By Paul Tautges
The future return of Christ is clearly a biblical motivation toward godliness. The Apostle Peter includes the hope of Christ’s return as an essential part of the believer’s mindset, which must be disciplined in order to be sanctified. We are called to fix our “hope completely” on the fullness of “the grace to be brought” to us (1 Peter 1:13). This is a perfect hope that focuses our attention on Jesus and the promise of His full revelation at His coming. However, the phrase “grace to be brought” is originally in the present tense, which means it is a grace that is also being brought to us, that is, grace that is coming and is now within our grasp. In other words, we don’t have to wait for this grace. Though it will be fully experienced when we are glorified this sanctifying grace is now ours to experience on a daily basis.
According to Titus 2:11–13, this empowering grace compels us to live godly while we look for His coming: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Past grace, future grace, and present grace
- The past grace of God has already appeared and has brought salvation to mankind.
- Future grace will be fully revealed when the Lord Jesus returns.
- However, sandwiched between the past and the future, God also supplies present grace.
This present grace is constantly “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” In other words, biblical grace does not lead to licentiousness. Rather, it sanctifies. It leads us away from sin toward righteousness. This present grace is a foretaste of the consummation of our salvation, which will take place when Jesus returns.
Praise God that His present grace—sandwiched between past grace and future grace—is sufficient to empower us to love God and one another to the glory of Jesus Christ as we anticipate His return!
[A recommended resource for further contemplation of sanctifying grace is Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges.]
Dr. Paul Tautges serves as pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and has authored the books Counsel One Another, Comfort Those Who Grieve and The Discipline of Mercy. Dr. Tautges also blogs at Counseling One Another and Biblical Counseling Coalition.