Tit 3:5 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… Here are a couple of question. “How are we washed? And to what state are we renewed? Do our souls get dirty?”
Let’s Look at the Whole Context
The way the Cretians were to view government.
Tit 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, Tit 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. Tit 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. Tit 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Tit 3:5 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; Tit 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; Tit 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Greek historian, Diodorus of Sicily, wrote of the riotous insubordination of the Cretans. The Cretans were constantly fighting with each other before Rome took over. They had pirates who’d take Roman soldiers prisoner, and when they refused to return the prisoners, the Senate ordered a giant army to assault the island. The Cretans had to surrender to the empire. In Titus 1, Paul would highlight that one of their own poets wrote of the Cretans as always being liars, evil beasts, with slow bellies, and he’d say, “this witness is true.”
Here, Paul confronts head-on their own rebellious manner under the Roman Empire. The Cretans didn’t ask to be conquered by the Romans, but they certainly got what they deserved. To a certain degree, as an American, you can understand their desire to be independent from Rome. But as someone objectively observing Crete at the time from the outside looking in according to the word of God and the witness of Paul, you have to admit what the Cretans themselves could not face: they had to be governed because they couldn’t possibly govern themselves. This is why Paul instructed Titus to oversee the churches with a strong arm telling him to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” In chapter two, he’d tell Titus, “rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” Sometimes strong words are needed to get through thick heads.
Whether they were even capable of self-governance is beside the point. God’s command for all saints is to be subject to principalities and powers and not only that but speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, be gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men, which flew in the face of generations of Cretan tradition. But tough Titus was the perfect man for the job in Crete. Titus didn’t have to deal with the Cretans. The Cretans had to deal with Titus. And eventually, the Cretans became peaceful within in the Roman Empire, which may have had to do with the spread of Christianity and the large presence of Titus there. History seems to bare out that Titus was greatly successful in his ministry in Crete.
Now notice that Paul makes the connection between our past before we got saved and the point he makes about being subject to principalities and powers. He goes from being subject to principalities and powers to how we ourselves also were sometimes foolish.
Why does he do that? Because we are to view the unsaved in positions of governmental authorities with sympathy. Why are we to view those unsaved people in government with sympathy? Because we, ourselves, were once “sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” We view them with sympathy because we were once no better than they. So we now view them with sympathy simply because they need to get saved, just as we once needed to get saved.
Why wouldn’t we view unbelievers who are in positions of authority in the government with sympathy when they will be answering to God for every sin they ever committed in office? If they don’t get saved, they’ll suffer the consequence for everything they’ve done in a Lake of Fire. If you’re in a position of leadership in government, like a President, you’re at a far higher level of accountability with God. Some tyrants have the blood of millions on their hands and they will have to account to God for every life they took, which is a terrifying thought. The consequence for their sins is far greater than our own.
Whereas most political discourse is earthly thinking, what Paul advocates is a higher plane of Godly, gracious thinking, when it comes to corrupt politicians. Our thinking is to be higher than the earthly discourse of politics, and we view unbelieving politicians with sympathy. Why? Because we, ourselves, were once “sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.”
Then Paul makes the transition from what we were to what we are now in Christ and the means by which we became justified by his grace and made heirs according to the hope of eternal life is through the the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. So what is that exactly? Any thoughts?
1Co_6:11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Were our souls washed because those souls were dirty? How do you explain that verse? Did we have dirty souls? Is it possible for our souls to become dirty? 2Co_7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Does this mean our souls get dirty? He says filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Paul writes in Titus 3:5 about the washing of regeneration. So were our souls dirty and they needed be washed before when we got saved?
I asked Hal that question once on a podcast because I think that question is hilarious, and I just wanted to see the look on his face. Hal’s like, “Uhh, no, Joel.”
So how do you explain the filthiness of the flesh and spirit? Bullinger would say that “flesh and spirit” was an expression used to describe the person as a whole. But I think it’s more than that.
I would suggest that before we were saved, our souls were not dirty in a literal sense, but they were in God’s eyes unclean being in a state of unrighteousness.
When Paul talks about the filthiness of the spirit, I think he means “the real you”, your soul, how your soul operated, the inclination of your soul to sin like when you were in bondage to the sin of the flesh. Your soul enjoyed fulfilling the lusts of the flesh before you got saved and Paul is saying to put off the way that your soul used to operate when it was in bondage to the flesh. Your soul simply needed to put off the old ways of an old man now dead and put on Christ. And how do you do that? Through the renewing of the Spirit, through the study of the Word by which the Spirit teaches you and your mind is rewired, renewed.
How Are We Washed?
