Perspectives In Titus: When “All” Doesn’t Mean “Each And Every”

Titus 2 v 11

My summer break from writing Bible Studies has drawn to a close, and I’m happy to be getting back to work. Before I get started, through, let me briefly remind you that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching men. Therefore, unless you’re my husband or an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth providing spiritual oversight, I respectfully ask gentlemen not to read these studies.

Now ladies, I hope you’ve reviewed the studies we’ve done in Titus so far. You’ll recall that the apostle Paul had left Titus in Crete to organize the churches there. The Christians in Crete struggled against two forces: the self-indulgent culture and false teachers who tried to impose Jewish legalism on Gentile converts. To counteract these forces, Paul wanted Titus to appoint elders of high moral character who could effectively silence false teachers by both their behavior and their mastery of sound doctrine.

Paul then told Titus how to instruct various groups within the churches. Each group, while bearing similar responsibilities to each other and to elders, had a specific emphasis which helped them live in contrast to the Cretan culture. Thus their lifestyle would be consistent with the Gospel.

Today we transition into a passage that articulates the purpose of the Gospel and the impact of God’s grace. We’ll only make it through verse 11, but let’s look at the whole passage to get some context.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 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)

Verse 11 equates the Gospel with God’s grace, so I want to say just a little bit about what grace is. Grace refers to God’s favor, particularly in terms of redemption. According to John MacArthur, Jesus Christ Himself embodies God’s grace (see John 1:14). We need this grace because of our corrupted human nature as a result of the Fall.

Paul’s phrase, “has appeared,” carries the idea of shining forth, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. They use Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:79 as substantiation. The imagery of light shining in the darkness fits well here, since Paul’s main theme revolves around the importance of Titus training Christians to shine in contrast to the moral darkness of the Cretan culture.

Moreover, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that this grace had been hidden before the advent of Christ (Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:10). Like MacArthur, they point out that Jesus Himself bears this grace as “he Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Commentator John Gill writes that Paul simply meant that God’s grace appeared through the Gospel.

Grace alone brings salvation. Notice that salvation doesn’t come from human obedience, as the Judaizers that had infiltrated the churches of Crete claimed, but from grace (Ephesians 2:8). Paul emphasizes that the “doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) always directs us away from ourselves and to the Lord.

Many Christians use the phrase “bringing salvation to all people” as a proof-text refuting Limited Atonement. However, if we look back at verses 1-10, and forward to verse 14, we readily see a) that Paul has just been writing instructions to various people groups within the church and b) that God redeems a distinct people for Himself.

Both Thayer’s Greek Dictionary and The Complete Word Study Dictionary contend that, although the Greek word translated here as “men” can refer to individual men when used with certain modifiers, its primary definition denotes mankind in general. Again, then, we see the idea that God’s grace is not restricted to any one race or social class (Galatians 3:28).

Those who insist that the Lord’s death atones for every individual acknowledge that some people die without appropriating His grace. Of course, I can’t chase that rabbit today, but I hope I’ve demonstrated that Titus 2:11 doesn’t substantiate their belief. As we continue studying this passage next Monday, we’ll see that Paul’s thrust isn’t really about the scope of grace but about the practical impact of grace. Please join me then.

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