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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Titus 2

 

 


Verse 1

II.

(1) But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.—To introduce a regular organisation and the principle of a central church government into the numerous but scattered Christian congregations in Crete was Titus’ first work. The second and equally weighty mission the Apostle Paul charged him to execute was the refutation of a school of professed Christian teachers, who were promulgating doctrines at variance with the teaching of St. Paul and his brother Apostles, and were also, by their example and lives, fatally lowering the tone of Christian life. It was to the latter point—the evil moral influence of these teachers—that the attention of Titus was especially directed. False doctrinal teaching was bringing forth already its sure fruit, in the form of a life utterly unlike the pattern life of the Master. In contrast to this erroneous and misleading teaching, Titus is directed to exhort the varied ages, the different sexes, the bond and the free, to live lives which will bring no dishonour upon their Christian profession. The strictly practical nature of these charges is remarkable. Before touching upon doctrine, he presses home to these various ages and ranks the necessity of a quiet, useful life. The “sound doctrine” by which Titus was bidden to regulate his teaching is an expression peculiar to these Pastoral Epistles (see Note on 1 Timothy 1:10), and stands in clear contrast to the sickly, unhealthy teaching, fanciful and false, of the misleading teachers of Crete.


Verse 2

(2) That the aged men.—Not presbyters, or elders, in an official sense, but simply the “old men” in the congregations.

Be sober.—In a more extended sense than the bare literal meaning of the word would give. Let the elder men be “thoughtful,” in contrast with the thoughtlessness of careless youth.

Grave.—And quietly earnest, in contrast with all passion and undue excitability.

Temperate.—Discreet, or self-restrained, would be a better rendering for the Greek word.

Sound in faith, in charity, in patience.—Here Paul the aged sums up for the aged men of Crete in these three words, so well known by all his devoted hearers then, by all the devout students of his theology in subsequent ages, the great principles out of which the true saint life springs—faith, love, patience. In the famous Pauline trilogy of virtues, in this place, “patience” takes the place of hope, because this brave patience, this enduring fortitude, especially becomes the old man waiting for death. In respect to these “three” they must be healthy, sound. The faith must not be adulterated with superstitions—the love must be chivalrous, not sentimental. It must be no partisan feeling, but a tender affection, broad and inclusive, as was St. Paul’s and his Master Christ’s. The patience must be no mere tame acquiescence in what seems to be the inevitable, but must be brave, enduring, suffering—if suffering comes—for the Lord’s sake with a smile on the lips. “Not without reason,” writes Calvin, “does St. Paul include in these three the sum of Christian perfections.” It is with “faith” that we worship God—no prayer, no work of piety, can be severed from “faith.” “Love” spreads its wings over all our duties to our neighbour; and “patience” must ever go hand in hand with both “faith” and “love.” Without “patience” could “faith” hardly endure; and the affronts and unkindnesses of the world would, without this high virtue of patience, soon deaden and even destroy “love.”


Verse 3

(3) The aged women likewise.—St. Paul, faithful to what had now become one of the guiding principles of Christianity, the equal position of women in the city of God, fellow-heirs with men in the citizenship of the city which hath foundations, proceeds to remind the elder women of Crete of their own high duties in the company of believers. They now—the women—must remember that the position which Christ and His disciples had claimed for them in the world was not without its grave responsibilities. These aged women of the flock. like the elders just exhorted, had also much to do for Christ.

That they be in behaviour as becometh holiness.—That is, that they should show themselves as it becometh holiness; or, more literally, in demeanour reverend. The Greek word rendered “in behaviour,” or “in demeanour,” includes dress, appearance, conversation, manner; includes an outward deportment dependent on something more internal. The elder Christian woman in her whole bearing should exhibit a certain dignity of sacred demeanour; there should be something in her general appearance, in her dress, in her speech, in her every-day behaviour, which the younger and more thoughtless sister could respect and reverence—an ideal she might hope one day, if the Master spared her so long, herself to reach. For an admirable gloss on these words, see 1 Timothy 2:9-10.

Not false accusers.—Or better, perhaps, not slanderers. St. Paul knew well how easily old age yields itself to this temptation. Old age is at times intolerant, censorious, even bitter, forgetful especially of the days of youth; but Christ’s aged saints must use their voice for better things than these.

Not given to much wine.—This warning was probably called for, owing to the evil habits and customs of the Cretans.

Teachers of good things.—Or, teachers of what is good. Beza’s rendering, “mistresses of honour” (honestatis magistrœ), is singular and expressive. This does not mean that these aged women should occupy the place of public instructresses, but that they should, by here and there speaking a kind warning word, and, better still, by the golden silence of a useful honoured life, teach their younger sisters lessons of truth and faith and love.


Verse 4

(4) That they may teach the young women to be sober.—Better rendered, simply, that they may teach (or school) the young women, omitting the words “to be sober.” In Ephesus the representative of the Apostle was directed himself to exhort the younger women; very likely the same charge being given here to the aged women of the congregations was owing to the state of the Cretan Christian, which called not only for more practical and homely, but also for more individual, exhortations. So here this special work was left for the elder women among the faithful to carry out. Such a reformation, not only in the discipline of the Church, but also in the individual life and conversation, as St. Paul desired to see in Crete, would never be brought about by a sermon, or even by many sermons, however eloquent and earnest, from Titus. It would be a matter requiring long time and patience, and would, as observed above, rather follow as the result of patient individual effort and holy example.

To love their husbands, to love their children.—There was evidently in Crete a feverish longing for excitement, for novelty in religious teaching; hence the demand for, and consequent supply of, the “fables” and “commandments of men” spoken of in Titus 1:14. Women as well as men preferred rather to do something for religion and for God, and thus to wipe out past transgressions, and perhaps to purchase the liberty of future licence. They preferred the rigid and often difficult observance of the elaborate ritual, “the tithing of the mint, and anise, and cummin,” to quietly and reverently “doing their Father’s business.’ St. Paul’s method of correcting this false and unhealthy view of religion was to recall women as well as men to the steady, faithful performance of those quiet every-day duties to which God had, in His providence, called them. The first duty of these younger women, St. Paul tells Titus, and which he would have their elder sisters impress on them, was the great home duty of loving their husbands and children. While St. Paul would never have the women of Christ forget their new and precious privileges in the present, their glorious hopes in the future, yet here on earth he would never let them desert, or even for a moment forget, their first and chiefest duties. Their work, let them remember, lay not abroad in the busy world. Their first duty was to make home life beautiful by the love of husband and child—that great love which ever teaches forgetfulness of self.


Verse 5

(5) To be discreet.—See Note in Titus 2:2 of this chapter.

Chaste.—Not only in act, but also in look, in speech, in thought, even in dress.

Keepers at home.—The older authorities here, instead of “keepers at home” (domum custodientes, domus curam habentes), read workers at home; the Greek word is not found elsewhere. The sense of the passage is, however, little changed by the alteration. The meaning is clear, “Domi mansit lanam fecit.” Home duties, cares, pleasures, sacrifices of self—these God-appointed duties ought to fill the mind and the heart of the young wife. There should be no desire, no attempt, to go round to the other houses, and so contracting idle, gossiping habits. Hofmann thus sums up these directions to the young Christian women of Crete, “Gute Hausfrauen will der Apostel haben.”

Good.—Gracious, kind, thoughtful to others, especially to inferiors.

Obedient to their own husbands.—More accurately, submitting themselves to their own husbands. Women who really love their Master Christ should take care that, as far as in them lay, the law of subordination in the family to its rightful head should be strictly carried out. In a Church like that of Crete, made out of divided houses often, where the Christian wife was married to a Pagan husband, such a charge as this was especially needful.

