Grace Teaches Us- Titus 2:11-12

In these verses from Paul’s letter to Titus, we find an aspect of Biblical teaching often overlooked in many Bible studies undertaken by those who are unaware of this Biblical perspective on things. The verse is translated in the NIV as follows: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches them to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age”. In order to understand what we are saying here, it will be necessary to examine these verses in their original Greek construction and syntax, for this will “uncover” for us a teaching which would have been rather obvious to a first century Hebrew reader, but is not seen by a twenty-first century English reader. The Greek passage begins with the use of the noun grace, along with its modifying adjective saving (translated as the noun salvation in the NIV). The verb in the passage is the verb “appeared”. Both the noun grace and the adjective saving are in the nominative case, making them the subject of the verb appeared. It is the “saving grace of God” which has appeared to all men. The reason for our choosing to phrase this with the word saving will become apparent as we continue, for it is in verse 12 in which we will divert from the NIV translation and uncover the missing aspect found here. As we notice, the NIV inserts a period after the word men, then adds the word “it” as the subject of a separate sentence. The period and the word it are not in the Greek text, but , after the word men we find the present active participle form of the verb paideuo. The participle, in Greek, functions as a verbal adjective, telling us something additional about the noun it modifies, which in this sentence is the noun grace. It is grace which is teaching us here. In the English language, participles are referred to as “ing” words, for they predominantly end in the letters ing in English. So a perfectly valid English translation of these two verses would go as follows: “For the saving grace of God has appeared to all men, teaching us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age”. Now why would all of this matter? It matters because the NIV translation reveals to us a difference in mindset or presupposition between a first century Hebrew reader and a twenty-first century American one. We modern Westerners have derived our basic perspectives on reality from Greek philosophy, and we tend to see something like grace as fundamentally an abstract concept, as “something”. Ancient Hebrews (which Paul was) saw something like grace more as a personality, not as something but someone. To them, grace was not fundamentally an “it”, but rather a “him”. The saving grace of God was not fundamentally an abstract concept, but a person, the person of the Savior. It is our Savior Jesus Christ who brings salvation, and it is also the person of the Savior who teaches us here. So, to conclude, what we have uncovered here is not a contradiction of the common understanding of grace as an abstract concept (commonly referred to as unmerited favor), but an addition to it, a deepening of it. This is why we find so many instances of the personification of what we would consider abstract concepts in the New Testament. The awareness of just what this means can only serve to deepen our understanding of the Bible, and also to deepen our gratitude for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for we are not saved by an abstract concept, but by a person.

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