Washing, Renewing, and Inheriting
To inherit eternal life we
need both forgiveness
and the subjective work
of the Holy Spirit
in our being
We ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 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 3:3-5
As mentioned in a previous Note, when these verses speak of God saving us, they are not referring to how Christ died on the cross for our sins, but of our own personal experience of salvation. (See)
And how He has saved us! In fact, the more we know ourselves, and just how fallen we really were (see verse 3 above), the more we will appreciate the salvation we have received in Christ.
As the apostle says in these verses, this experience of salvation comes to us first of all through “the washing of regeneration,” then through “the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
The washing of regeneration takes place when we first believe in Christ; at the time of their new birth so many believers in Christ have, through a powerful work of the Holy Spirit, a wonderful deliverance from the evil things they were previously involved in. This has always been a strong testimony to the reality of faith in Christ.
The renewing of the Holy Spirit is the life-long process of transformation we must go through after we are born anew. The initial experience of deliverance is wonderful, but it may not be long-lasting. Moreover, in general it is mainly related to outward things we are involved with.
In contrast, the renewing of the Holy Spirit deals with who we are in a much deeper way. The Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2; cf. Prov. 23:7). And he wrote to the believers in Corinth:
Though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
— 2 Corinthians 4:16
So, this renewing work of the Holy Spirit deals with our “inward man,” our very person, to the point of changing even the way we think.
And what is the purpose of this two-fold work of the Spirit? The apostle goes on in Titus 3 to explain just that. He says that God poured out His Holy Spirit upon us richly,
…So that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
— Titus 3:7
Of course, “being justified by His grace” speaks of how our sins were forgiven when we believed in the Lord. After that, however, we must still have the washing and renewing “so that,” as the apostle continues, we may become “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
In brief, to become heirs of eternal life we must have not only the forgiveness of sins for our justification, but also the subjective work of the Holy Spirit in our being for our transformation into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), that we may be prepared to meet our Lord.
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— 7 January 2023 —