New Birth for a New Life
New Birth for a New Life
New Birth for a New Life (Titus 3:1-8)
Main Idea: We have been born again to live a new life of good works.
- We Must Be Ready for Good Works (3:1-3).
- In the present we can help others (3:1-2).
- We submit obediently (3:1).
- We serve eagerly (3:1).
- We speak gently (3:2).
- We show humility (3:2).
- In the past we harmed others (3:3).
- Sin deceives.
- Sin disobeys.
- Sin dictates.
- Sin detests.
- Sin desires.
- Sin destroys.
- In the present we can help others (3:1-2).
- We Have Been Regenerated for Good Works (3:4-7).
- God cares for us (3:4).
- God changes us (3:5).
- God has come for us (3:6).
- God comforts us (3:7).
- We Will Be Rewarded for Good Works (3:8).
- We should affirm good works.
- We should be active in good works.
Nicodemus was a respected religious leader in the first century. He was both a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling counsel of the nation of Israel. He was devoutly religious, theologically well educated, and held in the highest esteem by those who knew him. He was, by any standard of measurement, a good man.
However, visiting the young itinerant rabbi from Galilee one evening after dark, he was shocked to hear he was not ready to enter the kingdom of God (John 3). What reason did Jesus give him? He had never been born from above; he had never been born again; he had288 never experienced the miracle of new birth, the work of the Spirit of God the Bible calls regeneration.
Millard Erickson defines regeneration as "the other [divine] side of conversion. It is completely God's doing. It is God's transformation of individual believers, his giving a new spiritual vitality and direction to their lives when they accept Christ... it involves something new, a whole reversal of the person's natural tendencies" (Theology, 955-57). In other words, it is new birth for a new life.
The word itself only occurs twice in the New Testament. One is Matthew 19:28, which refers to the cosmic regeneration in the eschaton. The other is here in the text before us in Titus 3:5. Paul was vitally interested in both the nature of the new birth and the results of the new birth. He was unalterably convinced that the new birth would be evident in a new life—a new life exploding in good works. Good works form a sandwich or inclusio for our text as they begin the discussion in verse 1 and conclude it in verse 8. Regeneration is the apex of the text appearing in the middle of the passage in verses 5-6. Thus the two are essentially related to each other as we consider the full dimension of our salvation. Paul divides his analysis of the relationship between regeneration and good works into three parts.
We Must Be Ready for Good Works
We Must Be Ready for Good Works
God saved us in order that we would do good works. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us we were created in Christ Jesus for good works. Good works never save, but good works flow from those who are saved. The order is crucially important. Living in a culture that was hostile to the gospel and corrupted by moral sin at every turn, Paul admonishes those in Crete to live distinctively different lives. He does so by giving them and us principles to live by in verses 1-2, principles that stand in stark contrast to how we used to live as described in verse 3.
In the Present We Can Help Others (Titus 3:1-2)
"Remind them" calls to remembrance those things that they were previously taught. Flowing naturally out of the previous section (2:11-15), verses 1-2 show the application of the gospel to the believer's life in this world. Paul provides seven commands that fall roughly into four categories.289
We submit obediently (3:1). We are "to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey." Jesus said in Matthew 22:21, "Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Paul adds in Romans 13:1, "Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God." Peter also says in 1 Peter 2:13-14, "Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good."
Christians are not anarchist or rebels. We do not subvert the government or disobey the government unless it brings us into direct conflict with the commands of God (Acts 5:29). And even then our disobedience is passive not active, and we willingly accept the consequences of our actions. This submission is evidence of submission to and trust in God.
We serve eagerly (3:1). We are to "be ready for every good work." The word "every" indicates the command is comprehensive. Complementing this command is Galatians 6:10: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith." Titus 2:14 reminds us that Christ has redeemed us to create a people for Himself who are "eager to do good works." We look to aid others, assist others, help others in any and every opportunity.
We speak gently (3:2). We are to "slander no one" and are to "avoid fighting." Again the scope is comprehensive. We malign or curse no one with our words, stirring up strife, ill will, and trouble. No, we are peaceable and gentle, uncontentious and forbearing, friendly and considerate.
We exercise sweet reasonableness out of a life of wisdom that refuses to hold a grudge and that also gives others the benefit of the doubt (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-8). The regenerate person refuses to cultivate and then exercise verbal or physical abuse. As far as it is possible, on our part, we seek to "live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18).
We show humility (3:2). We are "to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people." This is the exact opposite of the slandering and fighting Paul just warned against. In fact, the call to show "gentleness" or "humility" sums up well the prior six commands. It is a conscious placing of others ahead of ourselves. It is in attitude and action esteeming others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3). It is the essence of the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5).290
Paul knew that one way to appreciate who we are now is to remember who we used to be, to draw a contrast between how we now cannot act with how we then had to act before we met Jesus Christ.
In the Past We Harmed Others (Titus 3:3)
Through the new birth we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). What a difference Jesus has made! Paul knew this was true for us. He knew it was true for him. He begins verse 3 with an emphatic "we." Exactly what has Jesus saved us from besides the fires of hell and eternal separation from God? In one word it is sin. But sin, like the mythological hydra, is a many-headed creature that attacked and subdued us from every conceivable direction. As we consider these truths, Charles Spurgeon reminds us: "Do not let me talk about these things this morning while you listen to me without feeling. I want you to be turning over the pages of your old life and joining with Paul and the rest of us in our sad confession of former pleasure in evil" ("The Maintenance of Good Works," in Metropolitan Tabernacle, 34:496). If we are to see clearly our need for the new birth, we must deeply know the nature of our own sin. Paul noted six ways in particular that sin enslaved and held us captive.
Sin deceives. We ourselves (all of us with no exceptions) were once "foolish" (we were senseless, ignorant, and without spiritual understanding) and "deceived" (we were led astray, misled, and guided by another in the wrong direction). In short, sin makes you stupid!
Sin disobeys. We were "disobedient." Our natural bent was to disobey and seek our own way: disobedient to God (cf. 1:16), authorities, parents—everyone and everything. We were self-centered, self-deceived, Satan-deceived rebels.
Sin dictates. We were "enslaved by various passions and pleasures." Professing to be liberated and free, we were in actuality in bondage and slavery to a cruel and never-satisfied taskmaster: ourselves. Lust and pleasure controlled us. We flirted with both beauties only to discover no matter how much we gave them, they were never satisfied, it was never, never enough. What fools we truly were to give ourselves to two mistresses who promised so much but gave so little of any real value.
Sin detests. We were "living in malice." We lived with "an evil attitude of mind which manifest itself in ill-will and desire to injure" (Hiebert, Titus and Philemon, 88). This describes one with a vicious character who desires to bring good to no one.291
Sin desires. We lived in "envy," an unquenchable desire to possess what we do not have. John MacArthur with great insight notes, "Envy is a sin that carries its own reward: it guarantees its own frustration and disappointment. By definition, the envious person cannot be satisfied with what he has and will always crave for more" (Titus, 149). Sexual sin illustrates this perfectly, wanting more until it goes "all the way," only to find even this is not enough.
Sin destroys. We were "hateful" and were continually "detesting" or hating one another. "Hateful" was our nature and attitude, a natural outgrowth of envy. "Detesting" was our character and action. In contrast to living a life of love that characterizes the disciples of Jesus (John 13:35), we lived a life of hate that gave evidence we were disciples of the Devil.
This is a picture of who we were but not of who we are. The gospel changed everything! We are now a new creation and are ever ready for good works. But how? How is this possible?
We Have Been Regenerated for Good Works
We Have Been Regenerated for Good Works
After showing who we once were, Paul then reveals what has been done for us. At one time in our lives we were dead, doomed, and depraved, "But God," says Ephesians 2:4. At one time in our lives, we were a spiritual corpse, controlled by our sin nature, Satan, and the world, condemned with no hope, no future, "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love... appeared," says Titus 3:4. Praise God for these revivals in the Bible. What does this one in Titus teach us? Four precious truths.
God Cares for Us (Titus 3:4)
Paul begins with the basic and beautiful truth that God loves us. In fact both His goodness and His love have made an appearance. This is the third appearing in Titus! We see the grace of God in 2:11, the glory of God in 2:13, and now the goodness of God in 3:4. This goodness, this love and kindness, has its source in God our Savior. The theme of Christ as our "Savior" appears here for the fifth time of six occurrences in Titus. "The kindness of God and His love" have as their object mankind—sinners in need of a Savior.292
God Changes Us (Titus 3:5)
Here is the greatest verse in the Bible on the doctrine of regeneration, the new birth experienced by those who repent of their sin and put their trust completely and exclusively in Jesus Christ. Paul begins by first telling how regeneration did not happen, countering the false thinking that has plagued humanity for all of our existence. His words could not be clearer: "He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done." Salvation is not earned. Regeneration is not something you can work up. You were dead, spiritually—without a heartbeat, no pulse, nothing. Any good you had done was "like filthy rags" in the eyes of a holy God (Isa 64:6 NKJV). On your best day you had nothing to give God, and if you have never realized that, then you have never been saved. No, we cannot work our way into heaven.
"But," Titus 3:4-5 says, "he saved us... according to His mercy." He delivered us from sin and its slavery, rescued us from death, hell, and the grave. Why? Kindness, love, mercy. What? Saved us. How? Washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
Regeneration consists negatively of removal of filth and positively of a renewing, both brought about by the Holy Spirit. Regeneration washes us, makes us clean through the new birth. The imagery of washing has nothing to do with baptism, for it is the Holy Spirit who is washing us, not externally but internally. The picture looks back to Ezekiel 36:25-27, where the prophet writes:
I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.
This picture is also seen in Ephesians 5:26, where it portrays our being cleansed by the washing of water by the Word. Thus the Spirit and the Word work in tandem to make us brand-new in Jesus Christ. Indeed that is exactly where Paul looks next.
God Has Come for Us (Titus 3:6)
God is generous when He gives us His Spirit. Verse 6 says, "He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior." Paul293 is probably referring back to Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2. However, what God did then for the believers gathered in the upper room, He now does for every believer in and through regeneration. His Spirit comes to be with us and in us abundantly.
God Comforts Us (Titus 3:7)
To be "justified" means to be declared righteous. By virtue of the imputed righteousness of Christ, we stand before God just as if we had never sinned and just as if we had always obeyed God perfectly. We are not made justified; we are declared justified. And how did we receive this legal acquittal, this forensic standing of righteousness before God? Paul here adds a fourth motive as to why our great God saved us.
His goodness or kindness moved Him to save us (v. 4). His love moved Him to save us (v. 4). His mercy moved Him to save us (v. 5). His grace moved Him to save us (v. 7).
Having saved us, regenerated us, renewed us, and justified us, He now comforts us with a word about our future. We are "heirs with the hope of eternal life." This is a reality now, though it is not yet our full possession. There is no question that this inheritance will be received. As a work of our triune God, the Father (v. 4-5), the Son (v. 6), and the Holy Spirit (v. 5), it is a signed, sealed, and settled issue.
We Will Be Rewarded for Good Works
We Will Be Rewarded for Good Works
Five times in the Pastoral Epistles, we find the phrase, "This saying is trustworthy" (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Titus 3:8). It usually serves to emphasize the importance of the words that are to follow. Here the phrase points back to verses 4-7. Further, the faithful saying may be something of a creedal statement, a hymn, catechetical guidance, or liturgical material. Because of the importance of the words, they should be repeated, memorized, or even sung. They should also have daily and personal application in our lives, and that is exactly what we see in the closing verse of this section.
