Audio Worship 6/30/2024, "Grace Alone" Titus 2.11-15

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1644

June 30, 2024

Titus 2:11-15                   Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus


Grace Alone


11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.



  • The Grace of God


Our time in worship the last couple of Sundays has focused on one of the five principles that came out of the Reformation. Five “alones” – scripture alone, the doctrine that lifts the authority of scripture. Christ alone, the teaching that points to Jesus Christ as our only way of salvation. Faith Alone, that salvation comes by grace through faith. Today we consider Grace Alone, that we are totally dependent on God’s grace for the salvation we know in Christ.


Grace Alone teaches us that God has given us the gift of life through grace, that even our ability to choose rightly for Christ is God’s gift to us.


Grace Alone is God’s unmerited favor toward us. Such favor is expressed throughout the Bible. Ephesians 2:8 says it this way: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is a gift from God. In the reformed faith, we understand that grace is the support behind our ability to choose rightly by faith. We understand that all we do is by God’s grace. Even the ability to choose God, to choose to receive Christ, is empowered by God’s grace. Of course, that theology is often debated and other denominations, and some Presbyterians, believe differently for this particular case, because many believe that free will is free will and we choose Christ or we do not, by our own choice. But grace alone teaches grace alone! It is not our own doing, but the gift of God.


In our reading from Titus we see that God’s grace has appeared and with that appearance: bringing salvation and training us to renounce worldly things so that we might live godly lives. In the fancy theological terms, grace alone brings justification and sanctification. We are justified, or made right with God, by His grace for He has brought salvation to us. We are sanctified, on-going growth in Christ, to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives.


  • A Brief History


The doctrine of grace alone did not originate with the reformers, but it was, over time, more clearly articulated, mostly because of the debate between grace alone and free will. The two main theologies at stake were those of John Calvin and Jocobus Arminius. You will hear these two names tossed around to this day when it comes to how we come to salvation in Christ. Arminians will emphasize our free will to choose Christ and Calvinists will espouse the grace of God that empowers us to choose rightly for Christ. It was in 1618, after both men were deceased, that a group of Reformed churches met called the Synod of Dort, and these five points we have been exploring were a response to five points that Arminius had put forward. The five points we have been considering were referred to as the five points of Calvinism. Arminius believed that our salvation depended upon our free will but Calvin believed that it depends on God’s grace. I find it hard to think that my decision to follow Jesus could be based on my free will alone. Then I would be able to claim that I saved myself, at least partly, by my choice. Remember the T of TULIP, total depravity, that we are so deeply affected by sin that we cannot choose rightly. That point shows that we need God’s grace to work a spiritual regeneration within our hearts and minds in order to even see that Jesus gave His life for us and rose from the dead to give us life. This debate has been around for a long long time and still resonates throughout denominational divides.


Our EPC Confessional Statement, the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 14) speaks to the grace alone principle:

1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

2. By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word…But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.


Our church confession articulates that grace “enables” us to believe. There is nothing we can do to apart from God’s grace. I am reminded of the vast number of awards shows on TV and someone comes to receive their award and then spends the next 5 minutes thanking everyone from their first grade teacher to the producer of the show. Grace alone is somewhat like that, except the only one to thank is God. We did not come to know or receive Christ alone, but through God’s grace that enabled us to believe.


  • The Testimony of Scripture


Titus 2 is one among many Scriptures from which this doctrine is built. Grace alone is not espoused out of a vacuum, but from years and years of Scripture study and from some of the greatest minds of theology. Titus 2.11 begins with the appearance of the grace of God and that grace has brought salvation. Some universalist will claim that this verse says that everyone will be saved, but the phrase “bringing salvation for all people” must be understood in the context of the entire Bible which we know does not teach that everyone is saved. Even verse 12 shows that “all people” is referring to all people who have come to know God’s salvation by grace alone. “Training us” – “us” referring to those who are saved, not all people. By God’s grace we are trained to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. We are trained to be self-controlled and live rightly by God’s Word. We are trained to be patient as we wait for the coming of Christ.

The Old Testament teaches that God gives us abilities that we would not have otherwise. In Deuteronomy 8 God says: 17Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

We can easily see how that same problem could arise when we go the way of Arminius, “Beware lest you say in your heart, My decision and my free will has gotten me salvation.” Calvinism says it this way, “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the grace to choose Christ, that He may display His glory alone.”

You see, the problem with a “free will only” perspective is that I can say that I choose Christ. It is all up to me! In saying that, I am the final word on my own salvation. I chose, therefore I have saved myself through Christ. That is not what grace alone says. Grace alone says that God alone saves us and that the free gift of God is the grace which enables us to choose and within that grace is the gift of faith.

As I have already stated, we can see why grace is necessary in that we are all sinners from the get go. We are all fallen. We share, as human beings, in Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. We are born into a broken and fallen world and a broken and fallen people. In John Calvin’s language, we are totally depraved and unable to make a decision for the good on our own. Only by the grace of God can we be saved.


Ephesians 4:17-24 17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


It is only by grace that we are renewed or regenerated and only by God’s grace that we are given a new self, a new creation, created after the likeness of God, that is, reordering the disposition that has been stained by sin and setting it right through sanctification.

God’s grace is known and embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus has broken the power of sin on the cross. He has shown us this unmerited favor by first loving us and dying for us while we were yet sinners.


Romans 5.12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—“


Paul articulates that we are all under the sin of Adam. We cannot escape this sentence because all have sinned.


Romans 5.15-17 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.


Grace is the free gift that overcomes the sin.


Romans 5.18-21, “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.20But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,21so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Grace came to bring justification and all through the work of Christ.


  • Grace Alone


It is the grace of God that justifies us, sets us right with God. It is the grace of God that sanctifies us, conforms us into the image of Christ. Some may still struggle with grace alone because it seems to take away from the notion of free will and our ability to choose Christ and that is understandable because the debate continues to this day. But the reformed faith settles on grace alone and I believe that the longer we ponder grace alone, the more thankful we may become with it. God’s grace is given freely and in that grace we are justified and sanctified. Such grace makes possible the right choice and the on-going right choices. The gift of grace continues because it is also a training, a person, Jesus Christ who is teaching us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”


Thanks be to God. Glory be to God. Amen.