The Washing of Regeneration
A comical irony exists among the hostile world and Christians: As the world mocks at the idea of Christ’s blood washing away sins, the world struggles to remove the stain of sin through means that actually make it worse. For example, consider the way most try to make up for sin. The natural reaction to cover up bad is to do good. “I know I’ve done wrong,” as we’ve heard it said, “but I continue to do my best. I do good. And I know that in the end, when I meet God, He will understand and let me off the hook.”
Doing good to cover up bad doesn’t free the unbeliever from sin. It makes it worse. It gives them the freedom to think that nothing is actually wrong, that they should continue living as they do without the fear that someday they must give an account.
Although not regarding their eternal state but just the practical reaction to sin, believers have a similar struggle. When you sin how often do you try to cover it in some way? Some of us like to not think about our sin, so we shove it under the rug by thinking that we really haven’t done anything wrong. Or we like to be a little more involved in our community or church, pushing back a troubled mind by engaging in ministerial activities. A favorite of mine is to think about other sins in comparison to this one, reassuring myself by thinking that it could be a lot worse.
There’s a major soul-comforting difference between our guilt and that of unbelievers: The redeemed person has been justified of all sins and has been washed through regeneration.“. . . 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. . . .” (Titus 3:5 ESV)
Renewed and RestoredTwo reasons allow the Christian to rest in God when they struggle with sin. First, the believer needs to remember that the Holy Spirit has renewed their old nature when they became a Christian to the extent that they are completely new creations. The washing of regeneration was an act of the Holy Spirit that freed us from sin’s enslavement.
Since we have been changed into new creations in Christ through the washing of regeneration, we can have true tranquility in the moments that our guilt tries to condemn us. We are not like unbelievers who are still dominated by the old nature. We are completely free people who now live in the light of God’s grace.
Second, it’s important to remember that we are being restored back into the image of God. Another role of the Holy Spirit is to make us look like Jesus. We are being created in true righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24). When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, mankind was condemned and therefore fell from their original state of righteousness and holiness (Rom. 5:12-21).
Sin has affected every person so that now everyone has been defaced from the complete, perfect image of God. The Holy Spirit is restoring this image. He is changing us from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). So when we sin, we can take comfort in that our inner man is still being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).
Applying TruthNow that we are renewed and are being restored back into the image of God—an image that’s perfected in Jesus—we are fit for every good work. Paul mentions good works twice in Titus 3. Titus is to remind this congregation of believers “to be ready for every good deed” (v. 1). This is especially significant when one recalls the context of these 1st believers.
The domination of Rome and their fascination with multiple gods would have made it very difficult for Christians “to be ready for every good deed.” Paul understood this. He was gospel-driven, a characteristic that helps fight the fallen culture around us. Paul encouraged them with the gospel. When God’s goodness and kindness appeared for mankind, He saved believers by His unconditional mercy through the washing of regeneration (v. 4-5). This new identification makes the person fit to carry out every good deed for the glory of God. A glory that they are privileged to share in (Rom. 8:17).
When you face the problem of sin and the guilt that follows, take comfort in the washing of regeneration. You have been washed by the blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is restoring your fallen image into the image of Jesus, a beauty unimaginable for the human mind. It’s ironic that we worry so much about our outward fading beauty when the Holy Spirit is creating us into a heavenly image that will never again deteriorate. What can wash away our sins? What can make us whole again?