Trained by Grace

Grace appears, A Cornucopia of Blessings.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14 ESV)

 In verse 11 it says the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people. The grace of God that brings salvation for all people is obviously Jesus Christ. God so loved the world, He gave us His son. God restores man through Jesus. Truly this is unmerited favor, which is what grace means.  This is Good news.

The grace of God that saves us has appeared. We need to look at what this word appear means. The word in Greek is where we get our English word epiphany, which means “a striking revelation.” This Greek word is most frequently used in reference to the sun, as in; when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned (Acts 27:20 ESV). 

But the word is also used poetically in reference to Jesus, as in; because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79 ESV)

“To give” light, there is the same word translated as “appeared” in Titus 2:11. To appear is to spread light. This is predicated on John 8:12 when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

So, going back to Titus 2, Paul is telling us something else that God’s grace does. The grace of God has dawned; it has lit up the world. The grace of God, in a sudden burst of illumination, has come onto the scene of human history like the sun at sunrise. The grace of God is the light we see by. Believers see by Grace. C.S. Lewis wrote at the end of his essay, Is Theology Poetry; I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”[1]

Lewis means that he sees the light of Christianity, but he also sees or understands everything else by that light.

We don’t turn lights on to look at the light itself, do we? We turn lights on to see everything else. In the wee hours of the morning we don’t turn the lights on to gawk at them. We want to find our slippers. Pull one coffee filter out of the pile. See if our tie matches our shirt. In the hallway we keep a night light, not so we can visit the nightlight, but so we can navigate the hallway

The salvation of God has dawned to bring redeeming light, so that we can see our way through and around this world in the present age. So, we can have discernment, seeing sin and temptation for what it is and say, “no” to it. So, we can see holiness and goodness for what it is and say, “yes” to it. We are given illumination, wisdom and understanding by the grace of God.  

This appearing of Jesus Christ is a revelation. An epiphany. And what it reveals is salvation which includes training in Godliness as freedom from lawlessness (Titus 2:13 ESV).

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life of men, the world. Jesus saves. Jesus trains in godliness. Jesus frees us from lawlessness. And it’s all grace.

Jesus is our Personal Trainer in Holiness

Just as the ten commandments begin with a declaration of what God had done for Israel, so too does Paul’s declaration of Christ’s gracious validation of the Law.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Exodus 20:2 ESV)

So, as Paul is instructing Titus in the importance of the Law and Good Works, Paul begins the exhortation with the establishment of God’s great Exodus in Christ. Then proceeds to outline how the Law is to be used.

At the beginning of Titus 2:12, it continues the thought of 11 and begins with the word “training.” If you read too quickly you miss who or what is doing the training. The same Grace that saves us and illuminates the world, is training us when to say no to ungodliness, when to say yes to Godliness and thereby, how to fulfill the will of God in the present age.

The word “train” in Greek is padea which is more than mere instruction or catechism. This same word is used by Paul in a famous passage, Fathers…bring up your children in the discipline and padea of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4 ESV).

It’s the responsibility of Parents to bring up their children this way, but what does this word mean? Padea is not just education in the academic sense. It’s enculturation. It’s worldview training. It includes every area of life. Specifically, the padea of the Lord is a view of the world in which the Triune God is Lord of Heaven and Earth and all its necessary implications theologically, practically, culturally, ethically, aesthetically, relationally, economically, and so on.

Paul used this same word in reference to his preparation, giving it the Hebraic use of what was a Hellenistic word. I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. (Acts 22:3 ESV). The word educated, is the Greek word Padea. To an Israelite, the means of enculturation in God’s household was God’s law.

So, Titus 2:11-12 teaches us that God is raising all His children in the Padea of Himself God is instructing us in how to live as His children in every area of life. The same grace that brings salvation to us also trains us as God’s children.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19–22 ESV). For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.  (Hebrews 12:6 ESV). Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19 ESV).

God doesn’t discipline his children using ethereal standards. He is a good father. He disciplines us according to the standard He has set. Every house has rules and God has given us His house rules so that we know how to conduct ourselves as His children. The fact that Gentiles have entered that house, does not destroy the house rules God has always had tacked to the fridge. No one could keep those house rules (Romans 3:9-20 ESV), till Jesus came and made a way, through Himself to obey and free us from lawlessness (Titus 2:11-15 ESV).