That the word of God be not blasphemed.—These words refer to all the exhortations from Titus 2:2 onwards, but more particularly to those clauses enforcing home duties immediately preceding. There was, of course, the fear that wives, carried away by religious fervour, might neglect the plainer every-day duties for the seemingly loftier and more self-denying occupations included under the head of religious works. Such failure in every-day tasks would, of course, be bitterly charged on the religion of Christ, and the gospel would run the danger of being evil-spoken of, even in other than purely Pagan circles. But the reference extends over a broader area than that occupied by Christian mistresses of households. All, of every rank and age, who think they love the Lord Jesus should remember that the “enemy” is ever watching their words and works; never should they who wear the colours of the great King forget the charge of the King’s son, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”


Verse 6

(6) Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.—The task of influencing the young men belongs especially to Titus. Among them, in respect to age, he still must be reckoned; as regarded their peculiar temptations, none could be found so fit as the still young Christian disciple of St. Paul (he ‘was probably about forty years of age when he was placed over the Cretan Church) to set out vividly before them both the peril and the only means of guarding against it. Brought up in a Pagan home, not improbably in the luxurious and wicked Syrian Antioch, drawn to the Master’s side in the fresh dawn of manhood, tried in many a difficult task and found faithful, the words of Titus, exhorting the youth of Crete to be sober-minded, or self-restrained, would be likely to have great weight. In this word, which urged self-restraint, a young man’s duty is briefly comprehended. No task, the wise Chrysostom tells us, is after all so hard and difficult for youth, as obtaining the mastery over oneself in the matter of harmful pleasures. The Apostle gives but few special directions here for his disciple’s guidance, for he is going to tell him how he will best win these young men to the side of Christ. It will be, he proceeds to show him, most effectually done by the sight of the example of his own manly, self-restrained religious life.


Verse 7

(7) In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works.—Here St. Paul shows Titus that his especial work is the instruction of no one peculiar class or order, or age or sex, but that he is so to fashion his whole life that it may afford a “pattern” to all—men and women, bond as well as free; in all things a ceaseless activity was prescribed to the superintending presbyter in Crete. In everything that was earnest and true, Titus ought to be the one showing an example to the rest; in peaceful, quiet days, as in times of danger and threatening, he must set the pattern—now of useful labour and toil—now of brave, patient endurance for the Lord’s sake.

In doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.—The older authorities omit “sincerity.” Neither of the terms “uncorruptness” and “gravity” refers to the subject-matter of the “doctrine” or “teaching,” but to the bearing and behaviour of the “teacher.” While he occupies the place of a teacher, Titus must show in his life and conversation “uncorruptness”—apthoria, the word found in the older authorities, the meaning of which differs very slightly from the word adiapthoria, found in the received text. He must, in all those points of his life which are connected with his teaching, show a purity (chastity) and freedom from all interested motives; he must be above seeking for popular applause; but besides this “uncorruptness,” in everything touching public instruction he must aim at a certain “gravity,” not only in his public delivery of sermons and lectures, but also in his general private intercourse with his flock. He must, in a word, never forget he is the chief teacher in the Church of Crete of his Master’s religion.


Verse 8

(8) Sound speech, that cannot be condemned.—The substance of Titus’ teaching, whether in the more private intercourse with individuals or in his preaching in the Christian gatherings, must be healthy, practical, manly, in contrast to the sickly, morbid, fanciful instruction the false teachers of Crete were in the habit of giving. His words, too, must be well weighed and thoughtful, as well as earnest and impassioned; they must be such as would expose him neither to contempt nor to the charge of presumption. Between the lines of the exhortation of the 7th and 8th verses we can read the anxiety of the Apostle that his representative in Crete should take all possible care that the matter of his teaching and preaching was studied and prepared with all the attention and thought so important a duty demanded. He should remember, too, that the words as well as the works of the Christian teacher will be subject to a sharp and often hostile criticism. These warnings and reminders of St. Paul, it should be borne in mind, belong to all ages of the faith.

That he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.—The older authorities, with one exception, read “of us,” instead of “of you.” If Titus fairly carries out the exhortation of the last two verses, then the enemy, either the false teacher or the Pagan opponent of Christianity, confounded by the pure, self-sacrificing, earnest life, overcome by the well-weighed, thoughtful utterance of great truths, by the impassioned exhortation to men and women to lead noble, honest lives, will surely be ashamed of his bitter opposition, when he finds neither in the life nor in the teaching anything which he can fairly criticise as “bad.” As the better supported reading, “of us,” associates St. Paul and others with Titus, the evil thing which might have been said of Titus in reality would be spoken against St. Paul and the elder Apostles.


Verse 9

(9) Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters.—The accurate translation here is bond servants. The words in this and the following verse, it must be remembered, are addressed to “slaves.” With some special reference to the peculiar circumstances of the Church in Crete, St. Paul had been giving general directions to his representative (Titus 2:1-8) respecting instruction and advice he considered it expedient should be given to the varied orders and ages of professing Christians in the island. These directions were arranged with respect to “age” and “sex.” He now turns to the question of the instruction of another large class, among whom were to be found many Christians—“the slaves.” These he masses together under one head. Not improbably these “words” to be addressed particularly to slaves were called out by some particular instances of insubordination and of impatience under their unhappy condition among the Cretan slaves. Indeed, the repeated warnings to this unfortunate and oppressed class (see Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1) tell us that among the difficulties which Christianity had to surmount in its early years was the hard task of persuading “the slave” that the divine Master who promised him a home, if he were faithful and true, among the many mansions of His Father, meant not that the existing relations of society should be then changed, or its complex framework disturbed. St. Paul knew it was a hard matter to persuade the bondman, fellow-heir of heaven with the freeman, to acquiesce patiently in his present condition of misery and servitude. Hence these repeated charges to this class. These poor sufferers were to obey cheerfully, readily, as the next clause told them.

And to please them well in all things; not answering again.—The last words are better translated not gainsaying; the Vulgate has contradicentes. It signifies that they should obey cheerfully, willingly, without sullenness; not thwarting or setting themselves against their masters’ plans or desires or orders; and the Apostle, in Titus 2:10, gives them a noble inducement for this brave, sweet patience he would have so earnestly pressed upon them. Such conduct on their part, he tells them, would serve greatly to help the Master’s cause; it would prepossess many hostile minds in favour of a religion which could so powerfully influence even the slave. Chrysostom comments thus: “Greeks form their estimate of doctrines not from the doctrine itself, but from the actions and the life” (of those who profess the doctrine).


Verse 10

(10) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity.—It must be remembered that many of the slaves in the Roman empire were employed in other duties besides those connected with the house or on the farm. Some were entrusted with shops, and these being left often quite to themselves, of course great opportunities for dishonesty and fraud were constantly present. Others received an elaborate training, and as artists, or even physicians, worked in part for their masters. A slave in the days of St. Paul had a hundred ways of showing to his owner this true and genuine fidelity, opposed to mere assumed surface obedience and service.

That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.—A slave cheerfully accepting his hard yoke, and striving with hand and brain to please and advance the interest of his earthly master only for the dear love of Christ, must have been in those days of cynical self-love a silent, yet a most powerful preacher of a gospel which could so mould and elevate a character so degraded. Calvin remarks that it is indeed noteworthy how God deigns to receive an adornment from slaves, whose condition was so mean and abject that scarcely were they considered to rank among men at all; “they were ranked as ‘possessions.’ just like cattle or horses.” Professor Reynolds very happily remarks here: “This teaching of St. Paul is in harmony with the words of the Lord Jesus—out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise. God gets His highest praise from the lips of little children, His robes of glory from the faithfulness, honour, and simplicity of born slaves.”


