Not by works of righteousness - Those who were foolish, disobedient, and deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, could not possibly have works of righteousness to plead; therefore, if saved at all, they must be saved by mercy. See the note on Ephesians 2:8; and see a discourse entitled, Salvation by Faith proved, 8vo., 1816, in which I have examined every system invented by man for his restoration to the Divine favor and image: and have demonstrated, by mere reason, their utter insufficiency to answer the end for which they have been invented; and have proved that the doctrine of salvation by faith is the only rational way of salvation.
By the washing of regeneration - Δια λουτρου παλιγγενεσιας· Undoubtedly the apostle here means baptism, the rite by which persons were admitted into the Church, and the visible sign of the cleansing, purifying influences of the Holy Spirit, which the apostle immediately subjoins. Baptism is only a sign, and therefore should never be separated from the thing signified; but it is a rite commanded by God himself, and therefore the thing signified should never be expected without it.
By the renewing of the Holy Ghost we are to understand, not only the profession of being bound to live a new life, but the grace that renews the heart, and enables us thus to live; so the renewing influences are here intended. Baptism changes nothing; the grace signified by it cleanses and purifies. They who think baptism to be regeneration, neither know the Scriptures nor the power of God; therefore they do greatly err.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done - The plan was not based on our own good works, nor are our own good works now the cause of our salvation. If people could have been saved by their own good works, there would have been no need of salvation by the Redeemer; if our own deeds were now the basis of our title to eternal life, the work of Christ would be equally unnecessary. It is a great and fundamental principle of the gospel that the good works of men come in for no share in the justification of the soul. They are in no sense a consideration on account of which God pardons a man, and receives him to favor. The only basis of justification is the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the matter of justification before God, all the race is on a level; see the notes at Ephesians 2:8-9.
But according to his mercy -
(1)It had its origin in mercy;
(2)It is by mere mercy or compassion, and not by justice;
(3)It is an expression of great mercy, and,
(4)It is now in fact conferred only by mercy.
Whatever we have done or can do, when we come to receive salvation from the hand of God, there is no other element which enters into it but mercy. It is not because our deeds deserve it; it is not because we have by repentance and faith wrought ourselves into such a state of mind that we can claim it; but, after all our tears, and sighs, and prayers, and good deeds, it is a mere favor. Even then God might justly withhold it if he chose, and no blame would be attached to him if he should suffer us to sink down to ruin.
He saved us - That is, he began that salvation in us which is to be completed in heaven. A man who is already renewed and pardoned may be spoken of as saved - for:
(1)the work of salvation is begun, and,
(2)when begun it will certainly be completed; see the notes at Philemon 1:6.
By the washing of regeneration - In order to a correct understanding of this important passage, it is necessary to ascertain whether the phrase here used refers to baptism, and whether anything different is intended by it from what is meant by the succeeding phrase - “renewing of the Holy Ghost.” - The word rendered “washing” ( λουτρόυ loutrou) occurs in the New Testament only in this place and in Ephesians 5:26, where also it is rendered “washing” - “That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the church) with the washing of water by the word.” The word properly means “a bath;” then water for bathing; then the act of bathing, washing, ablution. Passow and Robinson. It is used by Homer to denote a warm or cold bath; then a washing away, and is thus applied to the drink-offerings in sacrifice, which were supposed to purify or wash away sin. Passow. The word here does not mean “laver,” or the vessel for washing in, which would be expressed by λουτὴρ loutērand this word cannot be properly applied to the baptismal font.
The word in itself would naturally be understood as referring to baptism (compare notes at Acts 22:16), which was regarded as the emblem of washing away sins, or of cleansing from them. I say it was the emblem, not the means of purify ing the soul from sin. If this be the allusion, and it seems probable, then the phrase “washing of regeneration” would mean “that outward washing or baptism which is the emblem of regeneration,” and which is appointed as one of the ordinances connected with salvation; see the notes at Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” It is not affirmed in this phrase that baptism is the means of regeneration; or that grace is necessarily conveyed by it; and still less that baptism is regeneration, for no one of these is a necessary interpretation of the passage, and should not be assumed to be the true one. The full force of the language will be met by the supposition that it means that baptism is the emblem or symbol of regeneration, and, if this is the case, no one has a right to assume that the other is certainly the meaning.
