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 (Titus 3:5).
In this great Gospel text, the apostle Paul makes it clear that “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), and is not by the vain works of men, but by God’s mercy and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
An Illustration from Scripture
In his gospel account, the apostle Luke tells us about two men that went into the temple to pray. The first man was a Pharisee – a religious leader; the other man was a publican (a tax collector). “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself. God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12). The Pharisee was depending upon his own righteousness, based upon his perceived good works, and not upon a righteousness received from God.
The apostle continues: “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The publican acknowledged his sin, and depended upon the mercy of God for salvation. It is the humble publican who is spending his eternity in heaven, while the self-righteous Pharisee, unless he repented, is spending his eternity in chains of darkness in hell.
Not by Works
It is a commonly-held belief that when a person dies, he will be interviewed outside of the pearly gates of heaven by St. Peter. In that interview, the good and bad deeds of a sinner’s life will be placed in a balance to see if he has done enough good works to be allowed entrance into heaven. This belief may be popular on earth, but it certainly is not believed (or true!) in heaven. God tells us plainly that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
This is the same error that the Pharisee of Luke 18 made. He, like many others, counted upon good works to win favor and salvation from God. But God does not want good works from unconverted sinners. To God, our good works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) — useless and undesirable. What God does want is for men to repent of their sin and to cry out to Him for mercy and salvation.
God’s mercy is still available to sinners today. Because the Lord Jesus died on the cross of Calvary for the ungodly, God is able to offer you salvation. He will deliver you from the punishment that we all, as individuals, deserve to bear. He offers you the forgiveness of sin and the promise of spending eternity in heaven. God does not want to punish you because of your sins, but rather, He desires “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4).
Washing of Regeneration
“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This is the washing of regeneration. Only the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ can cleanse a soul from sin and fit a person for heaven. On the cross of Calvary the Lord Jesus took the place of sinners and received the punishment for their sin. The Lord Jesus did not deserve to die — He had no sin of His own. Because of His sinless perfection, He was the only One whom God could accept to die in the sinner’s place.
Dear reader, have you been washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you received the forgiveness of sin? Do you know what it is to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and to walk in the peace and joy of the forgiveness of sins? Today, God invites you to set aside your good works and trust in the finished work of Christ.