Verse 11

(11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.—More accurately translated, For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men. “For” gives the ground, the base upon which the practical exhortations to freemen as well as to bond-servants, contained in Titus 2:1-10, rest. These words might be paraphrased thus: “Yes, exhort all classes and orders, every age of life, each sex, bond as well as free, to struggle after pure, good, righteous lives, for I tell you, in very truth, like a sun on a darkened world has the grace of God arisen with salvation in its beams.” Compare the grand Isaiah passage, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1); and also the words of Malachi (4:2), “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” (See, too, Isaiah 9:2.) The thought of these passages was not improbably in St. Paul’s view while he wrote the words to Titus telling him to exhort his flock, for God’s grace had appeared to all men. The Greek word translated “appeared” occurs in Luke 1:79 and Acts 27:20—both writings closely connected with St. Paul, if not in great part written by him—and in each of these passages it is used to express the shining of the sun. The “grace of God” here spoken of is that divine favour to and love for men upon which the whole work of redemption was based, the object of which redemption was the ultimate restoration of man. The epiphany, or manifestation of this grace to the world, commenced with the incarnation of our Lord; but the reference here must not be limited to that or to any one event in the blessed Life. The expression “bringing salvation to all men” is another of those hard sayings which have been pressed into the service of that kindly but erring school of expositors which shuts its eyes to the contemplation of the many unmistakable sayings which warn the impenitent and hardened sinner of the sad doom of eternal death. The “grace” alone brings salvation to all men—in other words, it is that grace of God whereby alone it is possible for mankind to be saved. The expression by no means asserts that all men will be saved by it, but that it is the only means by which salvation is possible.


Verse 11-12

Saving and Instructing Grace

For the grace of God hath 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.—Titus 2:11-12.

1. To this important statement the Apostle is led up by the consideration of certain very homely and practical duties which fall to the lot of Christians in various walks of life, and these matters he refers to as “the things pertaining to sound doctrine.” He has a word of practical counsel for several distinct classes of persons; for he knows the wisdom of being definite. He speaks to elder men and elder women, to young men and to servants; and it is from inculcating upon these last the first principles of common honesty that he passes with one of his characteristic “for’s” to enunciate the sublime truths which the text contains.

2. St. Paul always had a tremendous reason for the simplest duty; his motives are always great and far-reaching. This is not only Pauline, but Christian; great reasons for doing little things; high motives for all conduct; every act linked to some eternal purpose—this is the distinctive feature of Christianity. It appears in the text. He would have Titus teach the Cretans to be sober and righteous and godly, but he prefaces it by a statement of the great gospel—a word which is itself full of beauty, a sweet, melodious word: “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” It sounds like a strain caught from an angel’s hymn. It is that, and it is also solid truth. All Christian injunctions and precepts rest on that truth—God’s grace appearing and bringing salvation to all men. That fact is the ground on which we stand; it is the atmosphere about us; it is motive, path, end. God’s gracious love, not sought or deduced, but appearing by its own spontaneous will, moved by its own yearning heart, bringing salvation to all men, so that it is here, an already accomplished fact, food to eat, air to breathe, shelter to cover us—a great investing fact or condition, changing our whole life and giving direction to it.

3. The arrangement of words in the Authorized Version, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” is not what St. Paul means. These last words, “to all men,” should be connected with the previous ones, “that bringeth salvation.” It is not part of his purpose to declare, what was not in fact true then and is not true now, that the grace of God has appeared to all men; but it was part of his purpose to declare that that grace brings salvation to all men, however the present range of its manifestation may historically be contracted.

I

Saving Grace

“The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”

1. What is salvation? What is it to be saved?

(1) First of all, it is to be forgiven. If we have ever done a wrong, if ever an estrangement between us and one whom we love dearly has cast a shadow over our life, we know what forgiveness, even from human love, means to us; how the estrangement ceases, how the burden is lifted, and love once more is joy and not pain to us. Now, let us remember that, as long as we are in the bondage of sin, we are estranged from God. We know God is holy and hates sin. So long as we cleave to our sin we cannot be at home with God. Even God’s love is pain to us, because we know our sin is grieving that love, is hindering our enjoyment of the blessing that that love might bring to us. To be forgiven of God, to have Jesus Christ coming to us in the name and from the very heart of God, and saying, “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace”—what an immeasurable blessing that is! Now that forgiveness is not only God’s word, it is God’s deed. It comes to us through the love that suffered for us, and as we look upon the cross, and see God’s love in the self-sacrifice there, we must know that the love that would so suffer for us is a love that will not let us go. It is love that claims us for itself. It is love that will restore us when we have been estranged from and distrustful of God.

(2) But not only do we want forgiveness, and to be put right with God. We want the power of sin to be broken in us. Jesus Christ offers us that strength. He offers to break the fetters of sin so that they shall no longer bind us. He offers us the strength that shall come into our weakness and give us victory, making us more than conquerors amid all the evils that are in the world. Why, we have something like it, even in human life. Take a companion, a strong, wise, loving companion. If that companion be beside the tempted, the weak, the companionship gives strength. We have known men who have been under the power of strong drink, and who have been saved by some good man who gave them friendship, help, and counsel when they were assailed by temptation at the end of their day’s work. His strength passed into their weakness. Now something far more wonderful, far more certain, is offered to us in Jesus Christ. He is with us in all the fulness of His Divine power and pity. He is with the drunkard who is struggling to pass the public-house door. He is with the selfish man when he is trying to be a little more thoughtful for others. If there is only trust in Him, if there is only faith that will claim His grace, strength will be given, victory will be secured.

Successful resistance of temptation seems to consist of three fairly distinct movements of the mind. The first step is obviously, and always, of the nature of a recoil. The mind starts back from the evil suggestion at least so far as to plant itself more firmly down in the attitude of resistance. The next step in resistance is obviously the reaching for and grasping one’s weapon. First the mind recoils, next the mind recalls. Opposite the alluring suggestion it places the steadying word from the mind of God. “Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?” said our tempted Lord. But His recoiling mind recalls, “For this cause came I unto this hour.” Now, what shall we recall? For us all the mind of God is gathered up in Christ; the full glory of that mind shines in the face of Christ. In a moment we may recall the loving-kindness, holy purity, strong sympathy, and present grace of the Supreme. For the Christian man who believes in the ubiquitous, ready presence of “grace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” the claim of goodness is instantaneously recalled, the help of Divine strength instantaneously summoned, by one single gesture of the spirit. Thirdly, to work for its translation into redeemed lives of men and redeemed nature—that is the last part of successful resistance of temptation. It is the hardest bit of all, for it means thinking of others’ needs as much as of one’s own. Yet it is notorious that for real healing a man must come forth and step out into sympathy with others, and in that kindly preoccupation discover the secret of a quiet spirit. So it is in temptation: the field of victory is the field of battle for others’ good.1 [Note: G. A. Johnston Ross, in Youth and Life, 175.]

2. Salvation is ours by “the grace of God.” What is the grace of God? It is the forth-putting of His power for the good of mankind, the motive of which is mercy born of love. It is God Himself, moved by a deep, tender compassion, which has its source and support in His own infinite affection, coming down to the fallen race, and, departing from the strict ground of justice and retribution, dealing with it not according to its sins, but according to His mercy. Divine grace, we may say, is the child of love, and the parent of mercy. It is because God is Love that He is disposed to assume a favourable attitude towards those whose sins have merited His wrath, and must ever of necessity be contemplated by Him with disfavour. The essential love of the great Father’s heart takes definite form, and accommodates itself to our need; reveals itself in facts and presents itself for our acceptance; and then we call it grace.

