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God's Grace: Past, Present and Future- Titus 2:11-15

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: God's Grace Has Appeared

Ray Cazis submitted this powerful sermon illustration to the website ministry127.com which he captioned 'Grace is a Gift.' He writes:

Imagine you are half a million dollars in debt. Someone comes to you and writes out a check for $500,000, saying, “This is all for you, to cancel your debt. You don’t have to do anything but reach out and take it, and it’s yours.” So, you take the money and pay your debt. You are now debt-free and totally in the clear.

What do you have to boast about? Can you go around bragging that you had the power, the skill, and the brains to reach out and take that check? Can you talk about what a favor you did for your benefactor, taking all that troublesome money off his hands? Does that make any sense?

Of course not. You received grace—nothing more, nothing less. You were impoverished; you received riches from another person. The fact that you are now debt-free is a hundred percent due to your benefactor, zero percent due to you.

Who, then, deserves the praise and glory for your salvation? Clearly, not you! You have received riches from the resources of God. His grace made it all possible.

The word "grace" in biblical terms can mean something as broad as describing the whole of God's activity toward man or as narrow as describing one segment of that activity. An accurate, common definition describes grace as the unmerited favor of God toward man. We did nothing to deserve God's love and concern for us and we couldn't do anything because we are sinners by choice and by nature.

Paul, in Titus 2:11-15 is continuing his instruction to his protégé Titus, whom he left in Crete, so he could set in order the new church on that Island after they were converted under the earlier ministry of both these men.

He told Titus to set up elders and deacons as leaders. He also warned him of the rebellious men that had arisen who were mixing law and grace rather than the pure teaching of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Then in chapter 2 he begins to teach that, contrary to these false men, Titus should continue to teach sound doctrine. And that this sound doctrine should be lived out in the life of Titus and those converts to Christianity that he was instructing. Paul elaborates in verses 1-10 by writing about what living according to sound doctrine should look like in the lives of the various groups of people there in Crete, such as older men, younger and older women, younger men and finally slaves.

Now in the next section that follows Paul begins the heart of the letter. The whole Divine purpose for the calling of elders and in commanding the people to live righteously was to provide the witness that brings the plan of salvation to fulfillment. The church of Crete was to be a living witness to God's grace by their lives so that people would be drawn to Christ who is the embodiment of the Lord's grace to mankind.

In this section we have the results of that grace in the past, the present and the future. The grace of God in the past brings salvation from the penalty of sin, the present grace gives us salvation from the power of sin as we grow in our holiness or sanctification. And, finally, there is God's grace which brings us salvation from the very presence of sin in the future with the blessed hope of that glorious return and appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let's now briefly look at all three of these aspects of God's grace separately and see what we can learn about them.

I. God's Grace in the Past (2:11)

To begin with, Paul tells Titus in verse 11 that:

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."

In order to understand this concept of grace fully, we first have to realize that our God has always been a God of grace and mercy. And His plan to save all of mankind began even before the foundation of this universe in which we live. This is before there were men and women around to save. Paul tells us in Ephesians:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:1-8a).

Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to be His own before any of us had even been born. The Triune Godhead decided, by His unmerited favor, to save us and make us part of a family of believers in Jesus called the church.

And when Jesus Christ entered this world, that grace appeared to all mankind in the form of a baby in a manger. He became 'God with us'. He lived a perfect, sinless life that we couldn't live. Then He died on a cross in our place, as our substitute.

Jesus became sin for us, He who knew no sin. (II Corinthians 5:21). God the Father, on the cross of Calvary, looked on Jesus as though He had committed all the sins ever committed by mankind even though He had committed none of them. Further, He placed His wrath upon His Son that rightfully belonged on us. And by Christ's death, God the Father is now able to treat us who accept Jesus' sacrifice for our sins, as though we had perfectly performed all of Jesus' righteousness. When the Father looks at the believer, He sees someone who is completely righteous in His sight. That is God's amazing grace!

Jesus has made God's grace available to all who believe. It is now a past act that has present and future consequences for those who are recipients of His totally undeserved favor.

Let's now turn to the present consequences of that grace.

II. God's Grace in the Present (2:12)

It has been said that God loves us just the way we are. However, He loves us too much to leave us that way. The Father wants to transform us into the image of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Man was created in the image of God at the beginning. However, though still there, the image has become marred by sin (Genesis 1:26-28). Jesus, the eternal Son of God became a man. And, by living a perfect life, He became the beginning of a new humanity with God's image fully restored and without sin, like mankind was meant to be in the first place. Paul calls Jesus the second Adam in I Corinthians 15:45-49.

This conforming to Christ's image is a process which theologians have called sanctification. It is setting us apart from sin and for holiness or righteousness. That process will be complete when our Lord returns and changes our sinful bodies to be like His glorious, resurrected body (Philippians 3:21).

