A Study of Titus 2.11-15
Note. This article is a combination of my thoughts, the thoughts of my pastor, and the teaching of Dr. J. Vernon McGee
Paul interrupts the admonitions in Titus 2.1-10 to put a doctrinal foundation under the lives of these people to whom Titus, the young preacher, is to speak. Paul puts it in past, present, and future. I believe that the grace of God speaks to all men (v 11) about these matters. The grace of God teaches every person that he/she should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (v 12). God’s grace puts the believer on a solid foundation. The gospel is good news, it is the “power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Ro. 1.16).
Paul is enjoining Titus, the preacher, to demand of the Cretans that they live lives that adorn the gospel, for it is the power of God. “The grace of God “hath appeared” (v 11) – it has shined forth. God does not save one by His love and He does not save one by his mercy. One is saved by God’s grace (Ep. 2.8, Ti. 2.11). Mercy is the compassion of God that prompted Him to send a Saviour to mankind. If one man could be saved by the mercy of God, all mankind would be saved. It would not have been necessary for Christ to die; the cross would have been circumvented. Love is the divine motive, but God is not only love. He is righteous, holy, and just. The holy demands of God, His just claims, and His righteous standard had to be met. The immutable law of justice makes love powerless to save. Therefore, Christ, by dying for our sins, met the holy demands of God’s justice, and He can now save by grace. When we were guilty, Christ paid the penalty. Grace is not complicated or implicated with human effort. God does not ask your cooperation. He does not ask for your conduct or your character in order to save you. God only asks men to believe Him, to trust Him, and to accept Christ as their Savior. God’s way is the best way, and it is the only way.
My pastor tells the story of talking to a man who was a sodomite about the Lord. The man knew that to turn to God meant turning from his sinful behaviors with the other man. He told pastor that without pastor explaining it to him. Likewise it was with me. I was not a sodomite, but I was a sinner on my way to hell. You might like to know what my sins were, but let us consider your sins. Christ has closed the book on my sins and pardoned me. I did not turn to the Lord for a long time because I did not want to turn from my sins. With time, I began to understand that my sin was a one-way road to destruction. I turned to God and put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to save me from my sin. He made a new creature of me at that moment.
I have also talked with lesbians and other sinners who knew that to turn to God they had to turn from their sin. One cannot turn to God without turning his back on his sin. Once one turns to God and puts his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to save him from his sin, the grace of God saves him.
For the believer, eternal salvation is in the past. After salvation, the grace of God begins to teach us and to empower us, as new creatures, to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts” and to live “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” That is the present state of all believers who are still on this earth. They are being saved from the power of sin over them. God saved the believer for eternity (past) and is sanctifying the believer (saving him from his sins which is present).
God is not trying to reform this world; He is redeeming men who turn to God and trust Christ to save them from their sin. The gospel does not appeal to Christ rejecting men to do better. When a person says, “I am going to try to do better,” I agree with Dr. J. Vernon McGee that he is a liar. If you have not turned to God and put your faith in Jesus Christ, you might as well try to get all you can out of this life, because this life is all that you are going to get. You might as well eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you will die. God does not want to reform you, he wants to regenerate you.
Then, there is the future salvation which determines a believer’s present motivation and course of action. “Looking for that blessed hope” – this is the next happening in the program of God. In the future believers will be like the Lord Jesus, that is totally without sin (1 Jn 3.2). Titus 2:13-14: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” As we learn in 1 Thessalonians, that hope is an inspiring hope (1 Thes. 1), a working hope (1 Thes. 2), a purifying hope (1 Thes. 3.1-4.12), a comforting hope (1 Thes. 4.13-18), and a rousing hope (1 Thes. 5). That hope is assured for all believers.
Paul clearly says in verse 13, as in other places in his epistles, that Jesus Christ is God. He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us “from all iniquity” and “purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.”
To the young pastor, Titus, and all young pastors and preachers called of God, Paul concludes this segment of this epistle: “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Tit. 2.15).
For more on the new life of the believer see: Scripture study on “Repentance, the new creature, the new life, and changed behavior after salvation”