29 July, 2016

Titus 2:11—“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men”

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men (Tit. 2:11).

This passage sometimes has been appealed to as proof for “common grace”—that is, the notion that the infinitely holy and righteous God ‘loves’ the reprobate wicked.

The key words of the passage are “all men” and the suggestion is that this refers to “the whole of the number of men that ever lived or live and shall live on earth.”


Rev. Angus Stewart

It refers to all sorts of men, as the context proves. Just read the previous 10 verses which speak of old men, old women, young men and young women, etc.



Robert L. Reymond (1932-2013)

[Source: A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (1998), pp. 693-694]

With regard to Titus 2:11, scholars disagree over whether the dative “to all men” (πσιν νθρώποις, pasin anthrōpois) should be connected syntactically to the verb “has appeared” or to the adjectival noun “saving,” that is to say, whether Paul meant to say that “the grace … [that is] saving has appeared to all men” or “the grace … has appeared [that is] saving all men.” The latter construction precedes the dative “all men.” But for the present purpose it makes little substantive difference which construction one prefers since it is evident from Scripture, history, and Christian experience that the grace that has appeared in Jesus Christ is not, in fact, actually saving all men without exception nor has salvific grace even appeared to all men without exception, much less saved them. It is true, of course, that salvific grace did appear in a very special way when Christ came “for us men and for our salvation,” and holds out the prospect of salvation to all who believe. In this respect there is surely a universality about the saving grace of God in Christ. But beyond this sense of universality, for the reasons already stated, most likely not even the Arminian would insist upon pressing the literalness of the “all men” expression here so as to encompass all men without exception. As a matter of fact, as we have already seen elsewhere, because Paul refers in the immediately preceding context to “older men” (2:2) and “older women” (2:3), to “young women” (2:4) and “young men” (2:6), and to “slaves” and “masters” (2:9), most likely he again is thinking in terms of all categories of men (including even slaves) and not of everyone without exception** (note the connecting (γρ, gar, in 2:11). And it is not an insignificant feature of the passage that the emphasis in the context moves immediately from the “all men” to the redeemed community (see the immediately following “teaching us” and “we should live”), giving again virtually the sense that the “all men” to whom grace has savingly appeared are to be defined in terms of the redeemed community, the church (note: “all men, teaching us …”). And of that community envisaged by the “us” and “we,” Paul declares that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all lawlessness are to purify for himself a special [περιούσιον, periousion] people, eager to do what is good” (2:14). So in the very context where some would urge a distributive universality for Christ’s atoning work, the particularity of the intention behind Christ’s cross work and the speciality of the redeemed community resulting from that cross work receive the emphasis.

[** underlining added]



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)


[Source: The Protestant Reformed Churches in America [1947], pp. 345-346]

(2)   [The phrase, “all men,”] may also mean: “all kinds of men.”** This is plainly the meaning in Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” That “all men” cannot mean every individual of the human race, nor every man then living, ought to be evident from the meaning of the text. The apostle writes that the grace of God that bringeth salvation had, in his day, already appeared to all men. It is a fact, however, that comparatively few had as yet heard the gospel, so that “all men” cannot possibly signify every living man in the world of that time. And that it does mean “all kinds of men” is evident from the fact, that the text states a reason for sundry exhortations that occur in the context. In that context, the apostle mentions aged men and aged women, young men and young women, servants and masters, i.e., different classes of people; “for, he continues, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” that is, to men of every station in life. This is also the meaning of “all men” in I Tim. 2:4, as the context plainly shows.

** On pages 345-347, Rev. Hoeksema demonstrates that, in Scripture, “all” or “all men” can mean (1) “all of us [i.e. of the church]” (I Pet. 3:9),  (2) “all kinds of men” (Tit. 2:11; I Tim. 2:4),  (3) “all believers or all the elect” (I Cor. 15:22; John 12:31) (4) “‘all of one group,’ in distinction from ‘all of another group’” (Rom. 5:18).


If this would be understood in the sense of everyone head for head, then the work of the preaching of the gospel would have been finished at that time, and everyone would have heard it. But the context shows very plainly that the apostle means all kinds of men from all ranks and positions.



Rev. Martyn McGeown

Below is a link to a sermon preached on this text by Rev. Martyn McGeown, minister of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship in Ireland,



More to come! (DV)

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