We live between two epic events—in a meadow between two Mountains. Titus 2:11-14 says so. It’s a Christmas text. And a prophetic text. And a Christian-living text. And it’s under-appreciated.
Jesus’ First, Gracious Appearance: We Have a Savior! (v. 11)
Paul tells us in Titus 2:11 that Jesus’ first Advent was the incarnation of grace. God’s grace has “appeared” (the Greek word that is the source of epiphany). Grace has been revealed in a new and living way at the coming of Jesus to earth. Yes, God was gracious in the Old Testament. But grace incarnate came to Bethlehem, as John 1:14-17 reminds us over and over again. We sing that “joy has dawned” when Jesus was born. And it has. We sing that “love came down at Christmas.” And it did. But Jesus’ coming was—perhaps chiefly—an expression of grace. And it brought salvation that is offered to all people (which gives this passage, like so many others, an urgent missions emphasis).
Jesus’ Second, Glorious Appearance: We Have Hope! (v. 13)
Paul uses the epiphany motif again in Titus 2:13. There is another Advent, another appearance, and it is in the future. Christians live with the eager expectation of Jesus’ return to earth…not as a Sacrifice, but as a Sovereign. While the first Advent highlighted grace, the second will highlight God’s glory. This glorious return of Jesus is our “blessed hope.” Jesus—both the great God and our Savior—will come again!
Jesus’ Ongoing Work in His People: We Have a Purpose! (vv. 12, 14)
Paul’s point in reminding us of Jesus’ two Advents isn’t only to guarantee our doctrinal orthodoxy. While he often gives us doctrine followed by practical applications (as in Romans and Ephesians), here he uses doctrine in the middle of an ethical discussion. The grace that saves us also changes us. In both verses 12 and 14, he calls us first to fight sin (a negative focus) and to pursue a life of godliness and good works (a positive focus). Christian living isn’t merely an ethic of avoidance: don’t do bad things. Instead, it’s a transformation that results in godliness. Verse 14 powerfully tells us that Christ gave Himself to free us from sin, not only to forgive us for sin. He purchased us to be pure, zealous for good works, and His own.
Christ came. Christ will come. And Christians live every day—fighting sin and pursuing holiness—by remembering both. What a Savior!