A Commentary by John Stott
Titus: 2:11-14. 2). The sound doctrine.
Paul now moves on from duty to doctrine, indeed from mundane duties to sublime doctrines. His usual method (as seen, for example, in Romans, Ephesians and Colossians) is to begin with doctrine and then with a mighty ‘therefore’ go on to its ethical implications. Here, however, the order is reversed. Paul begins with ethical duties, and now with a ringing ‘because’ he lays down their doctrinal foundations. Both approaches are legitimate, so long as the indissoluble link between doctrine and ethics is forged and maintained.
The particular doctrine in Titus 2, on which Paul grounds his ethical appeal, is that of the two comings of Christ, which he here calls his two ‘epiphanies’ or appearings. Verse 11 says that *the grace of God…has appeared (epephane)*, and verse 13 says that *we wait for…the glorious appearing (epiphaneian)*. Moreover, both Christ’s appearings have a saving significance. For what has already appeared is *the grace of God that brings salvation* (11), while what we are waiting for *is the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour* (13).
Now the noun *epiphaneia* means the visible appearance of something or someone hitherto invisible, a coming into view of what has been previously concealed. It was used in classical Greek of the dawn or daybreak, when the sun leaps over the horizon into view; of an enemy emerging out of an ambush; and of the supposed saving intervention of a god or gods in human affairs.
Luke gives us a good example of its meaning in the Acts. It is the only occasion in the New Testament when *epiphaneia* has a secular meaning and does not refer to Christ. Luke describes how the ship, in which Paul and his companions were travelling to Rome, was struck by a terrific north-easterly gale, and was now drifting helplessly in the Mediterranean. The sky was so overcast by day and night that for many days the sun and the stars ‘made no epiphany’ (Acts 27:20, literally). Of course the stars were still there, but they did not appear.
Apart from this one literal use of *epiphaneia*, the word occurs in the New Testament four times of Christ’s first coming (Lk.1:78-79; 2 Tim.1:10; Tit.2:11; 3:4) and six times of his second coming (Acts.2:20; 2 Thess.2:8; 1 Tim.6:14; 2 Tim.4:1, 8; Tit.2:13). Here at the end of Titus 2 the word is used of both Christ’s comings (11, 14).
a). The epiphany of grace (2:11-12).
*For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men* (11). Of course grace did not come into existence when Christ came. God has always been gracious (Ex.34:6), indeed ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet.5:10). But grace appeared visibly in Jesus Christ. God’s saving grace, given us before the beginning of the time, ‘has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour…’ (2 Tim.1:9-10). It was brightly displayed in his lowly birth, in his gracious words and compassionate deeds, and above all in his atoning death. He was himself ‘full of grace’ (Jn.1:14; 16-17). His coming was moreover an epiphany of saving grace, of grace ‘that brings salvation’. It *appeared to all men*, in the sense that it is now publicly offered to all, even slaves (10).
Now Paul personifies this grace of God. Grace the saviour becomes grace the teacher. *It teaches us* (12a), or maybe disciples us. In 1880 a book was published in Britain entitled *The School of Grace*, and sub-titled *Expository Thoughts on Titus 2:11-14)*. Its author was Canon Hay Aitken. He wrote: ‘Grace not only saves, but undertakes our training.’ So all Christians become ‘learners in the School of Grace’. Further, ‘Grace bases all her teaching upon the great facts in which her first grand revelation of herself was made, and finds all her teaching power in those mighty memories.’
What then does grace teach? Two main lessons. First, and negatively, *it teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions* (12a). Secondly, and positively, *it teaches us…to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age* (12b). Thus grace disciplines us to ‘renounce’ (REB) our old life and to live a new one, to turn from ungodliness to godliness, from self-centredness to self-control, from the world’s devious ways to fair dealing with each other.
It seems clear that the second part of verse 12 was the biblical basis for a phrase, which occurs at the end of the Prayer Book’s General Confession’, in which we pray that in future we may ‘live a godly, righteous and sober [that is, disciplined] life’. It was for this purpose that the epiphany of God’s grace in Jesus Christ took place. It is not only that grace makes good works possible (enabling us to do them), but that grace makes them necessary (challenging us to live accordingly). The emphasis is on the necessity, not the mere possibility, of good works.
Tomorrow: Titus 2:13-14. b). The epiphany of Glory.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.