And that this is the meaning is further clear, because it is nowhere taught in the New Testament that baptism is regeneration, or that it is the means of regeneration. The word rendered “regeneration” ( παλιγγενεσία palingenesia) - occurs in the New Testament only here and in Matthew 19:28, - “in the regeneration when the Son of man,” etc. It means, properly, a new birth, reproduction, or renewal. It would properly be applied to one who should be begotten again in this sense, that a new life was commenced in him in some way corresponding to his being made to live at first. To the proper idea of the word, it is essential that there should be connected the notion of the commencement of life in the man, so that he may be said to live anew; and as religion is in the Scriptures represented as life, it is properly applied to the beginning of that kind of life by which man may be said to live anew. This word, occurring only here and in Matthew 19:28, and there indubitably not referring to baptism, should not be here understood as referring to that, or be applied to that, because:
(1)that is not the proper meaning of the word;
(2)there is no Scripture usage to sanction it;
(3)the connection here does not demand it;
(5)it is a dangerous use of the word.
Its use in this sense leaves the impression that the only change needful for man is that which is produced by being regularly baptized. On almost no point has so much injury been done in the church as by the application of the word “regeneration” to baptism. It affects the beginning of religion in the soul, and if a mistake is made there, it is one which must pervade all the views of piety.
And renewing of the Holy Ghost - This is an important clause, added by Paul apparently to save from the possibility of falling into error. If the former expression, “the washing of regeneration,” had been left to stand by itself, it might have been supposed possibly that all the regeneration which would be needed would be that which would accompany baptism. But he avoids the possibility of this error, by saying that the “renewing of the Holy Ghost” is an indispensable part of that by which we are saved. It is necessary that this should exist in addition to that which is the mere emblem of it - the washing of regeneration - for without this the former would be unmeaning and unavailing. It is important to observe that the apostle by no means says that this always follows from the former, nor does he affirm that it ever follows from it - whatever may be the truth on that point - but he asserts that this is that on which our salvation depends. - The word rendered “renewing” ( ἀνακαίνωσις anakainōsis) occurs only here and in Romans 12:2, where it is also rendered “renewing;” compare Note on that place. The verb ( ἀνακαινόω anakainoō) occurs in 2 Corinthians 4:15, and Colossians 3:19, in both which places it is rendered “renewed,” and the corresponding word, ἀνακαινίζω anakainizōin Hebrews 6:6.
The noun properly means making new again: a renewing; a renovation; compare H. Planck in Bib. Repos. i. 677. It is a word which is found only in the writings of Paul, and in ecclesiastical Greek writers. It would be properly applied to such a change as the Holy Spirit produces in the soul, making one a new man; that is, a man new, so far as religion is concerned - new in his views, feelings, desires, hopes, plans, and purposes. He is so far different from what he was before, that it may be said he enters on a new life; see the notes at Ephesians 4:23-24. The “renewing of the Holy Ghost” of course means that which the Holy Spirit produces, recognizing the fact, everywhere taught in the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit is the Author of the new creation. It cannot mean, as Koppe supposes, the renewing of the mind itself, or producing a holy spirit in the soul.
He bids Titus instruct the church that while they should trust to the merits of Christ for salvation, divine grace, dwelling in their hearts, will lead to the faithful performance of all the duties of life. “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.... This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:1-8). SL 87.1
Paul seeks to impress upon our minds the fact that the foundation of all acceptable service to God, as well as the very crown of the Christian graces, is love; and that only in the soul where love reigns will the peace of God abide. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above put all these things on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:12-17). SL 87.2Read in context »
In the parable the first laborers agreed to work for a stipulated sum, and they received the amount specified, nothing more. Those later hired believed the master's promise, “Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” They showed their confidence in him by asking no question in regard to wages. They trusted to his justice and equity. They were rewarded, not according to the amount of their labor, but according to the generosity of his purpose. COL 397.1
So God desires us to trust in Him who justifieth the ungodly. His reward is given not according to our merit but according to His own purpose, “which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ephesians 3:11. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5. And for those who trust in Him He will do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20. COL 397.2
Not the amount of labor performed or its visible results but the spirit in which the work is done makes it of value with God. Those who came into the vineyard at the eleventh hour were thankful for an opportunity to work. Their hearts were full of gratitude to the one who had accepted them; and when at the close of the day the householder paid them for a full day's work, they were greatly surprised. They knew they had not earned such wages. And the kindness expressed in the countenance of their employer filled them with joy. They never forgot the goodness of the householder or the generous compensation they had received. Thus it is with the sinner who, knowing his unworthiness, has entered the Master's vineyard at the eleventh hour. His time of service seems so short, he feels that he is undeserving of reward; but he is filled with joy that God has accepted him at all. He works with a humble, trusting spirit, thankful for the privilege of being a co-worker with Christ. This spirit God delights to honor. COL 397.3Read in context »
