Grace Personified- Titus 2:11-14

Grace is one of the most important terms and concepts used in the New Testament. It is commonly defined as “unmerited favor”, and the Greek term translated grace is charis. The primary usage of this word in the Greek culture was to describe “that which brings well being, given as a gift”, from which comes the understanding of unmerited favor. Grace described a gift, freely given, which added to the well being of the recipient. The gift (grace) was seen primarily as something given for the benefit of the recipient, and the term is used many times in the New Testament. It has come to be understood primarily as a concept, a doctrine, an idea. Grace is one of the fundamental “doctrines” of the New Testament, is seen primarily as “something”. This may be due to the fact that we in modern western cultures are intellectual descendants of the Greek philosophers (such as Plato and Aristotle), and we tend to think in “Greek” ways. Grace is a gift freely given, and we tend to think of it as a concept or idea, to see it as primarily something, not someone, for the giving of “someone” is a concept we are not very familiar with. This can be seen in the NIV translation of Titus 2:11-12, which reads: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions”. The term translated “it teaches” is the Greek paideuousa, which is the present active participle of the verb paideuo- to teach or instruct. Participles are “ing” words, and a more literal translation of this verse would be: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us”. The pronoun “it” does not appear in the Greek text, and its use here smuggles in the idea that grace is primarily something, not someone, that grace is an it rather than a he. The biblical concept of grace is not, however, derived from Greek culture but from the Old Testament, and primarily from the term chesed. The OT concept of grace portrayed the idea of a stronger one coming to the aid of a weaker one in order to make the weaker one acceptable to someone else. Grace was not something, but someone, freely working on behalf of another to make the other gain acceptance in the eyes of someone else. In the Hebrew way of thinking, grace was “something”, but it was also “someone”. Grace is not only a concept, doctrine or idea, grace is also a person, the person of Jesus Christ. He is God’s gift to us, God’s unmerited favor bestowed upon us. He is the strong who comes to the aid of the weak to make them acceptable to God. So why go through all of this, why take the time and effort to point out what seems to be a rather obscure and technical thing? Because it has dramatic practical implications in the lives of believers. As believers, we mature as we “grow in grace’, and if we see grace as primarily a concept or doctrine, growing in grace means growing to know more “information”, growing to know “something”. However, if we see grace primarily as someone (not just something), growing in grace means growing to know a person, growing to know “someone’. Our next post will examine Titus 2:11-14 in order to see just how and why understanding that grace is “personified”, that it is someone as well as something, makes a dramatic difference in our lives.

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