Pastor Scott Andrews | October 24, 2021
What is grace? It’s largely a Christian word, although it’s used in other ways. As a noun, she’s filled with grace and beauty; as a verb, she graced us with her presence; as a proper noun, you know, the name of a girl, or the name of a church – Grace Community Church. We’ve even invented new ways to use the word – we say grace before a meal, whatever that means.
But again, it’s largely a Christian concept. The word is used some 170 times in the Bible, with a variety of related nuances. So what, again, is grace? We sing of it – Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe, grace that is greater than all my sin. This is Amazing Grace. Your Grace is Enough.
Perhaps in this month of October, the Five Solas come to mind as they do for me: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, Scripture Alone, God’s Glory Alone. Perhaps you’ve heard the acronym for grace: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That’s pretty good – it means God extends His riches toward us through the work of His Son. But, does that cover the meaning of grace? Perhaps some of your favorite verses come to mind:
Acts 15:11 – But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus…
Ephesians 1:7-8 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.
Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Romans 3:21-24 – But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
From those and many similar verses, we arrive at the proper conclusion that God’s grace can be defined as His unmerited favor toward sinners, resulting in salvation to those who believe – who trust – who have faith in the finished work of Christ. They have no merit of their own, they simply receive God’s unearned grace through faith.
And that is true and right and good. Indeed, we are saved from our sin and just judgment and pending punishment by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as declared in Scripture alone, to God be the glory alone.
But, does that communicate the full nuance of the word, grace? Is that all we need it for – for salvation? Some think so. There was a big disagreement among evangelicals in the 1980s regarding the nature of salvation – that is, what is necessary to be a Christian. To be sure, no one was arguing that salvation was not by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death, burial and resurrection. But was that it? Is that all grace entails – believe and you can be saved – no matter how that grace-producing faith changes, or does not change your life.
Those on the two sides of the argument were these: those who held that grace acquired by simple faith in Jesus was all that was necessary for salvation – no repentance from sin, no confessing Jesus as Lord. This view was labeled easy-believism by its opponents. You see, those on the other side held that grace through faith in Jesus and His cross-work was necessary for salvation, as was repenting of your sin, and confessing Jesus as the Lord of your life. Their opponents called this Lordship Salvation, suggesting that its advocates were requiring works for salvation. It was all a bit challenging. Full books were written, sermons were preached – I preached some.
The Lordship Salvation folks were quick to point to Roman 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
Well, the easy-believism folks were just as quick to point out the righteousness mentioned there is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to the believer, and then point to Romans 10:13, “for whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.”
So, who was right? Some say, faith alone saves – and that’s true. Others say, but faith that saves is never alone – and that’s true. Well, I’ll let you decide, but maybe it goes back to, what is grace? Is it true that grace is only needed in salvation, and not for sanctification, that is, holy living – that proves the reality of saving faith? Is it possible to believe in Jesus and His work on the cross, as a fire escape from hell, but have no intention of life change? Of pursuing grace-empowered holiness? Not to produce salvation, but to prove salvation? Is there another nuance of grace we need to explore?
For example, you’ve perhaps heard the saying, “Preach the gospel to yourself every day.” Does that mean we need to be saved every day? Of course not. But what then does it mean? Well, we still sin, and we need to be reminded that God’s grace that saved us continues to sustain us by forgiving us when we sin. And that would be true. We remember the oft-quoted verse, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That verse is written not to non-Christians, but to Christians. We continue to confess, because we continue to sin – so, preach the gospel of God’s grace to yourself every day. Remind yourself of His past and present saving, forgiving grace.
But, is grace that saves only for that moment of salvation, and subsequent forgiveness? Does God’s grace do anything else? Here’s the question – is there another nuance, does God’s grace that we preach to ourselves every day also mature us, sanctify us, grow us? Or is it we do that on our own? Thanks for saving me, God, I’ll take it from here. Titus 2:11-14. Read that with me.
I knew when I started Titus we would arrive at these incredible and perhaps familiar verses. These verses contain the essence of the gospel: that is, the salvation and the sanctification the gospel of grace brings, causing us to live holy lives as we await the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.
This is all a bit confusing – until we remember, God saves us by grace through faith. God keeps us by grace through faith. And God sanctifies us by grace through faith – as we await the return of Christ. Don’t miss it – what that means is, God saves us by grace, but loves us too much to leave us in soul-damaging sin. He continues to pour out His grace to purify us – a people for His own possession – a people zealous for good works. It’s a most encouraging text.
