Being justified by his grace…heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Let me say this to any of you who are still trying to add up your human merits—look away in faith to the Lord of abundant mercy!
Fixing yourself over and trying to straighten yourself out will never be sufficient—you must come to Jesus as you are!
Our Lord told about two men who went up into the temple to pray. One said, “God, here I am—all fixed up. Every hair is in place!”
The other said, “Oh God, I just crawled in off skid row. Have mercy on me!”
God forgave the skid row bum, but sent the other man away, hardened and unrepentant and unforgiven.
We come to Him just as we are but in humble repentance. When the human spirit comes to God knowing that anything it receives will be out of God’s mercy, then repentance has done its proper work!
God promises to forgive and forget and to take that man into His heart and teach him that all of God’s kindnesses are due to His mercy. What more can a sinner ask?
Dear Lord, You know me as I really am, yet You extended Your great mercy toward me. Thank You for Your divine love and forgiveness.
Remember Your Salvation
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (3:4–7)
As the apostle moves to his third reminder, the transitional conjunction But turns the emphasis from remembering our former condition of lostness to the equally important need to remember our present condition of salvation. Again, Paul lists seven categories (as in both previous points), this time the seven aspects of salvation that are revealed in the single sentence that comprises verses 4–7.
In this short passage Paul sweeps across the glorious truths of salvation, every facet of which is sovereignly initiated and empowered by God alone. There are doctrines here that could be studied and pondered for months without mining all their truth.
We are now radically different from the way we once were, and from the way the unsaved still are, solely because of God’s kindness, His love, His mercy, His washing of regeneration, His renewing by the Holy Spirit, His Son Jesus Christ our Savior, and His grace.
Among other things, remembering our salvation should motivate us to keep in mind that the only reason we are different now is that He saved us. When we are bombarded by our ungodly culture—by ungodly media, ungodly educators, ungodly politicians, ungodly entertainers and sports figures, ungodly books and magazines, ungodly neighbors and co-workers, and even by ungodly friends and relatives—we should focus above all else on the sovereign grace of God, who delivered each one of us from that life purely by His own will and for His own glory and not because of anything desirable or worthy that was in us. It is God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), who does not wish “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9), and who “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life, … that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:16–17).
Every aspect of salvation is from God and from God alone. First, we should remember that we were saved by the kindness of God our Savior. Chrēstotēs (kindness) connotes genuine goodness and generosity of heart. Our salvation from sin and lostness and death issued wholly from God’s kindness, His loving, benevolent, and entirely gracious concern to draw us to Himself and redeem us from sin forever.
It is God’s nature to be kind to the lost. “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return,”
Jesus commanded; “and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35, emphasis added). God is kinder still to His children, those who are saved. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul declared, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4–7, emphasis added).
Paul again refers to God as Savior, the central title for both God the Father and for Christ the Son and the theme of this letter (see also 1:3, 4; 2:10, 11, 13; 3:6). Near the beginning of his letter to believers in Rome, the apostle asked rhetorically, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His [God’s] kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4; cf. 11:22). It is the sovereign kindness of God that initiates repentance, the first step in salvation.
Second, we should remember that we were saved by God’s uninfluenced and unearned love for mankind, a phrase that translates the compound Greek noun philanthrōpia, from which the English philanthropy is derived. It is composed of phileō (“to have affection for”) and anthrōpos (“man,” or mankind) and refers to compassion, especially the eagerness to deliver someone from pain, trouble, or danger. It involves more than mere emotion and always finds a way to express itself in some form of helpfulness.
In the last two chapters of Acts, Luke records two instances of unsaved Gentiles showing philanthrōpia. Before Paul boarded ship to be taken as a prisoner to Rome, the centurion “Julius treated Paul with consideration [philanthrōpia] and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care” (Acts 27:3). After the shipwreck off the coast of Malta, Paul and all the others on board managed to safely reach shore, just as God had promised (27:22–26). Luke then reports that “the natives showed us extraordinary kindness [philanthrōpia]; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all” (28:2).
The Old Testament speaks often of the Lord’s loving kindness, which never ceases or fails (Lam. 3:22). David declared, “Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth” (Ps. 86:15; cf. 145:8). Another psalmist proclaimed, “He has made His wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate” (Ps. 111:4).
In the present passage, kindness and love for mankind are virtually synonymous. The two words together, especially in the context of these four verses, reflect the even deeper agapē love that God has for-fallen mankind. The best known and most beloved passage that expresses God’s agapē love is “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Because of God’s great and compassionate love for mankind, He delivers sinners from the oppression and fatal danger of their iniquity.
It was through the incarnation of Jesus Christ that God’s sovereign kindness and love for mankind appeared, at which time His grace also appeared (Titus 2:11). “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4–6). All believers can exult with Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20; cf. Rev. 1:5).
