He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Of the Pauline epistles that were written to individuals, half of them were to Timothy, whom he called his true son in the faith [1 Tim 1:2], and those two books, along with Timothy, are somehow less obscure than Titus. Actually, Paul uses a similar term to address Titus as well, calling him – my true son in our common faith [Titus 1:4]. Who exactly was Titus? He wasn’t directly mentioned in the book of Acts, but through the epistles of Paul there have been several mentions – for example, Titus was the one who bore Paul’s letter to Corinth – Paul clearly treasured Titus, for in 2 Cor 2:13 he wrote – I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. If Timothy was Paul’s beloved disciple, so was Titus, and in fact, this letter was very much like Paul’s first epistle to Timothy – an elder mentor encouraging a young preacher in a challenging mission. Titus’ role was to straighten out what was left unfinished in Crete [Titus 1:5], and in Titus 3:3-7 Paul lapses into a semi-nostalgic mini-speech about how they were all once foolish and reveling in sin, but despite that God still saved them. I said nostalgic, but perhaps ‘reflective’ will be a better word – after all, it’s hard not to think about him as Saul – before he was Paul – and how he persecuted the followers of Christ, whom he now follows; how he gave permission for the stoning of Stephen, standing by and watching [Acts 8:1]. In this study, we will focus on the God’s mercy in granting his salvation, and how the Holy Spirit plays a part in this.
not because of righteous things we had done – let us define righteous things first. Not by the righteousness established by man [Rom 10:3], but the righteousness in lieu to the glory of God. There are many verses in the Bible which really speak of this concept – that we are saved not by our own deeds but by grace, through faith made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved [Eph 2:5] – but this verse in Titus 3 especially highlights the finer details oh how it happens – the job of the Spirit. Paul clearly denies our part in this – our deeds, even the best and most seemingly righteous works done by men do not have anything to do with whether we are saved or not – It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy [Rom 9:16].
but because of his mercy – If you’re looking for evidences or instances of the love that God has for us, and the mercy that he has shown us, you won’t have to look far, and you’ll see it manifested blatantly in salvation – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast [Eph 2:8-9]. God didn’t save you because you did a whole lot of good, No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are [Acts 15:11]. He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time [2 Tim 1:9]
through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – by this Paul certainly did not mean through the act or the ritual of the water baptism, though the reverse may be true – this is one of the reasons behind the significance of water baptism as it symbolises the washing of the Spirit. But if we had to be baptised by water before we are saved, that would be a contradiction of the earlier part of this verse, that it is not by our deeds that we are saved. Here Paul acknowledges the work of the Holy Spirit – it is by God’s grace through the Spirit that we are cleansed of our sins. The image of water here signifies the cleansing and the purity. Hence we are reborn, we are regenerated, our hearts are purified, our beings sanctified, and we are given a new leash of life by the Spirit. Through the Spirit’s work, we are no longer bonded to sin, and instead we become a new creation in Christ [2 Cor 5:17|Article].
This doesn’t mean that we don’t try our very best to perform righteous and godly works. We should still do good, not the good as defined by the world but the good as defined by the Bible. But the basis and the motivation of doing good should never be for the sake of salvation. It’s not for our own salvation that we do good, but out of love, out of obedience, out of faith that we do good. We don’t need to earn our salvation. We don’t need to better ourselves in order to be worthy of our salvation (and we’ll probably never truly deserve it) – since it is God’s grace that gives us our salvation, made possible through Christ who died on the cross for us, and performed by the Spirit itself. We are saved not by our own works because of God’s grace, by the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit through our Lord Christ Jesus – and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus [Rom 3:24]. Let us do good, not to be saved, but because we are already saved. Let us do good out of obedience, because our God is great. Let us do good out of faith, because God’s promises never fails. Let us do good out of love, because God love us so much more than we can ever love.