Sunday, August 26, 2012

Implications of Grace part 1 (Titus 2:11-14)

We often confuse belief with intellectual assumption (Wahrscheinlichkeitsvermutung.) When the Bible talks of belief as faith, it means an understanding of reality that leads to trust and submission. We trust our understanding of reality with our lives and we order our behavior under that understanding. To do less would not make sense, or would reveal that we do not truly believe as we say we do. To borrow what has become a cliché, saying, “I believe this chair will hold my weight,” is one thing, to truly trust the chair by sitting on it demonstrates our faith.

The Bible asserts that belief is all that is required for salvation. Today we have watered down the meaning of that idea to say that intellectual acceptance of a concept is all we need. For the Bible, however, faith always involves trust and surrender. We accept Christ as our Savior and Lord, not just as a means to an end. According to the Bible, God’s grace saves us and changes us. You don’t get the former without the later:

“God’s Grace has appeared, offering Salvation to all People.” Titus 2:11

This verse is a bit tricky to translate. First, we need to see what it does NOT say: It does not say that God’s grace has appeared to all humanity. If that were the case, God would not have commanded us to share the Gospel with all of humanity. It also does not say that God’s grace has saved all of humanity. That would also go against the entire rest of the Biblical message about grace.

This verse tells us that God’s grace—the power of God that brings salvation—has appeared in creation. It is the Gospel story. Christ has come and made salvation possible for all. He has paid the debt of sin that we owe. He has brought salvation for everyone, but in one sense, it is up to us to accept it.

We must accept God’s grace. Christ has come to save us, but He is not going to force us into anything we do not want. From our perspective, we must decide if we are going to accept His offer of salvation. That does not mean that we merely accept a truth intellectually. When we believe we make a choice to trust God and we surrender to His plan for our life.

See Romans 12:1,2 fro example.

Not only that, we also need to do our part in God’s mission of salvation. God’s grace is effective to anyone who will accept it, but He has given us the task of spreading that news. Some will say, “Surely God will have other ways of telling people about the Gospel. He can’t really have left it all in our hands?” If He has other ways, He did not tell us about them. If He has other ways it seems a great pity that He has caused His people so much suffering and persecution in giving them the task of confronting the world with the truth. Oh, and by the way, He did not leave the task in our hands. He has promised that He will be the power in us to accomplish the task. He is using us and empowering us.

All of this is great stuff for us to consider, but it is not the end of Paul’s thought. We haven’t even completed the sentence that this verse initiated, and we haven't seen why it starts with the word “for.”

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