The Grace of God Has Appeared
‘For the grace of God which carries with it salvation for all men has appeared’ (Titus 2:11–12).
It is a very good thing for every believer to meditate frequently on the grace of God. If we look back, we realise that it was grace that saved us when we deserved nothing other than divine judgment (Eph. 2:8). If we look around us, we see that it is grace that sustains us every day of our Christian lives (2 Cor. 12:9). If we look ahead, we are aware of the hope of the grace that will be brought to us when Christ appears in glory (1 Pet. 1:13).
The verse quoted above is well known yet we should never undervalue its message. The context shows that Paul reminded the slaves in their poor earthly condition that they should never forget that the grace of God had appeared to all men. Every believer should remember this. Salvation is one of the key elements of what God has in mind for us — and it is by grace.
In this short article I would like to remind every reader of well-known yet ever-precious truths concerning grace by asking four simple but important questions. It is always good to ask simple questions because their answers give us a better understanding of Bible truths.
What is grace?
Grace is characterised by two things: first, grace is always undeserved; and second, it is always without condition. It is impossible to work for grace, pay for it or deserve it. We can never insist that God turns to us in grace. We have absolutely no right or claim to it. Like Ruth of old we may only say: ‘Why have I found favour in thine eyes, that thou shouldest regard me, seeing I am a foreigner?’ (Ruth 2:10). Similarly, Mephibosheth answered David: ‘What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?’ (2 Sam. 9:8). This should be our attitude as we reflect on God’s grace towards us.
In Old Testament times God had given His law. However, this only made it evident that man is entirely unable to meet any of His requirements. Now, in the dispensation of grace, God no longer acts on the basis of law. He no longer says: ‘Do this and you shall live’. It is God who opens His heart in order to bless us. This is seen in Ephesians 1, where Paul uses two expressions that touch our hearts. He speaks about the riches of God’s grace, which is connected to our salvation, and the glory of His grace, which is connected to our heavenly blessings, such as adoption and being children of God (Eph. 1:6–7). Grace never sets up fences or conditions. Grace will only be received by faith. It is the God of grace who acts graciously towards us — we who did not deserve His wonderful blessings. The hand that receives God’s blessing from our side is faith.
How and when has the grace of God been revealed?
The grace of God has appeared and it has done so in the person of our Lord Jesus. Around 2,000 years ago He became a man. He lived here on earth and died on the cross of Calvary. After being buried He rose again as the great victor over Satan and death. In all this the wonderful grace of God shines forth brightly.
The fact that something appears at a given point in time does not mean it did not exist before. The point is that before it appeared, it was not fully revealed. Of course, in Old Testament times it was known that God was gracious. Believers in that time spoke about His grace. However, it is only in the person of the Lord Jesus that grace shines in its fulness so that we can know God as ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet. 5:10). It is only in Him that can we see the full riches of the glory of God’s grace. In this context, Old Testament times can be compared with the dawn when daylight is present but the sun has not risen. With the birth of the Lord Jesus, the sunshine of His grace radiates with its warming beams.
The word ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11 clearly refers to the incarnation of our Lord with all its wonderful results. In Him grace is personified. The ultimate peak of this appearing of divine grace is seen on the cross. If we really want to know how gracious God is, we look to the cross. If the glory of God’s righteousness had appeared apart from grace, the immediate consequence would have been death for us. But thanks be to God that His glory is seen in grace. Jesus did not appear in might and glory but in humility and grace. Luke, who emphasises the grace of God, speaks about the ‘bowels of mercy of our God; wherein the dayspring from on high has visited us, to shine upon them who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace’ (Luke 1:78–79). We only find parables like those of the good Samaritan and the prodigal son in his gospel. It is also only Luke who relates the fact that the thief on the cross received pardon at the point of extreme helplessness, just hours before the end of his life.
Why did the grace of God appear?
