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 (Titus 3:4-6)
As Christmas is quickly approaching, it would do us well to remember why God sent His Son. Was it to celebrate the cheery, happy love and life that was already existent in the hearts of mankind or was it rather to expose the hatred and death found in us and save us from it? Titus 3:3 (the verse immediately prior to these three verses) holds a bleak mirror up to every human being: 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.
That’s a hard diagnosis that should make each of us squirm in our seats. And yet, the most faithful and loving thing that God could have done was not to ignore our plight, but rather address it head on. John Piper said, “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.” Christmas stands as a reminder that we are a world full of darkness that desperately needed light and we could not generate that light on our own. What hope is there for darkness dwellers like us?
Hope comes in verse four, where God shows up on the scene. This God-appearance should strike some fear in our hearts if things are as bad as we just learned they are in verse three. However, in a beautiful and surprising twist, God comes not as Judge (which He could have) but as Savior. He shows up not with fire and a sword but with goodness and kindness. The culmination of this goodness and loving-kindness on display by God is our salvation. How does this salvation come about?
First off, it’s clear that it’s not done by us. We are terrible self-Saviors; in fact, it’s impossible to save ourselves! In the words of Augustus Toplady:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
God’s saving doesn’t come according to or because of our good works, but rather according His mercy. We don’t get what we deserve, which is death! We, the darkness dwellers, needed washing, regenerating, and renewal and God did just that for us by His Spirit. We were incapable of washing and renewing ourselves. Note the word used for how God pours out the Spirit on us: richly! Not begrudgingly, not stingily, not hesitantly, but richly! He’s the God of all generosity and lavishness.
We learn that the Spirit’s work in our lives is not merely carried out in a vacuum, but rather we find God pouring out the Spirit richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. The trinitarian God is at our in our salvation! God the Father is carefully planning and putting on display His goodness and loving kindness. How? Through mercifully sending us His Son to save us. How is this work applied to our lives? Through the rich pouring out of the Spirit who washes, regenerates, and renews.
Oh that we would catch a glimpse of this salvation in this season of Advent and preparation for Christmas and shout, “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”