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III.  Bringing Salvation to All People

 

Romans 15:15-16 - But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God,...

 

Let me quote here the whole text in our "Gospel" reference in Titus 2:11-15, 3:3-7 - taken from the English Standard Version.

 

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 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. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.  3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

In this sermon we are taking off from the end of verse 11 in chapter 2:  "...bringing salvation for all people."

 

"For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people."  Titus 2:11 (ESV)

 

  First of all, right up front, we need to make the important observation that this passage is not an endorsement of "universalism."  Universalism is the notion that Jesus fixed everything when he was here and as a consequence, ultimately, everyone will go to heaven - nobody goes to hell.  This is a wonderful idea, but it is not based on the whole Gospel of God.  What we teach is best summarized by John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life."  "Everlasting life" has a contingency -- the exercise of "faith."  Not faith for faith's sake - but, faith in the person and the work of Jesus Christ.  And John 3:16 is in the larger context of the "new birth" that Christ confronted Nicodemus with: "Ye MUST be born again - that which is born of the flesh is flesh.  That which is born of spirit is spirit."  The idea of the "conditional" nature of salvation and the work of God in the heart of man is found in many Biblical passages - just for example, note 1John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  How big is the little word, "If"?  Also, take note of this condition in Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV):  "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."



But you may be wondering what it means then, that the grace of God brought "salvation for all people."  Let me illustrate it further with a passage from Hebrews 11:6 -

 

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 

See how wide the door is opened.  See how free and inclusive God is.  Think about what this verse in Hebrews says in the light of John 3:16!  If we are talking about salvation - eternal life - then we are talking about faith that has action; and we are talking about whosoever exercises that "action faith" will be rewarded; and we are talking about not just any "faith action" but the action of diligently seeking the God whose Son is Jesus Christ who paid the price for your sins.  So, the God of the Universe has made adequate provision.  In His wisdom and His mercy He has placed a DOOR before all of us.  Jesus didn't just do everything for us and sprinkle magic dust on all of us and, "Poof!" everybody's going to heaven now!  No, God is after something:

 

   And this is eternal life,
that they know you
the only true God,
and
Jesus Christ
whom You have sent.
John 17:3 (ESV)

 

Put John 3:16 and Hebrews 11:6 beside this verse in John 17 and you begin to get the picture.  God wants a relationship with those who want a relationship with Him!  If any person pursues a relationship with Jesus Christ with "action faith" then Jesus Christ will give that person eternity to enjoy that relationship! If any person rejects God's invitation to get to know Him...well...then they have made their decision.  God won't force you to want to know Him....but if you refuse you will suffer the self-inflicted consequences - eternally. 

 

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am responsible before God Almighty to tell you these things.  Come with us on this voyage into the glories and the graces of our loving Creator.  Come with us as we explore "The Gospel of God."

 

So, back to our text:  If the Grace of God has appeared and opened the door of salvation to all who would accept the invitation to enter in, how are we to understand the idea of salvation in "real time?"  What does it look like in shoe leather?

 

We can find an excellent answer to this simple question in the text quoted above from Titus 2:12:  on the one hand we are to, negatively "renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and", positively, we are "to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,....  There you have it!  Turn your back on sin and walk in holiness...in shoe leather...in the here and now!  Easy enough.......right?  God would not ask you to do something you cannot do.....would He?

 

The first two words in vs. 12 may help us understand:  "TRAINING US..."  In future sermons we are going to look at this idea of God training us at great lengths, but for now, suffice it to say, there is no way for us to accommodate God's commandments without taking into consideration His preeminent role in our conformance.  To underline this point, look at what follows in vs. 14 of Titus 2:  "...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."  God "gave himself" to "purify for himself...his own possession." 

 

God is at work in our lives.  God has set for Himself a goal for which He has made overwhelmingly sufficient provisions to accomplish.  God knows what He is doing.  When He called you out of a life of unbelief and iniquity, He did so with the utmost optimism as to the success of His training in your life.  In fact, it makes sense that He is infinitely optimistic as regards your turning your back on sin and walking in holiness because He has already paid the full price for our redemption AND for our purification.   

 

But, you may say, I must not be saved then; because I still struggle with bad habits and ugly ways of thinking.  I say this to you:  there was a time when you did not know or you did not care if God was displeased with these things.  Now you know and now it bothers you...it bothers you a lot.  And this is so, BECAUSE HE IS TRAINING YOU!!!  It does not say that God has trained us in the past and now it is all done...it says He is engaged in an ongoing process of transformation within us from willfully sinning to happily renouncing our sins.

 

This does not mean that it is fine if you just ignore the whole idea of doing the right thing and go on living a life of ungodliness.  NO!  You will not do this if indeed you and God are "doing business."  Note 1John 1:6:  "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."  Also, 1John 3:7-9 (ESV):

 

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

 

Whew!  These truths will put a little fire in your walk, won't they? I need help, what about you?  God knows!  Notice, "Whoever practices" in vs. 7; and "Whoever makes a practice" in vs. 8; and "makes a practice" and "cannot keep on sinning" in vs. 9.  I believe the ESV captures the essence here of this passage in 1John 3.  God is "training" on an ongoing basis, and we are "practicing" until we learn, from one lesson to the other...on an ongoing basis.

 

We really need to get this.  So many Christians live in a cloud of defeat and hopelessness because the Father of Lies, satan and his imps, harangue and accuse and condemn them constantly with their shortcomings and their lack of perfection and the old ways that hang on.  This is not God!

