Saving Grace Must Purify
Here is the key passage of Paul’s letter to Titus which sums up what the letter is about: The inextricable link between faith and works, profession and life, God’s saving us and our growing in grace. It is true that we are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves us is never alone. Upon regeneration we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who goes about remolding and reshaping us after the image of the Son. When speaking of the one who claims to have faith but has no works, James asks, “Can that faith save him?” The answer is, “No, it can’t” (2:14-26). Paul expresses the same here.
“For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people,” not that every man, woman, and child will be saved, but that salvation is now available to Jew and Gentile alike. And what does this grace of God do for us when we have been reborn of the Spirit? Does it leave us where we are? Is the purpose of saving grace to grant us a ticket to heaven that we may no longer worry about the afterlife? And how many in our world even worry over that? No! This grace of God “[trains] us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” The purpose of grace is to change us from the inside out that we may live godly lives.
It is important that we notice that we are to renounce worldly passions. It is in the excess of passion (evil desires, cravings, lusts) that makes our world so much like the ancient—sex, food, drink, anger, wealth, ugly speech—the complete lack of personal inhibitions and social norms that guided previous generations. The purpose of grace is to enable us to both renounce and live apart from such habits, to exercise self-control, which is sorely lacking in our day. Indeed, it is evidence that grace is at work in one’s life when he has his appetites bridled and his passions under control. He is even-tempered, gracious in manner and speech, generous and content.
And truly, such self-control and other fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) are animated by “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Seeing our Lord, meeting him in the air—the one who gave himself for us—this is our consuming passion. And why did he give himself: “To redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Preach this, preacher. Rebuke and exhort along these lines. Tell them that he saved them to purify them and warn them that he’s coming again.