You see, that passage we all know – Ephesians 2 – says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as result of works, so that no one may boast [goes on]. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” That text in Ephesians 1 – in Him we have redemption through His blood…according to the riches of His grace – actually started with “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him…” This is God’s intention in saving us by grace through faith.
Well, let’s look it. If we’re not careful, we miss the meaning of the text. I have. I often go it as a proof text for the deity of Jesus Christ – and it is that. But the fact that Jesus is returning – our great God and Savior – is motivation to live grace-empowered holy lives. Here’s the outline:
- God’s Grace for Salvation in Justification (11)
- God’s Grace for Salvation in Sanctification (12)
- God’s Grace for Salvation in Glorification (13-14)
You see, the Scripture speaks of salvation in past, present and future terms. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. We have been saved in the past by grace through faith in the Gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are being saved presently by grace through faith as we are transformed into a people for God’s own possession. And we will be saved in the future when Christ returns to get us – so we look for, long for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I was talking with Josh Hayes about this text last Friday. He’d taught it during their study of Titus last summer. He mentioned a sermon he listened to from a pastor in Houston. His points were along the lines of – Grace is with you in the courtroom, when you are declared righteous; grace is with you in the classroom when you are instructed in righteousness; and grace is with you in the waiting room as we await the return of Jesus Christ. That’s pretty good – I should have stolen it.
Now, we normally think of salvation only in past terms. When were you saved? When did you come to faith in Jesus? When were you born again? And that is all true – they are appropriate questions. We were saved when we were born again – when we were justified – that is, sins removed and declared righteous by the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. That’s what verse 11 says – For the grace of God has appeared (past tense), bringing salvation to all men. Let’s break that down.
This passage is often read during Christmas in the liturgical calendar, because it speaks of the first coming – the appearing – the epiphinea of Christ – at the incarnation. For the grace of God has appeared. That’s an interesting word – it was used Greek literature to speak of the appearance of a god or a hero to rescue people. Of course, verse 13 will tell us, it was the appearance of the God – in the person of Jesus. Jesus appeared, and in His first coming, He was bringing rescue – salvation. He did that through His incarnation – becoming the God-man – through His perfect, sinless life – and through is substitutionary death on a cross for sinners.
I know, most of us know this. I mean, this is church – this is what we talk about, right? But Jesus appeared to bring salvation. To live a perfect life to die, not for His own sins – He had none. Therefore, He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We could not pay for our own sins – we are not perfect sacrifices. We had no way out of our condition. We had no way to work for our salvation. We had no merit to bring. You see, that’s what grace is – getting what we do not deserve – what we could never deserve. We actually deserved the opposite. But by His death for us – substitutionary – dying in our place for our sins – by grace through faith, we can be saved. Justified. Sins removed, just as if I’d never sinned. Declared righteous, without earning – we didn’t, He did. There’s another great passage in Titus 3:
4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness [namely, because we have none], but according to His mercy…
7 [drop down to verse 7] so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
In chapter 2, we are saved by His grace – that is, getting what we don’t deserve. In chapter 3, we are saved according to His mercy – that is, not getting what we do deserve. Daniel Akin describes it this way:
“That the sovereign God of creation would reach down from heaven and rescue undeserving sinners from bondage and slavery to sin, from spiritual death and eternal separation from God in a place called hell, can only be described in one word: grace.”
Notice, the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation for all men. That clearly doesn’t mean that all people will be saved. No – a response of faith is still necessary to be saved. But there are no conditions – for all people, regardless or race, gender, age, nationality or ethnicity, class or social status – He made salvation possible for all kinds of people – no exceptions.
Which means, He came to make salvation available to you. I’ve been in this church in the Bible-belt South for a long time. I’m in my 25th year, which means I was around when some of you were born. When some of you were toddlers or preschool or elementary or high school age. You’ve grown up in this church. But one thing the last few years has taught me is that is meaningless if you are not saved. Your coming to this church because your parents brought you your whole life – your attending this church for the last ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty years – is meaningless if you are not saved.
It’s one of the biggest challenges we face in the South. Some of you cannot remember not believing in Jesus. And you think yourself, then, just fine. Can I remind you, God has no grandchildren. You are not a Christian because your parents are, because you’ve come through our children’s, youth and college programs. One thing I’ve seen happening far too often – recently – is children growing up in this church and walking away. The truth is, some of you need to be saved. Grace appeared in the person of Jesus to bring you salvation. Some of you need to receive grace by faith and stop fooling yourself.
