But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
It’s another rich passage we find in Titus from Paul this week, dear Pastor reader, so I want to focus on 3 words here which guide us through this passage – and speak so clearly to the work of a pastor that we must, somehow, get a hold of them.
The main action here, praise God, is “he [God] saved us”. This is of course the foundation of Paul’s message to all the churches and people to whom he writes. But look at what he says here: “he saved us not because of works done by us”. Yes, of course, you think – God did not save us because we deserved to be saved. This is what is meant by the next phrase “but according to his own mercy.”
You know: it’s not “mercy” if you actually deserve to be forgiven – if you have been wrongly accused or have somehow paid your own penalty already.
“Not because of works, but by God’s mercy” is the summary statement of the method of the Gospel. And if you’re reading this blog for the first time or something, and you’ve never heard this before, think about the need for God’s mercy in you. Think of your own shortcomings – even if you’re a pretty good person. God didn’t send Jesus for the purpose of dying on the cross because he wanted to make a grand gesture toward people: he did it because people were baby-down-the-mineshaft lost and someone had to go down there and get them.
But dear Pastor reader, consider it: “Not because of works, but by God’s mercy SO THAT being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
The full measure of what it means to be “justified by his grace” and “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” comes up in the next section of this letter, and I know I sort of get boring talking about this, but what Paul is saying here is that somehow we need to be GRATEFUL PEOPLE. Not only did God save us, and not only did God save us not because of our works (meaning: he didn’t save us since our works were so spiffy), and not only was this saving done because God has mercy toward us, but we are now, in his accounting, justified in receiving eternal life.
We are now actually entitled to eternal life because of what God has done for us.
That’s pretty good news, dear pastor – and you could preach that on Sunday in short order. But that’s not half of it, but we are on the verge of the announce of the next generation of Johnson progeny, and I don;t want to have the real preaching get bumped by the happy announcement. We’ll come back to this one next week -- after I win the office pool and Anne & Jedi name the baby "Cornelius Eliasaph Johnson". I was pulling for "Colonel Sanders Johnson", but that seemed too obvious.