Today, when we accept Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the Body of Christ10, God’s true church today (Eph. 1:23), His called-out assembly of saints. God’s church today is not a dead human organization but a living divine organism. There are many members but one Body. All of us believers all around the globe are one in the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:4; 1 Cor. 12:12), knit together in love (Col. 2:2), nourished by the head, which is Christ (Col. 2:19), who is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23). Just as we fill His Body, Christ fills all of us. Christ becomes our all, filling our souls with the beauty of Himself. The spiritual life inside of us is now the glorified resurrected Lord Jesus Christ – “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Not only that, the moment we believe, the Holy Spirit indwells us. We become the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16-17). We are earthen tabernacles made for His good use. Just as God resided inside The Most Holy Place in the Israeli temple of the Old Testament, so too, God resides inside each of us. We are His Most Holy Place today.
Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 1:22 that God “hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” The Holy Spirit taking up residence inside of us is God’s unbreakable seal until the day of our redemption. He’s the earnest, God’s guarantee of His purchased possession, the non-refundable deposit, if you will, of His purchased possession guaranteed as His forever.
Not only that, Eph. 1:14 tells us that the Holy Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, guaranteeing that every believer shall inherit the Kingdom of God, as an heir of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). One also cannot overstate the significance of Paul telling us three times in his letters that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:13, 4:30). This means that the Lord Jesus Christ carried out a work on Calvary so all-sufficient as to give us an eternal life, an eternal security, eternal peace with God, cause for us to rejoice evermore (I Thess. 5:16), and an everlasting consolation (2 Thess. 2:16). Even if we become faithless after we’re saved, yet He abideth faithful, because He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).
This reason for our security rests not in the consistency of our faithfulness but in His faithfulness, because He cannot betray His holy, righteous nature. He cannot take back what has been promised to us, because to take back a promise He’s made to us is to deny Himself, to deny His own holiness. And what did Paul say about God’s gifts in Rom. 11:29? For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. There are no takebacks when it comes to God’s gifts.
The baptism of the Spirit isn’t simply relegated to making us members of the Body of Christ, indwelling us, and sealing us for all time. The moment we believe, we are also washed and renewed by the Spirit.
Washing of the Spirit
Tit 3:5 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;
I’d suggest that Paul is talking here in terms of processes. We are no longer what we were through two processes: the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The washing of regeneration is description of the baptism of the Spirit, a process by which our souls were cleansed – it was transformed from a state of unrighteousness into a state of righteousness.
Our washing of regeneration is our thorough spiritual regeneration by the Holy Spirit in which we are brought from a state of unrighteousness into a state of perfect righteousness by receiving His life. We are regenerated by the Spirit from our death to His life, no longer dead in sins in Adam but alive unto God in Christ. This is the death of our old selves, which is our old man, who’s been crucified with Christ, and this is the deliverance from our death into His life. This is our liberation from the consequence of sin, from the dominion of sin, from the power of sin, and the impartation of His divine life to our souls, which is the new man, created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24).
How do you explain regeneration? Let me ask the big question: does this mean we’re born again? Do you know how Webster would define regeneration? New birth. He had another definition I liked: The act of producing anew. This topic actually makes me think of Les Feldick because this is the kind of illustration he’d make. It’s like a dead generator that’s been brought back to life. It was dead. Headed to the junkyard. But then God put a new motor in it and now it’s alive. This is why I like to say that we are regenerated by the Spirit from our death to His life, no longer dead in sins in Adam but alive unto God in Christ.
The moment we believe, we are washed by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). We were cleansed by the Spirit We are transformed by the Spirit. We are translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13), whereby we became new creatures. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
We are metamorphosed into a new spiritual reality, into a new state of being with God’s life inside of us. We are now His perfect workmanship (Eph. 2:10). In the Greek, workmanship is poyeema from which we get the modern word poem. We are His poem. We are His great work of art. We are His masterpiece. We are His perfect work as a result of our spiritual washing of regeneration through the Holy Spirit.
Paul also tells us in Titus 3:5 about the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Every time Paul mentions “renewing,” “renew,” or “being renewed,” he refers to the mind, which is renewed by the Spirit through the study of His Word. The Holy Spirit is the active agent that enables us to transform our minds so that we may realize who we are now in Christ, so that we may put off the old man and put on the new man, so that we may no longer look up at the Lord through the eyes of the old man but that we may look upon ourselves through the eyes of the new man and see ourselves as God sees us in Christ, identified with His Son on the cross, and as righteous as His Son.
Victory in God’s grace is not the power of positive thinking. Victory in God’s grace is the power of accepting God’s truths of who we are now in Christ and we live our lives according to those truths. By studying His Word, the Spirit renews our minds, helps us to learn who we are in Christ, to know the things freely given to us by God (1 Cor. 2:12), to help us put on the new man, and to live free from the dominion of sin, all of which enables us to align our earthly walk with our new Heavenly identity.