Christ’s appearings: A cause for holy living
Titus 2:11 -14
And as we continue in our study of Paul’s letter to Titus, there is a strong emphasis on God as our Savior. Now in chapter 2:1-10, we have already looked over the very specific things regarding godly behavior that demonstrates God's saving power – in the categories of people groups and age groups, including those who are slaves or employees. But coming to 2:11-14, we arrive at the doctrinal foundation for this righteous behavior; this required holy living that Paul is instructing Titus about. And what this portion of Scripture does for us is to affirm that not only righteous behavior is called for, it is also expected and possible because of God's saving work, which appeared in Christ as grace. This is the grace that trains us to godliness.
So when the grace of God appeared in history, it appeared as a real man, who really died to redeem us from sin and to make us God’s possession, passionate for good deeds. This was the aim or purpose of the appearance of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We need to note that there is overlap of the ages in the timeline of Christ’s or grace’s appearing: In Christ’s first appearing, the domain for holy living was inaugurated, breaking Satan’s power when he died for our sins. Now, between His first and second appearings, the domain for holy living is advancing, undoing Satan’s works, and forming communities of obedient followers amidst all peoples.
With Christ’s second appearing, the domain of holy lives will be consummated, destroying Satan’s kingdom. And after His second appearing, the holy kingdom will continue in the age to come, filling the earth with glory. The Christ who will finally appear in glory is the Christ who first appeared in grace. What God’s grace has begun in our lives through the first coming of Christ, in his glory, he will complete in our lives through the second coming of Christ.
In the appearings of Christ there is the enabling “appearance of grace” in which we have Christ’s ever-present power for holy living (vs. 11-12). In the motivating “appearance of glory”, we have this saving grace (Christ) as our hope or stimulus for holy living (vs. 13), because of the holy place we are headed to, eternally. The incarnate “appearance of grace” helps us to look back to history, in remembrance of Christ’s work on the cross as the basis for holy living (vs. 14).
Permeated in these “grace appearings” is our new birth to a living hope, in which saving grace comes to deliver us from the penalty of sin. Through sanctification, saving grace delivers us from the power of sin. In future, saving grace will deliver us from the presence of sin, leading us to glory. And so in a real sense, saving grace came to deliver us from the possession of sin, so that we become God’s own possession and forever, and joyfully His. This is what it means to be a Christian, beyond any empty claim, pretense, association with the church, or self-assuming notions.
So, what does it mean to be a Christian? It means to be saved from the penalty of sin in the future, the power of sin in the present, someday the presence of sin, and to be ever and always for eternity “a people for God’s own possession,” redeemed, made pure and delivered from every lawless deed. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was to accomplish no less than this full-orbed salvation. Anything less than this does not “adorn or cause the adorning of the teaching of God our Savior in any respect.”