“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, but when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared… He saved us” (Titus 3:3-5).
The word “for” (gar) gives a reason for the preceding words (cf. Titus 3:1-2). Why should Christians be peaceable, gentle, and show humility to others, even sinful men? Why should they not be arrogant and self-righteous? The answer is: They too were once mired in sin.
However, the kindness and the love of God appeared. The source of salvation is God, not man. Let’s consider three words: (1) “Kindness.” The original word (Chrestotes) has to do with “goodness of heart” (Vine’s). It is translated in the KJV by the following words – “gentleness,” “good(ness),” and “kindness.” Gary Workman commented, “Whenever these words are used in reference to God, the thought always has to with the offer of salvation” (Workman, Spiritual Sword Lectures: God’s Amazing Grace, p. 384). (2) “Love.” The original word (philanthropia) literally means “love for man.” It is translated in the KJV by the following words – “kindness,” and “love toward man.” It is from this word we get our word “philanthropy.” It refers to love for man expressed in action (cf, Acts 28:1-2). (3) “Appeared.” This word occurs twice in the book in Titus (Titus 2:11; 3:4). God made sure that His message of grace (Titus 2:11 cf. Acts 20:32; Colossians 1:5-6) appeared to all (Titus 2:11 cf. Colossians 1:5-6; 1:23; Romans 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26). God showed kindness and love toward man, while he was in sin.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
These Christians had received salvation at some point in the past. They were not saved by (ek, literally “out of”) works of righteousness which they had done (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-5). Man is not the source of salvation. Man’s good works cannot overcome or erase his sin problem. God saved them. He saved them according to (Kata, literally “down from”) His mercy. He alone is the reason that they had the opportunity for salvation. The source of salvation is His mercy. Mercy (eleos) is: “Kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” (Thayer); “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s).
“He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit… having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5, 7).
There were (and are) conditions to being saved from sin and its consequences. (1) They were saved through (dia, the means or instrument by which a thing is accomplished) the washing of regeneration. The word “wash(ing)” is connected elsewhere with water (Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:22) and baptism (Acts 22:16). The word “regeneration” means “again birth” (Vine’s). This reminds one of what Jesus said to Nicodemus (cf. John 3:3, 5). This seems to refer to baptism (cf. 1 Peter 3:21). Adam Clark commented, “Undoubtedly the apostle here means baptism…” Richard Lenski commented, “God saved us by means of baptism.” (2) They were saved through the renewing of the Holy Spirit. (a) Some have thought that this is simply a rewording of the previous clause. The conjunction Kai can be translated “and,” but in some cases it is best rendered “even.” (b) However, let us assume that this is a distinct point. The Bible speaks of the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24). How does the Holy Spirit renew the mind? Directly? No. Renewing comes through learning (Ephesians 4:20-21 cf. 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Holy Spirit supplied the message. It is by this message man is changed. His thinking is renewed. His behavior is transformed. One is to decide to change when he decides to be baptized. When a man is baptized, he is raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3).
Watch this. They were justified | by grace (Titus 3:7). They were saved | by washing and renewing (Titus 3:5). The words “justified” and “saved” are parallel. The word “grace” is parallel with “washing” and “renewing.” God’s offering of salvation through His plan of salvation (which includes baptism) is an expression of His grace. Grace (Charis) can refer to “a beneficial opportunity, a charitable act, generous gift” (Perschbacher); “gracious care or help, goodwill” (B-A-G); “goodwill, loving kindness” (Thayer); “the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds” (Vine’s). We have the opportunity for salvation due to God’s unmerited favor. If we are saved it is due to God’s unmerited favor. Baptism is not a meritorious work. It requires a humble acceptance of God’s conditions for pardon.
God not only saved them, but He also provided them with the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7). The source of this was God’s grace and mercy. There is no place for arrogance or self-righteousness.
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see” (John Newton, Amazing Grace).
“I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known / nor why, unworthy Christ in love redeemed me for His own” (Daniel Whittle, I Know Whom I Have Believed).