Text: Titus 2:11-14
Theme: The Christian should live a godly life now, because of Christ’s past and future appearing.
Introduction: You may have heard the phrase, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This phrase is actually a paraphrase of what George Santayana wrote in his book The Life of Reason. The actual quote goes like this: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This statement is true, even in the Christian life. The Christian life is not simply an automatic translation into Christlike perfection, nor is it a mindless progress to the same goal. It is not, as some say, “Let go and let God.” Rather, the Christian life is a step-by-step process which is motivated by the memory of a gracious experience and the expectation of a glorious future.
Today, we are going to ask three questions about the Christian life. First, what memory gives us the ability to live the Christian life? Second, how do we live the Christian life in light of that memory? Third, what motivates us to live the Christian life? When we find the answer to these questions, we will be able to change and grow, and not be “condemned to repeat” our worldly past.
God has given us the answers in Titus 2:11-14 which is our text for today. Paul begins his letter to Titus with a typical introduction (1:1-4). He then begins to describe the nature of Titus’ work in Crete: to establish blameless elders in the churches (1:5-9). These blameless elders are necessary because of the corrupt culture of Crete and the false leaders who would destroy the Christians (1:10-16). In light of the corrupt culture, Paul also commands Titus to teach people how to live holy lives in their specific roles whether male or female, young or old , slaves or free (2:1-10). He then discusses what enables Christians to live holy lives (2:11-14), which is our passage today. He then changes the discussion from the specific roles, to general life in society and in the church (3:1-11). Finally, he closes with some personal requests to Titus (3:12-15).
Let us read the passage: 11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
I. What memory gives us the ability to live the Christian life? The Cause of a Christian Lifestyle (v. 11, 14)
Notice, please, that the passage starts with the word “for.” What this means is that the passage is connected to the earlier section. In that section, Paul has just given commands to each class of person in the churches in Crete. He details what they should and should not be doing. Then, in verse 11, he writes the word “for.” It means that he is about to give the reason for the lifestyle commands he just gave. You could say he is answering an unstated question. Titus was to get up and command the Cretan Christians how to conduct their lives. They could have asked Titus, “Why do we have to do these things?” God, because he knew that this question would arise, moved Paul to give an answer.
Why should you live this kind of lifestyle? For this reason: that the grace of God has appeared.
A. God’s grace is available to all for the new lifestyle (v. 11)
The word “appeared” means more than just that is showed up. [Illustration] Things can appear all the time. When you’re driving, signs appear on the side of the highway. When you’re walking in a field, the grass keep appearing before you. But this appearing in Titus 2:11 is stronger than that kind of appearing. It’s like you’re driving down the highway with someone tailing you. Then, out of nowhere, some blue flashing lights appear behind the person tailing you. Or, when you’re walking through the field and BOOM a bolt of lightning shatters a tree in front of you. The appearing in Titus is a sudden, brilliant appearance, and, in the Bible, the appearing often brings deliverance.
What appears? The grace of God appears. God gave us grace, that is, he showed favor upon us. We didn’t deserve it, nor could we. He out of his compassion decided to show us favor. Now, it is by God’s grace that he sends us rain and sunshine. It is by God’s grace that we enjoy life, even though we are sinners. But this grace is more than just God’s general compassion on humankind. God narrows down what kind of grace he is talking about with the words “that bringeth salvation.” This grace is his saving grace. This salvation is accomplished by the death of Christ, as Paul mentions in verse 14.
Now it says, “to all men.” There are a few interpretations on this phrase. Some people think that it is the saving grace which appeared in the sight of all men; others say that it is salvation is available for all men. Which one is it? If this saving grace is the death of Christ and it has appeared in brilliant form to all men, then all men must know about the death of Jesus. However, experience alone teaches us that not all men know of the death of Jesus. Therefore, it cannot be that God’s grace has appeared before everyone. It must mean that salvation is available for every man. This we know is true, for God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9), and the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Ro 1:16). Thus, salvation from a broken lifestyle of sin to a changed lifestyle before God is available for every man.
B. How God’s Grace affects the new lifestyle
But how is God’s grace affected in the life of a believer? Let’s move to verse 14, where God tells us how salvation changes us. He starts with a reference to salvation with the phrase “who gave himself for us.” The “who” is Jesus, because it refers back to the end of verse 13 where he is mentioned.
Notice the word “that.” While it is a small word, it carries a tremendous amount of weight. This word is telling us why Jesus died; it is giving the purpose of Jesus’ death. You could say, “Jesus gave himself for us for these purposes.” What purposes? He goes on to explain.
