For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works. Say these things and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no man despise you.(Titus 2:11-15, emphasis added)
Paul is instructing Titus to preach “…what accords with sound doctrine.” Paul goes on to describe behaviors and characteristics of Christian men and Christian women. There are lists of good things to do and things to not do. Simple rules for living a life that bring honor to God. Paul explains from where we draw grace. “The Grace of God has appeared.” God’s grace is manifest in Jesus. With His appearance as the “only begotten Son of God” He brought with Him “salvation for all people.” He is training all of us for life that is with Him; all of us. By His abundant grace He brings salvation to all men. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment contradicts the simple reading of scripture.
Steven J. Cole is a contributor to the website Bible.org. Mr. Cole is identified as a Pastor of a church in Flagstaff, AZ. He writes about “the grace of God and how it works in our lives.” 1 Mr. Cole believes God’s grace “is arguably the most important concept” for Christians to comprehend. He teaches that living in God’s grace is to be equipped for “the battle to be godly.” It is Mr. Cole’s opinion it is necessary to understand God’s grace in order to “experience a close relationship with God and consistent victory over sin (Rom. 6:14).”
“The grace of God” that appears is Christ Jesus; His life, death and resurrection are precepts all men can and will comprehend. He brings salvation to all people. Mr. Cole is right to say, “…The enemy of our souls has created much confusion and controversy on this topic.” Good meaning men and women have developed “traditions of men” that are just as much to blame for the confusion and controversy.
Mr. Cole suggests the interpretations of these verses from Paul’s letter to Titus are in error. He reports “the KJV (King James Version) and the NIV (New International version) err by translating that God’s grace has appeared to all men. That never has been true.” He is right to conclude “there have always been many that have never heard of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.” Mr. Cole believes it is more properly understood “that God’s grace that appeared in the person of Christ offers salvation to all that hear of it.” It’s Mr. Cole’s contention that Paul did not intend Titus and, subsequently, every other person reading this epistle, to interpret the verse to mean “God’s grace brings salvation to all men, he means, ‘to all types of people.’” God is diverse in the types of people He saves “including those whom the world despises, even to slaves.” Mr. Cole seemingly contradicts his position when he writes, “No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.”
Mr. Cole wants his audience to understand “this does not mean all people are saved or will be saved.” There are people “who by God’s grace believe in Jesus Christ…. Those who do not believe in Christ will pay the penalty of eternal separation from God in hell.” Mr. Cole acknowledges there are people, men and women created by God, who have never been exposed to the Gospel. It seems as if Mr. Cole is conflating the appearance of the “saving grace of God” to the hearing of it. Mr. Cole discusses his idea that “all people” is mistranslated and should be rendered as “all types of people.” He declares “not all people are saved or will be saved.”
The Concordant Literal Version translates this verse to say, “The saving grace of God made its advent to all humanity.” Young’s Literal Translation translates this verse to say “For the saving grace of God was manifested to all men.” What are we to say? Scripture tells us that the “saving grace of God” is made obvious to all men. “The saving grace of God” is Christ Jesus.
Mr. Cole is right to preach “no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.” That is a precept of the doctrine of universal reconciliation. But, Mr. Cole preaches also that “this does not mean that all people are saved or will be saved.” He then goes on to say, “The Bible is uniformly clear there are two separate final destinations for all people.”
Mr. Cole’s assertions contradict the plain meaning of this verse. Universal reconciliation embraces these verses as literally true. Other doctrines diminish “the saving grace of God.” Those doctrines require God’s grace be only for a few. They preach God’s grace is available to all men, but only given to a few.
Mr. Cole writes, “Before you can appreciate God’s grace, you need to know that you are justly under His wrath and condemnation. You are headed for eternal judgment unless someone intervenes.” Mr. Cole paraphrases an analogy by Charles Spurgeon. According to this analogy we are all born hanging from ropes. Our respective breaths are being choked out of us. To Mr. Cole’s thinking God, in His wisdom and by His desire, cuts the rope from some freeing them to breathe. However, most are left dangling from a rope. The irony is too great to reason. Mr. Cole advocates a doctrine in which God creates life and also stifles it. He could easily cut the ropes of all and fulfill His “desire that all be saved.”
Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) is a culmination of many years of hard work and information sharing. Matt Slick is the force behind this ministry. He believes in Calvinism and that God chose him for salvation. He also believes most of humanity is not chosen. He supports a doctrine that excludes many of those created by God from “the appearance of God’s grace.” Mr. Slick writes this about Titus 2:11. 2 “We, the chosen, have had the blessing of saving grace bestowed on us in abundance. Saving grace is based upon the love of God manifested in the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.” Mr. Slick tells his audience that grace is not a substance that can be attained. Grace is a gift from God, but grace is not impartial. Mr. Slick tells us that grace “…is an action of God, therefore, it has a result.” The doctrine Mr. Slick supports diminishes the plainly written precept that “the saving grace of God is manifested to all men.”
Bob Utley prepared a commentary on God’s Holy Word. He founded “Bible Lessons International” and the website bearing that name. He, Mr. Slick and Mr. Cole have a common understanding of these verses. Dr. Utley writes this regarding Titus 2:11. 3 These verses “give the theological basis for godly living.” Dr. Utley tells us, “The life, teaching and death of Jesus fully revealed the Father’s love, mercy and grace. When we see Jesus, we see God.” Dr. Utley declares “God sent Christ to die for the sin of all humans, but they must personally respond by repentance, faith, obedience and perseverance (emphasis added).” Dr. Utley remarks these are scriptures “reflecting the universal scope of Christ’s work ‘for the world’ and ‘all men.’” Dr. Utley teaches, “The appearance of the grace of God” is universal, that is available to all men, but that grace (Christ Jesus) can only be realized by a work. Dr. Utley writes, men “…must personally respond by repentance, faith, obedience, and perseverance.” In other words those of us who have been blessed to see “the grace of God manifested” must perform a work or series of works in order for salvation to have effect for us.
Dr. Utley writes, “God made humans in His image…. He promised to redeem all humans. He specifically mentions His worldwide agenda even in His call of Abraham…and of Israel….” On one hand we must work; we must repent, we must exercise faith, we must be obedient, and we must persevere. On the other hand God, “…promised to redeem all humans.” Quoting Matt Slick (above), “God’s grace is an action and God’s action has a result.”
Universal reconciliation preaches God will be “All in all.” “Yahweh is good to all men.” This is Impartial Grace.
1 Steven J. Cole, Pastor. “Lesson 8: How Grace Works (Titus 2:11-14).” Bible.org website. 2007 https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-8-how-grace-works-titus-211-14. Date accessed: 04/01/2018.
2 Matt Slick. “Titus 2:11-14, The Results of Saving Grace.” Christian Apologetics Research Ministry website. Publication date unknown. https://carm.org/sermon-titus-211-14-results-saving-grace. Date accessed: 04/02/2018.
3 Bob Utley. “You Can Understand the Bible: Study Guide Commentary Series; Titus 2.” Free Bible Commentary website. Date of publication not known. http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL09/VOL09_09.html. Date accessed: 04/02/2018.