The Grace of God
by T. Austin-Sparks

Reading: Titus 2.

We will consider the letter of Paul to Titus. I take the first part of the last verse of Titus 2 in order to throw back to what has just been said: "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority". These things, speak, exhort, reprove, with all authority.

And so we look to see what "these things" are; and we go back to verse 11: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works."

Three things in that paragraph: the gift of grace; the goal of grace; the method of grace. "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men." And you have to link with the first statement, the last: "that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works". Why did the grace of God appear unto all men, bringing salvation? Not just that they should be saved, and then rest upon the fact that they are saved people, and nothing more matters; but that He might redeem unto Himself a people for His own possession. Something more than their possessing salvation through grace.

The goal of grace is that He should have a people for His own possession. The kind of people for His own possession are here defined. We will not dwell upon the characteristics and features of that people. You see the various words and statements on both sides: the negative side - "from... from..." the various things that are said, from which this people for His own possession are to be redeemed, and the things which they are to deny. That is the negative side, but it is very positive as a negative statement - something which must be; it must be. Grace demands character! Character is what God must have for His own possession; it is a kind of people.

Perhaps one of the great needs of our time is to recover the greatness of the cost of grace. Grace has been made a little too cheap. It is the greatest word in our vocabulary, but it has become one of the cheapest words, one of the words most easily used because it is the common and all-inclusive word of the Christian vocabulary - but, oh what grace has cost! And therefore what really does lie behind our being redeemed, and our being a people for God's own possession. You will not misunderstand the use of the word, but I think that this passage suggests that this people should be a spiritual 'aristocracy' (that word can be used, of course, in a very wrong sense), but it means a people of high character, of high dignity, who have looked at these things mentioned, on the one side and said: "No, no more of that. I have done with that; it belongs to a low level of life." They have looked on the other side, and said: "Now, this is the standard which God has set and that is my standard, by the grace of God." You see because the grace of God is not only that favour of God which is unmerited, it is a demand, it is a call, it is an energy, it is something by which we are able to rise to a very high level of spiritual character - a people for His own possession. Grace has come, but grace by its costliness makes very great demands. And the end is this: "Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity - redeemed from all iniquity - and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession, zealous of good works." The gift of grace! The object of grace!

What is the way or the method of grace? It is in this one word at the beginning of verse 12. In the Authorised version the word is "teaching us" to the intent that.... In the Revised Version it is "instructing us...". Perhaps you wonder what the difference is between 'teaching' and 'instructing'. Well, there is a difference, for the revisers were seeking a word which would convey a little more than the word 'teaching'. You look back to Titus 1:11 and you have it like this: "Whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake". Now that word 'teaching' is an altogether different Greek word from the one in Titus 2:11. The first word in chapter 1 means what we mean by teaching: telling people things. But this word here in Titus 2:12 is another word altogether, and it is the same word as is translated three times in Hebrews 12: "whom the Lord loves He chastens. It is for chastening that ye endure... they indeed chastened us as seemed good to them, but He for our profit". That word 'chastening' and 'chastens' is the same Greek word as is here interpreted or translated as 'instructing' us.

Now, everybody can see the difference between 'teaching', that is, telling people things, and 'chastening' them. Chastening is something very much more active. So here the method of grace is 'instructing', 'chastening', 'child-training' us - 'child-training' us to the intent. Now, you see, grace leads us into trouble. Or, grace leads us into discipline. Grace brings us into a difficult school. It is grace! But what a different idea of grace!

We can have the wrong idea that grace is grace, and you receive the gift of grace, and everything is alright, and you never need worry about anything any more, and you are just going to heaven, and everything is going to be beautiful - it is all of grace! And in grace, we have everything, and we need not give another thought to it at all! But here it says that grace has come to discipline us, to bring us into a school, the school of grace, a hard school, into this discipline in this child-training, this chastening. And we often think this is anything but the grace of God, and we mean the 'graciousness of God'! We have got to adjust ourselves and get our minds changed about this. It is just as much Divine grace towards us to perfect us, as it is to begin the work of salvation. It is just as much a part of the grace of God not to let us off when we are wrong - but to bring us up short, and if needs be to do it very strongly, and seemingly unkindly. It is just as much a matter of Divine grace to do that as it is to bring us into salvation.

