Being a clean person is crucial to our standing before God. The Bible says no one is clean. Everyone is all muddied up with sin. Filthy, polluted, contaminated, dirty, unclean, impure. We are like filthy rags in front of God. “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23). “There are those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth.” (Proverbs 30:12). Sin is universal to the human race: “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?” (Proverbs 20:9). “Just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
No one can make themselves clean. Sure people can be more moral, more philanthropic, more charitable, more helpful, more conscientious of others. But everyone is still stained with sin. It doesn’t go away or wash away by becoming a better person.
Like a used needle can still inject the medicine, it is dangerous and useless because it is no longer clean. Have you ever been given a dirty fork at a restaurant? You ask for a clean one. A dirty one will put food in your mouth just the same, but, you don’t want to put a dirty fork in your mouth. Or how about clothes? They cover your body the same as clean ones. But we want what is clean, not what is dirty covering us. Something may be functional, but it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. People may function in good works, but, it doesn’t make them acceptable to God.
The reason is that being clean matters. It’s even more important spiritually. God taught the Israelites to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, “You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean.” (Lev. 10:10). Then in chapter 11 the LORD says, “Do not make yourselves unclean …I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean (43-44) “You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” (v47).
How can someone become clean before God? The word of God and the Spirit of God. Jesus said in John 15:3, “You are clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Ephesians 5:26 confirms this further, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” Then here in Titus 3 it says the Holy Spirit cleanses us, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” There is a partnership between the Holy Spirit and the word of God. The Holy Spirit never ministers apart from the Word of God. That’s why Jesus said “no one can see the kingdom of God unless He is born of water and the Spirit.” Water refers to the word of God.
1: God’s Salvation is Great because we are Re-Born (5b)
As Jesus said, we need to be born again. Unless we are born again there’s not much to our religion or spirituality. The reason is because being born again is how someone becomes truly clean before God. That event in someone’s life where they become born again is the moment of bathing. A bath that the Holy Spirit performs. It’s a bath of rebirth and renewal.
Let’s look at this fantastic verse closer. The word for washing (v5) is the word for baptism. But it’s a noun, not the verb. In other words it’s describing the place of washing not the act of washing. It would be similar to saying someone is “in the bath” versus someone is “bathing”. The place of washing here is the bath of rebirth and renewal. In other words, the place, or, better yet, the moment of cleansing in someone’s life is at the moment of rebirth and renewal. When you are rebirthed and renewed it is like a bath. It’s an event in your life that transforms you from a filthy person in God’s eyes to a clean person. The event has two aspects mentioned here: rebirth and renewal.
Rebirth means simply to be reborn. Born again. Regenerated. Generated again. This is a glorious truth about our salvation: we are no longer who we once were. We are new. We have experienced a new birth and now have a new life, “Behold, anyone who is in Christ is a new creature; the old is gone, the new has come forth” (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus said in John 3:3, “You must be born again to see the kingdom of God”.
What does being born again and being clean have to do with each other? You can’t clean up your old life. And you can’t mask your sins with better behavior. Illustration: I remember in high school a bunch of us were sitting around during a break and we noticed how pleasantly one of us smelled. One kid, who was a rather clownish type, piped up and said that while he was wearing dirty clothes he rubbed a couple fragrant dryer sheets all over himself before coming to school. I thought: That is a great idea! Of course, I had to stop after I got married.
You can’t mask over your old life with a better smelling life. Your old life can only be abandoned. Discarded. Trashed. Dumped. People try to clean up their act thinking God will accept the marginal improvements they’ve made to themselves. But they are trying to do for themselves what only the Holy Spirit can do: make them new. Make them clean. A new person is a clean person. Someone may improve their way of living but they are still in their sins. Their better living doesn’t erase their sins and cleanse them of their spiritual filth. It doesn’t give them spiritual life. They need to sing what we just sang:
“What good I’ve done could never save,
My debt too great for deeds to pay,
But God my Savior made a way,
Hallelujah for the cross!”
Then notice he says the washing of rebirth AND Renewal. Renewal means to be made new again. And again. And again and again … Renewal is continuous generation of ongoing life. It’s life without end. Life that cannot be exhausted or run out. It’s continually fresh, never stale. Never withering. Living things renew. Human skin and nails and hair continually renew. Leaves on plants and trees renew. The life of Christ, supplied to us through the Holy Spirit, renews. Second Corinthians 4:16 says, “Though outwardly we are wasting away inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Romans 12:2 says to “renew your mind”. Col. 3:10 says, “and [we must] put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge of its Creator.”
