Book Sale

Friday 9 December 2022

The Amazing Grace Of God

Image: Unsplash

The Amazing Grace of God (Titus 2:11-15)

You watch the video of this sermon here


Last week we looked at a really tough question: why doesn’t the Bible condemn slavery more? We saw the uncomfortable truth that the Bible does not outright condemn slavery in the New Testament or in this Old Testament. It condemns the theft and sale of human beings, it allows for people to sell themselves into slavery to pay off debts, it tells slaves to obey their masters and work hard. Despite this we saw that the Bible recognizes that slavery was never ideal, never desirable and really tragic. It is a result of the devil’s influence in this world. But still, the Bible also allows for it. So how did we get to a point where Christians and most westerners today rightly condemn it?

The answer is simple. Because we serve a Lord and Master who literally, and I mean literally in its literal sense, became a slave to redeem his people and all who would believe in him, from their captivity to the evil one, to save them from the punishment for their sins, and to defeat death. The Bible shows us something more powerful than a condemnation of slavery, it shows us how God undermined it completely by himself becoming a slave. This changed people’s perspective on slavery forever. Christians came to understand that they had no right to claim ownership over someone that Christ had bought with the price of his blood, and therefore, they became redeemers of slaves more and more and owners of slaves, less and less.

This new perspective on slavery changed the world forever. Most of us today find the idea of slavery to be abhorrent, backward, and unfathomable. All because our Lord and Master undermined the whole thing by becoming a slave for us. This is amazing grace. It is not an accident that a former slave master wrote that song, realizing what God had done for him and done for his former slaves, in saving them all from their sins.

Through his grace to humanity God changed the world for us, breaking the power of the devil like no man since Adam was able to do. The Devil is not yet bound, because the Bible tells us he roams the earth, but his power has been declining ever since the work of Jesus was made manifest in this world, and especially on the cross. 

This morning we are going to explore this concept of grace. Without the grace of God we would remain as slaves to the evil one, and slavery would be an unquestioned force in the world. Without the grace of God the Devil would remain the king of this world. Without the grace of God a lot of things would be different. Let’s see what Jesus has done for us, according to this passage in Titus 2:11-15, what the grace of God means for us.

The Grace of God Appeared (Tit. 2:11) – “11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,…” Paul begins here by reminding older men why they should be noble, older women why they should be reverent, younger women why they should keep the home, younger men why they should be self-controlled, and slaves why they should work hard: because the grace of God has appeared. But what does he mean by saying the “grace of God appeared”?

This is a strange thing to say, because it implies that God’s grace has not shown up before. Other passages imply something very similar. For instance, John 1:17 says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Many people draw from verses like this that grace kind of just turned up in the ministry and work of Jesus. Some people even read the Old Testament badly, thinking that because the Old Testament saints lived by the law, that is how they were saved, and we are saved by Grace through faith.

But this makes no sense, because Paul tells us that Abraham and David were saved by faith, just like we are (Romans 4).

However, if you look up the word “Grace” in the Bible you will find it is used far more in the New Testament than in the Old Testament (ESV 10-118), (KJV 37-122). There is no doubt that the New Testament places more of an emphasis on grace than the Old Testament.

But does this mean it just appeared?

Grace means undeserved kindness, and the New Testament tells us that God gives grace to all people, Matthew 5:44-45 - “44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This is very much undeserved kindness.

God’s grace is found in the warm summer morning on the beach, in the cool breeze of the afternoon, in the coolness of night that refreshes from the day. In the rain that nourishes the ground, in the storm that soaks it and helps the seed grow. God’s grace is everywhere manifest and experienced by all people.

We call this common grace, everyone experiences this, even the worst people. 

But once you take on board that grace means undeserved kindness, or favour, then you will see that grace is all through the Old Testament: For example, the giving of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 34:5-7 – “5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God gave the law because of his grace, his undeserved kindness. There is nothing in this passage at the heart of the giving of the law, that would contradict anything we understand about the grace of God.

What about this? One of the most famous Psalms ever, one that we all love, says this, Psalm 51:1-2 - “1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”

The Hebrew word behind “steadfast love” carries this same idea of underserved kindness. David prayed in the hope that he would receive amazing grace for his terrible crime. Just as someone who believed in Jesus would today.

