The Three Stages of Grace
We've died once to the penalty of sin:
Titus 2:11 ¶ For the grace of God has appeared, with salvationa for all people,Saved by grace.
All of man's estate from birth hopelessly marred in the fathomless effects of sin. By nature we are all children of wrath, sons of disobedience, slaves to sin; with the only merits of our righteousness compared to the riches of dirty, filthy rags. From the moment of our conception in the womb-- we are completely sinful. The wages of sin is death; all who sin die. That is why even infants die; they are sinful, sinners, and worthy of eternal perdition (Roms. 5:12-19).
What about infants who die; the mentally handicapped; or those who are ignorant of and have never heard the gospel? Are they given an exemption from the effects of sin, eternal judgment and punishment, and the righteous justice of a holy God? Are they somehow insulated from eternal wrath because of their age, mental capacity, and ignorance and that salvation is granted to them due to their "state of being" and not due to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Those that assert that all babies who die receive instant heaven, do so to sooth the aching hearts of grieving parents (which we all understand). But our hope beloved in the tragic death of an infant is not in the destiny of the child, but in the character of God. A baby's perceived "innocence" affording them instant heaven is only an accommodation afforded by the sentimental whims of man. "In sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). We are all sinners (including children) not because we commit acts of sin; but because we are sinful to the core of our being - by nature. There is not a God-sized hole within us that needs filling by divine intervention. Our entire being is corrupt--and it is the same for our children.
Someone's age is not that which insulate one against God's holy divine judgment anymore than someone's mental cognation or ignorance from not hearing the good news of the gospel. Something are still a mystery to us beloved and we must leave them in the just hands of a righteous God. It would be wrong for any of us to be inflexibly dogmatic on the guaranteed eternal salvation of all infants, all who are mentally handicapped, and all those who die in the ignorance of never hearing the gospel. Those that do, IMHO, out of good motives, are promising false hope. And that promise is not up to us, but only up to God Himself.
We need to be born again. Paul leaves no doubt in the bankrupt abilities of man and the greatness of the grace of our God in salvation: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9). "The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation..." and without grace, there is no hope of eternal life.
Grace is "hard" to live by; for grace robs man of his glory, of all boasting in his own abilities to be made acceptable to God, and dashes his religious pride to the ground. Grace strips us self-confidence, perfectionism, and our own goodness. Grace crushes our arrogance and exalts Christ; lifts holiness and dashes human morality
We die daily to the power of sin:
Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age,Sanctified by grace.
No man through human effort can perfect himself. "Having begun in the Spirit are you trying to perfect yourself in the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). It is a temptation for any of us once we have tasted of the fount of God's grace in salvation, to then revert back to a life of works in our sanctification. Paul says here in Titus that grace is our teacher; "instructing us to deny..." We are new creations in Christ, but yet we are incarcerated in unredeemed flesh (Romans 7). The things we want to do, we don't do; and the things we don't want to do, we do. "O wretched man am I" Paul says in the midst of this struggle.
Sanctification, though different from justification, is inextricably linked to justification and flow out of genuine regeneration. But we must remember beloved, it is all of grace - in that we are never acting independent from God and we are not passive in ourselves. For with all that is within us (heart, soul, mind, strength, will, emotion, etc.) we are to pursue holiness and Christlikeness with a relentless obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit every day. IOW, in salvation we do not cooperate with the Lord; but in sanctification, as new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) we do.
One day we will be free from the presence of sin:
Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:14 He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works.Glorified by grace.
Grace will see us through til the end. "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 1: 24-25)