The Grace That Brings Salvation – T. J. Bolen

Grace is an all-encompassing idea to help folks understand that God is the origin of salvation and has provided the means by which one remains in a proper relationship with Him. Grace is without question one of the most familiar words from the Scriptures. Grace is the most common translation of the Greek word charis. This term is found 154 times in the New Testament—100 of which occur in Paul’s letters. It is also translated as: favor, credit, and thankfulness (NASB). Grace is commonly defined as “unmerited favor.” While this definition is certainly accurate, it is only one possible use of this term.

In Luke 1:30, Mary the mother of Jesus was said to have found “favor with God.” Jesus grew in “favor with God and men” (Luke 6:52). In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he teaches the church that God credits the followers of Jesus with righteousness even though they, of their own accord, are unrighteous. Therefore, righteousness is not earned. It is granted to Christians by God. In demonstrating this point, Paul taught that Abraham, even as faithful of a man as he was, did not earn his righteousness. On this matter, Romans 4:16 reads, “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Abraham is a spiritual ancestor to Christians. Christians must trust in God just as Abraham did. This fact, Paul states, is according to grace. In this verse, the familiar concept of grace as something given by God can be seen.

Another use of charis is found in Colossians 3:16 where Christians are commanded to sing with “thankfulness in our hearts.” From these passages it can be said grace is: something to possess, something to grow in, given by God, and the source of thankfulness.

In addition to the ideas above, and all the others one could extract from the study of this term in the New Testament, one must also know that grace is a need for all of humanity. Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” From this verse and the three which follow, Paul informs Titus on a number of important facts regarding grace.

The first fact is that grace “has appeared.” Jesus had already “appeared” on earth and His teachings could certainly be described by what is written in Titus 2:12-14. However, Paul spoke to Titus of another item in 3:4 which had “appeared.” In this verse, he said the kindness of God had “appeared.” Even though it sounds plausible, Paul does not seem to be using the term “grace” in Titus 2:11 metaphorically for Jesus. When Paul wants to speak of the Savior he identifies Jesus in some way by a familiar name or title as seen in 2:13.

Second, knowing that grace “has appeared,” the reader is told that it was “bringing salvation to all men.” In this “appearance,” grace has made it possible for anyone to be saved. No one is excluded if he or she is willing to live by the standards of grace. This is a welcomed message for all of humanity. It is easy to see why this message would have been an especially welcomed message for the people of Crete. Paul quoted and agreed with a Cretan poet who said “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12-13). The grace provided through Christ will bring anyone near to God regardless of how far they may find themselves.

Although no one can earn salvation or provide grace for themselves, obedience is required to benefit from all which God has made available. Inherent to obedience is action. There are works which must be done. Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches that people are saved by grace—not because of works—but because it is a gift. However, a gift must be opened to be of any benefit. The text in Ephesians also says that Christians are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Created here is not speaking of human life. It is in reference to the beginning of the Christian life. It is clear from the Scriptures that people must do something in order to receive and keep the blessing of grace.

Returning to Titus 2, Paul told Titus in verses 12-14 what he needed to preach regarding the grace that appeared. Summing up these verses, Paul says that Christians are waiting for the return of Christ, the one who purified them, while being zealous for good deeds. Grace is not something merely given just to be given. It is a “cause” and the Christian life is the “effect.” Considering some thoughts on the apostle Paul and a few items mentioned in the text of Titus, one can form some ideas on the “effects” of grace in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Christians know, or at least should know, what it means to be beneficiaries of grace. The church has been tasked with spreading the gospel. Since grace has been made available to all men and not just to the church, the church is required to make the message by which people can have grace known. This fact is an often overlooked requirement for many in the Kingdom of Christ. Because of grace, the church must share the message that brings grace.

Paul displays in his writings the hope and the continued obedience Christians ought to have in waiting for the return of Christ as well as the longing to be with Christ. In Titus 2:13, he writes, because of grace, they were “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The Christian’s hope is one of the “effects” of grace.

In Paul’s letter to Titus, “good deeds” were to be the result of Titus’ teaching. It could also be said that good deeds were a result of grace in the life of the redeemed. Those to whom Titus preached were to be ready for (3:1) and engaged in (3:8, 14) good deeds. Beneficiaries of grace desire to do good deeds knowing that they were not saved “on the basis of their good deeds” (3:5). Titus was told to be an example of good deeds (2:7). For those who did not care for the grace of God, their deeds made their motives obvious (1:16).

Grace itself was a teacher as seen from 2:12, “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The life lived by an individual following the commands in this verse is in great opposition to that of the typical Cretan found in 1:12. This fact is one of the fundamental ideas required in being the people God would have Christians to be since Christians are to be very distinct from the world in beliefs, morals, and conduct.

Grace is not a light subject when considering its far reaching consequences. It has a place in all things Christian. John Justin, a preacher once known and respected by this writer who has since gone to be with the Lord, truly understood grace. During one of his classes, he told of a time when he was instructed not to preach on grace. To prepare for his sermon after receiving those instructions, he wrote GRACE in large capital letters in the upper left corner of a chalkboard and proceeded to fill the board with various biblical terms in smaller letters until the board was full. After he got up to preach the sermon, he erased GRACE and informed the congregation he had been instructed to not preach on grace. Following that announcement, he erased the rest of the board and sat down. Such was the entirety of his sermon that morning.

Yes, grace is unmerited favor from God for man. However, a closer look at the New Testament shows just how much is involved in that favor. It is a heaping of continual blessings for those united in Christ. May Christians constantly be mindful of the blessings they have because of grace as well as the works they are to be doing because of grace. May they also especially be mindful of those who do not have grace. God did not give grace for those who are Christians already. He gave “the grace of God” that “has appeared bringing salvation to all men.”

teejaybolen@gmail.com

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