The Christian life is a life of grace. It begins with God saving us by His grace. It continues with God sanctifying us by His grace. And it will end—with the full redemption of our souls and bodies—by God’s grace. But this runs across the grain of man’s nature. It swims against the flow of our inborn bent toward self-righteousness. In our pride, we want to boast of our righteousness—even if just a little bit.
Grace is offensive to our works-mentality. We want to earn our salvation, our forgiveness, our acceptance with God. But we cannot. We could not ever do so, before or after we are saved, since we were born with a sin nature that is naturally rebellious and innately helpless. That’s why God intervened.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8)
…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. [a few verses later]… for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal. 2:16)
[If salvation] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. (Rom. 11:6)
Grace dismantles every religious attempt to make oneself right with God, to atone for one’s own sin. Being saved by grace, however, does not mean we are now free to live any way you please. True freedom can only exist within the boundaries of truth and holiness.
Salvation, from beginning to end, is all of grace. But that grace not only saves our soul for eternity, it sanctifies our heart for life on this earth. That is the apostle’s point here in Titus 2:11-14. In light of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, the apostle gives three expectations.
- Be saved by the grace that has appeared in Jesus Christ (v. 11).
- Be trained by the grace that teaches you to deny sin and pursue righteousness (v. 12).
- Be motivated by the grace that completes your redemption (vv. 13-14).
Over the years, it has been helpful to me, personally, to think about these three expectations this way—as past, present, and future grace.
- Past grace – God has provided salvation in Jesus.
- Present grace – the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us as we put off sin, and put on righteousness, according to God’s Word.
- Future grace – Jesus our Savior is coming again. And when He returns our redemption will be fully complete. We will be glorified.