For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.
Do we think of God’s gracious saving work in these terms? Do we think of the grace we have received from Lord Jesus as something that teaches us? Don’t we have a tendency to see the receiving of God’s grace and the resulting salvation as something that happened and is static? It is profound to me that when Paul speaks to Titus, he does not present it in that fashion. Grace is teaching us to obey through the self denial of ungodly lusts. It is guiding us to live godly, sensible, righteous lives. Through it, we live sensible lives as we wait patiently for the appearing of Lord Jesus and the culmination of this gift. Grace is alive and active.
Peter also presents a similar idea regarding salvation. He writes in his first letter that we are ‘receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls.’ Salvation is being received. It is, in effect, ongoing. Yes, I know that in a moment of time we were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Our hearts were miraculously transformed through the receiving of grace by faith resulting in our salvation. I’m not arguing that. Yet, since we are receiving it, there is an ongoing aspect of the salvation Christ has provided.
From my perspective, it is safe to conclude that grace and salvation are alive and active in a disciple of Christ. By that, I am not claiming that we are earning them, but that that we are seeing their ongoing effect in our lives. Our resolve is being strengthened and obedience is flowing. The grace of God through the salvation brought by Christ is teaching us to deny the things that truly kill us and moving us to eagerly pursue good works by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Even the apostle John speaks to the ongoing nature of God’s saving grace when he says in 1 John 1:7 that ‘as we walk in the light as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins.’ Thus, the light of His saving grace is teaching us, cleansing us and making good of our efforts. It is so much more than some magical force in the past or some formula we have completed. It is the Sovereign work of God in our lives for His glory and our blessing. It is truly the love of God expressed in and through the lives of those who will submit.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.