For the saving grace of God made its advent
to all humanity,
training us that,
disowning irreverence and worldly desires,
we should be living sanely and justly and devoutly
in the current eon,
From the concept of training in the above text (Gr. paideuo) is our word "pedagogy" derived. Grace trains (educates). Which quality of grace does this? The saving grace that has appeared to all mankind. Elsewhere, Paul wrote that the living God is the Saviour of all men (1Tim.4:10). That is a statement in which he explicitly mentions that this is a "faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation." And he adds: "this command and teach".
The message of God's saving grace is not only good news for all people, but in addition, it also trains and educates those who believe this message. That is exactly the opposite of what is usually claimed in religious circles. It is precisely in those circles where this message is rejected, because they believe that it gives licence to be irreverent and to pursue worldly lusts. They think that "the law" must be preached to fight these negative tendencies in man. This they believe in spite of the general awareness that the effect of law and censorship is the very opposite. After all, "the law is the power of sin" as Paul declares in 1 Cor.15:56.
We see this also in the upbringing of children. By telling them what they are not allowed to see or consume, and where they may not go ("touch not, taste not, and handle not"; Col.2:21), it precisely makes them more curious, often times obsessively so. And when their supervision disappears, at some point, the floodgates spring wide open. Who has not heard stories of young people, who grew up in a very strict environment, but then completely derailed on account of this suppressive upbringing?
Forsaking irreverence and worldly lusts (by denying and ignoring), concerning which Paul writes, is not achieved by "law". On the contrary.
Law discourages and frustrates.
Grace energizes and makes happy.
God's grace (= joy, freely given) ensures that there is no desire anymore for irreverence and worldly lusts. That is on account of something much better having come in its place.
What is that better quality which the grace of God provides? Paul says: that it is a life in this eon that is "sensible, righteous and respectful" (= showing reverence). Let's take a closer look at these concepts. The last word "reverence" (eu sebos) is obviously the opposite of ‘irreverence" (a-sebeia) used in verse 12. "The teaching of God our Saviour" (Tit.2:10) is the basis for a deep reverence for GOD. Whoever knows this reverence can, of course, not but reject irreverence. Such a one does not need to be told not to curse (= take God's name in vain), because the idea alone is already repulsive.
As reverence is the answer to irreverence, so sanity is the answer to "worldly desires". The second line is thus an inversion (opposite) of the first line, as the colors show in the following display:
irreverence and worldly desires forsaking,
sanely, righteously and reverently,
in this eon should be living…
The word "sanely" (so-phronos) is in Greek composed of two elements, which comes close to our concept of "a sound mind". "The worldly lusts," i.e., the passions that govern the world (See: 1Joh.2:16) are not repelled by law, but by grace. What is the pedagogical difference?
Grace appeals to our ability to think. It does not nurture us by telling us what is and is not allowed, but it shows how things are. It does not limit, but it provides insight. It is not about, "what is allowed?" but "what is edifying?" (1Cor.10:23). So one learns to think and to draw conclusions. This way, one becomes a mature believer.
The word "righteous" connects the concepts "sensible"‘ and "reverence" to each other. One does what is right (> just). That means doing what is right on the basis of what is of a sound mind, on the one hand, and showing reverence, on the other.
Countless people in the world have an existence but they do not really live. They only exist. Whoever gets to know and believes God's universal-saving grace, receives an existence that has meaning and content–a real life, not only of standards, but of values. "The teaching that is of God our Saviour" is a festive message, where garlands belong. Or as Paul, in relation to slaves, writes:
… that they may be adorning the teaching that is of God, our Saviour, in all things.
All this, God's grace-pedagogy engenders.
Translation: Peter Feddema