It is thus that every sinner may come to Christ. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5. When Satan tells you that you are a sinner, and cannot hope to receive blessing from God, tell him that Christ came into the world to save sinners. We have nothing to recommend us to God; but the plea that we may urge now and ever is our utterly helpless condition that makes His redeeming power a necessity. Renouncing all self-dependence, we may look to the cross of Calvary and say,— DA 317.1
“In my hand no price I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.” DA 317.2
The Jews had been instructed from childhood concerning the work of the Messiah. The inspired utterances of patriarchs and prophets and the symbolic teaching of the sacrificial service had been theirs. But they had disregarded the light; and now they saw in Jesus nothing to be desired. But the centurion, born in heathenism, educated in the idolatry of imperial Rome, trained as a soldier, seemingly cut off from spiritual life by his education and surroundings, and still further shut out by the bigotry of the Jews, and by the contempt of his own countrymen for the people of Israel,—this man perceived the truth to which the children of Abraham were blinded. He did not wait to see whether the Jews themselves would receive the One who claimed to be their Messiah. As the “light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9) had shone upon him, he had, though afar off, discerned the glory of the Son of God. DA 317.3Read in context »
The Jewish elders had commended the centurion to Christ because of the favor he had shown to “our nation.” He is worthy, they said, for “he hath built us a synagogue.” But the centurion said of himself, “I am not worthy.” Yet he did not fear to ask help from Jesus. Not to his own goodness did he trust, but to the Saviour's mercy. His only argument was his great need. MH 65.1
In the same way every human being can come to Christ. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:5. Do you feel that because you are a sinner you cannot hope to receive blessing from God? Remember that Christ came into the world to save sinners. We have nothing to recommend us to God; the plea that we may urge now and ever is our utterly helpless condition, which makes His redeeming power a necessity. Renouncing all self-dependence, we may look to the cross of Calvary and say: MH 65.2
“In my hand no price I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.” MH 65.3
10 (Ephesians 1:6; 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:14; 3:5; James 2:22). Good Works No Plea for Salvation—Our acceptance with God is sure only through His beloved Son, and good works are but the result of the working of His sin-pardoning love. They are no credit to us, and we have nothing accorded to us for our good works by which we may claim a part in the salvation of our souls. Salvation is God's free gift to the believer, given to him for Christ's sake alone. The troubled soul may find peace through faith in Christ, and his peace will be in proportion to his faith and trust. He cannot present his good works as a plea for the salvation of his soul. 5BC 1122.1
But are good works of no real value? Is the sinner who commits sin every day with impunity, regarded of God with the same favor as the one who through faith in Christ tries to work in his integrity? The Scripture answers, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” In His divine arrangement, through His unmerited favor, the Lord has ordained that good works shall be rewarded. We are accepted through Christ's merit alone; and the acts of mercy, the deeds of charity, which we perform, are the fruits of faith; and they become a blessing to us; for men are to be rewarded according to their works. It is the fragrance of the merit of Christ that makes our good works acceptable to God, and it is grace that enables us to do the works for which He rewards us. Our works in and of themselves have no merit. When we have done all that it is possible for us to do, we are to count ourselves as unprofitable servants. We deserve no thanks from God. We have only done what it was our duty to do, and our works could not have been performed in the strength of our own sinful natures. 5BC 1122.2
The Lord has bidden us to draw nigh to Him and He will draw nigh to us; and drawing nigh to Him, we receive the grace by which to do those works which will be rewarded at His hands (The Review and Herald, January 29, 1895). 5BC 1122.3
28-30 (Genesis 19:24, 25). Rocked in Cradle of Carnal Security—As the sun arose for the last time upon the cities of the plain, the people thought to commence another day of godless riot. All were eagerly planning their business or their pleasure, and the messenger of God was derided for his fears and his warnings. Suddenly as the thunder peal from an unclouded sky, fell balls of fire on the doomed capital. “So shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” The people will be eating and drinking, planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage, until the wrath of God shall be poured out without mixture of mercy. The world will be rocked to sleep in the cradle of carnal security.... The multitudes are striving to forget God, and they eagerly accept fables, that they may pursue the path of self-indulgence undisturbed (The Review and Herald, October 26, 1886). 5BC 1122.4Read in context »
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2. SD 105.1
Will men and women consider how God regards the creatures He has made? He formed man's mind. We do not think one noble thought that does not come from Him. He knows all the mysterious workings of the human mind; for did He not make it? God sees that sin has debased and degraded man, but He looks upon him with pity and compassion; for He sees that Satan has him in his power.17The General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1899. SD 105.2Read in context »
While we were yet unloving and unlovely in character, “hateful, and hating one another,” our heavenly Father had mercy on us. “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Titus 3:3-5. His love received, will make us, in like manner, kind and tender, not merely toward those who please us, but to the most faulty and erring and sinful. MB 75.1
