The passage we look into today, Titus 3:5-8, closes with a phrase that lets us know the early church, prior to its written form here, passed on this section. (Look for next week’s post on early church creeds!) They knew it, recited it, and spoke confidently of it. We close today with the notion that we too must internalize and be able to speak confidently of what He has revealed.
Many criticize this book as “not very theologically rigorous” despite its focus on SOUND TEACHING! They point to this section and lament that it is not more robust, more detailed.
But, if you pay attention to the words, and read with the knowledge that Paul was writing this at the end of his life, to a man who had been with Paul, listening to all his many teachings, and who no doubt already internalized the messages of the other epistles–then you begin to realize this passage succinctly hits all the major points. (Paul loved run on sentences, so I am quite sure he would approve of me writing them as well.). These points would have been enough for Titus to understand the fullness of the message he should confidently speak.
Not our righteousness, but His mercy!
Paul’s run on sentence begins in verse four and runs through verse seven. According to John Stott (201) this is “perhaps the fullest statement of salvation in the New Testament.” Perhaps it is one we should write on our hearts.
Twice in this passage, we see how the Trinity is at work. Distinct and in perfect unity. We should also note all the rich words: saved, righteousness, mercy, regeneration, renewal, grace, justified, hope, heirs, eternal life.
Verse 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done. The just shall live by faith! Not by works. Not by deeds.
Even deeds that appear good. Even deeds that are done with good intentions. None are good enough, truly and purely good. We depend on His deeds, His righteousness. Philippians 3:7-11
…but according to His mercy… This word evokes both the cross and resurrection–the work of His mercy, the riches of His mercy in action; His work on our behalf. Read and ponder: Ephesians 2:4f; 1 Peter 1:3.
…by the washing of regeneration; alluding to water baptism. Paul is stressing the sign that points to the thing symbolized, namely that the washing of baptism points to the inward reality of the Spirit’s washing. This signifies the cleansed conscience spoken of in Hebrews 9:8-14. In OT sacrifices, the sprinkling of the blood symbolized ritual cleansing–and now the water symbolizes our cleansing. The Spirit does the work of regeneration.
…and renewing of the Holy Spirit… Renewal, making all things new. He has not patched us up, or fixed what was broken. He has made us anew, renewed, born again.
….whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour… Pour, the very same word picture used in Romans 5:1-5, and from John 7 when Jesus stands up on the last day of the feast offering streams of living water to all who thirst.
According to the promise:
Galatians 3:14…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Isaiah taught that God would pour out His Spirit, changing the wilderness into a fertile field (Isaiah 32:15ff). Also that the pouring out His Spirit would make the faithful like poplars or willows along the banks of an ever freshly flowing river (Isaiah 44:1-5). We are given the Spirit of Truth, Who is our true Helper according to the promises in John 14-16.
THROUGH!!! Jesus is the Mediator! No one comes to the Father but by Me, says Jesus. And the Father gives the promised Spirit to the Son to pour out, or to be poured out through, through our Mediator.
…so that being justified by His grace… Romans 3:21-26; 4, 5:1, 16-19.
….we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The true gospel always points to the eternal, not merely the here and now solutions we long for in life. Our hope is not an earthly hope. His Kingdom is not of this world. He will come back one day, to take us home; to the home He is preparing for us! And we wait, in hope; and therefore He is not ashamed to be called our God (Hebrews 11:16)! Romans 5:20-21; 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Ephesians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 4-5.
This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently…
This is how the early church memorized it, to keep it and cling to it and remember and pass on and contend for the faith. May we too!!!
photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash