For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the 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 wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Paul sums up his instructions to Titus in these verses by reminding him, and all of us, that since God’s grace has come upon the scene, everything has changed. Before this happened, the ways of this world were the only choices for people; there wasn’t really a viable alternative. Now however, we can choose different lives and ways of living through Christ. You might wonder at this point about those who sought to differ from those around them in the days before Christ- weren’t there good people in those? Didn’t people seek God and His ways in those days?
The answer is that yes, there were many such people. Yet they only had the ways of this world to choose from in pursuing goodness, for redemption from sin and death were not available; they did the best they could. For the people of old Israel, they had the Law of Moses to guide them, but they did not have the Holy Spirit within them to lead. They took God’s Law and devised a religious system of rules and regulations that were not part of the Law to regulate their behavior, all very well intentioned of course. Yet what they ended up with was what we today would call a religious institution, which was an institution made by men and entirely influenced by the ways of the world in which they lived which would have be just fine, except for the fact that the world they lived in, like the world we live in, operated in opposition to God.
Even in Paul’s day, believers in Christ began to make the same mistakes, and Church History is full of the stories of Christian religious institutions becoming corrupted by the ways of the world. Paul’s whole point in his instruction for Titus is that it really doesn’t need to be this way any more, because we can choose to follow the Spirit, rather than falling back into the old ways.