1 - The Grace Of God


Titus 2:11-15; John 1:14-18

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." (Titus 2:11-12)

Introduction

There is no New Testament writer who excels in expounding this matchless subject of the grace of God like the apostle Paul. He who himself was a recipient of that grace could say, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10). He writes of the grace that justifies, for we are "justified freely by His grace" (Romans 3:24). He elevates the grace of God to show it against the heinousness of sin, for "where sin abounded, grace abounded much more" (Romans 5:20). And he brings us face to face with the Savior Himself, saying, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Again, he tells us that "by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I want to speak now of the grace of God in action, the river of active love, flowing from the throne of God to the heart of the needy sinner. Grace is glory in the bud; and glory is grace in full bloom. This outworking of grace operates in a threefold way. Observe, in the first place:

I. Grace Liberates Men and Women

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, … [in the person of] our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed" (Titus 2:11, 13-14, italics mine). Our "great God and Savior Jesus Christ" through grace redeems us and acquits us:

A. Redeems Us from the Slavery of Sin

"Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). The purpose for which the Savior died on Calvary was that He might pay the ransom price, to buy us out of slavery. "I am … sold under sin," says Paul in Romans 7:14. And this is true of every man, woman, or child, however cultured or refined, who is out of Christ. They are in the slave-market of sin.

Perhaps you have not realized that this explains your slavery to pride, jealousy, quick temper, and other vices and habits that have spoiled your life. But the Lord Jesus Christ has come to redeem you from the slavery of sin. "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Illustration

John Newton was the son of a sea captain engaged in the slave trade. After his mother died when he was six, he completed two years of school and joined his father's ship at the age of 11. Immorality, debauchery, and failure followed. Rejected by his father and finally jailed and degraded, Newton later served on slave ships where he so incurred the hatred of his employer's Negro wife that he became a "slave of slaves."

His conversion was the result of a violent storm in which he almost lost his life. At the age of 39 he became a minister of the gospel and was a pastor for 15 years. He wrote many hymns. His personal experience is recounted in the world-famous hymn:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound -

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

The Lord has promised good to me,

His word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures

Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing God's praise,

Than when we'd first begun.

Divine grace through Christ also:

B. Acquits Us from the Sentence of Sin

"If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). The Lord Jesus has not only bought us out of slavery by paying the price of redemption, but has set us free from the sentence of death which works in us. As a living, triumphant Savior, He is "just and the justifier" of those who believe in Him (Romans 3:26). As the Son in His own house, He acquits us by saying, "Slave, you are free!" How wonderful is the grace of God in Jesus Christ!

Illustration

Tell the story of "the scapegoat" (Leviticus 16:8-22) and illustrate the remitting of sin by the release of the goat into the wilderness (see Leviticus 16:22).

Grace more than liberates; it also educates.

II. Grace Educates Men and Women

"The grace of God ... has appeared ... teaching [or educating] us" (Titus 2:11-12). The Lord Jesus has given Himself for us, to "purify for Himself" (Titus 2:14) a people for His possession. The meaning of that phrase suggests cleansing by the Word or sanctifying through the truth.

A. Grace Educates us to Deny what God Condemns

Amplification

Define and develop godlessness or ungodliness as (1) general impiety (Romans 1:18; Romans 11:26; 2 Timothy 2:16; Titus 2:12; (2) ungodly deeds (Jude 15) - "works of ungodliness" in the Revised Version; (3) lusts and desires after evil things (Jude 18).

1. Godlessness

"Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12). Sin has ruined not only our character but also our conduct, so that we are unlike God. But the disciplining grace of God enables us to overcome that which mars our life.

2. Worldliness

By worldliness is meant, no doubt, that which the apostle John speaks of when he says, "For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:16). There are the:

· Worldly Perversions

"The lust of the flesh."; these are appetites and desires that are perverse and misdirected - unholy tastes for things that are harmful.

· Worldly Distractions

"The lust of the eyes."; these are the things of the world that attract, seduce, and allure the would-be Christian. But alas, they are transient and empty; and behind them is the loud laugh of the devil.

· Worldly Ambitions

"The pride of life." This is the assertive ego that grasps at glory and longs for prominence. But by the grace of God worldly perversions, distractions, and ambitions can be conquered. So with the apostle Paul we can say, "I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:8-10).

