The Grace of God # 2
Grace For Character and Conduct
When we turn to Titus, that is just exactly what Paul says. The Apostle, in writing to this younger brother, had gone to some length to set out the kind of life that the Lord's people should live, summing up the whole matter of our duty and life here in the world in one beautiful phrase in which he speaks of our "adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Then immediately he comes to the practical power that produces practical holiness, and what is it? "For the grace of God hath appeared." There is the secret of Christian conduct. We do not want to be neglectful of or indifferent to the whole matter of living here on earth lives that are a credit to the Lord and having nothing to be ashamed of before Him and before men, but what is the secret of that? It is the grace of God, and you will notice here the Apostle passes into one or two spheres in which the grace of God becomes a working, effective power.
First of all, "the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men," and I take it that this thought of salvation refers in the first instance to the inward life. The grace of God is sufficient for our inward life. It comes in the power of salvation for deliverance, and the sphere in which we need deliverance is inside, and not outside. Let us be quite sure about that. You would never dispute it in relation to anyone, man or woman, who does not know the Saviour. You know that, when you begin to speak to them of the Christian life, they will always say that in their circumstances, just where they are, it is not possible to live a Christian life. And the attitude of the natural man is always that it is the outward realm that needs changing, but we all know that it is not there. What we need is deliverance inwardly, and if we are free there, then we will be all right wherever we are.
Now, it is the grace of God which, appearing, brings salvation to all men. The Authorized Version says: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men," but that cannot be the meaning, for it is not true. Of course, the problem arises: Does the grace of God bring salvation to all men? Surely this is what it means: the grace of God has appeared and it is a grace which is capable of saving all men, of bringing salvation to every kind of man. There is none so weak or so handicapped that the grace of God is not sufficient for them, nor is there anyone so strong or so good that the grace of God is not their only sufficiency. It is for all men, and it does not matter where the word of the Lord finds you. There is only one solution to your problem, and that is the grace of God. There are so many realms in which we may need deliverance, but the grace of God comes bringing salvation. "The grace of God hath appeared," has been made manifest. The whole effort of the Spirit of God is to make us believe that this is something that God has in hand - and that is so true of the whole Christian life. Your problem may be (and perhaps in this very thing you do not know the grace of God) that you have not yet realized how utterly and completely the whole matter of the Christian life is God's concern. It is His responsibility, and it is from His side. How do you know the grace of God? Well, God appears to you with it. You cannot say more than that!
This is what happened to Paul. It is true that he prayed three times, but he did not get deliverance by praying, and nothing was put on the credit side of his life for his helpfulness because he prayed three times. No, deliverance came to him when the Lord appeared. "He hath said unto me..." Oh, when the Lord speaks to you, you know it! You see, this does not speak of a man wrestling a promise from God. It speaks of the grace of God, unmerited, unexpected, and very often unasked. And it appears to all. Blessed be His Name!
It appeared supremely in the Person of His dear Son, Who is the very embodiment of God's grace. Who was asking for Him to come? Who was expecting Him? There were very few who wanted Him, but He came, moved by His great Divine compassion and concern which we call the grace of God. The Lord Jesus Christ came, so that now, by His Spirit and through His word in the Gospel, the grace of God is manifested to us. It is not what we are doing, but God coming to our hearts and offering Himself in grace. You say: "I wish the Lord would do that to me!" Have you ever seriously faced this fact: that the Lord is doing that to you? I think the matter becomes personal very often when we make it personal. "My grace is sufficient for thee!" Is that the Lord's word to you? Of course, if you heard it coming out of heaven you think you might believe that it was the Lord speaking to you. You would not know if this is the Lord speaking to you, because it does not come in some supernatural way. We do not need to know. Many of us have known the Lord speaking His word to us just by reading it. It has come to us, not as the word of man, but as the Word of God, and we have known that it is the Lord speaking to us. Then we have doubted. Was it the Lord's Word? We have to say in faith: 'It is the Lord's Word, and all the promises of God are Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. The Lord is saying to me: "My grace is sufficient for thee." Well, then, I believe it and I stand on it! That is so often how it happens - it becomes a matter of faith.
