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
For some people, the message of repentance seems to run at odds with the message of grace. But today’s passage reveals that a full understanding of grace goes hand-in-hand with the need for ongoing repentance.
How would you explain God’s grace?
In my experience speaking to many Christians in various places for more than twenty years, most Christians would affirm what Paul says about the grace of God in the beginning of Titus 2:11, “The grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to all people.” Praise God! I do not want to take for granted this essential truth of God’s grace. For centuries prior to the Reformation, most Western Christians lived unaware of this precious fact, that God’s grace is a “saving grace.”
But if we continue reading the verse, we learn more about the grace of God, and this is where modern thought and the Scriptures sometimes part ways: “The grace of God appeared...training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Here, the apostle Paul teaches us that God’s grace is a “training grace” and not just a “saving grace.”
Let’s contemplate the idea of training. What does training represent? Training entails hard work, practice, discipline, coaching, strengthening, endurance, doing something you don’t always want to do, failing sometimes but trying over and over again until you gain more and more consistent success. All of these ideas apply to our walk with God. Does all of this sound like grace to you? If it does not, then you have a partial understanding of God’s grace, which may also negatively impact your life in some ways.
What is the aim of God’s “training grace?” Holy living. We undergo a continuous process of repenting of sin (“renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions”) and aspiring to obey God’s commands in every way (“live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives”).
If we only think of God’s grace through the lens of “saving grace,” then we can develop a lopsided perspective of God and ourselves. This partial understanding of grace can wrongly lead us to think that God is neutral or even permissive when it comes to the sin in our lives. We can mistakenly assume that it's okay to just "be ourselves” and not try too hard to seek God and live for His glory.
“Training grace” brings biblical balance and sharpens our outlook on God and our own lives. “Training grace” reveals that God is just as committed to our spiritual development as He is to our eternal life. He wants to rid our lives of sin just as much as He wants to forgive us of sin. “Training grace” draws us into a place of accountability and responsibility. We can’t just live however we feel like it; that’s not the attitude of someone who is in training.
The full picture of God’s grace is seen in Jesus Himself. Here’s another good test to measure your comprehension of God's grace. How would you succinctly describe what Jesus came to earth to do? Paul tells us in the next verses that Jesus did not come just to save us from our sins but “to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14). The grace of Jesus Christ rescues us from being a people who live for self and trains us to become a people who repent of our sins and live wholeheartedly for God. And this is all a gift of God’s wonder-working grace.
Father, retrain our minds even now if we have misunderstood You and Your grace. Pull our hearts back from any wayward paths. Do it on the basis of Jesus’ redeeming work for us. Don’t leave us where we are. Transform us by the power of Your Spirit at work in us, and give us the willingness to work in conjunction with You. We want to be people who are zealously living for You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Chuck Hetzler, PhD
Director, Christian Union Day and Night
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