4 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:4-5 ESV).
Today’s text is a stark contrast to the condition of fallen sinners described in Titus 3:3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”
The Apostle Paul explained to Titus that while our sins are sufficient to condemn us, our works of righteousness are not sufficient to save us from God’s judgment. Salvation from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence is based upon God’s sovereign grace alone, through God given faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. It is not based on human effort.
The appearance of God our Savior’s goodness and loving kindness was to save sinners. God has personally saved us. This salvation is not based upon “any” works of righteousness sinners could ever hope to accomplish (Isaiah 64:6). The instrumental means by which God converts sinners unto salvation is the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
What does the phrase the washing of regeneration mean? Washing (λουτρόν; loutron) means bathing or spiritual purification. Coupled with the word regeneration (παλιγγενεσία; palingenesia) it refers to the new birth. It means to be born again (John 3:1-8).
“Salvation brings divine cleansing from sin and the gift of a new, Spirit-generated, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-protected life as God’s own children and heirs (Titus 3:7). This is the new birth (cf. John 3:5; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1). Cf. Rom. 8:2. The Holy Spirit is the agent of the “washing of regeneration,” explains Dr. John MacArthur. See Ezek. 36:25–31; Eph. 5:26–27; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23.
“By His Spirit God removes our hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh enabled to trust in His Son and be justified through faith alone, setting us right in the eyes of our Creator (Gal. 2:15–16). But the Holy Spirit in bringing us to faith does not only effect a change in our status before God from that of a condemned sinner to that of a person clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, He also brings inward renewal, empowering us to do good in gratitude for the great salvation bestowed on us (Rom. 7:4–6; Heb. 12:28),” states Dr. R. C. Sproul.
The word renewal (ἀνακαίνωσις; anakainosis) means to cause something to become new, different, or superior. The sinner becomes a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). The renewal continues through the process of spiritual sanctification (Romans 12:1-2). The work of regeneration and renewal is done solely by the Holy Spirit.
“God in His grace saves those who believe, not because of any righteousness in them (cf. Rom. 3:21–24; Eph. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 1:9), but because of His mercy. The three words, “kindness,” “love,” and “mercy” (Titus 3:4–5) all represent aspects of God’s grace. The dual means of grace through which He accomplished this salvation are (1) the rebirth spoken of as a washing from the filth of sin, and (2) the renewal by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). No mention is made here of the role of faith in the process because Paul’s entire focus was on what God has done, not on human response,” explains Dr. A. Duane Liftin.
Thank the LORD today for your new birth by the Holy Spirit. May your regeneration, and subsequent renewal, by the Spirit be evident to all you meet today. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!