It is grace after all. You and I do have to learn this lesson because for young Christians, when things begin to get a bit difficult, and the early blossom on the tree of the beginning of the Christian life when that begins to be torn off by rough winds, and there is nothing but apparent nakedness left, and it all seems to have lost its glamour, this Christian life, and they pass into difficult times, the temptation is to think that this is not the grace of God; this cannot be grace. And the devil will tell you that you have fallen from grace - not at all!

Do believe it, young Christian, when the times become difficult in your Christian life, it is all of grace that it should be so. No one wants to be weak, flabby and sickly as a Christian; one who cannot stand up to anything at all; one who must have everything nice and comfortable in order to go on being a Christian. Well, if you looked at others like that, you would not admire them at all; you would not think that that was much good after all. That is how we look at other people. But let us remind ourselves that God's grace is at work to make us able to stand up and be strong, to go through, and it is grace; and this can only be learned in a hard school. And people whom God wants for His own possession are people like that, who really can stand their ground in adversity, who really can hold on when there is a tremendous shaking about; who can show grace in their own lives when everything is ungracious around them.

The Lord wants two things in the Christian life, two things which He has written so visibly in creation and yet which two things it is so difficult to combine in human character. They are perfectly combined in the Lord Jesus, and conformity to His image will be conformity to Him in these two respects - beauty and strength; strength and beauty! "Strength and beauty are in His temple" (Ps. 96:6). Study the temple again, and see. Strength - massive pillars; mighty foundations; strong walls. But look at the beauty, the carvings, the fruit, everything. Strength and beauty: look at it in creation in the massive mountains, the very embodiment of strength; and nestling at its foot, the beautiful wild flowers so tiny and yet so superb and wonderful. Strength and beauty in combination throughout all creation. God has said this is His mind. And grace can make that combination; but it takes a lot of grace for us to be strong and yet to be beautiful. And some people are inclined to be too strong, and there is not the beauty and the loveliness, the kindness, the gentleness and the graciousness. On the other hand, some people are all for the artistic and that other side; and as I used the word just now, there is flabbiness about them; they are not strong. No, there must be a combination of these things in a people for His own possession.

So here, instructing, or teaching, you see, is the School of Grace. The Headmaster of the School of the Christian Life is one who is full of sympathy on the one side, but full of sternness on the other, as occasion requires, but there is perfect balance in Him; and His Name is Grace! Don't think of grace as something that is only soft. Grace can be very stern. But do not think of grace as always and only making exacting demands. Grace is full of sympathy.

Think, then, on these things. I have curtailed them very considerably, but here they are. "These things speak...". The word is "talk about"; "Talk about these things, and exhort...". "Come along now, come along...". Exhort... "Look here, I know you are having a bad time and you are inclined to think the Lord is against you, and this is not what you were led to expect, or led yourself to expect in the Christian life. But, come along, the Lord is only after something stronger, something deeper. You can never have the fruit until the blossom has gone. And it takes terrible winds in order to get rid of the blossom, in order to bring on the fruit. Come on now!" That is 'exhorting'.

"These things speak, exhort, reprove". Oh, is that a right word to use in the same sentence as the word 'grace'? Reprove? With all authority? Yes, it is all grace. The Holy Spirit is like this, because He is called the Spirit of Grace. He can be stern with all His sympathy. He can be full of sympathy and yet be quite stern. He has, after all, when we think about it, some difficult children to deal with, and what difficult children we are! But grace, in the combination of sympathy and strength will make us a people for His own possession.

Edited and supplied by the Golden Candlestick Trust.



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