“Looking forward to the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself to us, in order to liberate us from all the lawlessness and that he might cleanse for himself a people for his own possession — zealots for good works.”
There is something that is here and something still to come. What is here is the saving grace of God and that has been revealed (it has manifested itself) to all kinds of people as the Gospel goes out. What has not yet been revealed (or manifested) is the glory of our God which is yet to come, coming when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, returns once again. Paul uses essentially the same wording here as in verse 11 to make a point of the connection (note that verse 11 contains the verbal form of the word ἐπιφαίνω [epiphaino] and this verse contains the noun ἐπιφάνεια [epiphaneia]). As theologians would say, a contrast between that which is “already” and that which is “not yet.”
And what, says Paul to Titus, is the reason that Jesus came and sacrificed himself? It was to liberate us from lawlessness — lawlessness is sin (1 John 3:4) — and to cleanse us for himself to be his people…just as Peter writes (1 Peter 2:9), “a people for his own possession.” Or, if you prefer the old King James language — “a peculiar people” — understanding “peculiar” to refer not to the fact that we are strange, but that we belong uniquely and personally to Christ our Savior. Paul goes further, though, what is an earmark of the people of God? We are zealots for good works.
And this, Paul writes, is our blessed hope — the return of Christ so that all of this work might be completed. I wonder sometimes, though, whether people really look toward the impending return of Christ as a hopeful event. We may be prepared for that day, having faith in Jesus Christ, but what about our loved ones? Have we even spoken to them about this reality? In many cases, we assume they know. Yet, ought not our preparation for that glorious day include insisting with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, that they too ought to be ready? Surely, they cannot believe without a work of the Holy Spirit regenerating them, but how are they to believe in Christ if they have not been told? Ought not being a zealot for good works include the best work of all — sharing the good news of Jesus Christ? I wonder whether we are truly as zealous for good works as our Lord calls us to be.