 

God is saying, "I have paid the full price for your purification!"  I am the perfect teacher, you don't have to be the perfect student!"  Listen to God, not the devils that nag at you.  Listen to God say, "Come on!  Get up!  I know you fell again, I'm right here beside you.  I'm not going to bust you up side the head and throw you in hell!  You are my child!  Take My hand.  Look in My Face.  Listen to My Word.  Trust in Me, NOT IN YOURSELF!"

 

 Don't believe what the devil says.  Shut your ears to his defeatism and his message of hopelessness and doom and fear.  Open your spiritual eyes to the glory of the Gospel of God in the beaming light of the completed work of Jesus Christ, His dear Son, on the Cross. 

 

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  1Corinthians 15:1-2 (ESV)

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  2Corinthians 2:15-16a (ESV)

 

 Note "being saved" in all three of these verses as rendered by the translators choice in the ESV.  Other experts in the Greek language, in other versions have chosen to go with "saved" - past tense.  Let me propose to you that God knew what he was doing when He worded it this way in the original language, leaving this choice to the scholars.  In Titus 2:12, He is "training us" (in the ESV, "teaching us" in others) - this is ongoing; it started at some point and it continues today.  In this sense, our Heavenly Father is "saving us."  In Titus 3:5, "He saved us" (as in several translations) by regeneration - the new birth - and this speaks of an event that happened once and for all.  In this sense, our Heavenly Father "saved us." 

 

In both cases, this activity of salvation is being done by God.  Salvation is His work.  He has done it.  He is doing it.  He will do it.  Trust Him.

 

When I got old enough to feel my oats and set out on my own, I started making my own choices.  I wanted to go to the beautiful, snow-covered mountains that I heard everyone talking about.  I thought I could see them way off in the distance.  But, some folks tried to tell me I would get lost if I set out by myself.  I needed someone to lead and guide me.  Only One knew the way; His name was Jesus.  That thought was foolish to my pride.  I was confident that I could find my own way.  How could Jesus know better than me what was right for me?  Nobody and no thing could stand in my way.  I was tough and I was smart.

Well, I set out alright.  And though I had a fair picture in my mind of what the mountaintops looked like, I eventually lost the possibility of catching sight of them in the forest around me.  I kept going.  I knew I was good enough for the task. 

As I trudged along, I began to wonder if I was walking in circles.  And I could not see the edge of the woods anymore.  In fact, things looked more like a jungle now.  I thought I heard something buzzing near my path.  I stepped off what I thought was the trail to see what was making the funny noise and my foot tromped smack in the middle of a hornets' nest.  I ran as fast as I could, screaming as loud as I could.  I didn't care which way I was going as long as I kept the hornets at bay.

Then I saw a clearing to the left and headed for it.  "Maybe I'll find rest there"  I thought.  Well, the clearing was a lions' den.  Big ones, with big teeth and big claws and they jumped up when they saw me with a very hungry look in their eyes.  Off like the wind again was I!

I saw smoke.  A village!  Oh, finally, civilization.  I stumbled into the circle of huts, out of breath and hardly able to talk.  The lions held up and crouched in the edge of the underbrush.  The natives did not speak my language.  They had spears and knives and blow-guns with a sticky, smelly substance dripping from their darts.  I swatted at the hornets swarming around my head, hoping they may have some mosquito netting. Then I saw the big black pot just as a spear thudded into the tree right beside me.  Cannibals!

Arms flailed and torn by thorns and bushes, heels kicking up mud, blinded by terror, deafened by my own howling and cries, I tore off into the ever deepening jungle. 

Before I knew it, I found myself in a deep, deep swamp.  I felt my knees sinking into the mud and muck - quicksand!  A huge viper snaked his body through the slime in my direction.  The lions roared, snapping their jaws at the edge of the jungle.  The cannibals whooped and gnashed their teeth, drawing up on the edge of the quicksand pit throwing spears and shooting darts at me.  The hornets still swarmed around my head.  My legs ached, my arms bled, my head swirled, my heart pounded.  Up to my armpits in quicksand.  I knew, at last, I was lost! 

Just then, I looked up with a face distorted by agony and hopelessness, and there, just through a small break in the overhanging trees, I thought I saw snow on a mountaintop!

To the top of my lungs I cried, "Jesus!  Jesus!  Come and take me to the snow-covered mountaintop!"

Instantly, He stood beside me walking on the quicksand!  He held His strong hand out to me...I took His hand with great thanksgiving.  The lions howled with fear and disappeared.  The cannibals turned and ran in terror out of sight.  The snake slithered off into the brush.  The hornets stopped swarming and the mud beneath my feet became firm.  We were walking out of the slime together, me and Jesus! 

What joy - unspeakable joy and sweet relief!  What security - peace beyond explanation.  What firm love I felt in the grasp of His hand.  What affection there was in the sound of His voice.  Oh, I would follow Him now!

We walked for some time.  Through the jungle.  Under the great canopy of trees and vines.  Around the pools of stagnant water and through the thick underbrush. 

A hornet buzzed across my face.  I heard a lion roar.  Off in the distance, I saw the smoke from the cannibals' fire rising slowly above the treetops.

I looked up into His kind and patient face and said, "Jesus, thank you for saving me,....but....I thought you were going to take me to the snow-covered mountaintop."

With infinite understanding He said, "I am.  Walk with Me...one step at a time."

 

 

For the next sermon, Click here to go back to The Gospel of God outline.

 

 

The Scripture quotations marked "ESV" are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

All other scripture quotations are from the Authorized Version of the King James Bible.

 

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