Summary: The kindness and love of God our Saviour was manifested in the INCARNATION of our Lord Jesus Christ.
HE SAVED US
Paul instructs Titus to remind his congregation to behave as good citizens (Titus 3:1-2). Next, the Apostle describes what we are saved from: “for (because - a word not to be omitted) we once also were…” (Titus 3:3). Then Paul shows us what God has done.
Titus 3:4. “BUT when the kindness and the philanthropy (love of man) of our Saviour God appeared (had its epiphany) …” The first word, “But” connects with what precedes. This sets the context for the declaration of our salvation contained within the “faithful (trustworthy) saying” (Titus 3:8) which here follows.
The kindness and love of God our Saviour was manifested in the INCARNATION of our Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11). He was born to die for the sins of His people (Matthew 1:21). By His death He conquered death, and overcame the power of death in our lives (2 Timothy 1:10).
Titus 3:5. THE GROUND of our salvation is not discovered in ourselves. Our “works of righteousness” can do nothing to erase sin’s condemnation from our lives. It is only “according to His mercy” that we are saved (cf. Lamentations 3:22).
“He saved us…” This phrase is the hinge of the whole sentence. The contrast of what we were with what we now are is familiar throughout Paul’s writings (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:11). The Apostle here emphasises that God is the active party in our salvation.
THE MEANS of our salvation. I do not think that “the washing of regeneration (rebirth)” is primarily a reference to water baptism - the word is different here - but it refers rather to the inward reality which baptism signifies (1 Peter 3:21). This washing takes place in connection with the Word (Ephesians 5:25-26).
“Regeneration” refers to being “born again” - as explained by Jesus to Nicodemus (John 3:3-7). The BIRTH OF JESUS makes our new birth possible. Death no longer holds us in its clutches: we are citizens of a new heavens and a new earth.
Titus 3:6. The Father “poured out” the Holy Spirit upon us “richly (abundantly) through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” This is clearly Trinitarian: earlier Paul had referred to God as our Saviour (Titus 3:4). This “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit connects us individually with Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21; Acts 2:33).
Titus 3:7. Simultaneously with our new birth, God “justified” us. He gave us a new status whereby He declared us to have been made righteous through the shed blood of His dear Son Jesus Christ. This is also a gift of His “grace” (cf. Romans 3:24).
THE END of our salvation. As well as being saved FROM something - our sins - we are also saved TO something. We are made “heirs” - “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).