Not unusual, in my circles, to talk of saving grace–the unmerited favor of God which leads men and women to repentance of sin, and deliverance from sin’s bondage, by faith in the atoning work of the Son of God through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Saving grace is wondrous grace. Saving grace is amazing grace (that saved a wretch like me).
But what of training grace? Not sure I’ve ever heard that term before. Sounds too works oriented. But it’s what I’m chewing on as I read in Titus this morning.
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. Declare these things . . .
(Titus 2:11-15a ESV)
Seems to me that, if we looked with a certain filter in mind, we’d find that God has a mission statement. That our God is a God who works in accordance with pre-defined objectives and purposeful intentions. To be sure, it would be a multi-faceted mission statement, ’cause that’s just how our God is–a God of manifold wisdom (Eph. 3:10).
Just off the top of my head, God’s mission would entail making Himself known and bringing Himself glory. It would involve so loving the world. And, to be sure, seeking and saving the lost. And from Titus, this morning, it would also include:
To purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.
Saving souls, not so they would just sit on a shelf as inert trophies of grace, but that they would be eager and enthusiastic to get in the game as vessels in the Master’s hand. Zealous for good works. Totally committed to doing good deeds (NLT). And this, not for personal gain or recognition, but according to God’s mission and for His glory.
And in order to fulfill this facet of Divine mission, the grace of God appeared. And it brought salvation. But this same grace also trains us. It instructs us towards the goal of personal purity, and Divine possession, and zealous intention. Saving grace becomes training grace to achieve the goals of grace.
And so, the grace that rescued me also teaches me. It teaches me to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. The unmerited favor that gave me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart of flesh to believe, directs those toward things above so that I might release my grip on things below — the longings of the flesh and the desires for this world.
Grace is my instructor. Teaching me, pointing me, and yes, way too often correcting me, towards living in this present age with self-control, uprightness, and godliness. Educating me on how to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. Instructing me as to how to bring every thought and every action into submission to His leading through the Spirit. Disciplining me as I learn how to put off the flesh and put on Christ.
And all in accord with His purpose:
. . . to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.
I don’t need to do good works for my salvation. I can’t. No merit in this man. But, according to God’s mission, my salvation will result in a burning desire for good works–“good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
So, to that end, saving grace will manifest as training grace. Abundant grace will be abounding grace. Unmerited favor will result in unrestrainable fervor. Real grace will make a real difference.
And to God will be the glory alone.
All because of grace alone . . . saving, training grace.