Last Monday we studied Titus 2:11, which introduces a passage that I’ve found particularly meaningful in this era when so many professing Christians understand grace as license to indulge in sinful behavior. In today’s study of verse 12, however, we will discover that the grace of God functions quite differently.
Before diving into verse 12, let’s again look at the immediate context in order to grasp the general flow of thought.
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)
And you thought I wrote complex sentences!
Anyway, we see by verse 11 that the grace of God is the subject of this sentence, making it clear that grace actually does something. Accordingly, Paul notes that the grace of God trains us. The Greek word here translated “training” means to discipline, as in bringing up a child by educating him toward spiritual and moral discipline. Hebrews 12:5-10 supplements this idea by depicting God the Father as disciplining His children in order that they bear the fruit of righteousness.
Puritan commentator John Gill makes the interesting observation that, since only believers receive God’s discipline, verse 11 certainly can’t mean that every person is a recipient of God’s grace. Again, cross-reference to Hebrews 12:5-8, which insists that God’s discipline indicates His acceptance of us as His children. I stress this point to remind you to interpret verse 11 by it’s context. Verse 11, in context, does not teach that Christ died for each individual. His grace trains Christians exclusively.
Grace disciplines us to reject ungodliness and worldly passions. Keep in mind that Titus lived in Crete, an area famous for its culture of self-indulgence. Therefore Paul wanted Titus to develop Christians who would differentiate themselves from unbelievers. 1 John 2:15-17 delineates the nature of worldly passions.
In contrast to ungodliness and worldly passions, grace instructs Christians to live in ways that honor the Lord.
Self-control, as we’ve noticed in several verses throughout this epistle, indicates the ability to restrain our desires. The Cretans, much like Westerners in today’s culture, weren’t known for controlling themselves, so Christians needed to model that quality. In our present-day society, we have even more responsibility to exercise self-control.
The word translated “upright” in the ESV means that Christians bear a responsibility to minister to others in righteousness, treating everyone justly. Albert Barnes says that it
…refers to the proper performance of our duties to our fellow-men; and it means that religion teaches us to perform those duties with fidelity, according to all our relations in life; to all our promises and contracts; to our fellow-citizens and neighbors; to the poor, and needy, and ignorant, and oppressed; and to all those who are providentially placed in our way who need our kind offices. Justice to them would lead us to act as we would wish that they would towards us.
Finally, the grace of God trains us to live in godliness, meaning that it disciplines us toward pleasing the Lord rather than living according to our selfish pleasures. Once more, Paul emphasizes that Christians must distinguish themselves from everyone else. However, true godliness emanates from an inner conviction that we belong to the Lord; a mere outward show is nothing more than hypocrisy.
This self-control, uprightness and godliness must be lived out in this present age. As we will see in verse 13, living this way helps us wait for Christ’s return. So please come back next Monday for a discussion of Christ’s return and what sort of people He will redeem upon that return.