The objective is made very clear. The grace of God carries with it ‘salvation … to all men’. God in His grace is seen and revealed as the Saviour God. He does not desire the death of the sinner, but that he might live (Ezek. 18:23). For this reason He offers salvation in the person of His dear Son. Salvation is inseparably linked with the Saviour. There is no salvation without a Saviour. We might think about the truth of salvation but we will only understand it when we contemplate the glory of the Saviour. When Simeon of old received the child, Jesus, into his arms he blessed God and said: ‘mine eyes have seen thy salvation’ (Luke 2:30). John the Baptist, when seeing Jesus at the beginning of His public service, quoted the words of Isaiah when he exclaimed: ‘all flesh shall see the salvation of God’ (Luke 3:6). This salvation was seen in Jesus Christ, ‘the second man, out of heaven’ (1 Cor. 15:47). The work of salvation was not yet accomplished, but the one who would accomplish it had appeared.
In the gospel God reveals His grace. The Apostle Paul was filled with the earnest desire to proclaim this gospel. When he talked to the elders of Ephesus he testified: ‘But I make no account of my life as dear to myself, so that I finish my course, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the glad tidings of the grace of God’ (Acts 20:24).
When God acts in grace, it is never at the expense of His holiness. God is love and therefore acts in grace, but He is also light and therefore acts in holiness. His acting in grace needs a righteous foundation and He has found it in the cross of the Lord Jesus. Therefore Paul writes to the Romans: ‘I am not ashamed of the glad tidings; for it is God’s power to salvation, to everyone that believes, both to Jew first and to Greek: for righteousness of God is revealed therein, on the principle of faith, to faith: according as it is written, But the just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:16–17). Our Saviour’s cross reveals the glory of His grace but shows at the same time how holy and righteous God is. He smote and judged His beloved Son in absolute righteousness when the burden of our sins was on Him. It is this that enables Him now to justify everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour.
God offers His salvation to men. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews calls it a ‘great salvation’ (2:3). Truly, it is great! Jude had it on his heart ‘to write to you of our common salvation’ (v. 3). We should never forget that all those who believe the gospel of grace receive exactly the same salvation. Our appreciation of God’s grace and salvation may differ, but there is no difference in the salvation itself. God’s grace is the same for all who believe. It is indeed blessed to meditate on the various aspects of this salvation that grace has brought to us.
To whom did the grace of God appear?
The answer is very clear: it has appeared to ‘all men’. This took place when the Lord Jesus came into the world, but the grace that appeared then is still available to all men today. We notice this difference from God’s dealings in Old Testament times. In Genesis 12, for example, He dealt principally with Abraham and his family. Later, the law was given to the nation of Israel. But when the grace of God appeared in the person of the Lord Jesus it could not be restricted to a certain group of people. All the limits and borders were broken. Now grace flows out freely and the offer of salvation is to all who believe.
Paul writes to Timothy that God is a ‘Saviour God, who desires that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:3–4). Then he continues to speak about the one and only mediator between God and men who gave ‘himself a ransom for all’ (vs. 5–6). This is no inconsistency with Mark 10:45 where the Lord Jesus said that He would give His life ‘a ransom for many’. Paul is speaking about God’s offer of salvation, which is ‘to all men’ without exception. This has to do with propitiation. In Mark 10:45, the Lord Jesus speaks about substitution: only those who believe on Him receive the blessing that God’s grace brings with it.
What Paul wrote to Titus is still true. Let us never forget that God’s grace addresses everyone. All can come. ‘He that will, let him take the water of life freely’ (Rev. 22:17). Grace is sufficient for all. Man only has to come. The door of grace is still open, and the entrance is not limited.
For us who have believed and accepted the offer of God’s grace, there is a very solemn consideration in all this. We know that the day will come when the door will be closed. The ‘time of grace’ will come to an end when our Lord returns at the rapture. This means we should be ‘redeeming the time’ (Eph. 5:16), being constrained by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14), that many might yet accept the offer of God’s grace in His beloved Son.
From: Truth & Testimony 2019