Grace for All

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Titus 2:11

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

Titus 2:11 niv

A friend of mine commented recently that words, like movies or TV shows, should be given ratings. If that were the case, he went on, words like stink and stooge would be given very low grades. On the other hand, terms such as listening or lullaby would be at the top of the charts. Well, I have a candidate, a word I would propose, for the highest rating of all. My choice, as I told you, is the biblical word grace. Let me read you a verse from Titus 2:11 in the New Testament that contains this word: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.”

Now I say it’s the Bible’s use of the word that gives it supreme value. Grace, of course, is also a girl’s name. It’s also used to describe the thanks we offer at table before a meal. I heard a humorous combination of those the other day. It seems that a lady named Grace Thomas was running some years ago for the post of governor in the state of Georgia. Her campaign slogan was, “Say Grace at the polls.” Not many did, apparently, but it was a clever line anyway.

We’re familiar with the term also in connection with the paying of debts. You incur a financial obligation and you are supposed to pay by the fifteenth of the month. Your creditor tells you, however, that in your case there will be a “grace period.” For so many days after the deadline, you can still pay the bill without incurring further liabilities. The problem with the grace period is that it’s strictly temporary. After that, watch out!

Grace can also refer to beauty of posture and movement. We call a dancer or a skater “graceful.” It can pertain to warmth of welcome, to generous hospitality. We say such and such a lady is a “gracious” hostess. Now all of those uses give hints of what grace means, but the full beauty and wonder of it appears, as I said, in the Bible, in its message of the “grace of God.” Grace is a special word for God’s attitude toward people like us, how He feels about us, how He treats us. And that, friends, is wonderfully good news. Grace stands for God’s desire to bestow gifts on His creatures. It speaks of His generosity in forgiving us. It stands for His totally uncaused love.

GRACE THAT HAS APPEARED

The apostle Paul, in the great words we read a moment ago, says that “the grace of God has appeared.” That’s a striking word to me: appeared. It comes from a root that means “to shine.” When the sun “appears” on the eastern horizon, it becomes visible. Its beams come forth unmistakably. Everyone with eyes to see can behold it. We can also feel its warmth. The apostle Paul is saying, in other words, that the grace of God is not a general, abstract truth. It’s not a theory to be speculated about. It’s a reality that has come to light in this world. It was revealed. It appeared on the horizon at a certain point in time. The grace of God has the character of a happening, of an event. That’s why the gospels, the heart of the New Testament, are placed in a historical setting. We can date the events described there. They tell us about a decree that went out from Caesar Augustus when he was the emperor in Rome, about a time when a man named Quirinius was governor of Syria. Real times, real places, real people.

Have you ever let your mind dwell on that? Christianity is a religion rooted in history. It’s a new revelation of God, a new self-disclosure not in abstractions, not in doctrinal statements primarily, but in a person, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him, the apostle writes, “God appeared.” In Him, the grace of God became visible in space and time, here, in our world.

Now we can go beyond definitions – which are always inadequate, anyway. I don’t have to tell you that grace is such and such an attitude, an attribute, a quality. I can say to you rather, “Do you want to see the grace of God? Would you like to grasp what it means? Then look at Jesus.”

The Lord Himself told us that. Listen, “He who has seen me,” He said, “has seen the Father” (John 14:9). What is God really like? How can we assess His character? How can we know His disposition toward us? Here’s the way: Consider Jesus Christ.

The New Testament authors are gripped by that thought. The writer to the Hebrews calls Jesus “the radiance of God’s glory, the stamp of his very being” (Heb. 1:3). And Paul can write lyrically about “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). There it’s beaming forth, they all say, in the countenance, in the character, in the career of this man Jesus.

So, if you want to know who God is, if you want to grasp the reality of His grace, here’s a good place to start: study carefully the four Gospels. Pore over the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In these accounts, either written by eyewitnesses or those informed by them, we find all we know about the historic life of Jesus, about what He said, how He treated people, what befell Him, and how He carried Himself through it all. We look there, in the witness of these, His believing followers, and see how the grace of God has truly “appeared.”

GRACE THAT SAVES

The apostle Paul says something else about this grace of God that has appeared in Jesus of Nazareth. It is the grace of God, he says, “that brings salvation.” Here’s another disclosure about grace. It’s not simply God’s love, and God’s love becoming evident in Jesus. It’s God’s love going into action. We learn that, don’t we, in the most familiar verse in the Bible, the one children learn in Sunday school or Bible classes. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God loved the people in this world so much that He did something. He gave something. More, He gave His well-beloved Son.

