(5) 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,
(6) whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
(7) so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5–7, NIV
Lord our God, let your light shine in our hearts, the light that can gladden us and lead us until all our longing is stilled. May the higher nature born in us become ever stronger so that the lower and perishable nature does not rule over us. Grant that we may overcome and that our hearts may rejoice in being allowed to strive for the highest good because we are your children who can share in what is eternal. Amen.
The context of the words of Titus 3:5–7, NIV
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.
Meaning of the words
"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"
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
"Whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior"
Verse 5 ended with a reference to the Holy Spirit. Verse 6 specifies that He is what is "poured out." The Holy Spirit came in power at Pentecost, which was the birth of the church (Acts 2). Here, Paul emphasizes the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the life of each individual as he or she comes to faith in Christ. This is not a later experience, but something that takes places when a person is saved.
It's important to know that the spirit is referred to using the Greek word hou, which is a masculine "personal pronoun." This is a fancy way of saying that the term means "whom," in reference to a person. The Holy Spirit is being described in personal terms, not as an object or impersonal force.
The Holy Spirit was poured out "richly" or "abundantly." Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, as described in Acts 1:4–5. Paul again refers to Jesus Christ as "our Savior." This stresses the fact that both Paul and Titus are followers of Christ, and of the same Savior. This is despite the fact that Paul was a Jew and Titus
"So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life"
This verse continues comments on salvation which Paul began in verse 4. Paul states that grace is what "justifies" us, meaning God's grace declares us forgiven, and reconciled to God. Justification is being made right with God. The New Testament continually states that this is the result of God's grace, not our works (Ephesians 2:8–9). Romans 3:24 notes that grace justifies us as a gift, through Christ. Romans 3:28 also states that faith, not following the law, leads to justification. The book of Romans was written about 10 years prior to this letter to Titus. So, these are teachings that Titus should be reminding people of (Titus 3:1).
It's important to understand that justification takes place by faith. The result is peace with God. Titus 3:7 also adds that we become inheritors of hope of eternal life. The phrase "we might," or "we may," as seen in the English translation, does not mean something unsure. It means that the opportunity for eternal life is the result of being justified by faith. Without faith, there is no justification; without justification, there is no salvation.
If obtaining eternal life depended on human goodness, no one would qualify. Only salvation by grace through faith makes eternal life possible. Likewise, referring to "hope" doesn't imply something which may or may not occur. Rather, eternity in heaven is something positive we anticipate.