Does the Grace of God Offer Salvation for All People? (Titus 2:11)

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Does the Grace of God Offer Salvation for All People? (Titus 2:11)

Bible verses are dangerous things. 

I don’t mean the words which appear within a Bible verse, though I suppose one could say they are dangerous from a different perspective. Instead, I mean that a bare Bible verse taken out of context can be a dangerous thing. 

Take for instance Titus 2:11

If you read this verse in the KJV, NASB, ESV, or really about any translation other than the NIV, you’ll read something like this: 

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…”

Think about that word “bring.” If I ask you to “bring” me a soda from the fridge, and you comply, then I will have a soda in my possession. But if God brings salvation to all people, does this mean that everyone is saved? The editors to the NIV came up with a solution: 

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people…”

But, what does this verse mean? Does it actually mean that God is offering salvation to everyone — or does it mean something entirely different? And how do we apply this verse today?

What Is the Context of This Verse?

Sometimes little words that we quickly gloss over can be helpful to us in interpreting the Bible. One of these words is “for.” Almost every time you see the word “for,” it is grounding a previous verse or section of Scripture. In other words when you see the word “for” it should trigger in your mind something like, “Here is why I just told you what I told you.”

In Titus 2, Paul is encouraging Titus to teach sound doctrine to various groups of people. He is to teach sound doctrine to the older men, the older women, the younger women, and the young men. He is also to teach the slaves and their masters.

Why?

Because God’s grace has appeared. And through this appearing of grace He offers, or brings, salvation to all people. And if you continue in verses 12-14, we see that this grace also “trains us” (v12) to live in such a way that is pleasing to God as we “wait for our blessed hope” (v13), the appearing of Jesus.

So, all those instructions which Titus was to give to the various groups of people in 2:1-10 is grounded by this great act of grace in verses 11-14. Paul is saying, “what I told you in verses 1-10 is possible because of what God has done in the life of believers in verses 11-14”.

But what does it mean that God has “offered” or is “bringing” salvation for all people?

What Does This Verse Mean?

To understand Titus 2:11 it might be helpful for us to see a similar verse in 2 Timothy 1:9-10.

…who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…”

Notice the common themes in that passage with Titus 2. We are saved “by grace” and this grace leads to a “holy calling” and the grace comes to us by means of the “appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ appearing graciously rescues us out of a life of death and transplants us into a life of holiness. 

Paul is saying something similar here. God’s grace has ultimately appeared to us in Jesus Christ. Because this “appeared” is in the aorist tense, it is not a massive leap to see Paul pointing to the incarnation here. And through this work he actually delivers people. 

I understand why the NIV translated this as “offers salvation.” For one, there is some grammatical reason to connect “salvation” with “grace.” It could be translated as something like “the saving grace of God has appeared to all people.” In this case it would be somewhat similar to what John says in John 1:9

But even still, the word “offers” is not necessary. The word that is translated as “bringing salvation” or as “offering salvation” is really only one word in the original. It is the word σωτήριος (soterios). And it means to actually rescue. It means deliverance. 

If we view this verse in its context, Paul is not making an argument about the offering of salvation; he is speaking of the results of salvation. The “all” there is not saying that God’s grace has brought salvation to all people who have ever lived. But it is saying that God is bringing salvation to all types/classes of people. Thus, the instruction to Titus. 

What Paul is saying, then, is that Titus is called to teach, and he is empowered to teach, to all types of people from all social groups, because the Lord is bringing salvation to all classes. If you want to make an argument that salvation is available to all people, that is certainly a point that can be made. The overall point, though, is something closer to what Abraham Kuyper said: 

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

Is Salvation Really for All People?

This is one of those questions which can cause many people to stumble. It’s filled with theological knots and it’s a conversation that is often filled with more heat than light. In my understanding, we’re often imposing questions on the Bible that it isn’t concerned with asking. 

A few years ago, I went to the home of a man needing help putting in an air conditioner. He had been having some health concerns and wasn’t able to get a window unit installed. It was the middle of summer in Southern Indiana. Sweltering heat. We went to his home and helped him out. 

When we arrived, I noticed quite a few Christian books. And some which I had considered good and solid theological resources. A few of his resources even sparked envy within my heart. The guy had a good library. So, I asked whether or not he was a Christian, and what church did he attend. 

He informed me that he wasn’t sure if he was a Christian but he certainly would like to be. This caught me off guard and so I asked him what was holding him up. His response was one I hadn’t heard before. I was expecting him to say something like, “I know I’ve done bad things and I need to clean myself up before I consider coming to church and giving my life to Christ.” I’ve heard that one quite a few times. 

No, this guy said something different. He said, “I’m not sure if I am one of God’s elect. As such, I’m not confident that Jesus died for me.” Full disclosure, I lean towards holding a particular redemption view of the atonement. So, his theology didn’t really catch me off guard. It was the application that I found surprising. 

I then asked him whether or not he was a sinner. He fully acknowledged that he was a sinner. I think he even noted that he was totally depraved. I then took him to 1 Timothy 1:15 and Luke 5:32. There we read that Jesus came to save sinners. He came not to “call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” I let this man know that he most certainly qualified. He needed to stop worrying about those questions and simply cry out to the Lord to save him. With tears in his eyes, he cried out to the Lord. 

I jokingly said to him afterwards, “well, I guess you are one of the elect.” You’ll have to forgive my nerdy joke there. But it does show a little of what Spurgeon (or at least folks have quoted it as Spurgeon) has said: 

“When the sinner comes to the gates of Heaven, above the gate it reads ‘Whosoever will, let him come’ (Rev. 22:17). As he accepts this gracious invitation and goes through the gates into Heaven, he sees written on the other side – ‘Chosen…in Him before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4).”

This is why I don’t get too hung up on some of these questions. God saves sinners. That’s really all we need to know. 

How Does This Verse Encourage Us Today?

This verse ought to encourage us in a couple of ways. First, it’s a reminder that no matter who you are or what you have done, grace has appeared and God is bringing salvation. You can be saved. You are not too far gone. That is the theology that is undergirding Titus 2

But there is a second way that this text encourages us, or rather exhorts us. If we are saved, then we should realize that we are likely in one of those classes of people that Paul is talking about. And we should respond accordingly. Because grace has appeared, because God is bringing salvation, we are called to live holy lives. 

Lastly, we should, like Titus, be proclaiming the good news to all people. And lovingly calling upon those who respond to Christ to live a life that is worthy of their calling. 

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Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake.