Meditations in Titus: 17: The Working of Grace
Titus 2:11,12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
The word ‘For’ is a link word and links what we have here with what Paul has just said previously. He concluded his teaching about Christian slaves’ behaviour with, “so that…they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (v.10b) This verse was to be the effect of the good way slaves lived and worked so we have behaviour and effect in the previous verses. Now we have two corresponding things in our two verses above.
First there is the implication that the Gospel has become well known. Here Paul describes the Gospel as “the grace of God that brings salvation.” We know about and can have salvation because a) God has brought about the basis of it – Jesus dying on the Cross for us – but also b) because God has made it known now through the apostles and it has become well known, even if not accepted, by all. So slave owners will know about the Gospel, about the existence of this new group of believers called Christians, and so if they hear that their slave has become one, he will automatically have certain expectations, and the slave is to live up to them for the sake of the Gospel.
Second, this grace has certain outworkings, and those are things that we have just referred to when we spoke of the expectations of slave masters of their Christian slaves. Those outworkings, we will go on to see, are both present and future outworkings, although we will only consider the present outworkings in this particular study.
Paul says that God’s grace that brings us salvation, as an outworking of it, “teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Let’s examine these things.
One the one hand there are the negative things we are to now reject from our lives.. We are to reject “ungodliness and worldly passions”. ‘Ungodly’ simply means ‘contrary to God’. We are to reject from our lives anything that runs contrary to God’s character and will. ‘Worldly passions’ are desires that are self-centred and self-pleasing and which are so often expressions of sin. The apostle John taught, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world— (a) the cravings of sinful man, (b) the lust of his eyes and (c) the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2:15,16) That spells it out well.
First of all, desires or cravings that flow out of the godless and self-centred heart. Second, the things this godless and self-centred hearts sees and then wants – this is covetousness and idolatry. Third, boasting or pride, self-centred boosting of ego. This is the godless self-centred life that is to be rejected now we have received the grace of God. It is a life of excesses (of food, sex, alcohol and drugs), and a life of lack of restraint morally and ethically, and a life of self-promotion.(pride, boasting, vanity in owning ‘things’, or gaining status etc.), perhaps summed up as a seeking after pleasure, possessions and power.
On the other hand, the other side of the coin if you like, there are the positive things that are to be characteristics of our lives now that we are ‘in Christ’: “self-controlled, upright and godly lives”.
- ‘Self-controlled’ suggests that we no longer let ourselves be blown to and fro by desires or emotions. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:23) and is to be one of those things that is worked into our lives (see 2 Pet 1:6). It brings an ordered life, one that is not unstable, and with it comes confidence and growth of godly self-esteem.
- ‘Upright’ speaks of a morally or ethically upright or honest approach to life where things like purity, integrity and justice are clear features of who we are.
- ‘Godly’ simply means God-focused. He is to be in all we are and do,. We can even perform the so called spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, Bible reading, worship, etc. in a mechanistic or formal way so that God has little or no part in it. If we just list off a self-concerned list of wants in prayer, that is not godly. It can be done with the complete absence of God. You can even read the Bible with no reference to God, and that is being ungodly. You can sing songs and make music that just satisfies personal pleasure desires and are in reality ungodly. When we purposefully focus on God before we do and while we do any of these things we are being godly.
The work of God’s grace brings us away from the self-centred and godless lives that we once had and leads us into lives of relationship with the Lord. This is the will of God, the purpose of Jesus as he administers God’s kingdom, and the working of the Holy Spirit as He brings it about. This should be seen in each and every one of us, whatever our station in life (slave or not) as the working of God in us that can be seen by those around us and which, hopefully points them towards Him.