So the educating grace of God teaches us that which we are to deny and:

B. Grace Educates Us to Develop what God Commends

1. A Soberness of Life in Relation to Ourselves

"Teaching [or educating] us that ... we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). This is the self-control that comes only by the grace of God operating in us. A man came to me some time ago and said, "If you could introduce me to an experience that would bring self-mastery to my life, I would give my right hand for it."

Illustration

Seven months before his death from AIDS a young man wrote of the freedom from sin that Jesus can give: "Up until seven years ago I was actively homosexual. I was saved, but not walking with Christ. When I came to my spiritual senses and turned my back on it –oh, the joy of being forgiven! The release of that terrible burden of hideous sin! Even today, all these years later, in prayer I frequently weep and literally sob with joy at the mercy of God. This disease and the knowledge of my shortened life are absolutely nothing compared with the knowledge that I will be going to meet my Savior and my Father pure and unblemished."

2. A Righteousness of Life in Relation to Others

"We should live … righteously". O the clashes, schisms, and divisions in human life everywhere! Husbands and wives cannot live together; employers and employees cannot get on together. But the grace of God has appeared, breaking into the darkness of man's unrest and turmoil and teaching us to live righteously.

3. A Holiness of Life in Relation to God

"We should live … godly." This is taking on ourselves the character and likeness of Jesus Christ. The more we look into His face and catch the glory of His presence, and the more we understand His Word, the more His likeness is stamped on us.

So the grace of God liberates, educates, and brings us into those "good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

Grace liberates, educates, and then:

III. Grace Consecrates Men and Women

"Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). We sometimes sing:

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,

And it told Thy love to me;

But I long to rise in the arms of faith,

And be closer drawn to Thee.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,

By the power of grace divine;

Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,

And my will be lost in Thine.

Fanny Crosby

Service by the grace of God should be characterized by:

A. Fervency of Spirit

"Zealous for good works." For Paul, there was a special significance in that word zealous. There was a time when he was fired with a wrong zeal, causing havoc in the church of Jesus Christ. But now he wanted his zeal to be harnessed and consecrated to the One whom he had wronged.

For every man and woman, boy and girl in the purpose of God's electing grace, there is a glorious ministry already prepared. Long before you were born, God had a plan for your life, good works that you should fulfill. And he wants from you a service that is born of reciprocal love. Your language should be:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts

Out of love for such unbounded grace, we should serve with fervency of spirit. This was, of course, characteristic of our blessed Master. There were times when He could not even eat, because of the pressure of the demands on Him. There were times when, because of His zeal, His family said He had a devil. And at other times, even His disciples could not understand it, till they remembered that it was written of Him, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up [or consumed me]" (John 2:17). Paul says that we should be "not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" (Romans 12:11). It is the picture of the boiling kettle - no cooling off, no lukewarmness, no halfheartedness. For Paul knew, as did John when he was given the revelation of the risen Christ, that the Savior cannot stand lukewarmness. He would have us either stone cold or fervently hot.

With fervency of spirit, there should be:

B. Faithfulness in Service

"Zealous for good works." Every true servant longs to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant …. Enter into the joy of your lord" (Matthew 25:21). The person who knows something of the grace of God will be faithful in service, whether it is at noonday or midnight, on the mountaintop or in the valley. It is faithfulness that counts, rather than success.

Illustration

A young Christian soldier in the army was often assaulted by his tent-mates while at prayer at night. He sought advice of his chaplain, and by his counsel omitted his usual habit. His ardent heart could not endure this. He chose rather to have prayer with persecution than peace without, and he resumed his old way. The result was that, after a time, all his ten or twelve companions knelt in prayer with him. In reporting to his chaplain he said, "Isn't it better to keep the colors flying?

Now it is characteristic of the apostle Paul that, in speaking of the grace of God, he should personify it. He says, "the grace of God … has appeared" (Titus 2:11), as if it were a person who has appeared; and indeed it is. For he goes on to speak of "our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). That brings us to those wonderful words in John's gospel, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us … full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). And again, "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16). My friend, have you received the grace of God in Jesus Christ? "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,to those who believe in His name" (John 1:11-12).

Conclusion

Jesus stands among us in His risen power. Receive Him now, and close in with the overtures of grace. Let your testimony be, "I'm only a sinner, saved by grace."

—Inviting People to Christ