Paul wrote that the grace of God “has appeared” (v. 9). The verb “appeared” (epiphaino) means, “to cause light to shine upon some object, in the sense of illuminating it – ‘to illuminate, to shine.’” (Louw-Nida) The word pictures a “sudden and surprising appearance of light.” It signifies the effect of illuminating those in darkness. (Marshall) “To give light [epiphaino] to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk. 1:79).
“2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” (Matt. 11:2-5)
The grace of God in Christ has shined in Christ, penetrating the spiritual darkness of the world. William Hendriksen captures it well.
“It had arisen when Jesus was born, when words of life and beauty issued from his lips, when he healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, cast out demons, raised the dead, suffered for man’s sins, and laid down his life for the sheep in order to take it again on resurrection-morning.” (William Hendriksen)
One day, a leper approached Jesus. Lepers were the “rejects” of society. Their disease prevented them from getting near their families, their friends, and everyone else. But this leper approached Jesus with faith in his heart.
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” (Mark 1:40-42)
When I read this story, I was moved to tears. I saw the grace of God in Christ. The grace of God responded with love for the leper. The grace of God accepted the rejected leper. The grace of God was willing to heal the leper. The grace of God cleansed the leper. The grace of God has appeared in Christ.
Paul used the same word “appear” in 2 Tim. 1:10, “which now has been manifested through the appearing [epiphaneia] of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Paul stressed three things in this powerful verse. The appearing of Christ is the manifestation of grace. The appearing of Christ abolished death. The appearing of Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Thus, the manifestation of the grace of God is the bringing to light the blessings of life and immortality.
The verb “appeared” is in the passive voice. In the passive voice, the verb “appeared” means “become known, be manifested, appear (TI 2.11).” (Friberg) Grace was manifested by God. God manifested his grace in the coming of Christ.
At what point did God manifest His grace to sinners? Paul wrote in Tit. 2:14, “who gave himself for us.” Where did Christ give himself for us? Christ gave himself for us at the cross of Calvary. The ultimate demonstration of the grace of God was the death of Christ. At the cross, grace shined. At the cross, grace paid the penalty of sin for undeserving sinners like you and me.