Grace does not mean that what we do does not matter. it does not mean that we can live how we choose since God will always forgive us. Paul is quite clear: we need to reject ungodliness and worldly passions. The three positive virtues in Titus 2:11-15 refer to all our relationships:
- to be self-controlled is for ourselves.
- to be upright relates to other people.
- to be godly relates to God.
Grace teaches us to control ourselves and our passions. It teaches us to treat others in an upright or just way. And it teaches us to be godly–to relate to God rightly.
But what empowers and energizes this life is God’s grace. If you have to tell people what the good life looks like then show them Titus 2:1-10. But if you want them to actively live it then do no emphasize the good they must do but the good God has done for them
We can summarize how this works by highlighting three things from Titus 2:13-14.
1. We live the good life, but we await an even better life. There is both a push and pull in the Christian life. We are pushed from behind by the wonder of grace and we are pulled forward by the hope of glory.
2. We await a Savior “who gave himself for us (vs. 14).” Why do I serve my wife? Not because I must. I do not have to win her love. She has already given herself to me. I serve my wife because I love her, and my love for her is fed by her love for me.
Why do I serve my Savior? Not because I must. I do not have to win his love. He has already given himself for me. I serve my Savior because I love him, and my love for him is fed by his love for me (I John 4:19).
3. We await a Savior “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).
Who are we? We are God’s people, God’s very own people, purified for good works. Who are you? You are God’s child, his own child, purified by the blood of his Son for good works, made pure to be pure, set apart for a good life.
Legalism says: What we do leads to who we are. That if we live a righteous life, then we can become righteous people. The gospel rejects this. The gospel declares that being righteous is God’s gift to us. This is the grace of God.
But grace does not say: What we do does not matter. That is the cry of antinomianism. The correction to legalism is that grace says, “Who we are leads to what we do.”