Have you ever had an epiphany?
If so, in what way?
Webster’s defines “epiphany” this way: “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”
And we read of many such occasions in the Bible—Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Elijah, the Apostle John—these are examples of those who experienced some kind of epiphany when it comes to an unveiling of some aspect of God.
The writer of this epistle, the Apostle Paul, is a man who knew something about epiphanies. He had one we read about in Acts chapter 9, when Jesus appeared to him when he was on the road to Damascus. And on that occasion, he was saved, and his life was completely turned around. And then we read of another epiphany in 2 Corinthians 12:4, in which Paul speaks of how he was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
And our passage speaks of an “epiphany.” In fact, the term translated “appeared” in Titus 3:4 is the Greek “epiphaino.” It means to shine upon, or to become visible or known, or to appear. The same Greek term is used in Titus 2:11 and again in 2:13.
And as Paul is writing to Titus, who has been called to a church planting ministry in Crete, he instructs him on matters relating to the organization and order of these churches. But as he comes to the end of this epistle, he speaks to Titus of these matters related to the gospel. He speaks of the appearing of the grace of God. And He speaks to him of the appearing of the kindness of God and His love for mankind. And we should note, that this appearing, this epiphany, is above every other appearing in importance and relevance. It is the preeminent of all epiphanies because it represents to us the truth about who God is and what He has done.
And then there are those Christmas epiphanies. When God through an angel revealed His intent to Joseph and Mary that she would give birth to a baby who was to be named Jesus, though she herself was a virgin. And there was that epiphany to the shepherds who again through an angel were told of the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord. And they went and saw the baby Jesus. And then there were the Wise Men from the east who followed the star to where the Child was. And when they saw Him they fell down and worshipped Him. And then there were Anna and Simeon too. And these all were privileged to have a special role in His appearing.
But His appearing was to have world-wide implications, from the beginning. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” And John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”
So, Christmas is the ultimate of epiphanies. Both in a local sense to a limited and specific group of chosen people, but then ultimately having historical and worldwide implications. There has never been any appearing, in all of the history of man, of more significance than the appearing of Jesus Christ. This is the most glorious of all appearings! We even date our calendars to it. And all of the Bible either looks forward or back to this incredible event, when Jesus came to this earth to be born to die for sins.
This is the epiphany of Jesus. Encompassing His birth, death, resurrection, and return. Note how this passage in its context speaks to both (Titus 2:11 and 3:4 vs. Titus 3:13; and Hebrews 10:26 and 10:28). It is the epiphany that is represented to us in the gospel—that matter of first importance, which is the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and which is also the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. This gospel message of which the church holds stewardship in this present dispensation, even as the church from the beginning has been called to bear witness of Jesus.
But it is important not just for historical or theological reasons, it is important because of what it means to each one of us personally. The message and meaning of this epiphany has personal implications for each one of us. There is a personal message from God to you and to me.
So, we’ll be looking at that today. We want to consider what this epiphany of God means to you and me personally…
I. A DIVINE REVELATION OF GOD’S GREAT LOVE
Kindness. Defined = usefulness, gentleness, goodness…goodness of heart. “Kindness is not an apathetic response to sin, but a deliberate act to bring the sinner back to God.” What makes this kindness of God so remarkable is in the understanding of who we are. If you back up to verse 3, we read of the condition of mankind in sin. And Romans 3 tells us that we are all sinners. And Romans 6 says that we are enemies of God. And Colossians 1:21 speaks to man being hostile towards God. And yet God, on the other hand, is good and kind towards man. Luke 6:35, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Now Christmas is an epiphany of this truth to humanity. And the cross further manifests this truth about God. How incredible the kindness of God towards lost sinners! When we look to the cross and the mocking crowd and the insults hurled upon Jesus, how amazed we ought to be at the kindness of God that worked to send Jesus here to be born and die for our sins!
Love (philanthorpia). Philanthropist. It is the combination of two words which then mean literally “loving man.” Typically, when we think of a philanthropist, we think of someone who gives or acts to the betterment of his fellow man. In John 3:16 we read of how God so loved the world, but there the word agape is used. Here it is a different word which speaks to God’s tender affection for mankind. His loving concern. God’s uninfluenced and unearned friendly disposition towards man. Like that which we see after the fall, when God is seeking out Adam, and called out “Where are you?” And He could off written off rebellious mankind all together, but He did not. And even though the lost person be a child of wrath deserving of God’s judgment, God has shown kindness to all and desires all men to be saved in His love for mankind. Jesus birth was an epiphany to all of God’s love for mankind. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Grace (Titus 2:11). Unmerited favor. Grace = God giving to us that which we don’t deserve. If I work for someone and they give me a wage, that’s me getting what I’ve merited. If they simply giving a gift because of their goodness and generosity, that’s grace. If I’m their enemy, yet they still reach out to me and give me a gift—that’s more akin to God’s grace as it is revealed to us in salvation. God is a God of grace. He is rich in grace. Ephesians 2:7 speaks of the “surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us.” One of the best descriptions of the grace of God bestowed on us is found in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Undeserved blessings bestowed on us by God through Christ. This truth about God was revealed to us in Jesus. John 1:16, “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” When Jesus appeared the grace of God appeared. His birth was an epiphany to the world of the surpassing riches of the grace of God.
Mercy. (Titus 3:5). According to Vine’s, mercy is “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet that need on the part of the one who shows it.” A great example of the mercy is that of the Good Samaritan who saw the beaten man and felt pity for him. He bound up his wounds and took him to the inn and paid that he might be cared for. But when it comes to God and man mercy is God not giving to us what we do deserve. We deserve judgment. We deserve condemnation for our sins. But the repentant sinner receives mercy from God instead.
