Summary: The grace that saves us is the grace that teaches us how to renounce the old way of life, and live the new life which is ours in Christ Jesus.
BETWEEN GRACE AND GLORY
The Epistle of the Apostle Paul to Titus has much to say about how Christian people should live between the two Advents - or “epiphanies” - of our Lord Jesus Christ: and this little section sets a theological basis for our behaviour. The grace of God has appeared (Titus 2:11) - not only in the birth of Jesus, but also in His death, resurrection and ascension, and in the coming of the Holy Ghost - and has empowered us to walk in newness of life (Titus 2:12). We live in anticipation of the manifestation of His glory at His final appearance (Titus 2:13): and this is a “blessed hope” based in what He has already accomplished for us in the Cross, and what He is fitting us for today (Titus 2:14).
1. The epiphany of grace (Titus 2:11)
The idea of “epiphany” is the appearance of something that is already in existence, but hitherto unseen. Daybreak is the appearance - the visible manifestation - of the sun. Just before Paul’s shipwreck in Malta, Luke reports that “neither sun nor stars made any appearance for many days” (Acts 27:20) - but we all know that the sun was still there, just not visible on account of the stormy weather.
John the Baptist’s father was referring to the epiphany of Christ when he sang of the dayspring from on high “shining upon” those who sit in darkness (Luke 1:78-79). Similarly, Paul teaches that God’s grace - which has been ours since before the world began - is manifested by the “appearing” of our Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:9-10). The kindness and love of God our Saviour has thus “appeared” toward man (Titus 3:4).
When grace was manifested in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, this was no new thing. God has always been gracious (Exodus 34:6); He is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10). Yet what was new was the full “appearing” of God’s way of salvation for all men through our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11).
2. The epiphany of glory (Titus 2:13)
Joel spoke of the coming of the great and notable day of the LORD (Joel 2:31). This passage was quoted at Pentecost (Acts 2:20), and Peter used the Greek word “epiphany” in relation to Jesus’ second coming. Similarly, Paul spoke of the Lord destroying the lawless one with the “appearing” of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Paul commanded Timothy to obey his orders without fault or failure until the “appearing” of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:14). The Apostle’s further charge to Timothy was based upon the judgement of the living and the dead at the Lord’s “appearing” and kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1). Paul looked for a crown of righteousness for himself, and for all who love and long for the Lord’s “appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Our posture is to be that of those who are looking for the hope that brings blessings, and hastening toward (2 Peter 3:12) the glorious “appearing” of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). To a certain extent, that glory has already been seen in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:14); and His glory was manifested in the miracles - or “signs” (John 2:11). Yet there is much still to be revealed (1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
3. The basis of our hope (Titus 2:14)
For Paul, the proof of our Lord’s appearing in glory is based upon what He has already accomplished on our behalf (Titus 2:14). He gave Himself so that He might redeem us from iniquity, and purify us as a “peculiar people” for Himself, zealots of good works. The whole verse is couched in language reminiscent of the Exodus of the children of Israel - sacrifice, redemption, set apart, peculiar people - underlining the continuity between the types and shadows of His dealings with His ancient people, and the establishment of a church which embraces Gentiles like Titus as well as Jews.
4. How then should we live? (Titus 2:12)
The grace that saves us is the grace that teaches us how to renounce the old way of life, and live the new life which is ours in Christ Jesus (Titus 2:12). This is not a return to legalistic living, but an empowering for the service of the Lord who has loved us (Philippians 2:12-13). We do the good works He has prepared for us out of genuine gratitude for what He has done for us (Ephesians 2:10).