1. Jesus died for this first purpose: to redeem us from all iniquity.
The word redeem means to “free someone by paying a ransom price” (DBL Greek). In this context, Jesus paid the price to redeem us from slavery. Who was our previous master? Lawlessness is the master and to it every person willingly subjects themselves before they are saved (Rom. 6:19). Even the Psalmist was bound under lawlessness, and so he cried for forgiveness, looking forward to when God would redeem him and Israel from their master lawlessness (Ps. 130:8). The ultimate fulfillment of the Psalmist’s hope is Christ’s death because his blood was the price which bought the believer from the tyranny of lawlessness (1 Pet. 1:18).
2. Jesus died for this second purpose: to purify unto himself a people.
Jesus died to purify to himself a “peculiar people.” The word peculiar today means odd or strange. In the modern vernacular, this word has lost the original meaning of the translation. What this word means is a special or private possession. God used this exact term when he came down on mount Saini and covenanted with Israel (Ex 19:5). Among all the other nations of the world, God especially treasured Israel. When Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant, he called us to himself as his own treasured possession. In addition, He purified us from our sin, whereas the Old Covenant made could not purify anyone in and of itself.
As Jesus’ special people, what are we to be? We are to be a zealous for good works. Zealous simply means to be passionate. Therefore, since Jesus has purified us, we can be passionate about doing good works.
Transition: Jesus’ death is the event that has happened in the past. He died for these two purposes: so that we could be free from sin and be a purified people who are passionate about good works. And so, based on Jesus’s death our lives will be different, as described in verse 12.
II. How do we live the Christian life in light of that memory? The Manner of the Christian Lifestyle (v.12)
Back to verse twelve. When God’s grace appeared, it began to teach us. This word teaching has three different senses: to teach, to train, and to punish (DBL Greek). Punishment is not in view here, because the context does not indicate any negative effects brought about by training. What is in view here is the idea of training: learning by experience, not just mental education.
Illustration: In a sense, the training that goes on here is like a martial art. The martial arts ideal contains both the physical activity and a way of life. In fact, the main goal of many martial arts is not to fight or be the strongest, but to embody the principles that the founder established. Their training is not just a short list of physical exercises, nor is the recitation of mental facts. Ideally, martial arts training involves both the body and the mind—and really a whole way of life. Similarly, God’s grace trains us, involving both our minds and our bodies—and our whole lives. The training method is based upon principles which Christ died to establish.
What is this training supposed to accomplish? What are the ideals that we are supposes to embody? Paul goes on, grace teaches us “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”
A. The Lifestyle we learn to live.
What does this lifestyle look like? We are to live soberly, righteously and godly.
Soberly is a word that means to master one’s emotions—which is self-control. [Illustration] A Jewish book written about the same time Paul wrote this letter to Titus defines the word soberly. Let me read for this definition: “Self-control [A word closely related to soberly] is mastery over the desires, and of the desires, some are mental, whereas the others are physical, and reason seems to rule over both of these” (4 Mac 1:31–32). The author mentions Joseph, who resisted the pull of his pleasures when the adulteress tempted him. Joseph lived a sober, or better translated, self-controlled life.
In the same way, we Christian’s must control our emotions. This does not mean we eliminate our emotions, but that we control them. When we want to do something we know is wrong, we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
Righteously is more than just living sinlessly. It means that we live our lives in a manner that reflects the justice of God. We do not twist things to benefit us, nor do shade the truth just right so that it fits our agenda. At work, we put in a honest day’s labor. At school, we demand of ourselves that we will not cheat. At play, we do not break the rules when we can get away with it. No, in all these things and so much more we seek to live a life that plays by the rules.
A godly person lives under the fear of God. God is the king of his life and not to trifled with. And so, with genuine fear, the godly man obeys his King and is loyal to him. He ever looks to his King and quickly does his will.
These characteristics are to shape our lives as Christians. When we remember the grace which God showed us in the past, it trains us to live in this way.
B. The Lifestyle we once lived
In addition to these three attributes, there is another action we must do. It is summed up in the phrase: denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. The word translated to deny means to renounce any identification with. Peter denied Jesus—swearing that he did not know him. A more positive example is of the church of Pergamos which did not deny Jesus even though they were being persecuted and some were killed. The believer is to deny ungodliness and worldly lust. In other words, we are renounce, to disassociate, and to reject any identification with ungodliness and worldly lusts.
What this means is, while we are training in the attributes of soberness, righteousness and godliness, we are to repudiate the lusts of world. Our minds are not to be controlled by the latest fashions or the newest car. We are not to be controlled with illicit lusts which our culture secretes out of every corner. Not only do we exercise sobriety in these areas, but renounce any control that they could have on our lives. These things do not define us.