That word “grace” played a much larger part in the thoughts of our fathers than it does in ours; and I am not sure that many things are more needed by the ordinary Christian of this generation than that he should rediscover the amplitude and the majesty of that old-fashioned and unfashionable word. For what does “grace” mean? It means a self-originated love. Grace is love that has no motive but itself. Grace is a self-motived love that is in full energetic exercise. Grace is a self-motived, ever-acting love that delights to impart. Grace is a self-motived, ever-acting communicating love which bends in tenderness over and floods with gifts those that stand far beneath itself. Grace is a self-motived, ever-acting, communicating, and stooping love which brings in its hands the gift of forgiveness, and deals with those on whom it lavishes this tenderness, not according to their merits, but according to the pulsations of its own heart. And thus grace is the shorthand word for the self-motived, ever-acting, communicating, stooping, and pardoning mercy which has its very home and throne in the heart of God Himself.1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]

3. The grace of God “hath appeared.” St. Paul does not say it awoke or sprang into existence, but it appeared, it was made manifest. Grace for sinners dwelt in the heart of God from the beginning, but it was a secret hidden from the world. The nations of the earth walked in ignorance, without the knowledge of God’s grace; in Israel alone did God shed forth rays of His grace in the promises of the prophets and the manifold types of the Levitical law. The fathers lived in the dawn; they had to sigh and did sigh for the breaking of the day; but when God’s time had come the day did break and His grace appeared in all its fulness and glory. When, where, how? Here is the fountain of our Christmas joy. The grace of God appeared in its fulness when the Virgin gave birth and the angels chanted over the fields of Bethlehem. “In this,” says St. John, “was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” In the birth of Jesus Christ it is become manifest, clear as the noonday, that God is graciously minded towards men, because this Infant is the own and only begotten Son of the Father.

The same word is used in telling of the stormy darkness when “neither sun nor stars” had for many days “appeared,” and then at last a rift came in the thick cloud, and the blue was seen, and the blessed sunshine poured down on the damp and desolate world. So, by some historical manifestation, this mighty thing, the love of God, has been put into concrete shape, embodied and made a visibility to men. What can that point to except the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His life and death, the cradle and the cross, with all that lay between, and all that has come after? The mission of a Saviour, in whom the Unseen has drawn near to human sense; in whom the love of God, like sunbeams caught in a cloud, has been diffused, encircled with a revealing because a veiling medium, is what Paul points to. The Man Christ Jesus, in the sweetness of His life, in the sacred mystery of His death, in the power of His indwelling Spirit, stands before us, the embodiment of the love of the unseen God. Scientists can make sounds visible by the symmetrical lines into which heaps of sand upon a bit of paper are cast by the vibration of a string. God has made invisible love plain to the sight of all men, because He has sent us His Son, and now we can say, “That which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands have handled of the Word of life, that declare we unto you.”1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]

4. The grace of God hath appeared “bringing salvation to all men.”

(1) The grace brings salvation to all men, because all men need that more than anything else. In the notion of salvation there lie the two ideas of danger and of disease. It is healing and it is safety; therefore, if it be offered to all, it is because all men are sick of a sore disease, and stand in imminent and deadly peril. That is the only theory of men’s deepest need which is true to the facts of human existence. There are plenty of shallower diagnoses of what is the matter with mankind, and therefore of less radical and drastic cures offered. In their places, and for the purposes to which they may wisely be confined, they are good and wholesome for mankind. But we want to dig far deeper than the shallow husbandry of agriculturists who have no tools but education, culture, reformation of manners, and alteration of the conditions of society can ever reach.

(2) The grace of God brings salvation to all men. It is a wonderful assertion; but, on reflection, we see that it does not state too much. Wide and strong as the affirmation undoubtedly is, it is only commensurate with the fact. Yes, God’s free favour, manifested in the Person of His own blessed Son, is designed to produce saving effects upon all. God makes no exception, excludes none. He has not sent a message down to the world, that He purposes to take the case of a certain number of persons into consideration, and leave the rest to perish. St. Paul simply could not have used this expression if that had been his view of God’s mind and will; but it is stated in the strongest possible terms that to every man this revelation has been made, and for every man this grace has been exhibited; and that, as the result of this, obviously every man, if he only will, is in a position to become the recipient of the salvation which the grace of God has brought within his reach.

(3) But when the Apostle says that this grace brings salvation unto all, he does not say that all receive the salvation which is brought to them. There is a whole world of difference between the two expressions. And the word that he employs—for it is one word in the original which is rendered in our Version by the three “that bringeth salvation”—describes not an actuality, but a potentiality and a possibility. The aim and purpose, not the realized effect, is what is pointed out in this great word of the text.

For there is a condition necessary from the very nature of the case. If God could save all men, be sure that He would do it; the love that thus takes its rise in the counsels of Eternity, and flows on for ever through the waste and barren ages of human history, and is ever waiting to bestow itself, in its tenderness and in its liberality upon all men, is not made less universal, but it is conditioned by the nature of the gifts that it brings. Salvation cannot be flung broadcast and indiscriminately upon all men of all sorts, whatever their relation to God. If it could, be sure that it would be. But just because it is a deep and inward thing, affecting men’s moral and religious state, and not only their position in regard to some future hell, it cannot be given thus broadcast, it must be sown in the fitting places. The one thing that is requisite, and it is indispensably requisite, is that we shall trust Him who brings salvation, and, trusting Him, shall take it out of His hand. If the medicine stands on the shelf, in the bottle with the stopper in, the sick man will not be cured. That is not the fault of the medicine; it is a panacea, but no remedy can work where it is not applied. This great ocean of the Divine love goes, as it were, feeling along the black cliffs that front it, for some cranny into which it may pour itself, but the obstinate rock can fling it all back in impotent spray. Though the whole Atlantic surges against the cliff, it is dry an inch inwards. Thus the universality of the gift, the universal potency of the gift, is not in the slightest degree affected by the fact that, where it is not taken, its benefits are not realized.

Miss Nightingale, on this and her later visits to the Crimea, saw and heard of many deeds of heroism which she loved to tell. “I remember,” she wrote, “a sergeant, who was on picket, the rest of the picket killed, and himself battered about the head, stumbled back to camp, and on his way picked up a wounded man, and brought him in on his shoulders to the lines, where he fell down insensible. When, after many hours, he recovered his senses, I believe after trepanning, his first words were to ask after his comrade, ‘Is he alive?’ ‘Comrade, indeed! yes, he’s alive, it is the General.’ At that moment the General, though badly wounded, appeared at the bedside. ‘Oh, General, it’s you, is it, I brought in? I’m so glad. I didn’t know your honour, but if I’d known it was you, I’d have saved you all the same.’ This is the true soldier’s spirit.”1 [Note: Sir Edward Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale, .]

II

Instructing Grace

“Instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world.”

1. The grace of God not only saves us but also trains us. This is a lifelong work, a work that will be concluded only when grace ends in glory. Now, obviously, if this work is to be done as it should be done, the soul must, first of all, be in a position to receive teaching. The last person that we should regard as open to instruction is one whose mind is so taken up and preoccupied with considerations relating to his own personal safety that he can scarcely be expected to afford a thought to any other subject. For purposes of instruction you need that the mind of the person to be instructed should be at leisure. As long as our mind is occupied, it is scarcely conceivable that we should be in a position to bestow that amount of attention upon the instruction communicated to us which might render the lesson of any considerable service. If grace is really to undertake our training, and to teach us such lessons as only grace can teach, surely she must first of all put us at our ease, so to speak—still our inward anxieties, calm the tumultuous misgivings which fill our hearts; and until grace has done this for us, how can she instruct us?

