One thing we want our students to come away from the School of Discipleship with is the solid conviction that Paul displays in Titus 2, that God’s grace is real. For Paul, the grace of God is a divine activity which has a real presence in our world. It can be seen and felt. It is causal– it has the power to produce an effect.
In the beginning of Titus 2, Paul urges Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). What follows is what is sometimes called the ‘household code–’ a set of instructions given to the various members of the family on how they are to treat each other. At the end of this household code, Paul says that bondservants should “in everything adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” On both sides of this very practical, very ethical instruction Paul appeals to sound doctrine, the doctrine of God our Savior. Somehow this is to be a ground and a motivation for these commands concerning older men and women, younger men and women, and slaves.
There is a way of life which is fits this doctrine, which flows from it. Paul, as he so often does, first mentions this central theme in the introduction of his letter: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which leads to godliness–” (Titus 1:1). So there this concept of fittingness, that the knowledge of the truth– the sound doctrine referred to later, the doctrine of God our Savior– is somehow part and parcel with an outflow of godliness in our own lives.
And what is the doctrine of God our Savior? Paul tells us in Titus 2:11. “For the grace of God has appeared–” God’s saving grace has appeared, has shone upon all people. The word used is one from which we get our word ‘epiphany–’ revelation, manifestation, appearing. Paul is talking about Jesus here. He is the Light which has shone upon the people in darkness, the communication of God’s divine fullness, the exact imprint of the Father’s nature. He is the one bringing salvation for all people, come to ransom sinners. It is this grace, this saving grace of God, the Son of God who has appeared, teaching us to say no to ungodliness and live an upright life while we wait for his return.
How does this happen? How does the appearing of Jesus teach us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and live this life soberly and uprightly? In Christ’s giving of himself. “Who gave himself for us” (2:14)– in fulfilling the old covenant law, Jesus is both the priest who offers up the sacrifice as well as the sacrifice being offered. As the sacrifice, he takes our sin away completely. As the priest who offers up the sacrifice, he continually intercedes for us. This is a real, dynamic grace which invades our lives and changes us from the inside. As we behold the One who appeared and will appear again, we will be changed into the same likeness “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). And that is great grace.