One of the things that Protestant Christians must understand is that if we get the doctrine of justification wrong we are getting the gospel wrong. But equally true is that if we get the doctrine of sanctification wrong we are getting the gospel wrong. As Reformed Christians we rightly treasure the biblical doctrine of justification by faith – the truth that God justifies sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls.
But we must not neglect the fact that the Reformers were also deeply committed to recovering and proclaiming the biblical doctrine of sanctification. The biblical doctrine of sanctification is that God, by grace, progressively makes us more holy. Grace is both declarative (justification) and transformative (sanctification).
For all of the necessary attention given to the gospel’s declarative power – that God declares us righteous in Christ – the reformers were also concerned to proclaim the gospel’s transformative power – that God, in his grace not only declares us righteous but goes about growing us in actual righteousness. And here in Paul’s letter to Titus he expresses that same concern. As we examine this passage (2:11-15), we cannot help but notice the prominence of the emphasis Paul places on transformation, good words, sanctification. The book of Titus strongly stresses the need of good works in the lives of Christians. In fact, this note is sounded over and over again either by way of terms like “godliness” (two times) “good deeds” or “good works” (four times) or by a list of moral qualities that characterize godly leadership and behavior (three times [cf. 1:1, 6-9, 16; 2:1-10, 14; 3:1-3, 8, 14]). For a book of three short chapters, this is a strong emphasis.
The glorious grace of God purchased by Christ and applied by the Spirit is the ground of our hope and the power of our transformation.