III. What motivates us to live the Christian life? The Motivation of the Godly Christian (v. 13)
But not only do we look to the past and see how it changes us, but we also live looking forward to the future. Verse 13 says, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Looking means more than just glancing up every once in a while. It is expecting something to soon take place.
Illustration. For example, when I was a child, my grandparents lived in Minnesota while we lived in South Carolina. So, when they were coming to our house, it was a big deal. On the day they were coming, my siblings and I would anxiously await their arrival. We would be peering out the windows, waiting on the end of the driveway, excitedly talking about everything we were going to do when they arrived.
In a similar manner, as Christians wait for something. But what do we wait for?
A. We wait for the blessed hope.
The hope here is a curious one. In the scriptures, Titus 2:13 is the only place where hope is called blessed. So, what is the blessed hope? Notice that the blessed hope is parallel to the manifestation of the glory of God. Both items Christians are looking forward to while living here below. We can conclude that the blessed hope is an end time event. Also, the term occurs three times in the book of Titus, one in each chapter (1:2, 2:13, 3:7). The other two times this word occurs is shows up as “the hope of eternal life.” This means that the blessed hope is eternal life. A final place I want you notice is in Acts 24:15. Paul, describing his faith, said that he has “a hope in God which these men [the Pharisees] also themselves await [the word wait is our word for looking in Titus]: that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous” (LEB; Emphasis added). Here, Paul also further defines hope in this passage—the resurrection from the dead. Therefore, the blessed hope is a reference to the resurrection of the dead to eternal life.
B. We look for the glorious appearing.
But not only are we looking for the blessed hope, but also the glorious appearing of the great God. There is an issue here that we need to address. Some of your translations read “the glorious appearing of the great God” while others read “the appearing of the glory of the great God.” What’s going on here? The Greek phrase is a little ambiguous, so that is what causes the differences in the translations. But I believe that one of the translations is better than the other. The word appearing only occurs five other times in the Bible. In four of the five times, a person is the thing which does the appearing. Thus, I think it would be better to make “the great God” the thing which does the appearing. So, the better way to translate it is “the glorious appear of the great God.”
But now, we have another question: what does the phrase “the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ mean? Is Jesus both the great God and Savior? Or is he just the Savior and the Father is the great God? If we look back at the word appearing again, we notice something else: Jesus is the only one who does the appearing—the Father is never said to appear. Also, every time Jesus appears, it is an eschatological context—that is, the end times. They are in reference to Jesus’ second coming when he comes to rule the earth. Therefore, we can conclude here that Jesus is both God and Savior.
Conclusion: How do we put all this passage back together? Let me paraphrase the passage for you. Follow along with me in your Bibles, starting in verse eleven. Tell the church to do these things because the grace, which God shows and which provides salvation for everyone, has brilliantly appeared in order to be training us that we should renounce any association with ungodliness and worldly lusts and that we should live soberly and righteously and godly during this present age, all the while we are expecting the blessed hope the resurrection and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ who is the Great God and our Savior, who gave himself on our behalf so that he could buy us from all lawlessness and so that he could cleanse for himself a people for a treasured possession who are passionate about doing good works.
To summarize this passage in one sentence: Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we live godly lives now while we await His second coming.
How do we apply this passage to our lives today? First, we meditate on the past. Meditation is more than just “reading your Bible.” Obviously, for you to meditate, you must read, or have it read to you. But meditation is more. Meditation is also more than just memorizing Scripture. This also has its place. But the Bible is not something you hide in your head, its something you hide in your heart. It is a humble submission to its contents and a love for the Author of Scripture. Loving the God of the Word and especially what God has done for your through Christ is the goal of Scripture meditation.
Second, we must live godly lives in this present age. As you meditate on Scripture, we must ever be ready to live it out in the present. This means, then, that we must analyze our culture: what are we doing and why? Are you conforming to the lusts of this world or are you denying them? This analysis is not to drag us into torment of conscience, but to live as a purified people in the middle of a crooked and perverse generation.
Third, we look for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing. That is, we anticipate the future return and reign of Christ. How can you apply this to your life? We should be ever mindful that this age and the stuff we see now is not forever. We know this, but do we live like it? We ought to hold on to the things of this life loosely, knowing that our true reward is in heaven. But at the same time, we are not to let go of everything and cloister ourselves away. We are to use what God has given us for his kingdom, investing and growing our stewardship till he returns.
Therefore Christian, based on what God has done for us, let us live in a manner worthy of our calling.