And those house rules are the Law of God. The greatest command is to love God and you’re your neighbor and often modern Christians want to separate this from any kind of measurable standard. But discipline necessitates a standard. Love is that standard, but what is love?

For the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8–10 ESV).

Love is a codified standard. Love is not ethereal or hard to define. Love is objective. If you raise your children to love the Lord their God with their whole self, then it is helpful to know that love is measurable. Love is visible. Love can be weighed and judged.

Love is not law. Fulfilling the law is love. How does one love God and Neighbor? Fulfill the law. The law doesn’t save, it’s how saved people know how to love.

When children are being loving it’s because they are obeying God’s law, others can point and say, “look, love.”

There is a verifiable reality to love. There is a standard by which to measure. The world uses love in ways that are subjective and purely emotive. But Love is practical and measurable.

Love is not about affirming people or approving people and it certainly is not some generic, subjective feel-goodism. Love is a matter of Godliness. A matter of what we say “yes,” to and what we say “no,” to.

Grace is training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12 ESV).

God’s grace trains us. It isn’t harsh, it isn’t cruel or arbitrary or impersonal like a work out video. Our circumstances, the events of our lives, the trials and triumphs we experience are all aimed at cultivating spiritual growth and godly character. And what is used to train the household of God in the Padea of the Lord? The Law. Grace is training every believer in Godliness with the Law of God. We tend to equate training with rigid rules and performance standards. God equates it with firm loving care for our souls, the nurture of a Father of His children.

God has brought you into new life in Christ which requires a different character, intellect, morality and understanding of the world. God requires a total transformation of the outer man and that doesn’t happen overnight. So, God is training you to live as his child in His world.

We aren’t more gracious than God. And how do we go about training our children? We meet our children, hopefully, where they’re at and consider their frame. We move them along the process of maturation at a rate that is healthy for them. If we, who are mere men, do this, how then does our loving Father approach his role as Father? He is orchestrating your life to produce Godliness and the Fruit of the Spirit. Man’s fleshly desires are deeply rooted, and God is uprooting them. You have deep seeded fears and doubts and God has to reach deep to dislodge them.

Think of the scene from The Dawn Treader, in which Aslan has to scrape the dragon skin off of Eustace. Aslan has to tear down deep, and it requires several tearings to free Eustace from the dragon skin but even then, it’s just the beginning of Eustace’s un-dragoning.

The Christian life is a process in which God is leading you step by step into deeper love and holiness. From one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

As Paul says elsewhere, Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV).

Our hope is the promise of God to equip us and the way He equips us is to train us in Godliness with the Law of God. But this is Grace.

We are the clay on the spinning wheel, shaped by the master artisan. This process is called sanctification and it requires training, like a father training a child in the way they ought to go. Through instruction, discipline, fellowship, rebuking and demonstrating the right kind of behavior for the child to imitate. It’s our promise, it’s our hope, and it’s our great undeserved gift in Christ that God is doing this for us.

God is transforming us into images and imitators of Him, to be like Him. When we are converted we still possess worldly desires. Fleshly desires. Visceral needs. We need fellowship, intimacy, food, drink, money and professional and recreational pursuits. In the midst of these realities are all sorts of opportunities to act contrary to God. There are a lot of vices that can capture our hearts. And when we are converted we have a lot of sinful habits and customs to unlearn.

At times God is characterized as a big unhappy authoritarian in the sky who denies his people pleasure, joy and happiness. But this is overemphasizing and misapplying one half of the equation. God demands that we say no to some things but only because He wants us to say yes to other things.

And this happens when we read His Law and the Spirit of Christ works on us conviction, repentance and understanding of ourselves and our God. Sanctification is “that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which the holy disposition imparted in regeneration is maintained and strengthened.”[2] Sanctification (in that man grows in grace as he grows in law-keeping, for the law is the way of sanctification).[3]

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7–11 ESV)

The Holy Spirit’s work is not separate from the word of God. As the believer reads God’s word, the Holy Spirit gives them understanding to comprehend their offenses toward God. This leads to repentance and a deeper appreciation and comprehension of God’s Holiness and therefore, the holiness required of God’s children who obey as loyal and loving Children.