You say, I prayed a prayer one day – so I’m good. But you’ve never experienced God’s grace for sanctification. In other words, you may have prayed a prayer, but you’re not saved. You’ve never grown since the day you walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, signed a card. You just went through the expected motions, and you’re still dead in trespasses and sin. Jesus came to save you – to give His life as a ransom for you. If you will confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised from the dead, you can be saved. Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Which will then bring you to the second room – the classroom. You will go from having been saved, to being saved – from justification to sanctification. And they are inseparable. You see, if there is no growth in Christlikeness, you were stillborn.
For the grace of God has appeared – that’s the subject of the sentence. Verse 12, the grace of God, then is instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly passions and to live differently. If there is no difference in the way you live – if you are still pursuing ungodliness and worldly desires, then you have not experienced the grace of God. Ungodliness is just that – it is ungodly – godless – thoughts and actions. Don’t think yourself ok because you prayed a prayer. Jesus must be both Savior and Lord.
By the way, the word instructing is different from the normal word teaching. It’s the word from which we get our pedagogy, and speaks of strict instruction, training, encouragement, admonition, correction, and discipline. That’s what the grace of God does, you see. Yes, God’s grace saved you, but the work of grace is not finished. It goes on to instruct, train, correct and discipline us for the purpose of godliness. That is, to say no to ungodliness and worldly desires. Worldly desires are what this world pursues, especially as it relates to sensual desires. We are living in a world of unmitigated sexual desire and sin. The grace of God instructs us to say no.
You see, the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ is teaching us to grow in Christ-likeness and say no to sinful, worldly desires. Before you were saved, you had no power in yourself to say no to sin. But now, if you are a follower of Jesus, you can say no to sin. In Romans 6, Paul said it this way:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,
13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Do you see – sin is no longer your master. You’ve died to sin – you have a new master. You are no longer under law and the slave master of sin, you are under grace. The point is, grace changes the way you live. Notice in verse 12, to deny ungodliness and to live sensibly – there’s that word again – to live in grace-empowered, Spirit-filled self-control – to live righteously – that’s toward others – and godly – that’s toward God – in the present age. Do you see – you’ve received a new nature by grace – now pursue what that new nature should – to be like Jesus. And you can do it – you have the grace of God which is saving you.
Which brings us to the third room, if you will – the waiting room – in verses 13 and 14. We were saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. We have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified. When? When Jesus returns, and it is for His return the Christian longs. I’ve asked you this question before, but when is the last time you looked and longed for the return of Jesus? Most of us like our lives just fine – so we don’t look toward the sky. I want you to come back Jesus, just not yet.
From the earliest days of church history, verse 13 has been an important verse declaring the deity of Jesus Christ. Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. The construction of the sentence is such that God and Savior both refer to one person – Jesus. He is both our God and our Savior. Having been saved in the past through justification, being saved in the present through sanctification, we are also looking to be saved in the future through the return of Christ. We look for it – we long for it. John said it this way in I John 3:
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
It’s the same truth – we are looking for the return of Christ, and with our hope fixed on Him, we pursue purity. Having mentioned our great God and Savior, Paul reminds us of the gospel in verse 14 – “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
Jesus gave Himself – He came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many. He did so to redeem us – the word speaks of buying us, paying a ransom – with His own blood – purchasing us from the slave market of sin – notice, to redeem us from every lawless deed. Lawless deeds speak of everything that violates the law of God. And to purify for Himself a people for His own possession. I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
So that you may proclaim His excellencies. You see, that’s part of the good works we are zealous to do, that were prepared in advance for us to do – to proclaim Jesus to others as our great God and Savior – who has saved us, brought us to life, and is purifying us. And you, too, can become part of His people – a people for God’s own possession – by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Let me close with this – this text surrounds us with the first and second coming of Christ. In the first coming, He brought salvation to us by His grace. In His second coming, we look forward to His coming in full glory – for all to see – to vindicate our faith. We need not look forward to His return with dread, but with glorious, expectant hope – when all will be made right, and Jesus will receive the reward of His work on the cross – a people for His own possession, to bring Him glory for His unspeakable grace. Charles Spurgeon said it this way:
“we are compassed about, behind and before, with the appearings of our Lord. Behind us is our trust; before us is our hope. Behind us is the Son of God in humiliation; before us is the great God and Saviour in His glory.” And so we long to hear these words of Jesus, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.