For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2: 11-14, emphasis mine)
Good works. How do you respond to those two words? I’ll be honest, I usually hear good works, and I am frantically searching for the next exit. I know my good works have no power to save me, and I know what it’s like to live in bondage to the belief that I am measured by my “goodness.”
Grace. I don’t know about you, but my response to the word grace is quite the opposite. Just the word brings my anxiety down a notch. Grace is synonymous with my salvation and the realization that Jesus offers me his perfect record. I have known the rest and freedom that comes with this new understanding of how God sees me.
I think as Christians we often make the mistake of this distinct separation: grace vs. good works. We have so deeply associated doing “good works” with striving in our own strength that we do a poor job of hearing the reality of what the scriptures say to us.
Here in Titus we find Paul’s instructions for how Titus is to lead the people in Crete. The three short chapters include many guidelines for right living. What they don’t include is the idea that good works exist apart from the grace of God. It is clear in Titus, and through all of scripture, that the grace that brings salvation is the same grace that carries us and enables us to do the good works that God has called us to do: He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day Jesus returns (Phil. 1:6).
We are, in fact, saved for these good works. We are saved to grow in grace. A couple of years back, there was a Sunday school series entitled something like “Grace does not leave us where it found us.” The reality is that grace continues and enables us to walk in the good works that God has designed us for. We are created for good works; they are inextricably linked with our salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
God brings salvation by grace that trains us in godliness, purifies us, and makes us zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14). What freedom and rest that God’s grace is not a one time act of love that prompts our striving, but is a continuous outpouring of himself in our lives, that we may actually live in a way that pleases him.
We sing Amazing Grace every night with our daughter before bed. I used to sing just the first stanza, but lately have been singing at least four of them. If we are going to claim the grace of salvation, we cannot stop there. We must claim grace for living each day of our lives until we experience the grace that will enable us to sing God’s praises for all eternity.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
than when we’d first begun.