A Church Planter’s Reflections on Titus 3:4-7: (The Gospel Story Continued)
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
3:4-7 is a second theological peak in Titus (2:11-14 being the first). Here we see the gospel story continued as Paul reminds us what God our Savior accomplished. The section begins with a “but” contrasting our previous state described in 3:3. 3:4-7 tell us why we are no longer defined by our sinful self-loving godless past: the “appearance of God’s goodness and loving kindness.” These traits of God’s disposition toward us manifested themselves in the person and life of Jesus Christ. That God is kind and loving toward us is not a naïve hope, but a rock solid fact expressed through what God did in Jesus. Namely, God “saved us” (3:5). God “saved” us from a guilty verdict before Him (note the justification language in verse 7) and from eternal death (note the hope of eternal life in verse 7).
In verse 5 Paul is explicit in the affirmation of why God saved us: not “because of our works but because of his mercy.” The same truth is affirmed throughout Scripture (especially see 2 tim 1:9, Eph 2:8-9). In the OT, God chose to save a people and set his love not because of anything they did (Deut 7:6-8), but because of his love! But the default setting of the crooked human heart is to attempt to justify oneself before God—God must accept me because I am a good person. Yet here we read that God saved us because of his mercy, and explicitly not because “of good works which we had done in righteousness.” What a freedom and joy to remember that we have been justified—declared righteous and saved—because of God and not because of ourselves. It’s freeing because we look away from ourselves and joyful because we see God’s amazing love for us.
Along with revealing the motive for saving us—God’s mercy—Paul reminds us that God used the Holy Spirit to apply this salvation to us personally. The salvation is applied through the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (3:5). To be regenerated is to become spiritually alive and to be renewed is to have one’s mind transformed from rebellion and apathy toward God to belief and repentance. Here in this passage—as I once heard Dick Lucas point out—we see the connection between the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer and justification. In 3:6 we read that God “richly pours out” the Holy Spirit on believers through Jesus Christ our Savior (note again the connection of God being our savior and Jesus being our savior [3:4 and 3:7]) and in 3:7 we read of believers being justified by grace and becoming heirs of eternal life. Thus, if a person has been justified by grace and received eternal life—something that is promised of all Christians—then they will have richly received the Holy Spirit. This argues the notion we have to wait for some kind of ‘second blessing’ to receive the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is what happens when a person becomes a Christian.
Along with this connection, we can’t overlook the truths that this is “justification by grace”—we’re declared righteous before God because of God’s favor toward us. Also, we as Christians are “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” These are precious life-giving truths to cling to and feed our souls on. To possess this is better than all the world has to offer. We’re freely justified! We have eternal life! Please pray that we proclaim this as we plant Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville.