Question: Dear Dr. Younce, Would you please explain the last part of Titus 3:5; as I am getting conflicting information from some preachers.
I. The Quotation:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
II. The Explanation:
1. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done...”
No one is saved by doing works of any kind; whether, baptism, confirmation, church membership, financial con-tributions to charity, etc. These would all be considered "works of righteousness," and we could think of many more. But, no matter how many we think of, Titus 3:5 says salvation is not given as the result of "works of righteousness."
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
2. “But according to his mercy he saved us.”
a. Grace is extending to a person what they do not deserve. Heaven is a perfect place, and since we are all sinners; none of us deserve to go there.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 )
b. Mercy is withholding what we do deserve. The "wages of sin is death"; or, separation from God for all eternity. This is Hell, the Second Death.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23 )
c. Romans 6:23 shows the grace of God. If Jesus had not paid the price for the sin of mankind by His death on the cross, we would all be Hell-bound. Anyone can have eternal life simply by believing that Christ died for them.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
God has graciously provided a Savior whom we can accept; and, because of His mercy, escape the punishment in Hell we deserve.
3. “Washing of regeneration.” This is another way of describing what takes place when anyone accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior. We believe the Gospel (i.e. are "washed by the Word) and are "regenerated," or born again.
a. “A new creation” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is another description of our salvation.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
b. “Born again” in John 3:3 is another description of salvation
“Born” is the Greek verb “gennao,” followed by “again,” the Greek adverb “anothen” which means; from above. In other words, “born from above.” The commentary on this is explained in 1 Peter 1:23.
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." 1 Peter 1:23
c. “Washing:” is the Greek “loutron,” and literally means to bathe or wash the body. We do not obtain salvation by taking a literal bath. The whole verse of Titus 3:5 is speaking of eternal salvation. As the first part of the verse clearly states, salvation is not by "works of righteousness"; therefore, this can not be referring to baptism.
“Washing” is used metaphorically of the Word of God; which, when one believes the Word of God, it becomes the instrument of spiritual cleansing; in other words, your salvation! (Romans 10:17).
“Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” (John 15:3)
“That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” (Ephesians 5:26)
d. "Regeneration:" The Greek word for this is “palin-genesia.” “Palin” means “again” and “genesis” is “birth.” In other words, this is used in reference to our spiritual new birth when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. We are "born again"; or, "regenerated."
(1). The new birth includes a relationship, as I am now a child of God.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:12)
(2). At salvation, your past is wiped clean and the Christian starts out brand new.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
(3). I can never lose my salvation, as it is “everlasting.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36
e. Renewing of the Holy Ghost: The Greek for “renewing” is “anakainosis,” and is the continual working of the indwel-ling Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. All Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” (Ephesians 1:13)