[FOR THE GRACE OF GOD that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world: looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13 KJV).]
Another statement definitely affirms that the law is not a teacher of godliness. It is: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). By inference he who is under the law is dominated or ruled by sin. From this it is clear that while God in the law sets forth standards of life for man, the law was not expected to produce righteousness in the lives of men. The reason is that the law merely tells men what they must do. Then it is left to man, entirely in his own strength, to do that which the law demands. Because of man’s sinful nature this is impossible. That is why the law cannot be a means of producing godliness in man. This is confirmed by the words: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh…” (Rom. 8:3). It is therefore fundamental to recognize that all teaching of righteous living, to be effective, must not be grounded in law, but in grace. Any appeal for godliness not related to grace is based on a false premise.
To reject the law as a teacher is not to say that there are no standards set for Christian conduct. Grace also sets standards but these are on a much higher plane. Those of the law are on a high human plane; those of grace on a divine plane. Furthermore, grace supplies that which is needed to live according to these ideals. Of the Holy Spirit, who is a gift of God’s grace, Jesus said: “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). He is not merely a signpost that points to high ideals. He is a divine Person dwelling in the believer to guide into “all truth.” This is something entirely unknown to the law.
Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The grace which came by Him gives spiritual life; also, by teaching, it makes that life more abundant. Paul wrote to the Philippians: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you … being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:3, 6). The beginning of the work was saved by grace; the performance of it is disciplined by grace. God never saves a person and then leaves him to himself to finish the good work. He Himself perfects that which He has begun. Grace is just as important, it is just as much needed, and is equally provided for both [beginning and finishing].
How wonderful it is to know that the same grace, the same loving-kindness of God, which sent His Son to the cross and brought salvation, also disciplines and perfects that life which is born of God!
One more word, in the passage under consideration, requires attention. It is the little word us. Grace teaches us, not all men. Salvation bringing grace appears to all men, but only those who receive Him by whom grace came are taught thereby. The discipline of grace is not for the unsaved. They are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) and cannot be taught how to live until they have been spiritually born.
Part 3 of 3
Excerpt from J. Strombeck, Disciplined by Grace (Chicago: Moody Press), Chapter 1, pp 8-9.