John Calvin wrote that, although God
testifies his goodness and love to all, yet we know it by faith only, when he declares himself to be our Father in Christ. Before Paul was called to the faith of Christ, he enjoyed innumerable gifts of God, which might have given him a taste of God’s fatherly kindness; he had been educated, from his infancy, in the doctrine of the law; yet he wanders in darkness, so as not to perceive the goodness of God, till the Spirit enlightened his mind, and till Christ came forth as the witness and pledge of the grace of God the Father, from which, but for him, we are all excluded. Thus he means that the kindness of God is not revealed and known but by the light of faith.
Third, we should remember that we did not save ourselves by self-effort or any other means, but that God saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.
Saved is from sōzō, which, although it is sometimes used in the New Testament of physical, temporal deliverance (see, e.g., Matt. 8:25; John 12:27), is most often used of spiritual salvation. Those words have always been cherished by those who have been saved. Our salvation is the most important and precious thing about us, to which nothing else can begin to compare. Biblical Christianity is a saving religion, and salvation has always been the central theme of Christian songs and hymns.
In the negative sense, salvation relates to our deliverance from the penalty of sin, that is, from divine wrath, spiritual death, and hell. Still again, we are pointed to that beloved text in the gospel of John. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,” the Son Himself declared, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved [sōzō] through Him” (John 3:16–17).
In the positive sense, salvation grants us the privilege “to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), to be made “alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5), to be delivered “from the domain of darkness, and transferred … to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13), and to have “the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2).
After Pentecost, “the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). In words that may have been part of an early church creed, Paul wrote, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). The purpose of the incarnation was to accomplish the sacrifice that would save lost sinners, among whom we all were once numbered (Eph. 2:5).
The Savior did not redeem us because of anything that we were, or could ever be, in ourselves. Ephesians 2:8–9 makes it clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). No deeds, even those done in relative righteousness, could have earned or merited our salvation. We made no contribution to God’s sovereign and gracious work of salvation. We did not deserve deliverance from sin and death. We did not deserve to be born again, recreated in the very image of our Lord. We did not deserve to become God’s children and joint heirs with His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We did not deserve the promise of everlasting life, which we will spend in heaven in the continual presence of God.
We were rather saved according to His mercy. Mercy is from eleos, which refers to the outward manifestation of pity and assumes need on the part of those who receive it and sufficient resources to meet the need on the part of those who show it. In some ways, mercy is similar to grace, which Paul mentions in verse 7. But whereas grace relates to guilt, mercy relates to affliction. Whereas grace relates to the state of the sinner before God the judge, mercy relates to the condition of the sinner in his sin. Whereas grace judicially forgives the offender for his wrongdoing, mercy compassionately helps him recover.
Fourth, we should remember that we were saved by God’s mercifully deciding to grant the washing of regeneration. When we were saved, we were cleansed of our sin, the decay and filth that is produced by spiritual deadness. Speaking of that truth in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul explains that we were cleansed “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26). James declares that, “In the exercise of His will He [God] brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures” (James 1:18). Peter reminds us that we “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God”(1 Pet. 1:23).
Palingenesia (regeneration) carries the idea of receiving n new life, of being born again, or born from above. Jesus told the inquiring Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5; cf. Eph. 5:26). In his first letter, the apostle John repeatedly speaks of the marvelous truth of the new birth. We are assured that, “If [we] know that He [Christ] is righteous, [we also] know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). Conversely, we also are assured that “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (3:9; cf. 5:18). We are assured that “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (4:7) and that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (5:1).
Fifth, we should remember that our salvation came through our renewing by the Holy Spirit. This phrase moves to the next logical step: the effect, or result, of regeneration—namely, the new life that emerges from the new birth. In Romans 8:2, Paul reveals that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” The Holy Spirit, working through the Word, empowers our new life in Christ. “If any man is in Christ,” the apostle explains in his second letter to the church in Corinth, “he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). That is the Spirit’s work of sanctification (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2). He begins moving the believer up the ladder of glory from one level to the next (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18).
The Father not only saved us through His Holy Spirit, but He poured out His Spirit upon us richly and without measure when we were born again (cf. Acts 2:38–39; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11, 13). The Lord “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power [of His Holy Spirit] that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). Because of that available power in us, we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life, sustains our spiritual life, empowers our spiritual life, and guarantees that our spiritual life will become eternal life, because He is the seal, or guarantee, of eternal life (Eph. 1:13–14).
Sixth, in order to prevent feelings of hostility toward the corrupters of our society, we should remember that we were saved only by the substitutionary and atoning sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, which God, by His eternal decree, made efficacious for us before we were even born. His death in our place and for us is the means, and the only means, of our salvation. In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter declared to the assembled Jews that, although Jesus was put to death by their own ungodly leaders, He nevertheless was sovereignly “delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). And the death that He died in God’s plan was a death in which He bore all the sins of all who would ever believe.