Loving children pursue their parents approval, wearing their obedience as garlands and crowns (Proverbs 6:2-22 ESV). Bible reading then, becomes a pursuit to find out more about our great Father, His faithful Son and how we might imitate that faithful Son.

Old and New Testament Scriptures teem with expositions of the law directed primarily at believers to assist them in the abiding pursuit of holiness of heart and life. The Psalms repeatedly affirm that a believer relishes the law of God both in his heart and in his outward life. One of the psalmists’ greatest concerns is to ascertain the good and perfect will of God, then to run in the way of His commandments (Ps. 119:32). The Sermon on the Mount and the ethical portions of Paul’s epistles are prime New Testament examples of using the law as a rule of life for Christians.[4]

God wants us to say no to those things that dishonor Him, that harm others, that harm us; those things that are empty and fleeting. We are called to say, “yes” to things that show our love for God and love for neighbor.

God wants us to say no to drunkenness but yes to happy hearts. God wants us to say no to hoarding and yes to charity. No to fear and yes to trusting Him. The list goes on. God is not a Father who desires self-denial and self-torture for the sake of self-denial and self-torture. He wants us to say no to worldly, transitory pleasures and yes to eternal joy. No to self-love and yes to neighbor-love in the context of God-love. God hates fornication but relishes and blesses an active marriage bed. God hates waste, gluttony and slavery to the stomach but loves feasting and celebrating; delighting before Him with drink, song and exuberance.

Alas, there are a thousand in the world that make a Christ of their works. “The law is abolished as a covenant for our justification, but it remains a rule for obedience, Bolton said. He explained, “We are not under the curses, but we are under the commands of it; we are not under the law for judgment, but we are under the law for conduct.” The law no longer has the power to condemn us, but it still has the power to humble us and to build us up for our greater good. Thomas Watson (c. 1620–1686) summed up the matter this way: “Though the moral law be not a Christ to justify us, yet it is a rule to instruct us….God is pleased with the baby steps of His children who stumble down the narrow way. So instead of bondage under threats and terror, the Christian is obediently drawn forth by God’s “sweetness and love,” in which “all terror is gone.” Watson wrote, “The gospel sweetens the law, it makes us serve God with delight.”[5]

God is training us every day in what to say “no” to and what to say “yes” to. But am I saying it’s as easy as looking at a temptation up and down and merely saying, “nope?” “Oh, look at that!” “Nope!”

When the flesh is saying, “feed me!” it’s hard to say “no”. To say “no,” in the moment, when your flesh is burning for that forbidden fruit is impossible for us in the flesh. Learning to say “no,” requires dependence. Standing up to temptation without the protection of God’s grace is dangerous and foolish. To say, “I can handle this God,” is a sure way to fail. Choosing life is only done by appealing to life himself, Jesus Christ. You can only say “no” to sin if you first say “yes” to Christ.

This is why the Lord’s Prayer includes, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Deliver us from saying “yes,” to the wrong things. To self, carnal desires, the pride of life. Christians are heading in a particular direction – Christlikeness – and that is done by beholding the face of Christ.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5–6 ESV)

As we behold the face of Christ, we grow in likeness to Him. The light that dawned, brought salvation, training in Godliness and freedom from lawlessness, is Jesus Christ. Beholding Him in the Bible, the Holy Spirit instructs us in sin and righteousness. The Spirit of Christ works on us as we behold Jesus in the bible, for the Law and Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles – the words of the Prophets and Apostles are Jesus Christ speaking to us, showing Himself to us. Training us. Shaping us.

[1] Lewis, C. S.. Weight of Glory (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis) (p. 141). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

[2] Strong, A. H. (1907). Systematic theology (p. 869). Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society.

[3] Rushdoony, R. J.. The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1 . Chalcedon Foundation. Kindle Edition.

[4] Beeke, Joel R.. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life . Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

[5] Beeke, Joel R. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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