Christmas Eve – Epistle

by Crossings

The Appearance Of Grace
Titus 2:11-14
Christmas Eve
Analysis by Lori A. Cornell

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

DIAGNOSIS: Liars, Brutes & Gluttons (1:12)

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Uneducated
Paul’s letter to Titus reveals that the church at Crete is in trouble. The new believers are like the rest of the Cretan population: They lack social ethics-let alone religious ethics. They like to drink to excess (2:3); they love to gossip (2:3); they rebuff worldly authority (2:3-10); they tolerate infidelity between wives and husbands (2:4); they give parents the impression that they have more important things to do than raise their own children (2:4); they lack self-control (2:5); they accept violence (1:7); and they show disrespect for and take advantage of their employers (2:9-10). Cretans lack the most basic social training (in Greek, paideia). They are uneducated in culture and civilized behavior. It’s no wonder Paul quotes a familiar ancient parlance: “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons” (1:12). So, it seems, are Cretan Christians. Now take out the word “Cretan” and put in the word “American” (or whatever nationality may apply), and see how the description fits. (Still need convincing? Just look at the Fox Channel’s upcoming series “Temptation Island,” which places monogamous couples on an island teeming with horny singles to see how long they’ll remain faithful. “Americans are liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.”) Perhaps we, not just the Cretan Christians, need to be educated in civilized behavior.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Unanchored
The Cretan Christians are ill educated and ill behaved. And their behavior gives them a poor reputation among believers and unbelievers that is publicly recognized (2:8-9) and personally harmful. (That is the crisis that seems to precipitate Paul’s letter to Titus.) But there is more: Since these Cretans are untrained in civilized (and religiously appropriate) behavior, they have nothing to anchor them down; they float from one sin to the next, never quite knowing which misdeed they may commit next. They trust their old Cretan ways and neglect the grace of God. The Cretan Christians are not only unanchored they are faithless.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Ungodly (=Hopeless)
Titus’ Christians live ungodly lives (v. 12). They are not “waiting for the blessed hope” (v. 13). Instead, they have succumbed to the bad influences of their culture. And since they do not wait for the blessed hope (of eternal life) and “the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (v. 13), they have no hope. They expect nothing (or, at least, have forgotten to expect anything) good to come from God, so they live without hope. They are hopeless. And God knows they are hopeless too.

PROGNOSIS: Purified by Self-Giving Grace

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Graced
But while the Cretan Christians behave as if they have no hope, their situation is not finally hopeless. So Paul urges Titus to teach what is consistent with sound doctrine (2:1), and to do so with integrity and gravity (2:7). Paul knows that what the Cretan Christians need most is a clear word about what the grace of God has accomplished. And Paul sets an example for Titus by proclaiming the good news about Christ soundly: “The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all” (v. 11). This is the promise of the Incarnation: God has given his love and his life in flesh and bones, so that we can know his promise is for us-for our salvation. Christ came in human form so that we might see and be changed by what is truly glorious and hopeful (v. 13). The promise for hopeless sinners is that “he … gave himself for us [to] redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own” (v. 14).

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Purified (for Christ)
Such a promise isn’t for Cretans only, but “to all” (v. 11). It is for each of us who find ourselves adrift-tempted by “impiety and worldly passions ” (v. 12). Christ gave himself over to death to purify us and make us “his own” (v. 14). But the promise doesn’t end there, because Christ’s purification effects a change in all who receive it. The grace of God (manifest in Christ, who was born humbly in a manger, and borne humbly on the cross) trains us to renounce impiety and worldly passions. This grace has appeared in the world that we too may have the appearance of grace. To put it another way, Christ’s gracious self-giving trains us how to be truly human (just as he was human-in the very best sense of the word).

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Well Educated
Through Christ’s Incarnation (his birth, death, and resurrection on earth), we are empowered to be “a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds” (v. 14). No longer are we adrift in self-concern and moral confusion. Instead, we practice temperance, fidelity, self-control for the sake of Christ and our neighbor. We are liberated from lawlessness (from “all iniquity,” v. 14), liberated for good deeds. In Paul’s words, we are “ornaments to the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:10). In Christ we share the appearance of grace.


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