The children of God are those who are partakers of His nature. It is not earthly rank, nor birth, nor nationality, nor religious privilege, which proves that we are members of the family of God; it is love, a love that embraces all humanity. Even sinners whose hearts are not utterly closed to God's Spirit, will respond to kindness; while they may give hate for hate, they will also give love for love. But it is only the Spirit of God that gives love for hatred. To be kind to the unthankful and to the evil, to do good hoping for nothing again, is the insignia of the royalty of heaven, the sure token by which the children of the Highest reveal their high estate. MB 75.2Read in context »
Christ as the head of humanity was to take the same steps that we are required to take. Although sinless, He was our example in fulfilling all the requirements for the redemption of the sinful race. He bore the sins of the whole world. His baptism was to embrace the whole sinful world who by repentance and faith would be pardoned. “After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” Titus 3:4-8. Man was brought again into favor with God by the washing of regeneration. The washing was the burial with Christ in the water in the likeness of His death, representing that all who repent of the transgression of the law of God receive purification, cleansing, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Baptism represents true conversion by the renewing of the Holy Spirit. FLB 143.3Read in context »
God has given men faculties and capabilities. God works and cooperates with the gifts He has imparted to man, and man, by being a partaker of the divine nature and doing the work of Christ, may be an overcomer and win eternal life. The Lord does not propose to do the work He has given man powers to do. Man's part must be done. He must be a laborer together with God, yoking up with Christ, learning His meekness, His lowliness. God is the all-controlling power. He bestows the gifts; man receives them and acts with the power of the grace of Christ as a living agent. FW 26.1
“Ye are God's husbandry” (1 Corinthians 3:9). The heart is to be worked, subdued, plowed, harrowed, seeded, to bring forth its harvest to God in good works. “Ye are God's building.” You cannot build yourself. There is a Power outside of yourself that must do the building of the church, putting brick upon brick, always cooperating with the faculties and powers given of God to man. The Redeemer must find a home in His building. God works and man works. There needs to be a continual taking in of the gifts of God, in order that there may be as free a giving out of these gifts. It is a continual receiving and then restoring. The Lord has provided that the soul shall receive nourishment from Him, to be given out again in the working out of His purposes. In order that there be an outflowing, there must be an income of divinity to humanity. “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (2 Corinthians 6:16). FW 26.2Read in context »
Not the Faith of Jesus—An acceptance of the truth of heavenly origin brings the mind into subjection to Christ. Then the health of soul which comes from receiving and following pure principles is revealed in words and works of righteousness. The faith which leads to this is not the faith which believes in mind controlling mind till one person acts out the will of another. Church members having confidence in this science may be called sound in the faith, but it is not the faith of Jesus Christ. Theirs is a faith in the work which Satan is doing. He presents gigantic errors, and by the miracles which he works he deceives many. This work he will do more and more. A healthy church is composed of healthy members, of men and women who have a personal experience in true godliness.—Letter 130, 1901. 2MCP 710.3Read in context »
One man becomes ruler of ten cities, another of five, another of two, each man receiving exactly in proportion to the improvement he has made on the talents entrusted to his keeping. Our efforts in works of righteousness, in our own behalf and for the salvation of souls, will have a decided influence on our recompense.—The Review and Herald, October 25, 1881. 3SM 147.4Read in context »
The death of the Son of God on Calvary's cross is the measure of their value. Day by day they are deciding a question of life and death, deciding whether they will have eternal life or eternal destruction. And yet men and women professing to serve the Lord are content to occupy their time and attention with matters of little importance. They are content to be at variance with one another. If they were consecrated to the work of the Master, they would not be striving and contending like a family of unruly children. Every hand would be engaged in service. Everyone would be standing at his post of duty, working with heart and soul as missionaries of the cross of Christ. The Spirit of Christ would abide in the hearts of laborers, and works of righteousness would be wrought. The workers would carry with them into their service the sympathies and prayers of an awakened church. They would receive their orders from Christ, and would find no time for contention or strife.—Letter 173, November 13, 1902, to those assembled in council at Battle Creek. TDG 326.4Read in context »
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5). Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness; and the pardoned soul goes on from grace to grace, from light to a greater light. He can say with rejoicing, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). 1SM 367.1
Again: it is written, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). Jesus declared, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3: 5). It is not a low standard that is placed before us; for we are to become the children of God. We are to be saved as individuals; and in the day of test and trial we shall be able to discern between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not. We are saved as individual believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. 1SM 367.2
Many are losing the right way, in consequence of thinking that they must climb to heaven, that they must do something to merit the favor of God. They seek to make themselves better by their own unaided efforts. This they can never accomplish. Christ has made the way by dying our sacrifice, by living our example, by becoming our great high priest. He declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). If by an effort of our own we could advance one step toward the ladder, the words of Christ would not be true. But when we accept Christ, good works will appear as fruitful evidence that we are in the way of life, that Christ is our way, and that we are treading the true path that leads to heaven. 1SM 368.1Read in context »