How great a comfort it is to know that through the Lord Jesus, God in flesh, that all our sins are paid for and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as if we had kept the law to its perfection. Christ satisfied the justice of the Father and we are now brought into favor with the King. We have been delivered from God’s wrath. The Scriptures state, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1), and “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). We have been justified, peace has been made, and no longer are believers under the judgment of God. Indeed, this is good news, wonderful news! However, this is not all that God does in the lives of His people.
As the Apostle Paul is writing to Titus, he is giving instructions of the kind of men to look for to appoint as pastors, and then Paul begins to instruct the church members also. He speaks of the old men teaching the young men and the older women teaching the younger women. He speaks directly to Titus himself to be an example and even addresses the slaves concerning their conduct toward their masters. There is much that Paul says here to the church of their conduct, of being dignified, of being self-controlled, etc. The conduct of the church is to be in contrast to the Cretans who are known to be “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons” (1:12). The church was living among an immoral people and were to be set apart from them. Therefore, this passage addresses the reality that godliness is required of God’s people. The question is, how do God’s people carry out these commands? The church finds itself always among the unbelieving world, and God’s word tells us in numerous places to “walk as children of the Light”, and, “Do not participate in unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph 5:8, 11). We know these commands and we strive to carry them out, and yet, we find ourselves failing often and doing the very thing we do not want to do.
The Christian life is to be one of having joy in the Lord and having the peace that surpasses all understanding, but what often happens is that our joy is absent because of our own frustrations with ourselves. We continue looking at ourselves, our conduct, and at times we are frustrated that we are not further along in our growth in Christ. Why haven’t we overcome this particular sin or sins? Why do we still struggle? Yes, it is aggravating and we feel very low, sometimes despairing, and sometimes worthless for any good. We are often of the same opinion of ourselves that Paul was of himself: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death” (Rom 7:24). But, do not lose heart! We must remember what the apostle says in the very next verse: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Christ will ultimately set us free from sin completely, but do you consider that Christ has set us free from sin even now?
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:17–18, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” How can this be true? We still struggle with sin, and even those sins that we have contended with before. Yes, however, because Christ has set us free from the dominion of sin and we are no longer under its mastery, we are made alive by the Spirit of God to abhor sin when once we loved it, to fight against the temptations when we freely indulged before, and to live a life of repentance when at one time we were rebels and enemies of God. Dear friends, Christ not only delivered us from God’s wrath, but from the dominion of sin!
Why then aren’t we made perfect at conversion? Some things are only known in the mind of God, but we recognize that God has purpose even in our sin. Never are we given a license to sin or as Paul says, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it” (Rom 6:1–2)? Again, we are to contend with our sin and seek to overcome it by God’s power in us, but we can see also that in our times of sin, it drives us to look to Christ even more as the only source of our salvation.
The reality of sin in our lives produces in us a greater appreciation of God’s grace in Christ. As this occurs, and we see ourselves as we are and see Christ for all that He is, it cultivates a greater desire in us to strive to live in a way that honors our Lord. This is the reality of sanctification in the lives of God’s people. Definitive sanctification refers to the chains of sin, its mastery, being broken when the Holy Spirit regenerates us and we are converted. Progressive sanctification is the process of God working in us gradually through our lives, delivering us from sin and producing in us that which is pleasing to God.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” and also, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13). We put into practice what God is producing in us by His Spirit, and this gradually occurs throughout our lives.
Paul’s words to Titus give us more of understanding of how God is working in us. In Titus 2:11–12, we read, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” The grace of God is in reference to Christ Jesus who revealed the grace of God fully through His teachings, actions, and Christ giving His life on behalf of sinners. God’s grace was made known primarily through the prophets and the written Word during the Old Testament era, but visibly manifested in Christ Jesus who is the visible image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).
This grace was manifested to all kinds of sinners: old and young men, old and young women, slaves, and masters, etc. Remember, the word “all” must be qualified by the context and this is in reference to Titus 2:1–10. Salvation has come to all ages, genders, and classes of people, for God is no respecter of persons, and this grace manifested in Christ instructs us to deny ungodliness. This word “instructs” (paideuō) is not the common word for instruct/teach (didaskō) in the New Testament. This word carries the meaning of having education or discipline that is associated with parental oversight. William Hendriksen writes:
The verb used in the original is from the same stem as is the noun pedagogue. A pedagogue (teacher, educator, schoolmaster) leads children step by step. Thus, grace, too, gently leads and guides. It does not throw things into confusion. It does not suddenly upset the social order.1William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, “Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews” New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1984) 371.
God breaks sin’s dominion over us, and gradually brings us along in the same manner we instruct our children throughout their lives. We do not give them the full instructions of life once they are able to form a sentence. For each period of their lives we teach them accordingly and instruct further as they grow. This is what Paul is conveying to believers in this passage. God’s grace disciplines us gradually, but nonetheless we are disciplined to live lives marked by faith and repentance. Our lives will be different.
Remember this, dear friends, sanctification is a monergistic work of God in us. He brings about the change in our lives, and gradually brings us along. By His power working in our hearts we live lives of repentance and are enabled to forsake unrighteousness and worldly passions. Hendriksen states, “The grace of God trains us in order that we may live consecrated lives while we are waiting for the blessed hope.”2Ibid, 372. At His appearing, we will be made whole. Grace appeared in the incarnation, and at the consummation of all things, God’s gracious work in Christ will be fully manifested and all will be made right. Do not lose heart, friend. God is still working in you.
Christ delivered you from the wrath to come and from sin’s power over you in this life. We cannot see what God has done in our lives thus far because sometimes our sin overwhelms us. When this happens, our first reaction is to think of how vile we are, which increases our pain and guilt. We recognize how offensive and abhorrent sin is to our Lord. But, do we think so little of God’s grace that we cannot reflect upon the work He has done already and continues to do? Yes, we are certainly not where we want to be, but thank the Lord we are not where we began.
Beloved, let us not forget that God has saved us in spite of ourselves, and our salvation is not dependent upon our conduct. Assurance rests in Christ who accomplished all the perfection of God’s Law. He is your salvation, and peace, and hope. Therefore, do not lose heart, and give God thanks for what He has done already, and pray that the Spirit of God would continue to do His work in you until the day that we are made whole in Christ. We long to love Him with love that is worthy of Him. We long to delight in Him and obey Him with perfection. Beloved, Christ has delivered us, and our sure hope is that one day we will not only see Him, and be with Him, but also that we will be glorified in Him and carry out with perfection worship that is worthy of Him. Do not lose heart, but look for the blessed hope of His appearing! Sola Gratia!
“When I look at myself, I don’t see how I can be saved. But when I look at Christ, I don’t see how I can be lost.” —Martin Luther