“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” Titus 2:11-14.
This text was the basis of the sermon I heard Sunday night. Mike started by looking at the word “has appeared”. He pointed out that this doesn’t suggest that grace didn’t exist before; rather, he compared it to the sun. It appears at dawn, but it was around before the dawn. It’s a sweet interruption; grace from God broke through the darkness of our hearts as the dawn breaks with the first rays of sunlight brightening the black sky of night. This was the second time in a week that I had heard (or read) someone use the lustrous illustration of a sunrise as a metaphor for something of the Christian life, which paints such a beautiful picture, I sit up and take notice. So immediately, the pastor had me thinking. But the rest of the time, I have to admit, I hardly paid attention. I started to pick up on something else in the text, and I felt compelled to keep digging.
Verse 14 of the passage above reads “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works”. I take three things from this. First, the word ‘redeem’ in English is literally “to buy back”. It has the same idea in the Greek. The word λυτροω has the meaning of releasing a slave for a ransom. He bought us back. This is grace explained simply and sweetly: his sacrifice paid for our sin, and we are no longer in bondage. Secondly, the grace mentioned at the beginning of the passage is given not only to redeem but also to purify and refine. Looking back up, that grace is said to have appeared, “training us to renounce godliness and worldly passions…” This is the beauty of New Testament grace. It is not a one time transaction. It is transforming, renewing, purifying. Like the toothpaste that fights cavities round the clock, this grace acts at the moment of salvation and keeps on acting throughout our lives, helping us to grow up in Christ. And thirdly, the point of that grace was to “redeem us” and to “purify for himself a people for his own possession“. So this grace, sweet as it is, is not ultimately for me. It is for the glory of God. And that’s oh so humbling. Yes, God has given you this wonderful gift of grace, saving you (and me!) from sin and its wages, namely death. But more than that, this grace trains us. It molds us to look daily more like God. And that carries His name to the world. Our zeal for good works brings Him glory.