Not science, legislation, philosophy, poetry, or any of the arts. What, then? "The grace of God." What is that? Undoubtedly God's merciful plan and ministries to restore the fallen world. The Epiphany, or manifestation cf this redemptive love of God for the world, we have in the advent and ministry of Christ to this earth. "The grace of God" stands for the gospel. Concerning this instrument, observe:
1. It is the love of God. Divine love is the cause, the essence, and the effective energy of all God's redemptive ministries.
2. It is the love of God to save. "That bringeth [bringing] salvation." Salvation, that is, the restoration of man to the knowledge, the image, and the friendship of God. This is the aim and the work of the "grace of God." Without this grace there would be no salvation.
3. It is the love of God revealed to all. "Hath appeared to all men." The gospel is not for a tribe or a class, but for man as man. Like the concave heavens, it embraces the wide world; it is for "all men.
II. THE PROCESS OF TRUE SOUL-CULTURE. This process involves three things.
1. The renunciation of a wrong course. Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts." These expressions are an epitome of all that is sinful and wrong in human life. Are they not all-prevalent and all-potent? "Ungodliness," or practical atheism, where is it not? "Worldly lusts," the impulses of sensuality, selfishness, pride, and ambition, they are the springs of worldly action the world over. Now, these are not only to be renounced, repudiated, but they are to be defied, resisted, and renounced; they must be given up. "Ungodliness" must give way to true piety, "worldly lusts" must be renounced for impulses spiritual and Divine.
2. The adoption of a right course. "We should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." It is not enough to renounce the evil; the good must be adopted. Negative excellence is not holiness. Strip the soul of all evil, and if it has not goodness in it, it "lacks the one thing" without which, Paul says, "I am nothing." We must live "soberly," holding a mastery over our own passions and impulses; "righteously," rendering to all men their due; "godly," practically realizing the presence, the claims, and the love of God in our every-day life. All this "in this present world," or in the present course of things. This "present world" urgently requires such a course of life, for it is dangerous and transitory withal.
3. The fixing of the heart upon a glorious future. "Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearance of the [appearing of the glory of our] great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." Are there two personalities here, or one? One, I think. "The great God our Savior," or our great God and Savior. The object of hope is, then, the future epiphany of the Divine, all glorious to behold. To see the redemptive God as we have never yet seen him in this morally hazy scene, this is the "blessed hope." Such a hope implies:
(1) A vital interest in the epiphany. We never hope for that for which we have not a strong desire.
(2) An assurance that such an epiphany will take place. Desire, of itself, is not hope. We desire many things we cannot hope for. It becomes hope when it is combined with expectation, and expectation implies the existence of grounds or reasons. That there will be such a manifestation, there are abundant reasons found in the apparent irregularities of Divine Providence in its operations here, in the instinctive longings of the human soul throughout all lands and ages, as well as in the clear and frequent declarations of the written Word.
III. THE END OF TRUE SOUL-CULTURE. "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Observe:
1. The end is moral redemption. "Redeem us from all iniquity." Redemption is not something that takes place outside of a man; its achievement is within. It is a raising of the soul from ignorance to knowledge, from vice to virtue, from selfishness to disinterestedness, from materialism to spirituality, from the mastery of the devil to the reign of God.
2. The end is spiritual restoration to Christ. "Purify unto himself a peculiar people [a people for his own possession]." Restoration to his likeness, his friendship, his service.
3. The end is complete devotedness to holy labor. "Zealous of good works." What are good works? Not any particular class of works. All works are good that spring from a good motive; and the good motive is supreme love for the Supremely Good. Works springing from this motive, whether manual or mental, social or personal, civil or ecclesiastic, public or private, all are good.
4. The end involves the self-sacrifice of Christ. "Who gave himself." Here is the grandest sacrifice ever made in the universe. Nothing grander could be.
(1) The greatest possession a man has is himself. What are millions of acres, or the rule of kingdoms, in the estimation of the owner as compared to himself? "Skin for skin," etc.
(2) The greatest self in the whole creation is Christ. He was, in some special sense impenetrable to us, the only begotten Son of God, and he gave himself. If he had given a universe, his gift would not have been equal to this, His gift teaches the enormity of moral evil. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,