Go into yonder prison, and set that wretched felon in the condemned cell to undertake some literary work, if he is a literary man. Put the pen into his hand, place the ink and the paper before him. He flings down the pen in disgust. How can he set to work to write a history or to compose a romance, however talented or gifted he may be by nature, so long as the hangman’s rope is over his head, and the prospect of a coming execution staring him in the face? Obviously the man’s thoughts are all in another direction—the question of his own personal safety preoccupies his mind. Give him that pen and paper to write letters which he thinks may influence persons in high quarters with a view to obtaining a reprieve, and his pen will move quickly enough. I can understand his filling up reams of paper on that subject, but not on any other.1 [Note: W. H. M. H. Aitken, The School of Grace, 26.]

2. There is plenty of first-rate teaching in the world, without Jesus Christ and His grace. If men and nations go to the devil their own wicked, wilful way, it is not for want of teaching. But to try and cure the world’s evils by teaching, in that narrow sense of the expression, is something like trying to put a fire out by reading the Riot Act to the flames. You want fire engines, and not paper proclamations, in order to stay their devouring course. But it is to be noticed that the expression here, in the original, means a great deal more than that kind of teaching. It means correcting, or chastening. It is the same word that is employed, for instance, in the well-known phrase, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” and when Christ from Heaven says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” It implies the notion of correction, generally by pain, at all events of discipline, of something done, and not merely something said, of a process brought to bear on the sensitive nature. And such a work of correcting and chastening is a worthy work for “the grace that appears.”

Jesus Christ comes to us and brings the external means of communicating instruction in the record of His life in this Book. And He comes to us, also, doing what no other teacher can do, for He passes into our spirits, and communicates not only instruction but the Spirit which teaches them in whom it abides, and guides them with gentle illumination into “all truth” concerning God, Christ, and themselves, which it is needful for them to know.

“The grace of God, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared disciplining us,” for this purpose, that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Christ and His love; Christ and His life; Christ and His death; Christ and His Spirit; in these are new hopes, motives, powers, which avail to do the thing that no man can do. An infant’s finger cannot reverse the motion of some great engine. But the hand that made it can touch some little tap or lever, and the mighty masses of polished iron begin to move the other way. And so God, and God only, can make it possible for us to deny ourselves ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to “live soberly, righteously, godly, in this present world.” He, that Jesus who comes to us to mould our hearts into hitherto unfelt love, by reason of His own great love, and who gives to us His own Spirit to be the life of our lives, gives us by these gifts new motives, new powers, new tastes, new affections. He puts the reins into our hands, and enables us to control and master our unruly tempers and inclinations. If you want to clear out a tube of any sort, the way to do it is to insert some solid substance, and push, and that drives out the clogging matter. Christ’s love coming into the heart expels the evil, just as the sap rising in the trees pushes off the old leaves that have hung there withered all winter. As Luther used to say, “You cannot clean out the stable with barrows and shovels. Turn the Elbe into it.” Let that great flood of life pour into our hearts, and it will not be hard to “live soberly.”1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]

3. The first lesson taught by grace is a negative lesson. Before teaching us what to do, she teaches us what we are to have done with; before introducing us into the positive blessedness of the new life, she first of all separates our connexion with the old. This negation of the old must always come before the possession of the new; and unless our experience follows this order, we shall find that what we mistake for the new is not God’s new at all, but simply Satan’s travesty of God’s new creation. Ungodliness must be denied before we can walk with God, and worldly lusts must be denied before we can live as citizens of the New Jerusalem.

When our Lord came up to Jerusalem that by His death He might rend the veil of the Temple in twain, and open up for us a way into the holiest of all, His first care was to cleanse the outer courts of that Temple from the presence of the traders and the money-changers who defiled it. In this He signified that the first object of the manifestation of His saving grace is to cleanse those whom He would consecrate as temples of the Holy Ghost from the ungodliness and worldly lusts by which they are defiled, that, having cleansed them thus, He may lead them on to the practice of those positive duties of the Christian life to which He has called them, so that they shall bear His image and reflect His glory as holy temples of the Lord.

Let us not fail to observe that the Apostle here speaks of our “denying ungodliness.” He does not speak of our combating ungodliness, or of our gradually progressing from a state of ungodliness into a state of godliness. There is no description here of any such process, although I am persuaded that such a process is very generally believed in by large numbers of professing Christians.1 [Note: W. H. M. H. Aitken, The School of Grace, 97.]

(1) Ungodliness.—This sounds a very strong word, and at first most people are disposed to affirm that they cannot be charged with this, whatever else they may be guilty of. But we must endeavour to find out what ungodliness is. This is certainly important, because unless we understand what it is, it is impossible to deny it. Now ungodliness is the cardinal and root-sin of the world. It was the first sin committed in the history of the world, and it was the parent of all other sins; and it is usually the first sin in the life of each individual, and equally the parent of all the sins that follow. Ungodliness, in one form or another, has been at the root of them all, and the deadly growth from this evil root has cast its baleful shadow over universal history. As our eye wanders down through the annals of mankind, we find therein a long, weary, tragic record of ungodliness and its fruits. The false step taken by Adam, and by him no doubt deeply lamented, becomes a law of life to his son—that first murderer, Cain. Of him we read that after his judgment and condemnation he went forth from the presence of God. It is now an object with the man to escape from all thought of God, and to lose all sense of His presence. His course lies in the land of wandering; for is he not already “a wandering star”? And there he seeks to find substitutes for the God whom he has forsaken, in the material objects of a transient world, and the thronging interests of domestic and political life. God is now in none of his thoughts.

The form which the infidelity of England, especially, has taken, is one hitherto unheard of in human history. No nation ever before declared boldly, by print and word of mouth, that its religion was good for show, but “would not work.” Over and over again it has happened that nations have denied their gods, but they denied them bravely. The Greeks in their decline jested at their religion, and frittered it away in flatteries and fine arts; the French refused theirs fiercely, tore down their altars and brake their carven images. The question about God with both these nations was still, even in their decline, fairly put, though falsely answered. “Either there is or is not a Supreme Ruler; we consider of it, declare there is not, and proceed accordingly.” But we English have put the matter in an entirely new light: “There is a Supreme Ruler, no question of it, only He cannot rule. His orders won’t work. He will be quite satisfied with euphonious and respectful repetition of them. Execution would be too dangerous under existing circumstances, which He certainly never contemplated.” … The entire naïveté and undisturbed imbecility with which I found persons declare that the laws of the Devil were the only practicable ones, and that the laws of God were merely a form of poetical language, passed all that I had ever before heard or read of mortal infidelity. I knew the fool had often said in his heart, there was no God; but to hear him say clearly out with his lips, “There is a foolish God,” was something which my art studies had not prepared me for. The French had indeed, for a considerable time, hinted much of the meaning in the delicate and compassionate blasphemy of their phrase “le bon Dieu” but had never ventured to put it into more precise terms.1 [Note: Ruskin, Modern Painters, v. ch. xii. § 5 (Works, vii. 445).]

(2) Worldly lusts.—The word “lusts” here has not the carnal associations cleaving to it which have gradually accrued to it in the changes of language since our translation was made; it implies simply desires, longings, of however refined and incorporeal a sort, which attach themselves to the fleeting things of this life. Pride, ambition, and all the more refined and less sensual desires are as much included as the grossest animalism in which any man can wallow. Worldly lusts are desires which say to earth, and to what earth can give, in any of its forms, “Thou art my god, and having thee I am satisfied.”

Now the Apostle affirms that we have denied worldly lust as well as ungodliness. We have renounced and repudiated it for ever. But here rises the question, How have the world and worldly lust been thus denied? or how are we to deny it? and how are we to be freed from it? Various answers to this inquiry meet us from different quarters.