Continuous ongoing life. It doesn’t diminish or die out. It keeps growing and renewing and replenishing. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Php. 1:6). It’s related to the sanctifying process where we are continually, gradually, and progressively growing into the image of Jesus Christ as day after day we are renewed into the image of our Creator.
It’s not a work of self-effort or self-will. People try to renew themselves every day by trying harder to be a better person and renew their commitment. But renewal is what the Holy Spirit does. And if He has rebirthed you and renewed you then you are clean.
2: God’s Salvation is Great because we Receive the Holy Spirit (6)
The Holy Spirit is a gift that God the Father has given to us. The hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God said in the final verse, “The Spirit and the gifts are ours…” Titus 3:6 says, “whom [the Holy Spirit] He [God the Father] poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.”
The Holy Spirit permanently lives inside of believers from the moment they put their trust in Jesus Christ. He is God’s gift to us! God not only gave His only Begotten Son for our salvation, but, He also gives us His Holy Spirit. Our Lord called the Holy Spirit a gift in Acts 1:4 when He instructed the disciples: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about…in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 2:38 when the people were convicted by Peter’s sermon and asked what they should do, Peter said, “repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
A person receives the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ. “whom [the Holy Spirit] He [God the Father] poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” He’s the One you have to go to because He’s the One the Holy Spirit comes through. Acts 2:33 syas, “Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Jesus Christ is the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit, whom He received from God the Father. He is the One who pours out the Holy Spirit onto someone when they trust in Him as their Savior. The Father only gives the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ to those who have trusted in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit”.
This means that if you have accepted Christ as your Savior you have the Holy Spirit and do not need to somehow go and get more of Him. You already have Him. All of Him. There is a teaching called the 2nd blessing. A more technical term is called the doctrine of subsequence. The 2nd blessing and the term subsequence refer to the same thing: once someone is saved they need to go on and seek the gift of the Holy Spirit. They don’t have Him yet, or, at least not the fullness of the Holy Spirit. That’s why you hear churches calling themselves “Full Gospel”, because they show people how to get the fullness of the Holy Spirit after they are saved. But that is not Biblical.
Receiving the Holy Spirit is a result of us looking to Christ and receiving Him as our Savior. We don’t conjure up the Holy Spirit. We don’t prep ourselves with music and Christian versions of séances and repetitive babbling. If someone wants to receive the Holy Spirit it happens only one way: receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. After that, you have the Holy Spirit in full. Forever. No Christian needs to ask for more of the Holy Spirit. Actually the Holy Spirit is asking for more of us! In the sense that we submit to Him while He lives inside of us.
There is another problem teaching related to the Holy Spirit we need to bring up as well. Can we call the Holy Spirit down into our church building today? There is a mistaken idea today that we need to invite the Holy Spirit into our Church. As though He is not here. As though He can be impressed enough with our excitement and music that He will make an appearance. There is a very popular song on Christian radio today where the lyrics are badly mistaken in this area. Francesca Battistelli sings a song called “Holy Spirit” and the chorus goes like this: “Holy Spirit you are welcome here, come fill this place and fill the atmosphere”.
This is not Biblical. Think about how drastically this changes people’s thinking in church. Those kinds of lyrics make the focus of church services an attempt to summons the Holy Spirit down from heaven. The music is supposed to be so inspiring to the Holy Spirit that he looks down on the worthy congregation and decides to appear. The supposed proof is in the enthusiasm people feel and the feeling of being all charged up at this church pep rally. Many times the alleged proof is the speaking in tongues and other behaviors.
When you walk through the doors you are not coming here hoping the Holy Spirit shows up today. Nor are you trying to get more of Him. You are coming through the doors with Him already. He is inside you. All of Him. Permanently. You don’t need to ask for what you already have! Jesus said in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” This is why the Bible says we are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). And you cannot lose Him. He is the Father’s gift to you forever given to you because you have trusted in His Son Jesus Christ. Not because you earned Him based on your emotionally charged and inspiring music.
The Greatness of God’s Salvation includes our being rebirthed, renewed, and reception of the Holy Spirit.