Grace For Thee
"My grace is sufficient for thee." Now that is just exactly the point where the faith wavers a bit, if it does not fail. We have no doubt in believing that the Lord's grace was sufficient for the Apostle Paul,for it is very easy to believe things about him. We may even have no doubt that the Lord's grace is sufficient for other people. Have you never, in another human life, seen things that were unbearable and would altogether have handicapped and made a walk with God impossible, and then have you not seen that person overcoming and walking with God? Of course, the devil will say to you: 'You are different!' But you are not! Why have they overcome? What have you been looking at when you have been looking at a true Christian's life? The value of being brought up in Sunday school and knowing Christian doctrines? No, thousands of people have had that and there is not a sign of the grace of God in them, so it is not that. Is it that you have been seeing people who are extraordinary people and have such a strength of ability that they can walk in the way of holiness and obedience to God? No!
But let us see other people's failures. Why? To encourage us to know that these are fallible people, capable of the most terrible collapse spiritually, and sometimes even morally. It is like that in the Word of God. What is God's purpose in doing that, and why does He allow some of us to be seen in our failures? Perhaps He is just pointing out a truth to some soul. Here is someone whom you thought was wonderful, but they are not so wonderful after all - and yet there is something wonderful about them! They are failing men and women, but the grace of God in them causes them not to fail. However, if they move from the grace of God for one moment, they are miserable failures - and that is true of all of us!
So there is no real excuse for you. God's Word is just as much for you as for any other - "My grace is sufficient for thee." Would you dare to tell the Lord that His grace is not sufficient for you? Is it sufficient for you? Well, you have been failing - but why have you been failing? The Apostle wrote to the Colossians of a day (and what a day!) "since ye knew the grace of God in truth." Wonderful things had been happening in these Colossian believers. They were growing, and increasing in holiness, and pressing toward the goal of glory, the goal which is set before us here. The goal of grace of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and when you have the grace of God in your heart, you have that hope burning brightly. That is the goal - the blessed hope of Christ's appearing in glory, and of our having our inheritance with Him in that same glory. That is the end, and that end is for you, presented to you by the Lord - and yet you have been failing. Well, what is the matter? It is because you have not the experience that the Colossians had - and what was their experience? It is very simple! They knew the grace of God in truth. That is how they began. There was a day, not when they resolved to be Christians, but when they said: 'Now we know the grace of God!' The Lord had spoken to them concerning their sin and their guilt and their need, and had said: "My grace is sufficient to save you!" They said: 'Praise God, we believe it is - we are sure it is!' And that was the beginning.
But every step of the way, every phase, every aspect, meant for them a new knowledge of the grace of God, a new speaking into their hearts by the Lord of His word: "My grace is sufficient for thee."
Now the Galatians moved from that ground. They did not give up being Christians. They tried to be Christians, and that was their trouble. The Apostle said to them: 'You have fallen from grace!' That does not mean that they had slipped into sin, though it does lead into sin. They tried to have their salvation by works and by their own efforts. Paul said: 'You have made Christ of none effect! You have fallen from grace!' And that is the explanation of a lot of trouble in Christian lives. It is not that we are not trying to be Christians, but that we are trying to be Christians, and we have been deceived into the thought that we can be. We fall from grace, and we fail.
The true path of the just, that path which is 'as a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,' is just a simple walk of a continually increasing knowledge of the grace of God. It begins in its appearance for our salvation, whoever we are. It takes us through, whoever we are. It will take us through a life of learning, of being instructed, of being chastened, and of being trained in a way of holiness. It will take us through to that blessed hope, even the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us. That is the grace of God - Christ giving Himself, and that is the grace of God at every aspect. He gave Himself to us, giving Himself to us to purge us from all iniquity and to purify unto Himself a people for His own possession. That is the same thing as the Lord, and glory for Him that at long last, after the centuries upon centuries, He has a people who are His own peculiar treasure, precious above all else that He possesses - the peculiar treasure of a redeemed people. If you seek, and if in eternity it be sought, the secret that lies behind this people, the peculiar treasure precious to the Lord's own heart above all else - for He said: "All the earth is Mine" - it is just this: that they knew the grace of God in truth. The Lord said to them, kept on saying it, and the good of what He said remained: "My grace is sufficient for thee."