(a) “Turn your back upon the world,” says the ascetic. “Wander into the depths of the desert. Shut yourself up in a hermit’s cave, or hide yourself within a monastic enclosure.” But even so, how shall I be sure that I may not carry a little world of my own along with me? And is there not a possibility that that little world of my own may be just as opposed to God, and just as tyrannous and exacting, as the bigger world that I have run away from? Am I quite sure that monastery walls will shut the world out? Or is the world so subtle that perhaps its spirit may find its way through bricks and mortar? Yes, even within the enclosures of a monastery there may be just as much of real essential worldliness as in the hubbub of a great city.

(b) “Despise it,” says the cynic. “Be indifferent to all considerations of pain and pleasure. Never mind what the world thinks of you. Rejoice in being peculiar. Abstain from doing what men generally do, just because they generally do it. And do things that no one else would think of doing, just because no one else does them. The more peculiar and extraordinary you make yourself, the more you will issue a kind of protest against conventional life; and thereby you will gradually train and educate yourself to a position of independence, and will be ready to tell your Alexander to stand out of your sunshine.” Yes, that sounds very sublime; but is it really so? May not our Diogenes be creating for himself a greater conqueror, or a greater tyrant, in his own inflated self-consciousness, than ever was an Alexander or a Xerxes?

(c) I am living in the world. I am surrounded by the influences of the world. How am I to be lifted up above them? We shall ask a certain tent-maker whether he can throw any light, such as neither mediæval ascetic nor cynic philosopher can throw, upon this great and all-important problem. And we hear him reply, “God, far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” That is his answer; and if we would ask him, “Who taught you that lesson?” we have not to wait long for a reply. Grace had taught St. Paul that lesson. He learned it, not on Sinai, but at Calvary. As he gazed on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, grace had drawn aside the curtain of mystery and explained to him the great sight; and she has a similar lesson for all who learn at her school.

Christ came. The soul the most full of love, the most sacredly virtuous, the most deeply inspired by God and the future, that men have yet seen on earth—Jesus. He bent over the corpse of the dead world, and whispered a word of faith. Over the clay that had lost all of man but the movement and the form, He uttered words until then unknown—love, sacrifice, a heavenly origin. And the dead arose. A new life circulated through the clay, which philosophy had tried in vain to reanimate. From that corpse arose the Christian world, the world of liberty and equality. From that clay arose the true man, the image of God, the precursor of Humanity. Christ expired. All He had asked of mankind wherewith to save them—says Lamennais—was a cross whereon to die. But ere He died He had announced the glad tidings to the people. To those who asked of Him whence He had received it, He answered: From God, the Father. From the height of His cross He had invoked Him twice. Therefore upon the cross did His victory begin and still does it endure. Have faith, then, O you who suffer for the noble cause—apostles of a truth which the world of to-day comprehends not—warriors in the sacred fight whom it yet stigmatizes with the name of rebels! To-morrow, perhaps, this world, now incredulous or indifferent, will bow down before you in holy enthusiasm. Tomorrow victory will bless the banner of your crusade. Walk in faith, and fear not. That which Christ has done, humanity may do. Believe and you will conquer.1 [Note: Life and Writings of Joseph Mazzini, iii. 143.]

4. Hitherto we have been occupied in considering the negative teaching of grace, by which her pupils are trained to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. But while this negation and repudiation must necessarily come first, no greater mistake could be made than to suppose that the teaching of grace is merely or mainly negative, or that it aims simply at repressing that which is recognized as evil. On the contrary, this is one of the most prominent points in which grace stands in contrast with law. The demands of law are, not exclusively perhaps but mainly, negative. The claims of grace are principally positive.

Much is being said now in regard to different types of Christianity—an Oriental type and an Occidental type, a first-century type, a mediæval type, and a modern type; and we hear also of a possible Japanese and Hindu type. There is some truth in such distinctions, but, after all, there is but one type of true life. No matter when a man lived, there was but one way to live—a sober, righteous, and godly way. No matter what type of Christian life may be developed in Japan or India, it must be a sober, righteous, and godly type.

(1) Soberly.—The word “soberly” has by no means the narrow signification which the besetting vice of England has given to it now—viz., abstinence from, or a very restrained use of, intoxicating liquors, nor even the wider one of a curbing of the desires of sense. The meaning may be better represented by self-control than by any other rendering. Now, if there were no men in the world but myself, and if I had no thought or knowledge of God, and if there were no other standard to which I ought to conform, I should have had, in my own nature, with its crowd of desires, tastes, inclinations, and faculties, plain indication that self-government was essential. For we all carry with us desires, inclinations, appetites—some of them directly connected with our physical frame, and some of them a little more refined—which are mere blind inclinations to a given specific good, and will be stirred up, apart altogether from the question of whether it is expedient or right to gratify them.

Of how few who [like Mr. Gladstone] have lived for more than sixty years in the full sight of their countrymen, and have been as party leaders exposed to angry and sometimes spiteful criticism can it be said that there stands on record against them no malignant word and no vindictive act! This was due not perhaps entirely to natural sweetness of disposition, but rather to self-control and to a certain largeness of soul which would not condescend to anything mean or petty. Pride, though it may be a sin, is to most of us a useful, to some an indispensable, buttress of virtue. Nor should it be forgotten that the perfectly happy life which he led at home, cared for in everything by a devoted wife, kept far from him those domestic troubles which have soured the temper and embittered the judgments of not a few famous men. Reviewing his whole career, and summing up the concurrent impressions and recollections of those who knew him best, this dignity is the feature which dwells most in the mind as the outline of some majestic Alp thrills one from afar when all the lesser beauties of glen and wood, of crag and glacier, have faded in the distance. As elevation was the note of his oratory, so was magnanimity the note of his character.1 [Note: J. Bryce, Studies in Contemporary Biography, 477.]

(2) Righteously.—The idea of righteousness springs from the recognition of right. There are certain rights which have their origin in the nature of our relations with others, which they are justified in claiming that we should respect, and from which we cannot escape, and the recognition of these rights and the fulfilment of these claims is that which we understand by “righteousness.” We are under certain obligations in the first instance to God, and God has certain rights in us which He cannot for a moment ignore or decline to assert and enforce. In recognizing these rights, and in responding to these claims, we fulfil the law of righteousness so far as God is concerned. Further, there are certain rights which our fellow-men have in us, which we are not less bound to respect. This is the righteousness which the Apostle has in mind.

Now “righteousness” in reference to our fellows demands mercy. The common antithesis which is drawn between a kindly man and a just man, who will give everybody what he deserves and not one scrap more or less if he can help it, is erroneous, because every man has a claim upon every other man for lenient judgment and undeserved help. He may not deserve it, being such a man as he is; but he has a right to it, being a man at all. And no man is righteous who is not merciful. We do not fulfil the prophet’s exhortation, “do justly,” unless we fulfil his other, “love mercy.” For mercy is the right of all men.

This is something far more than observance of the common maxims of honesty and fairness and justice; it is righteousness, with God behind it, and with God’s very process of gracious love and righteousness going on around us. It makes a great difference whether we live a righteous life out of a sense of this world, or out of a sense of the eternal world; because the laws require it, or because God requires it; that is, whether we act from the greater or the lesser motive. It is the motive that gives tone and force to character. Conduct is secondary; motive is first. God is the only true motive for human conduct.

The sublimest lines in English poetry perhaps are those translated by Dr. Johnson from Boëthius:—

From Thee, great God, we spring; to Thee we tend;

Path, Motive, Guide, Original, and End.

