Perhaps Titus 3:3-7 provides one of the greatest and most eloquent summaries of the message of salvation. I love the inspired words in Titus 3:3-7:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
The message of salvation for sinners through God’s grace shines here in these sacred words.
Titus 3:3 describes the presence of sin which breaks the relationship between man and God. The message of God’s multifaceted grace is highlighted by resting on the dark backdrop of mankind’s sin. Isaiah described the consequence of sin “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2, NASBU). Sin causes separation from God and his blessings. This separation from God, the source of life, results in spiritual death. God described this spiritual death through Paul in Ephesians 2. Paul wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2, ESV).
Death is the consequence God promised as the result of sin in the Garden. Moses recorded God’s words in Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This dying was both physical and spiritual. The dual nature (physical and spiritual) of death is highlighted by the Apostle Paul’s usage of the word where both physical and spiritual death are intimately related although one may be emphasized over the other in each context.
The consequences of sin began. Adam and Eve were different. This difference is noted as the Bible says in Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” The original innocence was lost. Furthermore, their actions brought consequences upon all of future mankind recorded in Genesis 3:16-24.
Even though God’s image bearers had rebelled against him, hope was given through the promise of grace. The first mention of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15 came before mankind received the sentence of condemnation. Jesus continues to stand for mankind before sin’s punishment. Back in Titus 3:4 Paul wrote, “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared.” The sound of God’s amazing grace is truly sweet. The appearance of Jesus in the incarnation is a display of God’s “goodness and lovingkindness.” God “goodness” (χρηστότης) refers to his “the quality of being helpful or beneficial, goodness, kindness, generosity.” His “lovingkindness” (φιλανθρωπία), refers to God’s “affectionate concern for and interest in humanity.”
This “appearing” describes the incarnation of Jesus. Paul recorded what was likely an ancient hymn in order to describe the entry of Jesus into this world. In Philippians 2:6-11 Paul wrote,
“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
John wrote the Golden Text of the Bible, John 3:16, to describe this great event. Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of prophecies, the answer to prayers, and the eternal plan of God (Acts 2:23).
Jesus came into the world so that he might “save us” as Titus 3:5 says. Before Jesus was born, the angel instructed Joseph to “call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus himself said that he came to “seek and save the lost” in Luke 19:10. Salvation was made available by Jesus’s sacrifice. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 describes the death of Jesus as the sacrifice which achieved penal substitutionary atonement.
I personally love what J. I. Packer wrote concerning the atoning work of Christ in his book In My Place Condemned He Stood. “If the true measure of love is how low it stoops to help, and how much in its humility it is ready to do and bear then it may be fairly claimed that the penal substitution model embodies a richer witness to divine love than any other model of atonement, for it sees the Son at the Father’s will going lower than the other views suggest” (94). I am thankful that Jesus loves me. Because of his love for me, I want to praise him and devote my life to helping others bring glory to him.
Following Jesus’s humiliating death, God worked again in the glorious resurrection of Christ. “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). In Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, the penalties of sin are defeated and removed. Everything which was lost through sin under Adam’s representation was regained in Christ’s perfect representation (Romans 5:12-21). The penalty of sin is replaced by the glory of redemption by God in Christ.
God made the first move. God sent his Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the world—1 John 2:2. This offer of God’s grace must then be received by mankind. As Peter preached, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). Paul’s missionary life was devoted to “bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for his namesake” (Romans 1:5). This is vital since “God gives his Holy Spirit to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32).
Being called by God through the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14), we must respond appropriately to the Gospel. This salvation is not based upon mankind’s work. God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Mankind can do nothing to bring about his or her own salvation—we are totally dependent upon God.
Paul described this salvation event in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgression, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This salvation event is described by Paul again in Colossians 2:11-12, “in him you were circumcised with a circumcision not made without hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God.”
The first time the Gospel was preached in the book of Acts, we see individuals who believed Jesus to be the Christ and that he had been crucified for their sins. “They were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and threats of the apostles, ‘Brethren what shall we do?’Peter said to them, Repent and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38). We thank God for this indescribable gift. I am compelled by his gift of salvation to preach the Gospel to the very best of my ability for his glory and the salvation of lost souls.
The moment of salvation occurs when the one convicted of Christ’s position receives the grace of God. That moment occurs when one is baptized into Christ. Notice that it is at the point of baptism that God promises:
- The obedience of Jesus’s command—Matthew 28:19-20
- The new birth—John 3:3, 5
- The remission of sins—Acts 2:38
- The position of being “in Christ”—Romans 6:3
- The blessing of spiritual renewal—Romans 6:4
- The hope of eternal life—Romans 6:5
- Being “in the body”—1 Corinthians 12:13
- Being a member of God’s family—Galatians 3:26-27
- The washing of regeneration—Titus 3:5
- The appeal to God for a clear conscience—1 Peter 3:21
- They have right to the tree of life—Revelation 22:14.
Baptism is clearly not an optional matter. Rather it is the pivotal moment in which God transfers one from death to life.
This conversion to new life has great responsibilities for God’s people. In Ephesians 2:10 God tells us “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk therein” (NASB). The expression “for good works” means for the purpose of performing good works.
1 Peter 1:22 reminds us again that a Christian’s conversion serves to promote the glory of God in the church. Peter wrote, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Christians are converted that they may serve God appropriately.
1. Why have we been saved?
2. How have we been saved?
3. At what point in time are individuals saved?
4. What responsibilities accompany salvation?