Old Testament believers surely considered God to be gracious to them, Genesis 33:10-11 - “10 Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me. 11 Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it.” Jacob certainly felt that way.

God’s grace to humanity is all through the Old Testament. His clothing of Adam and Eve, his redemption of fallen humanity from the flood, his calling his people out of Egypt, his patience with the wickedness of Israel and Judah. God was always a God of grace, and they knew it.

In fact, in one of my favourite science fiction shows, Stargate SG-1 there are these bad aliens called Goa’uld who pretend to be gods and place humans all over the galaxy to serve them. In season 3, episode 8 they go to a planet with medieval Christians, and one of the characters says, “Are they claiming to be God, God.” And one of the former slaves of the Goa’uld who is working with the humans says, “I know of no Goa’uld capable of showing the necessary compassion or benevolence that I have read of in your Bible.” Even he gets it.

So, if God was always a God of Grace, then how can grace have now appeared? The Old Testament presents the same kind of God as the new, so what has changed?

What has changed is that God has given us grace upon grace, John 1:16-17 “16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” This is what has changed.

What changed? The law was from God, but Jesus is God, and he brought his grace with him in power. In other words, the Grace of God appeared in the presence of God himself in a way the world had not seen before. 

It’s not that God was not gracious before, it’s that he has increased the power of his grace in the world by the power of his son, so much that it now makes the ancient ways seem lacking in comparison.

God’s law was gracious and good for his people. The law of Christ is even better than that, because it changes things. 

John tells us this about the coming of Jesus, “9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (John 1:9-10). The entry of Jesus Christ in the world changes it forever, because his light brings grace at a level beyond anything seen before.

You could say, Jesus is Grace, capital “G”. Through his presence the beauty of the grace he brought with him effected evil, shook up the spiritual and the natural world, and gave everybody a light to see that they did not have before. Just his presence does that. 

God’s intention was always to move away from national Israel as the centre of blessing, to international Israel, the Church, taking that blessing into the world. To do that grace has been multiplied and taken to all peoples, in larger measure.

And because of the nature of the presence of king changes things, his grace also changes things. It is not just undeserved kindness, it is a transforming power. The increase of God’s grace has transformed people and transformed nations like it never did in the times of David and Josiah.

Let’s see how. 

Transforming Grace (v.12) – The grace of God makes us new “…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” This grace of God changes people, it transforms them. The Greek word for “grace” is “charis” from which we get our English word Charisma. It originally referred to the “three Charities”, or “three Graces” three goddesses which seemed the mostly pleasing to men. Indeed, there was at one point in legend a competition between the three graces and Aphrodite about who was the most beautiful. A prominent Greek man awarded one of the ”Charities” or “graces” the award and in jealousy Aphrodite punished him by turning him into an old woman. But the significance of this is that in Greek this word “charis” or “grace” carried the idea of ultimate divine beauty, kindness, and all that is good.

We don’t believe in silly false gods, but we know our God is the source of good gifts. God’s grace towards us is the source of all that is divinely beautiful, kind and good. Therefore, Paul is saying something like this: “When the divine and beautiful gift of God came in its fullness, bringing salvation to all people.”

That is what God has bestowed on humanity through the appearance of Jesus Christ in the world. The pinnacle of all that is good, beautiful, and true. God has been incredibly beautiful and kind to us in a way that we do not deserve.

The one who encounters such divine beauty, how can you not want to become like it? How can you not want to seek after it, pursue it, allow yourself to be transformed by it.

There is a kind of evil that hates beauty, shuns it and seeks to destroy. This is true of the Devil, his angels, demons and most radical followers. But to those open to the truth and what is good, nothing is more beautiful than ultimate beauty.

So how can we take something so good and seek to abuse it as a permission to sin? We cannot. Not if we truly want to pursue the divine beauty of the way of Jesus. This is part of why his grace has such an effect on us – true beauty captivates us and changes us. 

To truly encounter the glory of Jesus is to be transformed. In him is no wickedness, no worldly desires and complete self-mastery. Therefore, those of us who have truly trusted in him will be made into this image. 

-        to renounce ungodliness – We will be motivated to flee from wickedness. To shun that which is anti-Christ.

-        to renounce worldly passions – We will be motivated to deny ungodly desires that would draw us away from Jesus.

-        to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age – We will be motivated to master our desires and crucify them.