God the way, the motive, the guide, the beginning and end of all conduct—this is what is meant.1 [Note: T. T. Munger, Character Through Inspiration, 65.]

(3) Godly.—This is the crowning characteristic of the new life and grandest lesson that grace essays to teach. All her other lessons, however important in themselves, are designed to lead up to godliness; and unless this lesson is learnt, all others must remain incomplete; for this word brings before us the true end of man. Man was not called into existence in order that an inward harmony might be established within his being, and that he might know the calm and serenity of the sober life. Nor was he sent into the world merely to do his duty to others by whom he might be surrounded, to abstain from violence and wrong, and to cultivate and exercise benevolence. The true end of man is to be attained in his own personality; it is in the proper development and education of the highest and most spiritual faculties of his nature, and in the concentration of these upon their proper object, that man rises to his true destiny and fulfils the great purpose of his being. That object is God; and in the development of those faculties which have God for their proper object, and in their concentration upon Him, consists the state or habit of godliness, while the education and training of these faculties is the work of grace.

Only the godly man, the man who lives in habitual communion with God, who walks humbly with Him, who earnestly seeks His help and rests upon His grace, is able in any worthy manner to discharge personal and relative duties. One might as well attempt to build some Tadmor in the wilderness, without leading to it the streams by which life springs up in the midst of death, and the barren land is made to yield fruits of increase, as attempt to produce in the wastes of our fallen humanity the goodly fruits of a truly sober and truly righteous life without first establishing a living relation to the living God.2 [Note: James Brown, Sermons with Memoir, 121.]

You cannot sliver up the unity of life into little sections and say, “This deed has to be done soberly, and that one righteously, and this one godly,” but godliness must cover the whole life, and be the power of self-control and of righteousness. “All in all or not at all.” Godliness must be uniform and universal. Lacking their supreme beauty are the lives of all who endeavour to keep these other two departments of duty and forget this third. There are many men punctiliously trying to control their natures, and to live righteously; but all their thoughts run along the low levels, and they are absolutely blind and deaf to voices and sights from heaven. They are like some of those truncated pyramids, broad-based upon the solid earth, and springing with firm lines to a certain height, and then coming to a dead stop, and so being but stumps, which leave a sense of incompleteness, because all the firm lines have not gathered themselves up into the sky-piercing point which aspires still higher than it has reached. “Soberly,” that is much; “righteously,” that is more; “godly,” that is, not most but all.1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]

It is not heaven alone,

Which godliness attains;

It makes as much its own

The best of worldly gains:

Since out of all on earth it draws

The ore which of its worth is cause.


From godliness there flows

A current of content:

And ill to blessing grows,

By thought of blessing meant:

Each lot as sent by God it holds;

And each a bounty straight unfolds.


It keeps the mind from wrong,

And so of peace secure;

It keeps the body strong,

Because it keeps it pure:

And hath enough, on which to wait

The heirship of a large estate.


And thus a double bliss

To godliness pertains:

The world which present is,

And that to come it gains:

The earthly good is heaven’s begun;

The promise rolls the two in one.2 [Note: Lord Kinloch, Time’s Treasure, 28.]

5. “In this present world.” St. Paul has told us how to live. It is the question of questions—how to live in this world, with what spirit, and for what end. It is not so simple a matter as it seems, nor are men agreed upon it. It is the question that earnest minds are all the while asking; it underlies education; parents ask it anxiously for their children; every young man comes to a parting of the ways when he asks what path he shall take. There are vast numbers who do not know how to live in the world. It is one of the mysteries of human life that we should not know how to live it. It is the strange and pathetic thing about life that it is all we have to do, and we do not know how to do it. We come as near finding a true plan of living in these words as can be found anywhere—“denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.”

The Christian life lies between the first and the second coming of Christ. We confess this whenever we sit down at the Lord’s Table. “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” We look backward in memorial and forward in anticipation—backward to that death by which our salvation is secured, and forward to that coming by which our redemption shall be completed. Our life here lies between the two. It is nourished by the memorials of the past, and by the pledges of the future. It may be lowly and commonplace in itself, but we can never fail to realize its dignity as long as we remember that from which it begins and that toward which it tends. It may be compared to a highway between two great capitals. The road may be dull and unromantic, leading up toilsome heights and down into cheerless villages, or stretching for weary miles across featureless wastes. It may be dry and dusty and rugged, with nothing to distinguish it from any other highway of the world; but from time to time we come to the milestones on which we read the names of the great city whence we came, and the great city whither it is leading us. And when, as we rest by the wayside of our Christian pilgrimage, and call up by the Vision of Faith the old Jerusalem with its place called Calvary, where He died amid rending rocks, its empty sepulchre whence He rose in glory, its Olivet from which He ascended into heaven, and its upper room where the Spirit descended; and when we call up by the Vision of Hope the new Jerusalem with its walls of jasper, its gates of pearl, and its streets of gold, whence He shall come to receive His ransomed people, and whither He shall lead them, that where He is there they may be also—then we feel that the way of our Christian life that stretches out between these two is a royal way indeed, lighted by heavenly light, and guarded by the angels of God.

Do you know that as I live I become more and more impressed by one word, and that word is “now.” Between twilight and sunrise at Peniel Jacob went through what he could never recall. “What saidst thou, O Jacob, in that night-long contest?” Jacob could not have remembered that except in its main lines. The veerings of hope and passion and doubt and fear and intense stringent resolution passed as the rolling night clouds passed, melting into flecks and streaks of morning light.

It is the now that makes the sinner;

It is the now that makes the saint.

Satan has great power over the past and over the future; he has less power over the Now. He has terrified me many a time, as if to the gate of death, by his power over the past, to make it lurid and terrible and inexpiable. He has made heart and flesh fail with the thought of all that lies before me. But he has far less power over the Now. Here I am more truly myself. I can dip my pen and go on writing, and he can’t compel me to do nothing or to do wrong. Oh that I “could sport the oak” between the past and the future very frequently and dwell in the shrine of the present, forgetting the things that are behind as far as they cloud the great work of the Now!1 [Note: Letters of James Smetham, 193.]

Live well to-day, to-day is thine alone;

To-morrow is not, and may never be;

And yesterday no longer is thine own;

But now belongs to thee.


Then take the task that’s nearest to thy hand,

And do it earnestly with all thy might;

Though men may cavil or misunderstand,

Heed not their blame or slight.


What though the common lot of toil be thine,

Thy task the meanest drudgery under heaven,

Thou may’st transform and make it all divine,

If love thy labour leaven.


Work is the daily worship of thy hands,

The service thou dost render to mankind

Must be the measure of thy worth; it stands

The index of thy mind.


Arise, go forth, thy growing powers employ

In helping those who need, their load to bear;

And thus thy life shall be a growing joy,

Freed from all self and care.


Thus live each day, and so thy lowly life

Shall be to all around a beacon bright,

Whose beams shall lead men upward through the strife,

To heaven’s pure joy and light.1 [Note: David Lawton.]

Saving and Instructing Grace

Literature

Aitken (W. H. M. H.), The School of Grace, 1.

Alexander (J. A.), The Gospel of Jesus Christ, 221.

Brown (James), Sermons with Memoir, 111.

Calthrop (G.), The Lost Sheep Found, 245.

Dewhurst (E. M.), The King and His Servants, 50.

Jones (S.), Sermons, i. 41, 48.

Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., ii. 49.

Maclaren (A.), Paul’s Prayers, 47, 57.

Maclaren (A.), Expositions: 2 Timothy, etc., 140, 149.

Miller (J.), Sermons Literary and Scientific, i. 216.

Munger (T. T.), Character through Inspiration, 54.