The seventh aspect of sovereign salvation is equally from God alone. We should remember that we were saved by God’s grace, as Paul has already alluded to in verse 5. In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle explains in more detail that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9; cf. Rom. 4:2–8; 9:11; Eph. 2:8–9).
Paul is not here using justified in its narrow, forensic sense of God’s declaring believers righteous based on the merits of Jesus Christ that are applied on their behalf (see, e.g., Rom. 4:6–8; cf. 3:24, 26; Gal. 2:7). He is rather using justified in its broad, more general sense as a synonym for salvation. Even John Calvin, a stickler for the narrow, precise definition of justification, recognized that in this passage it refers to salvation in general. He says, “What does he mean by the word justified? The context seems to demand that its meaning shall be extended further than to the imputation of righteousness.”
Paul used his own life as proof that salvation is based entirely on the gracious merit and work of Christ. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” he testifies:
[I was] circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil. 3:4–9)
Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, they are graciously removed; justice is fully satisfied; and God’s kindness, love, mercy, regeneration, renewing, and grace are therefore enabled to act. Grace gives us what we do not and cannot deserve. We do not deserve to be forgiven, to have our sins removed, to have Christ’s own righteousness imputed to us, to be given heavenly citizenship, to be justified, sanctified, and one day glorified in the very presence of our gracious Savior and Lord. The bottom line is stated in the three words: He saved us!
That divine saving grace provides another amazing benefit to undeserving sinners: By faith they are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. As Paul declares more fully in his Roman letter, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:16–17). Peter exults: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:3–4).
3:4 The dismal picture of man’s depravity is interrupted by one of the great buts of Scripture. How thankful we can be for these nick-of-time conjunctions that signal God’s marvelous intervention to save man from destroying himself! Someone has called them God’s roadblocks on man’s way to hell.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared … This occurred when the Lord Jesus appeared to the world over nineteen hundred years ago. In another sense, God’s goodness and lovingkindness appeared to us when we were saved. It was a manifestation of these attributes that He would send His beloved Son to die for a world of rebellious sinners. The word used for love … toward men is the Greek word from which philanthropy comes; it combines the thoughts of love, graciousness, and compassion. The title God our Savior refers to God the Father—our Savior in the sense that He sent His Son into the world as our Sacrifice for sin. The Lord Jesus is also called God our Savior (2:13) because He paid the necessary penalty in order that we might be pardoned and forgiven.
3:5 He saved us from the guilt and penalty of all our sins—past, present, and future. They were all future when the Savior died, and His death covered them all. But one of the simplest, clearest truths of the gospel is the most difficult for man to receive. It is that salvation is not based on good works; one doesn’t become a Christian by living a Christian life. It is not good people who go to heaven. The consistent testimony of the Bible is that man cannot earn or merit salvation (Eph. 2:9; Rom. 3:20; 4:4, 5; 9:16; 11:6; Gal. 2:16; 3:11). Man cannot save himself by good works; all his righteous deeds are like polluted rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). He cannot become a Christian by living a Christian life for the simple reason that he has no power in himself to live a Christian life. It is not good people who go to heaven; it is sinners who have been saved by God’s grace!
Good works do not earn salvation; they are the result of salvation. Wherever there is true salvation there will also be good works. So we read that God did not save us because of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy. Salvation is a work of mercy—not justice. Justice demands that the deserved punishment be administered; mercy provides a righteous way by which the punishment is averted.
God saved us by the washing of regeneration. Conversion is really a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), and here that new creation is presented under the figure of a bath. It is the same figure used by the Lord Jesus when He taught the disciples that there is only one bath of regeneration but many necessary cleansings from defilement (John 13:10). That bath of regeneration has nothing to do with baptism. It is not a bodily cleansing by water, but a moral cleansing by the word of God (John 15:3). Baptism is not even a symbol of this bath; it rather depicts burial with Christ into death (Rom. 6:4).
Our new birth is also spoken of as a renewing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God brings about a marvelous transformation—not putting new clothes on the old man, but putting a new man in the clothes! The Holy Spirit is the Agent in regeneration and the word of God is the instrument.
3:6 God poured out the Holy Spirit on us abundantly. Every believer is indwelt by the Spirit from the moment he is born again. The Spirit is sufficient to bring about the glorious renewal referred to. The Spirit is given through Jesus Christ our Savior. Just as the abundance of Pharaoh’s court was mediated to Jacob’s sons through Joseph, so the blessings of God, including the inexpressible blessing of His Spirit, are mediated to us through the Lord Jesus. Jesus is our “Joseph.”
All three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are mentioned in connection with our salvation: God the Father, (v. 4); the Holy Spirit, (v. 5); and God the Son (v. 6).
3:7 The immediate result of our regeneration is that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, God reckons us righteous by an act of amazing grace. And we become heirs of all that God has prepared for those who love Him. Everything that is included in being with Christ and like Him for all eternity is our hope.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1996). Titus (pp. 149–155). Chicago: Moody Press.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2143–2144). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.