Our church family is currently studying Ephesians in our morning worship gathering. We have been overviewing the book to give us a good foundation. One of the means that I have used to lead this overview is to study the main topics of the letter.
Something helpful I have learned from Charles Simeon Trust workshops (1) is to study the “bookends” of biblical books. If one starts with the beginning and end of a Bible book, he often finds that God has placed some of the main themes in those locations. This shows God’s great communication skills. He makes things clear. He does this by making things reachable and through repetition. As a retired teacher once told me, “A good communicator starts by telling you what he is going to say, then he tells you what he has to say, then he tells you what he just said.” (Thanks Bill Barnhart!)
The Lord Jesus, through Paul, starts Ephesians with a greeting of grace and peace (Ephesians 1:1-2). He then expounds grace and peace in the life of individual believers and the church. Then He tells us what He has already said by ending the letter with peace and grace (Ephesians 6:23-24).
This past Sunday our church looked at grace through the letter of Ephesians. Grace is God’s kindness shown to those who deserve His punishment. After preaching this sermon I read Jerry Bridges’ definition of “grace” in his book Growing Your Faith. There he says, “Grace is God’s favor through Christ to people who deserve His disfavor.” (2) I like that much better, since it emphasizes that God’s favor is through Christ to the ill-deserving.
I really appreciated Chuck Swindoll’s illustration of grace in his book Grace Awakening. He there explains “grace” as an individual of higher status stooping down to aid someone of lower status. God has stooped down to us in Christ coming and dying for us. (3) However, grace does not stop there. God continues to stoop down to us in grace for empowerment to live the Christian life. He does this through spiritual gifts, but even more through the Holy Spirit living in us (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:7-16; Colossians 1:27)
As we looked at grace as a church family, I tried to emphasize the points that God through Paul emphasized in the letter to the Ephesians. Grace is seen in three aspects in Ephesians. We are saved by grace (2:4-5, 8-9), empowered by grace (4:7-16), and will forever experience grace as God’s displays of grace (2:6-7).
While I want to emphasize the main points of the letter I am preaching, I also believe there is another aspect of grace that needs to be addressed. It is an aspect of grace that is covered most clearly in Titus 2:11-14. The grace of God also disciplines us. Lest we think that God’s grace means He overlooks our sin or never works to develop our character, we need to be reminded that God shows favor to us by continually training us. (4)
Many think that grace means that God does not care about our sin. He simply likes to overlook and forget about it, especially now that I am a Christian. Nothing could be further from the truth. Again, borrowing from Swindoll, grace is God stooping down to us. Just as a loving parent leans into his or her children to correct their wrong and train them in right, God is continually leaning into us to do the same. The grace of God has brought salvation, and the grace of God continues to train those He saves.
This is good news for us. God does not save us only to abandon us to do things on our own. He is intimately involved in our lives to train us for our good. There is accountability in the Christian life. God loves His children too much to leave us without His guidance and discipline.
Titus 2:11-14 tells us that the grace of God trains us to renounce certain things and to live in a certain way. The grace of God saves us and teaches us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” (Titus 2:12). The word “renounce” is strong. It can mean “disown.” (5) God’s grace teaches us to disown ungodliness and worldly passions. J.F. Strombeck helpfully explains, “The word ‘ungodly’ is defined as ‘not having regard for God.’ It includes all that is done without taking God into account.” (6) So, the grace of God teaches us to abandon an attitude that does not regard God. Again, Strombeck says, “Worldly lusts are things of the world which are longed for and desired because of selfish pleasure and gratification derived therefrom.” (7)
Worldly passions and ungodliness really go together. One is a disregard of God, and the other is fueled by selfishness. Basically, both ungodliness and worldly lusts are grounded in self-worship that desires to dethrone God.
While we would expect that only the unsaved battle with self-worship believers are still in a battle against these wrong attitudes. As Jerry Bridges wisely puts it, “When we trust in Christ as our Savior, we bring a habit of ungodliness into our new life in Christ.” (8) God, in His love, continues to lean into us and teach us to abandon these attitudes which contradict our standing in Christ. God teaches us to disown these attitudes which are not for His glory or our good. This is an ongoing process in the life of a believer.
This on-going process of grace training is not only to abandon that which is negative. There is a positive element as well. To keep these posts to a manageable length, the positives of grace training found in Titus 2:11-14 will be saved for a future post.
The grace of God that saved us continues to train us for God’s glory and our good. This is incredibly good news!
- Bridges, Jerry. Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ (p. 19). The Navigators. Kindle Edition. See also Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Zondervan, 1994, 200: “God’s grace means God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment”
- (2) Charles R. Swindoll. The Grace Awakening. Word Publishing, 1996, 8-11.
- I want to give credit where credit is due. I have been greatly helped in this area by Jerry Bridges (in the above-mentioned book and others) and J. F. Strombeck’s Disciplined by Grace most recently published by Grace Gospel Press of Duluth, MN in 2013.
- 720. Arnéomai. HELPS Word Studies. Discovery Bible, 2021. Biblehub.com.
- Strombeck, J. F. Disciplined by Grace. Grace Gospel Press. Kindle Edition.
- Bridges, p.43.
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