Reynolds (H. R.), Notes of the Christian Life, 262.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxxii. (1886), No.1894.

Wilson (F. R.), The Supreme Service, 65.

Christian World Pulpit, xvi. 298 (J. Foster); lxi. 106 (F. Pickett), 165 (R. W. Forrest); lxii. 179 (H. Varley); lxxxi. 11 (G. C. Morgan); lxxxii. 258 (A. E. Garvie).

Church Family Newspaper, Jan. 19, 1912 (T. G. Bonney).

Church Pulpit Year Book, 1909, p. 137; 1910, p. 10; 1912, pp. 57, 59.

Clergyman’s Magazine, 3rd Ser., vi. (1893) 289.

Expositor, 2nd Ser., vi. 391 (J. O. Dykes).


Verse 12

(12) Teaching us.—Literally, disciplining us; educating us by life’s sad experiences. God’s grace is in truth a stern discipline of self-denial and training for higher things.

Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.—More accurately, to the intent that, having denied, &c. The object of the loving discipline of our Father in heaven is that we, having done with those things in life which are offensive or dishonourable to God, having put aside as worthless all inordinate desires for the things of this world—all those things which exclusively belong to this life and have nothing to do with the life to come—having denied all this, that we should live as righteous men the remainder of our lives here.

We should live soberly, righteously, and godly.—In these three terms the blessed life our Lord would have His own to lead on earth is summed up—to ourselves, to our neighbour, and to our God. The first, “soberly,” to ourselves—wisely and temperately, keeping ever a mastery over our passions; the second, “righteously”—justly and honourably, having due regard to our duty towards our neighbour; the third, “godly”—piously, ever remembering to live as in the presence of the Eternal.

In this present world.—Or, in the present course of things. The Apostle adds these words to his summary of the life Christians should lead, to remind them that the present world was but a transitory, passing scene after all, and that there was another and a different “course of things” at hand; and this leads him on to another point. The manifestation of the “grace of God,” in the first coming of the Lord in humiliation (Titus 2:11), teaches us to live our lives in expectation of the second manifestation of His glory in His second coming in power (Titus 2:13). We must—in this great passage contained in Titus 2:11-14—bear in mind that there is a two-fold epiphany spoken of: the one, the manifestation of the “grace of God”—that is past (it was the first coming and the earthly life of Christ); the other, the manifestation of the “glory of God”—that is to come. It will be shown in the second advent when the Lord comes in glory with His holy-angels; and the first epiphany (manifestation) in humiliation is an ever-present reminder to us to live in continued expectation of the second in glory.


Verse 13

(13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing.—The Greek should here be rendered, looking for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory. And that holy life, just urged on the believer, of quiet self-restraint, of love to others, of piety towards God, must be lit up by a blessed hope, by a hope which is far more than a hope; that holy life of the faithful must be a continued waiting for a blessed hope—“the hope laid up for us in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). It may be asked, What is this hope? We answer, it is “the hope of glory” which we shall share with the Son of God, when we behold Him as He is. So for us the hope of glory is intimately bound up with the second coming of the Lord. Then the life of the lover of the Lord must be one continued looking for, waiting for, the coming of the Lord in glory—must be a looking for that hour when we shall see in all His divine majesty, Him who redeemed us. In that life and light, in that majesty and glory, His own will share.

Of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.—The translation here should run, of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. From the English version, it would seem that Paul’s idea was that the Christian should live waiting for the glorious appearing of the great God, accompanied with our Lord Jesus Christ. The rendering we have adopted, on what seems conclusive grounds, speaks of a Christian life, as a life ever looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In this sublime passage the glory of the only begotten Son alone finds mention. Taken thus, it is a studied declaration of the divinity of the Eternal Son, who is here styled “our great God and Saviour.” Reasoning merely on grammatical principles, either translation would be possible, only even then there is a presumption in favour of the translation we have adopted. (See Ellicott’s Note on this verse.) But other considerations are by no means so nearly equally balanced. The word “manifestation” (epiphany), the central thought of the sentence, is employed by St. Paul in his Epistles five times, and in every one of them to describe the manifestation of Christ, and in four of them to designate the future manifestation of His coming in glory, as here. The term epiphany is never applied to the Father.

Again, the whole of the context of the passage specially relates to the “Son of God.” The introduction of the epiphany “of the Father” would be a thought not merely strange to the whole New Testament, but would bring quite a new idea into this statement, which sets forth so sublimely the epiphany of Christ as the ground of the Christian’s hope—an idea, too, no sooner suggested than dropped, for the passage goes on to speak only of the Son. Perhaps, however, the weightiest argument that can be adduced is the consensus of the Greek orthodox fathers, who, with scarcely an exception, concur in the interpretation which understands the expression “of our great God” as used of Jesus Christ. To select two examples out of the long chain of fathers reaching from the apostolic age who have thus understood this text: “St. Paul here calls Christ the great God, and thus rebukes the heretical blasphemy which denies His Godhead” (Theodoret). “What can those persons say,” asks Chrysostom, referring to this passage, “who allege that the Son is inferior to the Father?” (See Wordsworth’s Note here.)


Verse 14

(14) Who gave himself for us.—(See Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:25.) These words take up the thought expressed in the term “Saviour” of the last verse. “Himself,” His whole self, as has been well said, “the greatest gift ever given;” “for us,” that is, on our behalf.

That he might redeem us from all iniquity.—That He for us might pay a ransom, the ransom being His precious blood. Our Saviour, by the payment of this tremendous ransom—O deepest and most unfathomable of all mysteries!—released us from everything which is opposed to God’s blessed will. Here the mighty ransom is spoken of as freeing us from the bondage of lawlessness; elsewhere in the divine books the same ransom is described as delivering us from the penalties of this same breaking the divine law—“alles was der Ordnung Gottes widerstreitet” (Hofmann, Commentary on Titus).

And purify unto himself a peculiar people.—The expression “a peculiar people” is taken from the LXX. translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, where the words occur several times (see Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2); the idea is also purely an Old Testament one. Just as Jehovah wished to establish a people which should belong to Him (“peculiarly His,” “His very own”), submitting to His laws, in contrast to the rest of mankind, lawless, idolatrous—so Jesus would set apart and purify for Himself a people, which for His sake should devote itself to God, in contrast to the rest of humanity sunk in selfish sins. As Israel of old lived under the constant impression that they would again behold the visible glory of the Eternal, so His people now should live as men waiting for a second manifestation of His glory.

Zealous of good works.—The man who hopes to see the epiphany of Jesus his Lord and Love in glory will struggle zealously with hand and brain to live his life in such a manner that he may meet his Lord, when He comes in glory, with joy. It was a people composed of such “zealots” of goodness, of men longing for His sake to do their utmost for His cause, that our great God and Saviour wished to purify unto Himself.


Verse 15

(15) These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.—These words are the conclusion of this part of the Letter of St. Paul to Titus. A new division of the Epistle begins immediately after this verse with the third chapter. He is to speak the words—many of them sharp and bitter—told him by St. Paul; he is to remember now to exhort, now to rebuke, and all this “with authority,” as chief pastor of the flock of Crete formally commissioned and appointed.

Let no man despise thee.—“Speak,” wrote the brave-hearted old man Paul, “speak with decision, and rebuke and punish if need be with vigour, remembering the dark character of the people with whom you have to do.” And perhaps in the background of this stirring admonition of the aged master to his disciple, placed in so difficult and responsible a position, there is the anxious warning again: Yes, but show all diligence too in your own words and doings, so that every word of thine may have its full weight, that none may despise thee on account of thine own life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Titus 2:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/titus-2.html. 1905.

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Monday, November 30th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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