Frequently, when one thinks of the word “Grace,” the mind strays to matters of forgiveness and the mercy of God towards the penitent believer.
But while God is indeed a loving, merciful God, swift to forgive those who find grace in His divine sight, grace is far more than mere mercy. Consider the words of the apostle Paul to the preacher, Titus.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)
It was by the Grace of God that salvation came to all men in the form of Christ. While we were still sinners Christ died for the ungodly; it was not that we deserved His great sacrifice, but God so loved us that He acted on our behalf anyway. (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8) But the salvation of Christ is not universal. It requires both faith and obedience (cf. Matthew 7:13-14, 21). The grace of God therefore went beyond sending Christ to be our sacrifice. God in His great mercy has also taught us what the proper response to Christ is.
Thus do the Scriptures also teach that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, for it is the Gospel which teaches us about Christ, and, just as importantly, what we should do about what Christ has done. (cf. Romans 1:16) Salvation will be given to those who obey the Gospel (cf. Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17), not to those who simply hear it but do nothing about it.
Which brings us back to the words of Paul to Titus: “The grace of God … has appeared … teaching us …”
What does it teach us?
Paul’s summary is that God’s grace firstly teaches us to repent, that is, to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts.” This was the message Christ preached while on earth, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) And, “If you will not repent, you will surely perish.” (Luke 13:3) The apostles likewise preached a message of repentance and salvation.
When the Jews asked in Acts 2:37 what they needed to do in response to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, Peter said verse 38, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” When we repent, and are then baptized into the remission of sins, we have died to our old sinful self, and we rise from the water to walk in newness of life with Christ. (cf. Romans 6:1-4).
Which brings us to the second thing the grace of God teaches us: “That we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” To refuse to walk in righteousness is to deny the grace of God as surely as those who deny the sacrifice of sin, for it is God’s grace which so teaches us to live.
And, we should note, God has not left us without careful instruction on how to behave righteously. Most of the New Testament is caught up in this very point. As Paul says elsewhere, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Finally, the grace of God teaches us about a life to come. It instructs us to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. There is more to life than the life of this world. Jesus came to give us life past this life, a place in God’s eternal home (cf. John 14:1-4). With such an anchor of hope, the grace of God gives us the information necessary to properly weather every trial and tribulation, knowing that the present condition is but momentary, and that those who are found in Christ shall be caught up with Christ in the last day.
Truly, God’s grace blesses us beyond measure. At the church of Christ, we invite you to partake of the Grace with us as we study and worship at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.