“The grace of God… appeared… teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11,12).
When I was a boy, my mother taught me to be good. I wasn’t under grace, I was under law—the law that Solomon called “the law of thy mother” (Pr. 1:8)! When I was good, she’d reward me, but when I was bad, she’d punish me—just like Moses’ law did for the Jews (Lev. 26). Her “rod of correction” (Pr. 22:15) was one of those long leather straps that barbers used years ago to sharpen their razors, and I can assure you it sharpened my behavior on many occasions!
But as every parent eventually learns, the day comes when a child is too old to take over your knee. The Apostle Paul had that in mind when he wrote, “a child…is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father” (Gal. 4:1,2). In those days, children had tutors who taught them and governors who punished them with a rod. But that only went on until Dad realized his boy had become a young man. After that, he’d correct his son with words, the way you parents of older children correct your adult sons.
In the rest of Galatians 4, Paul uses this as a simple illustration of the difference between law and grace. Under the Law, God treated His people in Israel as children, rewarding them when they were good but spanking them when they were bad with the correcting rod of droughts, famines, pestilences, and—when all else failed—by allowing their enemies to take them captive. But under grace, God treats us as adult sons, correcting us with words—the words of the Bible. The apostle of grace wrote: “All Scripture…is profitable…for correction” (II Tim. 3:16).
See the difference? Under the Law, God corrected the Jews with the rod of correction. Under grace, He corrects us with words of correction—the words found in His rightly divided Word. That means when you get some pestilent disease, or your community is going through a drought or famine, you don’t have to wonder if God is punishing you. He’s not!
Now there’s no question that God’s people in Israel learned to be good under the law. They often fell into idolatry (Lev. 26:30), but after God spanked them with 70 years of captivity in Babylon they never messed with idols again. So the Law used to work well in making God’s people godly. That’s probably why legalists insist that the law be taught today. They just don’t seem to understand how grace can teach us to be godly.
If you’re not sure that you understand it, consider how Paul spoke to the Ephesians about “fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness” and “filthiness” (Eph. 5:3,4), and then added,
“…because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not YE therefore partakers with them” (v.6,7)
Paul is saying, “Someday God’s wrath will come on unsaved people in Hell because of their sins, so don’t you partake of sin just because you know His wrath won’t come on you.” What kind of person would continue in sin just because he knows he won’t be punished for his sins?
There is an answer to that question. In New York, diplomats from all over the world meet to represent their countries in the headquarters of the United Nations. These ambassadors have what is called “diplomatic immunity.” That means they can break the law without being prosecuted by the law. Occasionally diplomats take advantage of this by flagrantly violating our laws. We have words for people like that, and none of them are very pretty! The word “ingrate” comes to mind, because you have to be pretty ungrateful to your host country to act like that.
But the same word applies to us when we choose to break God’s laws just because we are immune from His prosecution. Grace should teach us to deny ungodliness out of gratitude to God for saving us. If you’re not, why not begin to “live in denial”! You’ll be eternally glad you did.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.