Shelby G. Floyd
Near the close of Paul’s brief letter to the young preacher Titus, he penned these words:
Titus 3: 4-7
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
SINFUL MEN NEED SALVATION
First we notice why salvation is needed by the human race. In verse three Paul describes the way people lived without God: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). That is not a pretty picture and deep down most people would not like to live like that. Sin is universal, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, every person that is accountable for their attitude and actions needs salvation from sin.
GOD’S LOVE IS THE BASIS OF SALVATION
Lost sinful man was without hope until the kindness, love, mercy and grace of God appeared to man in the person of Jesus Christ. If man is to be saved or pardoned from his sins, God must save him. When the Christ was born it was stated that his name would be JESUS—Savior, “for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). God’s part in the salvation of man is the large part: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5). While no work of man’s righteousness can be the basis of salvation, this does not mean that man has no part in his salvation.
Someone made the ridiculous statement that salvation is “by grace alone, through faith alone, to God alone be the glory!” If salvation is by any one of these alone, it excludes the others. Salvation “by faith alone,” as taught by the followers of John Calvin is “the doctrine of devils.” According to James the devils have “faith only” and are lost: “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead” (James 2:19-20)? Furthermore, James teaches just the opposite of the “faith only” of Calvin and his “fellow travelers!” After illustrating that Abraham, the father of the faithful was justified by his works growing out of his faith when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar, he declared, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Salvation from sin is “not by faith only.” I prefer James over Calvin and demons!
THE WASHING OF REGENERATION
But our friends of the “faith only” persuasion see everything through the prism of Calvinism. Usually when they quote Titus they stop with the words “he saved us,” and then suppress the last part of the sentence. The full verses read thus:
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
Our discussion is not about whether God saves us—he clearly does. The question is how does God save us? What is the modus operandi—the mode of operation. Paul clearly states that “He (God our Savior) saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Let us make a close examination of this clause and then determine how it is that God saves us.
Through—The Instrumental Cause
First, we notice that the Bible says “…He saved us, through…” “Through” is a preposition translated from [δια-dia], and when it is used with the genitive it conveys the idea “of the means or instrument by which anything is affected; because what is done by means of a person or thing seems to pass as it were through the same.” In Titus 3:5 “through” is used “of the instrument used to accomplish a thing, or of the instrumental cause in the stricter sense: with the genitive of thing, by means of, with the help of anything” (Thayer, p.133). In the case before us then, the instrumental cause by which God saved us is “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” “The washing of regeneration” is the instrumental cause through which God saves us, and is the next item in our examination to determine how God saves us.
The Washing of Regeneration
Since we have learned that God saves us through “the washing of regeneration,” what does that mean? The “faith only” advocates explain away every scripture that has the words, water, wash, washing or baptism—because it does not fit their human creed. Let us examine the words “washing” and “regenerated.”
“Washing” is from [λουτρον-loutron], and literally refers to “a bathing, bath, as well as the act of bathing.” However, Thayer adds that it is “used in the N.T. and in ecclesiastical writing of baptism” (Thayer, p.382). Paul even uses the same word “washing” and adds “of water”—[του υδατος-tou hudatos], in his letter to the Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Almost all commentators (except the Calvinists) say that “the washing of water” in Ephesians 5:26 refers to water baptism. But we are not left in doubt, because “the washing of regeneration” refers to water baptism for the remission of sins as seen in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.
Saul of Tarsus who referred to himself as “the chief of sinners,” was brought to faith in the Lord Jesus whom he was persecuting. However, he was not saved by “faith only.” When the preacher came to him with the gospel message, Saul was a praying, penitent believer. But the message of the preacher was:
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
In this verse the verb “wash away” [απολυω-apoluo] is a form of the same word found in Titus 3:5-6 and figuratively means Saul of Tarsus would have his sins washed away when he would “be baptized.” The “faith only” crowd will try to explain away this verse like they do every scripture that mentions water baptism.
But if Saul was saved by “faith alone” before he was baptized, he was saved while he was still in his sins, because he was instructed to “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins.” If Saul was saved the moment he believed, he was saved before he knew anything about it, because he asked Jesus, “What shall I do Lord?” If Saul was saved by faith without baptism, then the Lord did not know anything about it because Jesus told Saul to go into the city and it would be told him what he must do. If Saul was saved “by faith only” then the gospel preacher Ananias did not know anything about it, because he commanded him to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” And if Saul was saved by faith without being baptized he was the most miserable saved person you would ever meet, because he would not eat or drink for three days (Acts 9:9). But after he was baptized and “washed away his sins” he refreshed himself and ate (Acts 9:18-19).
In summary of Titus 3:3-6, sinful man is saved: (1) By the kindness, love and mercy of God our Savior; (2) by the washing of regeneration (baptism for the remission of sins); and (3) the renewing of the Holy Spirit. Having completed this obedience our salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done,” but by his grace we have been justified!
Copyright © 2009 2015 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street