Now these attributes of God are all revealed to us in this epiphany of Jesus. When Jesus came into the World, when Immanuel—God with us—became flesh and dwelt among us, the true nature of God was made evident.
And this epiphany reveals a truth to us that we otherwise could not understand—that our Creator God is a God who is full of kindness, love, grace and mercy. In Luke 15 we read how Jesus was hanging around tax collectors and sinners. And the religious leaders were chiding him for it. And he responded by telling a series of parables. And one of them was the parable of the prodigal son. The prodigal son took his share of his father’s inheritance and headed out into the world. And he spent it all on lose living and even on prostitutes. And when a famine came into the land he was impoverished. He ended up with a job feeding pigs and was himself longing to eat what the pigs ate. But then he came to his senses. And the question in his mind was what might he find when he endeavored to return to his father?
And so it is for lost sinners. In their Adam-born sinful rebellion they too live according to the lusts of the flesh and find themselves powerless to change. They too bring dishonor to their heavenly Father. And they, like Adam, are prone to hide in the darkness, for fear of His wrath and judgment.
But what happened to the repentant prodigal? What did he find once he came to his senses and made his way back? He found kindness and tender affection, for even when he was a long way off the father was looking for him. And when the father saw the son, he embraced him, and felt compassion for him. And he showed mercy towards him, though the son had dishonored the father, the father did not deal with him according to what he deserved. And he found grace, for the father gladly bestowed on him unexpected blessings…he clothed him, and sandaled his feet, and killed the fatted calf and prepared a feast and a celebration. And this was all true because of the good-hearted nature of that father. And God is like that. The father explained his thinking to the elder son, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive, he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).
It isn’t too many chapters that we read of how Jesus was a guest to Zaccheus, a tax-collector. And the religious leaders were again grumbling against Jesus. But Jesus explained the matter this way, and we should rejoice in this truth for it is the reason for this epiphany of God— “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
II. A DIVINE REMEDY FOR MAN’S SIN PROBLEM
The depth and breadth of the problem: Titus 3:3; Romans 3:23; Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23
BUT GOD…: Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:1-4; Colossians 1:21-22
John Piper, “But God.” These two words are overflowing with gospel. For sinners like you and me who were lost and completely unable to save ourselves from our dead-set rebellion against God, there may not be two more hopeful words that we could utter.
Once we were dead to any real love for God at all, buried under the compounding and disorienting blindness of our sins (Ephesians 2:1), but God. Once we were deceived by our own lust for glory and self-determination; once we were unknowingly led by the pied piper called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but God. Once we lived enslaved to the passions of our flesh, being driven and tossed between the impulsive waves of our flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:3), but God. Once we were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10), hating him (Romans 1:30), children of his wrath. But God.
But God being rich in mercy, but God showing his incomprehensible “love for us in that while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) he said to us God-dead, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, dry-boned children of wrath: “live” (Ezekiel 37:5)! Live to true beauty, live to true glory, live to true hope, live to true pleasure, live to true joy! Live to God (Galatians 2:19) and live forever (John 6:58)!
And he did so by taking our God-deadening, God-ignoring, God-rivaling, God-hating, God-wrath inducing sin and placing it on his Son
Salvation not by works, but by grace through faith
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness:
Example of Nicodemus. John 3.
Example of Paul. Philippians 3.
III. A DIVINE RESULT IN OUR SALVATION
Justification. To declare righteous. How did this justification come about? Being sinners by birth, we have all violated God’s righteous standards. But Jesus came and bore the burden of our sins. And it’s as if we were in God’s divine courtroom. And we are guilty. And we are deserving of death, eternal destruction. And there is no argument that we can make. And we have no excuse. And we are helpless to do anything to rectify the situation. But then Jesus steps in. He takes the punishment that we deserve, He dies once for all for sins and declares “It is finished.” And in Him the certificate of debt Colossians 1:14 is cancelled out. God stamps paid in full and cancels it out. And we are declared righteous with the very righteousness of Him in whom we have believed. It is what is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And having believed, and being declared righteous, you know stand in this secure place, as it says in Romans 5:1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And this is all made possible by the epiphany of God in revealing Himself in Jesus who came into this world to save sinners.
Regeneration. Means a “new birth.” According to Vine’s it represents “the communication of a new life.” We speak of it as being born again. And we are born again by a work of the Spirit (John 3:5) and of the Word (1 Peter 1:23).
Renewal. Literally “to make new.” It is speaking here of the continued operation of the Holy Spirit in us, in leading, teaching, empowering, transforming, in doing all that He does so that we might be transformed into Christ’s image.
Outpouring of the Spirit
A future hope
What this means for our world. This appearing stands as the basis for the sole message of hope for lost sinners. And they need to have their own personal epiphany. And they can have that. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
What this means for you and me. We’ve had our own epiphany. It may not have been as dramatic as that of the Apostle Paul, but at some point of time in your past God intervened and revealed the truth to you. And this God who has shown such kindness and love and grace and mercy in sending His Son is now your Heavenly Father. And by the Spirit you cry out Abba, Father. And He deals with you day by day according to His great love and mercy. And you can rest in that. You can rejoice in that. You can live in hopeful anticipation of a future epiphany of God, in that.
What this means for those whom we love. This is the message of Christmas. Of this appearing of the kindness and love and grace of God. Of God’s true nature being unveiled to us in Jesus and being demonstrated in preeminent fashion in His willing sacrifice. And you and I have been called to bear witness of this epiphany of God. We’ve been called to spread the word. The shepherds who experienced their own personal epiphany when they saw the angel and then saw the babe, were glad to share what they had seen with others still. And so, should we. We’ve been called to bear witness of this love for mankind revealed to us in Jesus, who died for sins and rose from the dead!