We’re always rightly suspicious of words that aren’t backed up by action. Someone you know seems very friendly toward you. She talks about wanting to get together sometime. She says she’ll get in touch with you by telephone to set a date, but she never calls. By and by you begin to wonder how friendly she really is toward you, how much she wants to spend time with you. The gracious words are not confirmed in action. You feel let down.

God isn’t like that. He doesn’t write “I love you” across the heavens and then forget to do anything for us. He doesn’t say, “I’m coming to help you,” but never arrive. He acts. He gives. He comes down. And the goal of it all is to save. Here’s what God has in mind: that we should not perish, that we should have, instead, eternal life.

Jesus is God’s love in action. The Lord went about doing good, the Bible tells us, healing those who were oppressed by the devil. He opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, cleansed the lepers, even raised the dead. He delivered men and women from demonic power, forgave their sins, satisfied the aching hungers of their hearts. His whole life was one of self-spending service.

He was so totally committed of the Father’s will and to our welfare that He was willing to endure misunderstanding, hatred and rejection. He let Himself be arrested, condemned, beaten, humiliated, even tortured to death – all for us.

Then God raised Him from the dead. Jesus appeared to His followers on that first Easter. He was taken up by God into heaven, exalted to the throne of the universe. And all that God did in Jesus of Nazareth, all that was meant to bring us salvation. Through His life, death and resurrection, we receive forgiveness. Our sins are blotted out, our guilt removed, our burden lifted. All that had separated us from God has been taken out of the way.

This mighty grace of God also sets us free, releasing us from the bondage of sin, from the thralldom of the powers of evil, that we may become the glad, free servants of the living God. And this salvation is more than rescue and release. It brings also new life. We are born again by the power of God’s Spirit. We are new creatures in Jesus Christ. In His resurrection, we too are raised to endless life. And right here, right now, in this present world, we are beginning to taste already what it is to have life and have it abundantly. Friends, the grace of God has really appeared and it is a grace that brings salvation in Jesus Christ.

FOR ALL OF US

Now here’s the final word about it. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” The apostle has just been speaking in this passage about people of all ages, of both sexes, and about slaves, the lowest on the social ladder. Slaves in those days were scarcely considered to be full-fledged human beings. What Paul is announcing here when he says “to all men” is that no rank or type or class of human beings is ever excluded. This is grace for all.

When the apostle Paul appeared once before King Agrippa to make his defense about the Christian faith, he said, “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). That’s right. The events on which Christianity depend did not happen in a corner, in some out-of-the-way place. They were public, presided over by officials of the mighty Roman empire, in a crossroads of the world. That’s part of what the apostle is saying here.

He’s saying also that this salvation-bringing grace of God in Jesus is meant for all. We see in Christ the breadth of God’s concern, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, seeking, saving that which was lost. No class, no group, no nation is beyond the reach of His redeeming love.

Even more, what is done in Jesus Christ is sufficient to save all. There’s forgiveness enough in His atoning sacrifice for every guilty sinner, deliverance enough in the power of His Spirit to set all the captives free. There’s more than enough of the bread of life and the living water for all the hungry, thirsty ones of earth.

That’s why this good news is going out across the world this very day, through every medium, in all kinds of circumstances. The God who gave His Son to die for us, who raised Him from death, who exalted Him, has sent His Spirit into the hearts and lives of His people and commissioned them to be witnesses. Their task, our task, is to tell everyone about this saving grace of God. So I gladly announce to you today that Jesus Christ appeared in history for you. He lived out His life for you and then died for your sins. He rose again for you, reigns for you, prays for you and sends you now His royal invitation, “Come, for all things are now ready.”

Does that sound too good to be true? Some of you who are my contemporaries may remember Don Newcombe, who was an outstanding pitcher years ago for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Don had a blazing fastball. But when his career was over, bad times came. He was penniless and sick, an abusive husband, a broken man on the brink of self-destruction. His prized possession in the world was a World Series ring. He pawned it. Dodger president Peter O’Malley read a story about Newcombe’s ring, went to the pawn shop, bought it and stashed it in a vault. After Newcombe got sober, he went to work for the Dodgers. O’Malley one day handed him an envelope, the ring. “I broke down and cried like a baby,” said the old pitcher. That’s grace, giving us what we don’t deserve, going into action for us, spending for our joy. That’s God’s heart toward you in Jesus Christ.

His grace, oh, believe it, has appeared for you bringing salvation. If you will simply acknowledge your sin and need and trust His rich grace, the Lord has a new beginning for you too! Alleluia.

Prayer: Father, let every person sharing this program know the wonder of grace and realize that grace has appeared in the world in Christ, the grace that saves us. May every person know that it’s meant for him, for her, and respond with a believing heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.