The Training Ground of Grace
PAUL WRITES, “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.”
How does God’s grace teach us to say “no” to ungodliness and cause us to be “zealous for good works?”
Often we think of grace as a concept. The traditional definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” We think of Ephesians 2:8-9 that wonderfully reminds us that we are made right with God not by our works, but by God’s grace. None of us deserve his forgiveness and none of us can earn it. It is freely given. That is grace!
And yet, what I notice in this passage is that grace moves from a concept to a person. A key word in this passage is “appear.” This passage begins by saying, “For the grace of God has appeared.” What has “appeared?” It is not a concept that has “appeared.” A person has “appeared.” This person who has “appeared” is later identified as “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us.”
So that is one way God’s grace “trains us.” When we look back at the appearing of Jesus who came and died for our sins, it trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.” Out of love for us, Jesus bore our sin on the cross. Those acts of “ungodliness and worldly passions” are the very things that nailed Jesus to the cross. So this trains me to say no to ungodliness.
I think of my relationship with Bonnie, my wife. Conceptually, she is my wife and I want to be a good husband to her. But I am not motivated to love her because of a concept of marriage. Rather, I want to love her because of my relationship with her. I hurt when she hurts. I rejoice when she rejoices. So it is with this grace that has appeared. So it is with Jesus.
The second mention of the word “appear” has to do with a future “appearing.” It says that we “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope.” What is our blessed hope? Again, it is not a concept, like heaven. Rather, it is a person. Or, as Paul puts it, it is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Someday we will see him and when that happens, John tells us in 1 John 3:1-3 that we will be like him. But then, John adds this thought. “Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
So this is how grace trains us. It points us to a person, Jesus Christ. He appeared and took upon himself the penalty for our sin. So why would I want to continue in sin? And someday, at his appearing, we will see him again. This very truth “purifies us.”
So when you think of “grace,” don’t just think of a concept. Think of Jesus. This is how grace trains us.
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