The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men - Επεφανη γαρ ἡ χαρις του Θεου ἡ σωτηριος πασιν ανθρωποις· Literally translated, the words stand thus: For the grace of God, that which saves, hath shone forth upon all men. Or, as it is expressed in the margin of our authorized version: The grace of God, that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared. As God's grace signifies God's favor, any benefit received from him may be termed God's grace. In this place, and in Colossians 1:6, the Gospel, which points out God's infinite mercy to the world, is termed the grace of God; for it is not only a favor of infinite worth in itself, but it announces that greatest gift of God to man, the incarnation and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Now it cannot be said, except in a very refined and spiritual sense, that this Gospel had then appeared to all men; but it may be well said that it bringeth salvation to all men; this is its design; and it was to taste death for every man that its author came into the world. There is a beauty and energy in the word επεφανη, hath shined out, that is rarely noted; it seems to be a metaphor taken from the sun. As by his rising in the east and shining out, he enlightens, successively, the whole world; so the Lord Jesus, who is called the Sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2, arises on the whole human race with healing in his wings. And as the light and heat of the sun are denied to no nation nor individual, so the grace of the Lord Jesus, this also shines out upon all; and God designs that all mankind shall be as equally benefited by it in reference to their souls, as they are in respect to their bodies by the sun that shines in the firmament of heaven. But as all the parts of the earth are not immediately illuminated, but come into the solar light successively, not only in consequence of the earth's diurnal revolution round its own axis, but in consequence of its annual revolution round its whole orbit; so this Sun of righteousness, who has shined out, is bringing every part of the habitable globe into his Divine light; that light is shining more and more to the perfect day; so that gradually and successively he is enlightening every nation, and every man; and, when his great year is filled up, every nation of the earth shall be brought into the light and heat of this unspotted, uneclipsed, and eternal Sun of righteousness and truth. Wherever the Gospel comes, it brings salvation - it offers deliverance from all sin to every soul that hears or reads it. As freely as the sun dispenses his genial influences to every inhabitant of the earth, so freely does Jesus Christ dispense the merits and blessings of his passion and death to every soul of man. From the influences of this spiritual Sun no soul is reprobated any more than from the influences of the natural sun. In both cases, only those who wilfully shut their eyes, and hide themselves in darkness, are deprived of the gracious benefit. It is no objection to this view of the subject, that whole nations have not yet received the Divine light. When the earth and the sun were created, every part of the globe did not come immediately into the light; to effect this purpose fully there must be a complete revolution, as has been marked above, and this could not be effected till the earth had not only revolved on its own axis, but passed successively through all the signs of the zodiac. When its year was completed, and not till then, every part had its due proportion of light and heat. God may, in his infinite wisdom, have determined the times and the seasons for the full manifestation of the Gospel to the nations of the world, as he has done in reference to the solar light; and when the Jews are brought in with the fullness of the Gentiles, then, and not till then, can we say that the grand revolution of the important Year of the Sun of righteousness is completed. But, in the meantime, the unenlightened parts of the earth are not left in total darkness; as there was light
" - ere the infant sun
Was rolled together, or had tried his beams
Athwart the gloom profound;"
light being created, and in a certain measure dispersed, at least three whole days before the sun was formed; (for his creation was a part of the fourth day's work); so, previously to the incarnation of Christ, there was spiritual light in the world; for he diffused his beams while his orb was yet unseen. And even now, where by the preaching of his Gospel he is not yet manifested, he is that true light which enlightens every man coming into the world; so that the moral world is no more left to absolute darkness, where the Gospel is not yet preached, than the earth was the four days which preceded the creation of the sun, or those parts of the world are where the Gospel has not yet been preached. The great year is rolling on, and all the parts of the earth are coming successively, and now rapidly, into the light. The vast revolution seems to be nearly completed, and the whole world is about to be filled with the light and glory of God. A heathen poet, apparently under the inspiration of God (for God has his witnesses every where) speaks of those glorious times in words and numbers which nothing but the Spirit of God can equal. It gratifies myself to refer to them, and it will gratify my reader to find them entered here: -
Ultima Cumaei venit jam carminis aetas:
Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo. -
Talia saecla suis dixerunt, currite, fusis
Concordes stabili fatorum numine Parcae. -
Aspice convexo nutantem pondere mundum,
Terrasque, tractusque maris, coelumque profundum:
Aspice, venturo laetentur ut omnia saeclo!
The last great age, foretold by sacred rhymes,
Renews its finish'd course; Saturnian times
Roll round again; and mighty years, begun
From their first orb, in radiant circles run.
