When did the kindness and love of God appear? Whenever Paul uses the word “appearance” in the Pastoral Epistles, he refers to Christ’s appearing on earth (2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8; Tit. 2:13).
“Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Tim. 1:9-12, emphasis added).
Notice two things here. One, God’s grace appeared through “the appearing of our Savior.” Two, God’s grace appeared “through the gospel.” The kindness and love of God appeared through the appearing of Christ in history and through the gospel. When Jesus came in history, the kindness of God appeared. That is the historical appearance of Christ. When we heard the gospel, the love of God appeared to us. That is the personal experience of Christ.
Paul wrote, “When the goodness of God appeared, he saved us.” The reference is to “us,” those who are saved. Thus, Paul is talking of the kindness of God that appeared when we heard the gospel, when we trusted Christ, when we tasted salvation, when he saved us. The kindness and love of God appeared to us when He saved us through the gospel.
The point of salvation then is when God saved us at the appearance of God’s kindness and love to us through the gospel.