This question is in the context of Protestant Trinitarianism.

There are two schools of thought within Protestant Trinitarianism : one, founded mainly in the Westminster Confession (or Savoy Declaration) which accepts that 'the Law is a rule of life for the Christian' and looks to the commandments (whether an expansion of ten, or whether two or whether one) as the 'Law' by which the Christian is to live.

This school of thought can be seen set forth in the Westminster Confession

The other school of thought accepts that salvation is by grace and that the Christian is 'freed from law' (that is to say, not just 'ceremonial law' but all law). The 'rule of the Spirit' is just that, they say - a governance of the Holy Spirit who brings the things of Christ and ministers them to the soul, whereby the believer receives the 'shedding abroad of the love of God' and is kept, in Spirit, walking in holiness by means of faith in Christ.

This school of thought can be seen set forth in the pages of The Gospel Standard.

I am interested in what the former school of thought teach, regarding Titus 2: 11-14 :

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

There is no mention in these few verses of the Law being administered in order to achieve either holiness or preparation for the last day. The latter school of thought hold that the 'grace of God' refers to the Holy Spirit and that his ministrations result in sanctification.

What, I would like to know, is the teaching of those who suggest that Christians are 'under the Law' (and the Westminster Confession states that this is as 'advice') in regard to these verses. Whose, exactly, is the 'grace' referred to ? And why, would they say, is Law completely missing from these exhortatory verses ?

  • Surely the second camp don't believe they are in any sense freed from having to worship only one God, honor their father and mother etc? Sep 13, 2020 at 13:43
  • @Sola Gratia No. Not in the slightest. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in them that believe. And they are dead to the law, as Paul states in Galatians. This is the doctrine of the latter school of thought.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13, 2020 at 18:34
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    Those who believe that the death of Christ frees them from the law, believe that 'the grace of God that bringeth salvation' is the Holy Spirit. My question is, for those who believe that the Christian is under law, to do all that the law requires, whom do they see as being the Person who shows grace to them and 'brings them salvation' ? Is the Law bringing them grace and bringing them salvation ? ? Is the Law being called 'the grace of God' ? ? ?
    – Nigel J
    Sep 14, 2020 at 6:16
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    I'm not Protestant but I think they would agree with me that if they claim "the Law is a rule of life for the Christian" this does not mean that since keeping the moral law is the duty of every Christian - they are expected to hold to it all being well/ they are expected to try - that it is the basis upon which they are saved. The place for mercy is precisely in the shortcomings of keeping the law. Sep 14, 2020 at 19:14
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    In Titus it is the grace of God which teacheth us. Grace is not an element or actor, it is the unmerited favor of God toward us as demonstrated in the loving of the Father, the giving of the Son, and the sending of the Holy Spirit. All of these are graceful acts for our benefit. We are taught as children by a loving Father filled with mercy and grace. The Law knows no mercy, it only condemns and this code of condemnation was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross. I think both "schools" would agree. Jun 14, 2021 at 11:59

1 Answer 1


I don't think there is such a distinction between the two camps here as you suggest. I think both of the documents you link to would agree that the Law expresses the will of God. The section of the Westminster Confession you quote about the rule of life starts out: 'Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works'. I don't see that as particularly different from what the Gospel Standard say: "We believe that the believer’s rule of life is the gospel, not the law of works given to Moses".

They are both saying that we are not under the Law in the same way that people of Israel were under the Law. They both agree that, as Jesus taught, we need a deeper obedience to the Law if we are to fulfil God's will for us.

So let me try to answer your specific question with respect to Titus 2:11-14. I come from a traditional Reformed (Anglican) perspective, this is how I understand the passage.

I believe that the grace of God is referring to Jesus and his work for us, rather than the Holy Spirit. Which would fit with 'appearing' - the grace of God 'has appeared' (v11) and then we are waiting for Jesus' 'appearing' (v13). Paul's classic definition of grace is Ephesians 2:1-10.

The grace of God teaches us to say no to 'ungodliness and wordly passions'. But the question is, what does Paul mean when he talks about ungodliness? How do we know what is godly and ungodly? "I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law" (Romans 7:7). The Law taught him what ungodliness was - and the reason is because in our sinful states we need some guidance as to right and wrong. If there were no Law, we could deceive ourselves that we were OK.

So the Law reveals sinfulness. But it is not the means by which we attain godliness. This is a big message of Titus: we only attain righteousness by grace. Paul is here talking to a church who have been corrupted by those whose focus is the Mosaic Law (which I assume is what he means by "the circumcision party" in 1:10). This is why Paul does not refer to the Law in Titus 3. But he is not saying that it's an insignificant thing for Christians, but rather we can only achieve the righteousness God requires through grace.

I've just checked Calvin's commentary on this passage, and this is what he says:

“Piety” is religion towards God. “Righteousness” has place among men. He who is endowed with both of these lacks nothing for perfect virtue; and, indeed, in the law of God there is absolute perfection, to which nothing whatever can be added. But as the exercises of godliness may be regarded as appendages to the first table, so “temperance,” which Paul mentions in this passage, aims at nothing else than keeping the law, and, as I said before about patience, is added to the former as a seasoning.

So I think Calvin's view is not that we need to keep the Law as in by our own efforts, but the Law of God is perfection - and the only way we can keep it is by the grace of God.

Earlier this year I tried to express my view about Grace in a sermon on Titus 3. You might also find interesting the other sermons on the rest of Titus, linked from that page.

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    The warning made by Deity to humanity, in Eden, was '... the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it' [Young's Literal Translation]. It seems to me that you are suggesting that those redeemed by the blood of Christ and justified by faith in the righteousness of God, should, thereafter, apply to the Law for 'advice' as to what a righteous walk would be. This, in experience, results in a regression to a way of legal works, It is not a way of faith, in the Spirit. Those who, historically, taught the 'Gospel Standard' way (J C Philpot, for example) make this clear.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 16, 2020 at 15:42
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    It is my own view that you are attempting to 'blur the distinctions' in a very real situation of division. William Tiptaft and J C Philpot found it necessary to secede from the Church of England on various issues, this being one of them. See 'The Seceders', still available. Other men who stood out for the very issue faced in the early church by Paul, Peter and James (see Galatians and Acts) are William Huntington, William Gadsby, John Kershaw and John Warburton, all in the 19th Century.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 16, 2020 at 17:09
  • @NigelJ, I feel like this is turning into a discussion which isn't appropriate for this kind of Stack Exchange site. Yes, I suppose you could say the Law is 'advice', which is exactly how Jesus seemed to see it in the Sermon on the Mount. I think I've explained myself more fully in the sermons I linked to. Sep 17, 2020 at 7:52
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    @NigelJ One thing I would say is that the problem with the Law is not that it leads to legalism, but that it doesn't lead to enough obedience. Attempting to obey the Law will not bring about the righteous life that God requires. We need a greater, deeper obedience. The Spirit doesn't nullify the Law, but writes it on our hearts. Sep 17, 2020 at 7:54

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