As I was thinking about Pentecost Sunday, my mind went to the phrase “renewal of the Holy Spirit” so I decided to see how it might relate to Pentecost. There are times when we read quickly over a passage of scripture and fail to see some of the riches present in it. So I was surprised to see what these 3 verses had to say when I looked at the context of that phrase in Titus 3:4-6. I set out below what I found, so that some busy preacher somewhere in the world might get a flying start for their last minute Pentecost Sunday sermon. Or a humble believer might be blessed as they read about the Lord’s goodness and loving kindness towards them individually and personally in Christ.
A]. What Was Actually Happening When Christ Came To Earth
Titus 3:4 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared.” [God was revealing His character in and through Christ and also His purpose for the world.”] We look more closely at some of the words in this phrase.
– “goodness”, [chrēstotēs; χρηστότης.] God is always good or kind. It is His eternal character which appeared in human flesh in Jesus’ incarnation.
– “loving kindness”, [philanthrōpia, φιλανθρωπία.] This is where our English word philanthropy comes from. It is love [philia] of mankind [anthropos]. It is God’s constant disposition towards His human creatures. He loves them!
– “God our Saviour.”[sōtēr; σωτήρ sōtēr.] God is Saviour as the source of salvation and Christ is the instrument through whom it was achieved.
– “Appeared.” [epiphainō; ἐπιφαίνω.] This is the source of our English word epiphany, a manifestation, appearing or revealing. When Christ came, the eternal qualities of God’s goodness and loving kindness were revealed to His creatures in human flesh in Jesus.
B}. What Jesus Accomplished
5 he saved us, [sōzō; σώζω.] God is Saviour as the source of salvation and Christ is the instrument through whom it was achieved on the cross. Salvation is attributed to both the Father and the Son in the New Testament. It is also attributed to the Holy Spirit who opens people’s spiritual eyes and hearts to the Christ of the gospel.
C]. How Salvation Was Accomplished
– not because of works done by us in righteousness. Our “good works” before conversion can never gain merit in the sight of God. “Good works” are those that stem from a living faith because they are inspired and enabled by the Holy Spirit!
– but according to his own mercy. [eleos; ἔλεος.] God’s mercy was the motivation behind God’s act in sending Christ into the world to achieve salvation. He was doing something for sinful mankind that they could not do for themselves.
– by the washing [loutron; λουτρόν.] If mercy was the motivation behind Christ’s coming to save, then the washing away of sin was the method. This is brought out in the only other occurrence of this word, in Eph 5:26, where the church is cleansed by being washed, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”’ There are at least 3 other references linking the concepts of “wash” and “spirit.” That connection is natural because the Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration. Regenerate people are those who are born of the Spirit. One example is in 1 Cor 6:11 where Paul wrote about the change that had come upon some of the believers in Corinth, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The Spirit of God had worked in their hearts so that they were cleansed of their sin, set apart to God by the indwelling Spirit and had been brought in into a living relationship with God by that same Spirit. Likewise in Rev 7:11 believers [born again of the Spirit of God] are described as those who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb [meaning Jesus] and in Rev 22:14 as those who had washed their robes so that they might have the right to the tree of life. Entry into heaven necessitates being born again. Jesus said so, “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3.
-of regeneration [paliggenesia; παλιγγενεσία.] This can mean a new beginning or a new situation as in Mt 19:28, ‘Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”’ But it can also mean an individual inward renewal to bring about change.
But how could that change be effected? Paul gives us the answer in the next phrase.
-and renewal of the Holy Spirit. [ἀνακαίνωσις anakainōsis.] It is interesting that the only other occurrence of this word is in Rom 12:2, where Paul was describing change, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …. ” It is obvious throughout Paul’s writings that any renewal or spiritual change could only be effected by the Holy Spirit. That is what Paul is saying in this verse as he describes God’s mercy as being demonstrated in the change happening through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, in the lives of those who become God’s people. It was a powerful change as the next phrase indicates.
6 whom he poured out on us richly. [poured out = ekcheō; ἐκχέω. ] “Whom” here of course is the person of the Holy Spirit, not just a force or an influence, but a person of power. The bestowal of the Spirit was not just a trickle but rather a “pouring out.” Historically we know that the gift of the Holy Spirit was “poured out” on the day of Pentecost as Peter preached on that day, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” Acts 2:33.
Peter also described the pouring out as a fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy, in Acts 2:17-18, “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” Also in Acts 10:45 is Luke’s description of the pouring out of the Spirit on the Gentiles, “And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.”
– richly. [plousiōs; πλουσίως] We get the impression from these verses above that the pouring out of the Spirit was a pretty powerful manifestation of His presence coming upon them. Indeed Peter wrote to his readers using this word “richly” when he wrote, “For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet 1:11. Entrance into God’s eternal kingdom can only happen as people undergo the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. But Paul wrote in a deeply personal manner about God’s agape love being poured out into the hearts of believers, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Rom 5:5.
– through Jesus Christ our Saviour. All God’s mercies become available to us through [and only through] Jesus Christ whom God sent to be the Saviour of the world.
What a marvellous truth-filled passage is found in Titus 3:4-6! It begins with Paul focussing on God Himself in the Christ Event. As he does so, he reflects first of all on the character of God, His goodness and loving-kindness. Eternally the same from all eternity! But something amazing happened with the coming of Christ into the world. This wonderful character of God APPEARED! That which God’s people had only read about for centuries had now become visible in human form in Jesus. What an appearance!
It was not only an appearance of God’s character but also of His wisdom in knowing how to bring guilty sinners back to Himself. Simple words but how powerful are these dynamic words, “Saved”, “Washing,” “Regeneration,” “Renewal,” “Pouring out.” The Holy Spirit of God Himself being involved in this whole process of salvation for guilty sinners, and in their reconciliation back to God.
PENTECOST? In the words of Prof John Murray’s book, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” the whole drama of salvation [redemption] planned by the Father, [and the Godhead] accomplished by the Son, was now able to be applied to the human race as the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who were willing to receive God’s grace to them in Christ, at PENTECOST! Halleluia, what a Saviour!
A SUGGESTED PRAYER
What a change would take place within our world if people were to read these verses from Titus 3 and say to the Lord, “Lord, I don’t really know what these verses mean, but they sound exciting. Please, in Your mercy, grant to me a washing of regeneration and a renewal of the Holy Spirit as You pour out Your Spirit on me, just as You poured out Your Spirit on those disciples in Acts chapter 2. Please work in my life by Your Holy Spirit and make me into the person You want me to be. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!”
Blog No.358. posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 29th May 2020