As Christians we recognize our salvation is entirely of God from the beginning to the end (Jon. 2:9). We all affirm that salvation “is the gift of God, not by works” (Eph. 2:8–9). It is the outworking of God’s grace and not the outworking of our good deeds. Nevertheless, we recognize the importance and necessity of good deeds. These are the good deeds we’ve been created in Christ to do (Eph. 2:10b); the good deeds God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10c), and the good deeds God works in us to “will and to act” (Phil. 2:13). Another way to say this is to say that these good deeds are the result of God’s grace as much as our salvation is.

Here’s a few comments on a passage that combines and attributes both our salvation and the good deeds we do to the grace of God. This is from the New Bible Commentary and Dictionary collection—two great reference products from InterVarsity Press – UK.

Titus 2:11–14

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the 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 wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Grace as a Teacher

It is characteristic of Paul to switch to a theological note when dealing with behaviour, since doctrinal considerations are never far away in his discussions. Here he uses the term the grace of God to sum up all God’s actions on our behalf. In a concise statement Paul draws attention both to the incarnation and to the atonement and links them to the second coming. The appearing of salvation points to the first coming of Jesus, but in what sense must to all men be taken? Does Paul mean that everyone is saved? If the appearing is regarded as a historic fact, it is certainly true that the coming of Jesus has had a universal significance. The probable meaning is that God in his grace has made possible the offer of salvation to all people.

But the scope of God’s grace is not the main thrust, which is that Christian behaviour issues from the grace of God. Hence the force of v 12. The restraint of ungodliness is a major purpose of God’s grace. Indeed it is impossible to live in a self-controlled manner apart from God’s grace. Self-control cannot be achieved merely from self-effort. This at once distinguishes Christian ethics from Stoicism which exalted self-determination.

Excerpt on Grace:

The believer’s position in grace is explained, not by anything in himself, but by the will of God. The doctrine of election has two functions: it checks human independence and self-righteousness, and shows that in bestowing favour God is perfectly free (Eph. 1:1–6; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 3:5). Every step in the process of the Christian life is due to grace—Gal. 1:15 (call); 2 Tim. 2:25 (repentance); Eph. 2:8–9 (faith).

New Bible Dictionary

In this passage Paul connects the present with the past and future. The present task is seen in v 12—the demand for godly living in this age. But in v 13 the focus falls on the future. The blessed hope and the glorious appearing are clearly not yet, although they have a specific impact on the present. Paul shows a nice balance between Christians’ glorious future expectations and their present responsibilities. The expectation of the return of Christ is basic to Paul’s doctrine about the future.

It is significant here that Paul speaks of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, for the linking of God and Jesus Christ in the same expression suggests that Paul is convinced of the deity of Jesus, a thought which is in harmony with the most probable understanding of Rom. 9:5. Some separate God from and Saviour, but this is not the obvious meaning of the Greek text. Another possibility is to take ‘Jesus Christ’ as an explanation of the ‘glory’, in which case God and Jesus would not be so clearly identified. But it is more natural to link ‘Saviour’ with Jesus in view of the subsequent statement.

Excerpt on Glory:

The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is still to be seen and reflected by the church (2 Cor. 4:3–6). It is the glory of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:7–11), and it is especially shared both now (1 Pet. 4:14) and hereafter (Rom. 8:18) by those who suffer with Christ. The object of the church is to see that the world acknowledges the glory which is God’s (Rom. 15:9) and is shown in his deeds (Acts 4:21), in his disciples (1 Cor. 6:20) and above all in his Son, the Lord of glory (Rom. 16:27).

New Bible Dictionary

In v 14 Paul looks to the past, to the historic act of redemption which forms the basis of the Christian position. He comes to this when reflecting on what Christ has already done for us. In 1 Tim. 2:6 Paul mentioned that Christ gave himself as a ‘ransom’, and here he follows up a similar idea, using the verb derived from the noun. Redemption is a favourite theme of the apostle. It conveys the idea of deliverance from slavery, in this case summed up as all wickedness. Paul sees the work of Christ as doing something for us which we could not do for ourselves.

Excerpt on Redemption:

Redemption means deliverance from some evil by payment of a price. It is more than simple deliverance. Thus prisoners of war might be released on payment of a price which was called a ‘ransom’ (Gk. lytron). The word-group based on lytron was formed specifically to convey this idea of release on payment of ransom. In this circle of ideas Christ’s death may be regarded as ‘a ransom for many’ (Mk. 10:45).

New Bible Dictionary

Deliverance is from sin in the fullest sense. But for Paul deliverance is double-sided; not only from sin but to a life of purity. The metaphor of cleansing is another favourite device of Paul for explaining the work of Christ. The Christian is a cleansed person (see Eph. 5:25–26). The idea of the people of God as a very special possession for Jesus Christ is vividly brought out here. For a similar expression see Ex 19:5. The Christian objective to do what is good is strongly motivated by the thought that it is essentially because we belong to Jesus Christ in a special way.

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