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, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 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.
When we think of the grace of God, we need to pull the lens back and realize the tremendous breadth of this word. God's grace has always been the only way for a sinner to be reconciled to a thrice holy God. God's holiness is so great, we cannot comprehend its full glory. Our sin is so offensive to God's holiness that inconceivably great grace is the only possible remedy to reconcile inconceivably great holiness.
The Law was given to make sin (which already existed) even more sinful. The Law being holy and good serves to expose the wickedness in even the chosen children of Abraham to who it was given.
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Yet so many men (even many who take the name of Christ) believe somehow trough the works of their own hands they can approach God's holiness or add to what Christ accomplished on our behalf. They actually believe they can put God in their debt and through their own efforts they can force God to grant them forgiveness and resurrection life for the ages to come.
This is the pride of men from which we must rise if we want to start to understand grace.
The idea men have of a "saint" is one whose works are so tremendous and numerous that God is obligated to take care of that one forever. In fact, the Roman doctrine teaches that some have such an overabundance of good works that he/she can put those works onto my account. So, God is then obligated to take care of me forever based not only the work of Christ, not only the works of my hands, but on account of the works of others.
The Roman doctrine of Purgatory teaches that Christ's work is not able to deliver from the flames, but the works of "Saints" and even my family and friends can. Christ and the cross are robbed of the glory. Men have sought since the foundation of the ages to rob God of His glory. May it never be said of us!
According to the doctrines of visible and ecclesiastical Christendom (as far as our fate and hope are concerned), we owe our blessings in the heavens not only to the work of Christ on Calvary, but also to our own works, and to the works of others (via sacraments, blessings, etc.). They may have an outward appearance of piety, but just as with the whited sepulchres who opposed the Lord's earthly ministry, religious men in our age exalt their own works.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
-2 Cor 11:14-15
The religious institutions of our day, as that in the time of the Lord's earthly ministry, demand we give them titles, demand we look to the for blessings and even for the forgiveness of sins. They demand of us our money with the promise of the forgiveness of sin. The Catholic Church is not alone in this exaltation of a clergy class, to some degree, so do all organized "churches" in our day.
The Orthodox look to their priests for blessings. This is brief summation in their own words:
It is important to show respect and reverence to Orthodox priests and bishops when greeting them. After all, they are not just “one of the boys.” They serve as your spiritual fathers, your guides. They are icons of Christ we should all seek to emulate. When you kiss their hands, you show respect for their office — they are the ones who “bless and sanctify” you and who offer the holy gifts on your behalf. So, next time you greet your priest or bishop, do not shake his hand. Instead, ask for his blessing.
They stand between the believer and Christ. Blessings and sanctification are sought through them. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, but alone this is offensive to the work of the Savior and to his overabundance of inconceivable grace. It has the markings of holiness as it denies the true ugliness of sin, by diminishing Christ and exalting sinful men.
Bishops and priests are bearers of grace. They are called to guide and sanctify the faithful and to call down upon them God’s blessing... In bestowing a blessing, a priest makes the sign of the Cross, holding his fingers in such a way that they represent the initial letters of the Lord’s name, Jesus Christ. In order to receive a blessing upon meeting a bishop or a priest, one joins his hands, right over left, palms upward, and says, "Bless me, Father," to a priest, or "Bless me, Vladyka (Master)," to a bishop. The blessing should then be received with faith that one will receive God’s grace. On receiving a blessing, one kisses the hand that gives the blessing, as if kissing the invisible hand of the Savior.
Glory and Never-Ending Life can be attributed to, under the understanding of most of Christendom, to:
- Plus My works
- Plus the blessings of a clergy
- Plus The works of others who have fully redeemed themselves
- Plus the intervention of an earthly "church"
“But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”
-Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 16, November 21, 1964
(repeated in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Note the inclusion of "in the first place" which places the Muslim ahead of even the Jew. Now, the Jew and the Muslim are in the same boat, as it were. Without faith in Christ Alone, both are lost, neither has hope. This would reflect the historic condemnation of the Jews by the Roman Church clearly stated by Pope IV is "Cum nimis absurdum." In that papal decree, Jews had to live in Roman ghettoes, wear yellow markers on their clothing, and were forbidden from holding professional jobs. Sound familiar?
The word "absurdum" is based on this in the opening. It was deemed "absurd" to deny the condemnation of Jews to eternal slavery.
"Since it is absurd and utterly inconvenient that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal slavery..."
This idea of condemnation is applied to all those outside of Romanism by previous ad later Popes and Councils. This idea was not isolated to Paul IV. We choose just one example.
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels," unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.
-Pope Eugene IV ("Cantate Domino" AD1441)
This entry is not an exhaustive defense of the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice nor the sufficiency of grace alone and faith alone. Those arguments can be found elsewhere. I just want to focus on the power of grace before and after one comes to rest in Christ. The quotes above reflect the teaching from the largest entity in Christendom and the denial of the sufficiency of Christ (which reflects itself in its contradictory understanding of grace).
In our passage from Titus 2, we see the reason for living a Godly life and the source of the power to live a Godly life. We do not do this to obtain or maintain a free gift, we seek to liv righteously because we have been redeemed.
We were redeemed by Christ alone so He could call a people unto Himself. He gave Himself as a sufficient sacrifice so we could redeem us from iniquity.
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 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 work
He finds us where we are and His gift creates in us a new nature. From that moment the war has begun. As a redeemed people we are zealous of good works in the new nature as our old nature rebels against the new order. We "should" seek to live soberly for two reasons.
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
The grace of God teaches us that we "should live" righteously. Now, the second reason has to do with "this present age." Would we dare conclude that, in other ages, believers had no call on their lives to live righteously? Of course not. But in this present age we are looking for what they knew not: the sudden appearing (Gk: epipháneia) of the Lord Jesus Christ.
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
We close this short study with a reminder from Titus 3:3-8:
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
We are saved according to God's mercy made possible in Christ, and because of this wonderful gift, we should be careful to maintain good works. But grace never wavers.
The servant has a choice. The consequences of his choice will determine his judgment of works in an age to come. But he will never face the damnation of death as that debt has been fully paid. Choose to walk in the new nature.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
In the Acts age, those under grace could commit terrible sins (as they can to this day, even in the present age), but they would always remain in that body. 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 list many terrible sins possible for the believer who walks in the flesh and not according to the new nature, but we will point out just one which illustrates our point.
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
In the current age, as in Titus. we are similarly encouraged by our Apostle in Ephesians.
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love...
After receiving the Lord's gracious gift of Life through his name by faith, we have a choice as to how we will walk. We can walk in the new nature or in the old nature. One is the way of peace and blessing and the other way is the way of misery and loss (perdition).
But despite all these warnings and admonitions, grace never wavers. Never.
Christ's work was absolute, pure, sufficient, holy, and perfect. Suggest even the slightest doubt of its ability to save to the uttermost is to blaspheme the only Savior and the Father who accepted His work of salvation.