What does God accomplish by His grace? Grace is a high-traffic word among Christians, commonly defined as His unmerited favor towards sinners. In the New Testament, however, grace doesn’t seem as narrowly defined. God’s grace speaks of His loving disposition towards us in Christ, and also of His power at work in us. He saves us by His grace, transforms us by His grace, unites us to Christ by His grace, gives the Holy Spirit as our Helper by His grace, and brings us to glory by His grace. 

So, what does God accomplish by His grace? All of salvation. The sufficiency of His grace means that He will accomplish all He promises to accomplish. 

In this article, I want to explore the sufficiency of God’s grace by examining a short passage from Paul’s letter to Titus. In Titus 2:11-14 Paul says: 

“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.”

In this passage, we see that God’s grace is sufficient to save, to transform, and to guarantee the hope of glory. 

God Saves by Grace

Someone once illustrated salvation to me as “God getting us on the court and passing us the ball. It’s on us to put it in the net.” In this example, God gets us in the game, but we need to finish the job. The grace of God toward us in Jesus Christ starts but cannot finish the work. 

Paul, however, describes it very differently. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11). God’s grace is entirely sufficient to bring salvation to all people. When Paul says, “all people”, he means all people. Anyone who comes to a saving knowledge of God, anyone who receives the forgiveness of sin, anyone who is counted righteous in Christ, is saved because the grace of God has appeared. God’s power to save is the power of His grace. 

God accomplishes everything necessary for salvation by grace. In Romans 3:24, Paul says we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” To be justified is to be counted righteous before God. It is God’s declaration of innocence because Christ has borne our sin and imputed to us His perfect righteousness. This is a gift of grace. 

The second verse of the Hymn, Grace Greater than Our Sin, beautifully captures the sufficiency of God’s grace to save: 

“Sin and despair, like sea waves cold, 

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is great – yes grace untold –

Points to the Refuge, the mighty Cross.”

Sin and despair are no match for the grace of God. When God’s grace appears, salvation comes. Our hope as Christians rests on the sufficiency of God’s grace for salvation.

Since He can save completely by grace, then we have true rest when we rest in Christ. Grace doesn’t make salvation possible; it makes it certain: 

“I need no other argument,

I need no other plea,

It is enough that Jesus died,

And that He died for me” (My Faith Has Found a Resting Place).

God’s Grace Transforms

What is a Christian? The New Testament says a Christian is someone who is in Christ (Romans 8:1 and Colossians 3:1-4). I love the image of being in Christ. It’s an image that confronts our very human tendency to see the day-to-day elements of Christianity as our way of paying God back for forgiving us or maintaining our spot in His kingdom. It confronts our tendency to see justification as a gift from God, but sanctification as our work to keep the gift. Paul confronts this mistake in Titus 2:11-14. 

Paul tells Titus the grace that brings salvation trains “us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:12). There is no break in the chain between salvation and transformation. Warren Wiersbe, commenting on this passage, says, “The same grace that redeems us also reforms our lives and makes us godly…We are disciplined by God’s grace, trained to be the kind of people that glorify Him.”[i] Justification and sanctification are not the same. They are different, but they are connected and the link between them is God’s grace. 

Paul describes the “training” in both a negative and a positive way. God trains us by grace to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. High-performance athletes cannot eat whatever they want. They have to train themselves to say “no” to certain foods so they can compete at the highest level.

Likewise, God trains us to renounce ungodly habits and affections. He also trains us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. He not only trains us to say “no” to sin, but also to say “yes” to godliness. Calvin says, “Accordingly, when we would express the sum of blessedness, we have mentioned the grace of God; for from this fountain every sort of good thing flows unto us.”[ii] By grace He transforms us, conforming us into the image of Christ and producing in us the fruit of the Spirit.

Life transformation is as much a gift of God’s grace as the forgiveness of sin. In his benediction, the author of Hebrews prays for his readers. “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

God supplies everything necessary to do that which is pleasing in His sight. He gifts us all we need to live a godly life in Christ. His grace, that is sufficient to save us, is the same grace that is sufficient to train us to please Him in all things.  

God’s Grace is Sufficient for Hope

Salvation and transformation are born from God’s grace, so our hope in Christ is not in vain. God will finish what He started. Paul makes the move to hope in verse 13, “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” (Titus 2:13-14). This is not waiting on a fool’s hope. There is no hint of anxiety in Paul’s words, as though a day may come that proves his hope in Christ was nothing more than smoke. The hope all Christians wait for is certain because God finishes what He starts. 

Paul also connects God’s grace and our hope in Titus 3:7, “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” In two places, very close together, Paul reminds Titus of the sufficiency of God’s grace to save and, therefore, the certainty of our hope in God. As he says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

What impact might this have on our daily lives? First, it should fill us with wonder and lead us to worship the Lord. John Owen likened the abundance of God’s grace to rivers flowing into oceans. “It is in the nature of this grace to grow and increase unto the end. As rivers, the nearer they come unto the ocean where they tend, the more they increase their waters, and speed their streams; so will grace flow more freely and fully in its near approaches to the ocean of glory.”[iii]

God’s grace is certainly not less than the forgiveness of sin, but it is much more. It is the ocean of all of God’s love for us. To know the God of this grace cannot do anything less than cause us to praise Him. 

Second, it creates a devotion to good works. This is Paul’s application in Titus 3:8, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” We rest in the sufficiency of God’s grace by carefully devoting ourselves to good works. Not because good works earn God’s favor, but because good works are the fruit of saving faith. The sufficiency of God’s grace leads to a careful devotion to good works and joy-filled praise of God Himself. 

The entire Christian life is a gift of God’s grace. Paul reminds Titus of this grace that brings salvation, trains us for godliness, and assures us of a glorious hope. Our life in Christ begins by grace, is sustained by grace, and brought to completion by grace. Praise God for His grace!

References:

[i] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 266.

[ii] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. Book III, ii, 28 John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 574

[iii] John Owen, Vol. 1: The works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Edinburg: T&T Clark, 1862), 433. Elliot Ritzema and Elizabeth Vince, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

Download December 2023 on Sola Gratia: The Essence of God's Unmerited Favor

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