But isn’t all this talk about the grace of God that bringeth salvation a bit abstract? Don’t we need some grit, some earth, some objectivity to ground all this in? Well yes we do, and as we see from the next part of verse 11, that’s exactly what we get. We’re told that this grace that bringeth salvation appeared. Paul is saying that grace appeared. Now if we’ve been a Christian, for even not a very long time these words won’t sound that strange to us, but just for a moment stop and think about what Paul is saying. ‘Grace appeared’? What can Paul mean that God’s intention to rescue us from the temporary and eternal affects of sin and deliver us to ever lasting joy ‘appeared’? He is, of course, talking about Jesus.
The grace of God appeared which in the Greek meant something like ‘to come to light for the first time or in a new way’. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the grace of God come to earth as a man. I think there are two ways that the grace of God appeared though Jesus Christ, one to physical eyes, and one to spiritual eyes.
The first was in the incarnation, that is, in the very act of Jesus becoming a baby, being born in a rural backwater, and living as a carpenter for the first thirty years of His life. In Luke 2:20, the Godly man Simeon says that he can now die in peace, because ‘my eyes have seen thy salvation’. Luke 3:6 quotes Isaiah talking about the birth of Jesus and says that all men shall see the salvation of God. This is the grace of God appearing to people’s physical eyes. If you’d lived 2000 years ago about 6000 miles away you’d have been able to touch Jesus, God incarnate, grace appeared Himself.
The second place the grace of God appeared, is the just the second half of the incarnation, it’s natural, God ordained ending. Grace appeared on the cross. Grace appeared as Jesus was crucified; grace appeared as God the Father punished His Son with the blows that we deserved, grace appeared as the infinitely precious, infinitely worthy, infinitely holy Son of God was cut off from His Father for the first and only time in eternity. On the cross the great exchange took place, on the cross the way was made for us to know God the father though Jesus Christ the Son, on the cross, as justice and mercy collided, grace appeared that we might live in everlasting joy with Jesus in Heaven. This is grace appearing. It’s the cross that brings salvation, nothing else. Justification is by grace, nothing else.
And even though we see that clearly from this verse, it’s an increasingly unpopular truth both inside and outside the church. People believe in all manner of ways to be saved. Some believe in justification by church attendance, that surely God will accept them if they come to church enough, even if enough is just a couple of times a year. Some people believe in justification by geography. ‘Well, they think to themselves, I’m from England, I’m from America, I’m from North Carolina. There’s a heap of churches around here, surely God is a respecter of location?’ Then of course there is the old favourite of justification by good deeds. God will love me if I tell lots of people about Him, or if I read my Bible for six hours every day, or if I remember all my unsaved friends in my prayers.
But grace is what we need. How small a view of God would you need to have to think that He would be impressed by where you live? By sitting in a pew every Sunday? Or by your own effort. Salvation is by grace alone because that is the way the most brings glory to God. Because it’s all about God, His grace and His Son. Our salvation reflects glory back onto God. The wonderful hymn that we sung on Sunday really sums it up: ‘I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.’
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