WHAT THE CROSS DID FOR US
Regeneration: God gives us new life
Jerry A Collins
The fact that God had to send His own Son into the world to die for our sin should bring the realization that salvation can never be accomplished by human works or any religious system. If we could in any way work to accomplish our own salvation, the appearing of Christ on the scene of human history would have been an act of futility. In Titus, we have a book of good deeds (2:7 & 14; 3:1, 8, & 14). The encouragement of the author is to demonstrate your salvation by means of your sanctification. In other words, you are not delivered by your good deeds; you testify through them. And in the middle of this argument is Titus 3:5. Here we learn that while good deeds can be valuable, they are limited. I am not saved on the basis of my good deeds. And this passage explains what God has done within us that is the natural outcome of the motivation (being an example, zealous, being ready, and engaging) in them. What is this inner work? It is the work of regeneration. In Christ God saves us
1. REGENERATION is not by human works
Whether they be religious, moral, social or whatever form of righteous behavior a person might engage in. This would include things like the sacraments of penance, water baptism, the Eucharist, self-denial, the observance of religious days or even, as in the context of Titus, good works done for others (; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). The emphasis is upon what God does not what we do.
2. Regeneration is based on the mercy of God
This last clause that is literally, “but according to His mercy” expresses the strongest kind of contrast. It serves to stress the basis of salvation as not of man and completely of God?s mercy. “According” may point to the standard or norm which governs something and which is often at the same time the reason or cause for what is done. The point is that which governs the saving work of God is His mercy, not our works regardless of their nature. “Mercy” is “mercy, compassion, pity.” As grace stresses the free gift of God?s salvation as the unmerited favor of God, so mercy stresses our pitiable condition and God?s pity for our sad condition which we cannot remedy because we are totally helpless to deal with our sinfulness and misery.
3. REGENERATION is an accomplished fact
The words, “He saved us” clearly point to our salvation as an accomplished fact. “He saved us” points to a fact of history. So in view of the clear teaching of the New Testament, it points to an accomplished and finished work of God on our behalf through the death and resurrection of Christ. Here is an act that, by contrast to the sacrifices of the Old Testament, need never be repeated. It is a finished, once and for all work.
4. the means of REGENERATION is seen in the words rebirth and renewal
(1) REBIRTH: The washing here is a spiritual washing from the filth of our sin not a water baptism. First, the immediate context has stressed this salvation is not by works, those in righteousness that we have done. Second, the vast majority of Scripture teaches us that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. To add some human work like water baptism is introducing a foreign idea to the passage. But what about the previous phrase, “of regeneration”? Regeneration is the impartation of a new and divine life; a new creation; the production of a new thing. It is Gen. 1:26 over again. It is not the old nature altered, reformed, or re-invigorated, but a new birth from above.
(2) RENEWAL: The fact that there is one preposition used with both phrases, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” suggests these are connected or somehow closely related to each other. “Of the Holy Spirit” is a renewal produced by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about the spiritual renewal through the work of spiritual regeneration. This is “a washing that produces regeneration” or “a washing (a spiritual cleansing) produced by regeneration.” Since both phrases are introduced by one preposition, are both connected by “and,” and since the Holy Spirit is the agent of renewal, we have here two parallel ideas with the second as a further explanation of the first. Thus, the passage very likely means, “the washing (spiritual cleansing) produced by regeneration, even the making new accomplished by the Holy Spirit.” “Regeneration” is “rebirth, regeneration.” It means to be born again. In keeping with the Lord?s comments as seen in John 3:3, it means to be born either again or from above. And it is the work of the Holy Spirit who imparts new life to the one who believes (John 3:5). It is used here of spiritual regeneration and refers to the giving of a new life. “Renewing” is “new in quality or kind” but not necessarily new in time. Therefore the washing and the making new are the two basic elements of our regeneration, both of which are the work of God. This salvation, which includes our regeneration, has several effects for us.
First, we have the gift of the Spirit poured out richly by the Father through the Son, Jesus Christ our Savior vs 6. This has a dual effect or force. First, the gift of the Spirit is proof of our salvation or justification. He is God?s earnest or down payment of the future glories of salvation. But second, the Holy Spirit is God?s gift to enable believers to live the Christian life through the ministries of the Spirit in the process of sanctification. By mentioning the rich bestowment of the Spirit, we are assured that we have the capacity to do the good works and to witness to others by life and lip or walk and talk that the writer expects of us as reborn and renewed people.
Second, we have been justified by His grace vs 7a. This is seen as the basis or reason we can be confident of being heirs with the hope of eternal life. We have eternal life and are heirs of God because we have been justified. But again, lest we miss the point, Paul adds, “by His grace.” or “by the grace of that one.”
Finally, as justified believers, we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life 7b. We must not understand this to mean that we do not have eternal life now. Eternal life is a permanent possession given when one trusts in the person and work of the Savior who died for our sin and was raised as evidence of our justification. The point is that the possession of eternal life brings with it the hope (the confident expectation) that we are heirs of God. By its very nature, hope may stress two things: (1) Future Time and or (2) Invisibility. It deals with things we cannot see or haven?t received or both. As an illustration, we do not see the justifying work of God, the imputation of Christ?s righteousness to our account, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we are saved, our co-union with Christ, or the eternal life God?s gives us. We believe these things to be realities, but this is still a matter of our hope. We believe in the testimony of God in the Word and this results in the confident expectation that all this is true.
1. Regeneration is the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. It is neither gradual nor continuous.
2. Regeneration is simultaneous with faith neither preceding faith nor following it. You get this new life when you believe.
3. The HS is God?s down payment of our new life we will have forever so significant that the Trinity imparts it to us (vs 4-6).