What does Titus 3:5 mean?
ESV: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
NIV: he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
NASB: He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
CSB: he saved us --not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy--through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
NLT: he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
KJV: 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;
Verse 5 is part of a poetic stanza covering verses 4–7. The phrase "He saved us" specifically implies that God is the source of salvation, a theme common throughout Scripture. This verse also emphasizes how God saves. Being saved is not something we accomplish through our good deeds, but through the mercy of God. Salvation comes only from God, and only through God's mercy.
Salvation includes "the washing of regeneration." This refers to the spiritual cleansing which takes place when a person accepts Christ in salvation. At that moment, a person's life is "regenerated," or "made new." The Holy Spirit renews our lives when we come to faith in Christ. This phrase does not imply baptism or an emotional experience.
This poetic section presents a word-picture of people cleansed by God and His grace. It emphasizes the involvement of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a good example of a passage which is meant to convey a general idea. Squeezing each word in a literal way contradicts the intent of the original words. The text is written to give us a poetic explanation of salvation as a work of God in our lives—not an engineering schematic of our redemption.
Titus 3:4–7 is a poetic description of how God saves us. Rather than depending on our good deeds, God rescues us on the basis of His mercy. When a person accepts Christ, they experience “regeneration,” meaning a spiritual cleansing. God generously gives us the Holy Spirit and forgives our sin through His grace.
Paul reminds Titus of seven positive behaviors, and seven contrasting sins, which he is to insist on teaching correctly. False teachers are to be cut off, not given a public platform. Believers are not to waste time bickering, but focus on good works and urgent needs. This passage also explains how salvation is entirely the result of God’s grace, not our own good deeds.
Titus chapter 1 focused on the character traits of a church leader, contrasted to the immoral culture of Crete. Chapter 2 explained the ideal traits of church members, especially in their acts towards each other. Chapter 3 focuses on the relationship between Christians and their surrounding culture. Through goodness and peace, we are to make a positive impact, so people will see Christ in us.
The book of Titus is a letter written by the apostle Paul, to a Christian leader on the island of Crete. This is one of Paul’s three Pastoral Epistles, where he offers instructions to younger believers caring for large groups of others. Paul uses the book of Titus to emphasize the importance of selecting church elders carefully. Many of the topics discussed in Titus are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Though the details of this message are specifically for Titus, and the believers of Crete, they offer insight useful for churches today.
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