Why? So we can aim towards the beauty of Christ that is found in the grace of God. His way is the best way. 

You all know how to do this. You know how to save, to put away money, so that you can have that thing you desire. You suppress your desires for lesser things, so that you can buy that greater gift. You know how to pursue the one you love, by working on the parts of you that are unattractive and accentuating your attractiveness. You know how to attain that academic goal, that sporting goal, that career goal, by cutting the things from your life that get in the way of it.

We all know how to do this, and we all know what it means to not do this, as well, what you lose.

Paul is saying the beauty of the grace of God will do that to the believer. It will make you want to cut things out of your life to attain the “upward call of Christ”.

It’s not an excuse for sin, it is a motivation to get rid of sin as much as you can. So you can pursue the beauty that you see in Christ. As Keith Green said:

“Oh, Lord, You're beautiful

Your face is all I seek

For when Your eyes are on this child

Your grace abounds to me

Oh, Lord, You're beautiful

Your face is all I seek

For when Your eyes are on this child

Your grace abounds to me.”[i]

The grace of God will transform you to want to bring the beauty of God around you more and more in this “present age” this dark age. Keith Green got it. He really understood it.

Waiting For Him (v.13) – We do this knowing he is coming back for us, “13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14). We, human beings, are not the hope of this world. As Christians, believe it or not, we can’t really defeat evil in this present age, it will be ever present with us. But who cares, because we serve the one who is the hope and the one who will defeat evil and wipe the floor with it.

So, we live like those who can bring the world hope, we bring change anyway, in our lives and in the lives around us, knowing that we cannot fully defeat evil. But never feeling defeated in this process because we know for sure that he is coming again to finish the job for us.

We oppose evil not because it’s our job to finish the fight. But because it is our job to be like the one who will finish the fight. We fight evil because it’s what he wants us to do, it is what he does, and he does it through us.

We also fight evil because it is ugly, ungodly and unsightly, the opposite of all that is good, beautiful and true.

The mark of someone who has really encountered the grace of God is pretty simple, are they “zealous for good works.” Jesus did not die just to make himself the Church. He died to make the church for a purpose, to be an agent of his good in the world. 

We are saved by grace through faith so that we might be the opposite of what is evil in the world. A little window into heaven, an example of his good, an element of his light, a radiance of his image.

Teach This (v.15) – If we go back to verse one it says, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” And now he finishes with, “15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” For Paul, teaching about the structure of the family and home, and teaching about submitting to those in authority over you and teaching about the grace of God that empowers us to do all of these things well, is the heart of the good teaching he wants Titus to teach the Cretans.

When a pastor teaches these things he is teaching the basic doctrines of what makes Christianity what it is. So, what is the hearers job? To obey them. Not because it is the pastor speaking, but because it is the true word of God being taught.

A pastor’s authority is only as strong as their words are close to the teachings of the Bible.

When the teacher holds to these clear words of the Bible, then those words are to be regarded, highly, because the preacher exists to help the congregation be “zealous for good works”. The preacher exists to lift up the beauty of Christ and inspire people to aspire to it. The preacher exists point you to that blessed hope and that coming day of the Lord, when evil will be finally defeated.

There is blessing in applying them to your lives and danger if you don’t.

Application – So my application is very simple: have you encountered the grace of God? John tells us that he is the light which enlightens all people, I truly believe that the gospel invitation is open to all and that all have a chance at some point in their life to believe. I think some people harden their hearts to it. I think some people are too proud to accept it. I think God can break through both, because such is the beauty found in him.

So my application is simple, trust in him and let him transform you through the power of his grace in your life. Repent from your sins and trust in him, he offers this grace to all people so that they could be saved.

f you are resisting the work of his grace in your life, my warning to you is also very simple, repent and turn to him, because salvation is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Conclusion – For those of us who know the grace of God well. We know it is not by works, not by our will, not by our efforts, but by the grace of God that we can praise him and rejoice in his good gift to us. So, as we sing this final song, reflect on these words from the old hymn:

“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought

Since Jesus came into my heart;

I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,

Since Jesus came into my heart.”

Thanks God for his grace which changes us, let’s ask him to change us even more.


Let’s pray.




[i] Keith Green, Oh Lord You Are Beautiful

No comments:

Post a Comment