For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,…
This passage has been described as "a concise epitome of the Christian system in its practical bearing on human experience and conduct." St. Paul's great theme was faith, but no one acquainted with his writings can charge him with indifference respecting works.
I. THE WORKERS. A careful study of the passage will show that these are —
1. Redeemed ones, "Might redeem us" (ver. 14). The bond slaves of Satan cannot work for God. David said, "O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; Thou hast loosed my bonds."
2. Saved ones, "Bringeth salvation" (ver. 11). The believer does not work for salvation, but from it. Like the newborn child, he does not move to get life, but because he has it.
3. Instructed ones, "Teaching us" (ver. 12). The Christian needs to be taught what to do (Acts 9:6), and how to do it, "His way," (Psalm 25:9).
4. Hopeful ones, "Looking for that blessed hope" (ver. 13). The hope of the Lord's coming is a great stimulus to holiness and activity (Hebrews 10:25).
II. THE WORKSHOP. "This present world" (ver. 12). The believer's first sphere of action is in the world. This is —
1. A good sphere for the believer. It must be, for our Lord prayed not that His people should be taken out of the world (John 17:15). Conflict with evil is bracing (1 John 2:14).
2. A sphere of much danger. This present world is an evil world, "This present evil world" (Galatians 1:4). Demas was damaged by it (2 Timothy 4:10), and our Lord, remembering the presence of the evil, prayed that His disciples might be kept from it (John 17:15). A sphere of usefulness. Here Christ achieved His gracious and beneficent purposes, "He was in the world" (John 1:10). Here is the material which may be shaped into crowns to adorn the Redeemer's brow. We may say, as Dr. Macleod said to Dr. Guthrie, in reference to the Cowgate in Edinburgh, "A fine field of labour, sir."
III. THE WORKS. What have God's workmen to do? Many things. Note —
1. The rejection of bad models, "Denying" (ver. 12). A bad model will result in bad work. See this in the case of Nadab, "Way of his father" (1 Kings 15:26). To deny (ἀρνέομαι) is to disown. The believer disowns "ungodliness," that which is not in the likeness of God or after the mind of God. (See 2 Peter 2:5, 6.) "Worldly lusts" are those things which are the staple of the desires of worldly men (John 8:44; 1 John 2:16).
2. The maintenance of a healthy moral sense, "Live soberly." "Sobriety," says Mr. Aitken, "according to the Greek moralist, Aristotle, is that which preserves or protects and maintains in due activity our moral sense." Temptation often produces moral intoxication. It destroys the balance of mind, and reason is in a measure dethroned. Against this evil we must be constantly watching, or there will be discord and disorder in our lives.
3. The production of what is right, "Righteously" (ver. 12). The believer must do right in his relation to his family, his friends, society, and the whole world.
4. The imitation of the best model, "Godly" (ver. 12). The believer is to be God-like. He must aim at no lower standard. (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 2:21.)
IV. THE WORKMANSHIP. "Zealous of good works" (ver. 14). The best work can only be accomplished by the enthusiastic worker. This is true of works of art. Think of the enthusiasm of Michael Angelo, of Rubens, of Mozart, of Palissy. The best work is work for God, and for this the highest enthusiasm is required. What a stimulus to zeal we have in the example of our Lord, "Who gave Himself" (ver. 14). Well might Brainerd say, "Oh that I were a flaming fire in the service of my God!"
Parallel VersesKJV: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,