Until then we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We are called His temple in I Corinthians 6:19,20. By dwelling in us He gives to us the power to change our sinful life to a life that pleases God. The presence of the Holy Spirit is also called the down payment that the Lord has made, telling the believer that we will one day share in Christ's inheritance and be fully redeemed as God's possession to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14).

In Titus 2:12 Paul tells us some of the results of God's amazing grace within our lives when he says that it is His grace that is:

"...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age."

This present world system or age in which we are living is in open rebellion against the God of the universe. The angelic adversary, Satan is called the god of this world. In his own act of rebellion, he has blinded the minds of those who don't have faith in Christ, keeping them from turning to the Lord and being saved (II Corinthians 4:4).

Salvation is transforming. And that transformation produces, in the Christian, a new life. Jesus referred to it as being born again (John 3:1-21). This new spiritual birth produces a new life that has broken the power of sin. Sin, Satan and the world system no longer have to be our masters. We have a new and all-powerful Master, who is the Triune God. And it's all because of the grace of God that gives to us the victory over the old life we once lived. He gives us the ability to have freedom from the power of sin in our lives.

It is this continual transforming work in us that can give to us the assurance that, though we may still sin at times, God isn't finished with us. He treats us as sons and corrects us (Hebrews 12:7) so that He may shape His beloved ones into what they were meant to be in the first place.

And it is because of this work of grace in every believer that Paul could tell the Philippians:

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).

And we can confidently say that though we may not be what we could be just yet and we may not yet be what we should be. But thank God we aren't where we were in our life, dead in trespasses and sins. And we aren't now what and where we one day will be. God will indeed conform us to the perfect image of Jesus Christ

This leads us to the final aspect of God's grace in our life. That is what God will do in the future when He delivers us completely from the very presence of sin forever.

III. God's Grace in the Future (2:13-15)

In verses 12-15 the Apostle Paul tells Titus:

"Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, eager for good deeds. These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. No one is to disregard you."

The blessed hope is a general reference to the second coming of Jesus Christ. The blessed hope of the Church in this age of grace is for Jesus to return in the air to catch us away in an event which has become known as the rapture.

The Apostle Paul, in talking with the Thessalonians, told them regarding their loved ones who had died in Christ:

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (I Thessalonian 4:13-18).

By God's unmerited favor we have a glorious future ahead of us, whether we be living or dead.

Notice Paul's words in Titus 2:14 regarding Christ which state:

"Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works."

This summarizes the dual effect of salvation by grace. It includes regeneration, or the giving of new life and sanctification or our setting apart from sin to righteous living. When Christ returns and we are delivered from the presence of sin, this sanctification will be complete. Then we will never have to worry about the destruction of sin and the consequences of it in our lives and in the universe around us ever again.

Paul ends this section by telling Titus in verse 15 that:

"These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you."

The three verbs 'speak', 'exhort', and 'reprove' identify the need for the proclamation, application and correction by the Word of God in this present time as God's people continually change to be more and more like Christ and wait for Him to return.

Further, if we are looking forward to His return, we will want to prepare ourselves for His arrival by allowing the Word and the Spirit to influence our thoughts and lives. We should want to be pleasing to Him and have Him one day tell us:

"Well done good and faithful servant!"

The Apostle's final command to 'Let no man disregard you' goes back to the fact that there will be those who oppose and rebel against the truth. These people have to be dealt with. They will finally be taken care of by the Lord Himself when he returns in the future and puts down all forms of rebellion. Until then, they are still a present reality.

Conclusion

So, Paul has now come full circle with his understanding of the grace of God. It is a past event of release from the penalty of sin. It is a present reality of continual deliverance from the power sin in our lives. Finally, it is a future hope of the coming of our Savior and His deliverance from the presence of sin forever.

And as I read the words of the Apostle Paul to Titus about grace, I couldn't help but remember a more modern rendition of the old classic John Newton tune 'Amazing Grace.' This newer tune is entitled: 'All Because of God's Amazing Grace.' The lyrics are as follows:

Amazing grace O how sweet the sound,

That saved a poor sinner like me!

Though once I was lost, yet now I am found,

Though I was blinded, now I see!
And it's all because of God's amazing grace!

Because on Calvary's Mountain he took my place!

And someday, some glorious morning,

I shall see him face to face,

All because of God's amazing grace.

Through disappointment through danger, too,

Through labors and sorrows we've come!

But God's grace has guided safely through,

And someday it will take us home!

Then with the ransomed around God's throne,

We will praise our Redeemer and King!

We will tell how his mercy for sin did atone;

Through countless ages this song we'll sing;

It was all because of God's amazing grace!

Because on Calvary's Mountain he took my place!

And someday, some glorious morning,

I shall see him face to face,

All because of God's amazing grace.

If you haven't accepted the marvelous, amazing grace of God today in sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die for your sins, then by all means do so today. If you have then join me in seeking to praise Him for it by asking Him to help you to live the life of righteousness that He came to give you. For there is no better life than a life lived for His glory. And there is no better future than the one that we will one day enjoy in His presence. To God be the glory for His amazing grace!

© 2021 Jeff Shirley

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