We Should Affirm Good Works
This "trustworthy" saying and the words that make it up should be affirmed and affirmed constantly. Paul spells this out specifically: "I want you to insist on these things.... These are good and294 profitable for everyone." These are words of truth, of divine origin, and we do a good work to teach them repeatedly (cf. Deut 6:7-9). A blessing for all is certain to occur.
We Should Be Active in Good Works
Those who have been regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit are now described simply as "those who have believed God." And, because they have believed and do believe, they should "be careful to devote themselves to good works" (cf. 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). You see, the new birth will result in a new life. Death is replaced by life. The flesh is captive to the Spirit. Evil works are overcome by good works. Such works are more assuredly good and profitable for everyone, saved and unsaved, the latter seeing the beauty of our new life and being drawn to the Christ who changed us, the Christ who can change them too! This is indeed a great reward for those of us who have been regenerated by the gospel of King Jesus.
In an article entitled "Scholars, Interfaith Families Grapple over What Passport Needed for Heaven," Amy Green discusses the perennial question, Who goes to heaven? (Sun Herald, May 8, 2005). Discussing the problem John 14:6 presents and the more liberal view of Roman Catholicism since Vatican II, she reports of a Presbyterian pastor in Memphis, Tennessee, who says in a sermon that John 14:6 is "a club with which we beat others over the head." The pastor goes on to say,
"What I encourage people to do is look at the broader themes of the Bible, and what we see is a God who loved the world, a God whose intention is that all creation be made whole and healed. A lot of people kind of had a gut feeling that their God was a more loving God and a bigger God than they had imagined... and were yearning to have their large and loving view of God validated. And I think that's what happened."
The sermon affirmed what Heather Pearson Chauhan had believed all along. Chauhan, 31, an obstetrician/gynecologist, grew up a Christian and then married a Hindu man she met in medical school. Her husband converted to Christianity after they wed, and now the couple plans to raise their 4-month-old son a Christian.295
"To define religion or Christianity as this narrow path I think is not a global perspective," she says. "Everyone gets to God a different way."
Not so, says the Word of God. Only those who have been regenerated by the power of God, been renewed by the Spirit, been justified by grace, and believed in Jesus and Jesus alone will go to heaven. Yes, we all need a new birth for a new life today and forever. This new life overflows into a life of good works that testify to the goodness of our God and His love for all people in Jesus Christ. This is the power of the gospel. This is the new birth for a new life.
Reflect and Discuss
Reflect and Discuss
- Why did Jesus rebuke Nicodemus for not knowing about being born again (John 3:10)? What does the Old Testament teach about regeneration?
- What was Paul's relationship to the Roman government? What was that government's view of Christianity? How does this background affect our understanding of Paul's command to "be submissive to rulers and authorities" (v. 1)?
- How can Christians be holy and serve all people without coming off as being "holier than thou" or as thinking of themselves as superior?
- Which best describes your life before you were saved: foolish, deceived, enslaved, malicious, envious, or hateful? Did you feel unloved (Hos 1:6), alienated (Hos 1:9), blind (Matt 23:26), lost (Luke 19:10), rebellious (1 Tim 1:9), hopeless (Eph 2:12), or dead (Eph 2:1)?
- When you consider your former way of life, does it make you sad, angry, or depressed? Does taking time to remember your past help you to better appreciate the difference Jesus has made in your life?
- What did you have to do to receive regeneration? Why are people tempted to take some credit for what God has accomplished?
- What attributes of God moved Him to save you? What virtue in you moved God to save you?
- What blessings of eternal life do we already enjoy? What blessings of eternal life are we assured to obtain in the future?
- What have you done to deserve the blessing promised to you in Christ? How does this motivate you to good works, including telling everyone about God's grace?
- How would you respond to someone who says that the exclusivity of evangelical Christianity diminishes the love of God?