“We ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
Why should Christians be peaceable, gentle, and humble toward others? (cf. Titus 3:2). The answer is that we too were once lost in sin (Titus 3:3). Denny Petrillo comments, “It serves to remind Christians that they, too, were once mired in the abominable practices that others around them are now practicing. This can only produce a humble spirit.” (Petrillo, Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, p. 187). Wayne Jackson comments, “This calls for a reflection upon the past as an incentive toward the gracious treatment of others” (Jackson, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus: Before I Die, p. 356). May we never forget that we were once lost in sin. This will help keep us humble, and compassionate toward others.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared” (Titus 3:4).
The reason that any man can be saved is because of the kindness and love of God. The word “kindness” (Chrestotes) is used of “kindness of heart or act” (Vine’s). Gary Workman suggests that “Whenever… used in reference to God, the thought always had to do with the offer of salvation” (Editor Jim Laws, The Spiritual Sword Lectureship: God’s Amazing Grace, p. 384). The word “love” (philanthropia) is the word from which we get our word “philanthropy.” It refers to benevolent love. It is love for man in action.
This kindness and love appeared (Titus 3:4). The word “appeared” occurs twice in this book. Earlier, in this book, Paul wrote, “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). “The grace of God” refers to the message of grace and salvation, the Gospel (cf. Colossians 1:5-6; Acts 20:32). This message was for all (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Romans 1:16). This message had gone forth into all of the world (Titus 2:11 cf. Colossians 1:5-6; 1:23; Romans 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26). God’s kindness and love is manifested by His message of grace through Christ.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (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 (Titus 3:4-5 cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9). 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 from above. The source of salvation is His mercy. Mercy (eleos): “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); “Kindness or goodwill toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with the desire to relieve them” (Thayer).
There were conditions to their salvation (as there is for our salvation). (1) They were saved through washing. 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). (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. The mercies of God is a great motivation for one to live a transformed life (Romans 12:1-2). One is raised from the water of baptism to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).