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—NKJV

The other day I was thumbing through a pocket New Testament I had received upon graduating from High School. Somewhere along the line I had gone from Matthew to Revelation and underlined verses which are key to understanding biblical truth. While reading verse after verse on page after page I was struck by the dynamic nature of the Author of the Scriptures. No other book has such high-sounding virtues and such powerfully-stated, dogmatic declarations on subjects which very few living would chose to publish on paper for fear of being contradicted and ridiculed.

One such text is found in Titus 3 speaking of man’s insufficiency in comparison to God’s all-sufficiency. The context speaks to the idea that all men are equally corrupt (verse 3) in foolishness, disobedience, deception, enslaved to lusts and pleasures and immersed in evil dispositions, actions, and hatred. This is the well from which we draw the self-effort alluded to in verse 5 as Paul states, “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” Works from such poisoned waters cannot produce healthful results. Interestingly enough, Paul couches the works in a finite sounding past tense—works which “we have done.” Human works of righteousness defiled with any measure of the poison of verse 3 cannot possibly endure the holy scrutiny of the truly righteous God and most certainly cannot be admitted into a pure heaven.

Over against this failure and severe limitation of all human self-effort stands the grace of God as expressed in verses 4 through 7. Verse 4 touts the philanthropy and selfless love of God displayed when Jesus Christ, the Savior, appeared among men. In verse 5 we see that God displayed His kindness and love with mercy as He rescued (saved) those who trust Him as Lord and Savior.

This is where the dynamic declaration begins to stand out in comparison to the finite and feeble self-righteous efforts of men. Notice the participles that follow. We are saved through the “washing of regeneration.” Paul is reminding Titus of the kind and loving Savior who took him up in His arms and bathed him head to toe in the sin cleansing blood of the Lamb of Calvary. Human effort can’t rise and reach to such a miraculous level of rescue. Sin is only purged by the shedding of blood, according to the book of Hebrews. No human effort of righteousness can rescue like the work of Jesus Christ, for He alone gives the new birth of regeneration.

We are saved by the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” The miracle work of God the Spirit is applied to us in the form of renewing. Renewing is to make new again, something virtually unheard of in our experience in this life. The Holy Spirit sets about the task of taking the blood washed repentant sinner and transforming him into something quite separate from the life described in verse 3. Self-effort is useless to this task. This is divine work. It is of such quality as to be more than enough for the task. Verse 6 states that the Holy Spirit is given to the believer abundantly so that the transforming work continues until we reach eternity.

Verse 7 states, “that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” There is no hope in self-effort; it is always tainted by self-sin. There is no trustworthy dogma found in self-righteousness. The only real hope is found in Christ’s finished work on the cross of Calvary; this is a dogma worth trusting.

Have you let go of all self-effort and rested the eternal care of your soul in the mighty hands of the Savior? Are you trying to get a hold on God, or does He have a hold on you? Trust and obey.