Majestic months, with swift but steady pace,
Set out with him on their appointed race. -
The Fates, when they their happy web have spun,
Shall bless the clew, and bid it smoothly run. -
See labouring nature calls thee to sustain
The nodding frame of heaven and earth and main;
See, to their base restored, earth, seas, and air,
And joyful ages from behind appear In crowding ranks.
Hasten the time, thou God of ages! Even so. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
For the grace of God - The favor of God, shown to the undeserving; see the notes at Romans 1:7.
That bringeth salvation - Margin, to all men, hath appeared. That is, in the margin, “the grace which brings salvation to all men has been revealed.” The marginal reading is most in accordance with the Greek, though it will bear either construction. If that which is in the text be adopted, it means that the plan of salvation has been revealed to all classes of men; that is, that it is announced or revealed to all the race that they may be saved; compare the notes at Colossians 1:23. If the other rendering be adopted, it means that that plan was fitted to secure the salvation of all men; that none were excluded from the offer; that provision had been made for all, and all might come and be saved. Whichever interpretation be adopted, the sense here will not be essentially varied. It is, that the gospel was adapted to man as man, and therefore might include servants as well as masters; subjects, as well as kings; the por, as well as the rich; the ignorant, as well as the learned; see 1 Timothy 2:1-2 notes; Acts 17:26 note.
Terrible had become the darkness of the nation that had rejected the light of truth. The grace “that bringeth salvation” had appeared; but France, after beholding its power and holiness, after thousands had been drawn by its divine beauty, after cities and hamlets had been illuminated by its radiance, had turned away, choosing darkness rather than light. They had put from them the heavenly gift when it was offered them. They had called evil good, and good evil, till they had fallen victims to their willful self-deception. Now, though they might actually believe that they were doing God service in persecuting His people, yet their sincerity did not render them guiltless. The light that would have saved them from deception, from staining their souls with bloodguiltiness, they had willfully rejected. GC 229.1
A solemn oath to extirpate heresy was taken in the great cathedral where, nearly three centuries later, the Goddess of Reason was to be enthroned by a nation that had forgotten the living God. Again the procession formed, and the representatives of France set out to begin the work which they had sworn to do. “At short distances scaffolds had been erected, on which certain Protestant Christians were to be burned alive, and it was arranged that the fagots should be lighted at the moment the king approached, and that the procession should halt to witness the execution.”—Wylie, b. 13, ch. 21. The details of the tortures endured by these witnesses for Christ are too harrowing for recital; but there was no wavering on the part of the victims. On being urged to recant, one answered: “I only believe in what the prophets and the apostles formerly preached, and what all the company of saints believed. My faith has a confidence in God which will resist all the powers of hell.”—D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, b. 4, ch. 12. GC 229.2
Again and again the procession halted at the places of torture. Upon reaching their starting point at the royal palace, the crowd dispersed, and the king and the prelates withdrew, well satisfied with the day's proceedings and congratulating themselves that the work now begun would be continued to the complete destruction of heresy. GC 230.1Read in context »
Others, also holding that “the elect cannot fall from grace nor forfeit the divine favor,” arrived at the still more hideous conclusion that “the wicked actions they commit are not really sinful, nor to be considered as instances of their violation of the divine law, and that, consequently, they have no occasion either to confess their sins or to break them off by repentance.”—McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia, art. “Antinomians.” Therefore, they declared that even one of the vilest of sins, “considered universally an enormous violation of the divine law, is not a sin in the sight of God,” if committed by one of the elect, “because it is one of the essential and distinctive characteristics of the elect, that they cannot do anything that is either displeasing to God or prohibited by the law.” GC 261.1
These monstrous doctrines are essentially the same as the later teaching of popular educators and theologians—that there is no unchangeable divine law as the standard of right, but that the standard of morality is indicated by society itself, and has constantly been subject to change. All these ideas are inspired by the same master spirit—by him who, even among the sinless inhabitants of heaven, began his work of seeking to break down the righteous restraints of the law of God. GC 261.2
The doctrine of the divine decrees, unalterably fixing the character of men, had led many to a virtual rejection of the law of God. Wesley steadfastly opposed the errors of the antinomian teachers and showed that this doctrine which led to antinomianism was contrary to the Scriptures. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all.” Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:3-6. The Spirit of God is freely bestowed to enable every man to lay hold upon the means of salvation. Thus Christ, “the true Light,” “lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9. Men fail of salvation through their own willful refusal of the gift of life. GC 261.3Read in context »