Summary: God’s grace is not only the agent of salvation but also the instructor for living.
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me..." Grace is truly amazing. I thank God every day for His wonderful and marvelous grace. The Apostle Paul makes the issue of salvation very clear when he states that, "For by grace are ye saved through faith..." (Eph. 2:8).
But yet grace, our most valuable commodity, is often abused or even misapplied. For example, the doctrine of eternal security often gives a license for an open season of sin, stating that grace will keep the individual no matter how sinful or carnal. Then, to the opposite extreme is the doctrine of repeat regeneration which in essence makes grace a fragile pane of glass which shatters at every mistake or misstep. To both of these, I echo the words of the Apostle Paul, "God forbid." We must not only understand what grace does, but also what it teaches us to do.
In our text today, we read that grace is an agent that delivers practical instruction. Verse twelve begins with the words, "Teaching us..." So, we must ask the question, "If grace teaches us, then what is it teaching?"
First, we see that grace teaches that every individual should receive Christ as Savior. Verse eleven states, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." Many will conclude that the Apostle here was referring to the first coming of Christ and his appearing here on earth. But one must remember, that at this point Christ is no longer physically present, but yet grace is continually appearing. The verb used here certainly does refer to Christ’s first coming, but also refers to God’s love which manifests itself in the eternal deliverance of lost men based not on their merit but on the merits of Jesus.
We also see that this grace, or unmerited favor, appears to all men. This walks hand-in-hand with I Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9. We see that grace teaches that God desires that all accept Christ, not only a select few. Sadly, grace has been corrupted with the inclusion of limited atonement which states that Christ only died for those whom God elected in eternity past. According to limited atonement, those for whom God did not elect, Christ’s death is only a seal of eternal judgment. This simply is not true. According to the Apostle Paul, this unmerited favor which we call grace has appeared, and is continually appearing, to "all men." God, in eternity past, soverignly chose to love "the world" (John 3:16) not only the elect. Because He so loved the world, He gave His Son to die for their sins, the sins of all the world (I John 2:2) not just the elect. This is true grace.
Secondly, grace teaches that every individual should reject worldliness. Verse twelve states that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Grace is not a license to live in sin because one is now eternally secure. God forbid. True grace is the deliverance from sin to live in accordance with the holiness of God.
This theme is central throughout the New Testament. Jesus states in Matt. 16:24 that a true disciple will "deny himself." The Apostle Paul writes in II Cor. 7:1, "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." Again, in Gal. 5:24 Paul instructs, "And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." The Apostle Peter echoes Paul’s sentiments when he writes in I Pet. 2:11, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." Furthermore, the Apostle John explains to us why we should reject the world. In I John 2:15-17, he exhorts us to reject the world, because in the world are the above mentioned lusts that grace dispises.
Thirdly, grace teaches that every individual should reflect the righteousness of Christ. You have heard the old saying that we can become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. It is sad to say that for many this is true. However, Paul commands otherwise. He writes that "we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
Wait a minute here. Didn’t John say that it was lust that was in the world, but yet Paul expects us to live godly in this same world? Amen! That is what grace teaches. Grace teaches that carnality is not an option. Grace doesn’t teach that we can live sinfully and still have eternal life. Grace doesn’t teach that I can live as close to the world as I can and still have Jesus. Grace teaches that I have to reject the world totally and reflect the righteousness of Christ. In Rom. 6:2, Paul asks this question, "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" The answer is, you can’t. You are either dead to sin or dead in sin.