The Nature of the Glorious Nature of God

Titus 3:3-7  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.



If you were here last week I hope you remember at least two things.  First, I hope you remember that over the next several weeks we’re going to be looking at ten different glory-filled doctrines raised in Titus 3:3-7.  And second, and more importantly, I hope you remember the first of these doctrines: that all mankind since Adam, because of Adam, is totally depraved in nature.  That is, all people, by nature, are wholly unable to do good or to please God.  What’s more, we saw last week that in this condition we are enemies of God and under the wrath of God for our treasonous rebellion against God.  Worse still, we are altogether unable to save ourselves from this condition.  Again, obviously, this is really, really bad news.

However, as I pointed to at the end of last week’s sermon, as ominous as this news is, it’s also good news in a way.  It’s good news because it frees us from wasting our time trying to get ourselves right with God in the knowledge that it’s impossible to do so.  It’s good news in that it frees us to love others well in the knowledge that however bad they might be, it’s produced by the same depraved nature that was once in us (that’s the point of 3:3).  But it’s also good news in that our total depravity isn’t the end of the story.  Although we can’t save ourselves, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can be saved.  The question, then, is how?  If we’re dead in our transgressions and sins and can’t save ourselves, how can we be saved?  That’s where we’re going to turn our attention to today.  The answer begins with the saving nature of the nature of God.

Let’s pray that God would open our eyes to his goodness and glory in order that we would be saved.



Again, before we can truly appreciate God’s grace here, we must truly feel the dilemma we’re in. Though God made us to glorify and enjoy him forever we responded in foolishness, disobedience, allowing ourselves to be led astray, giving ourselves as slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another (Titus 3:3).

One great trick of the devil is in making sin look less sinful and making hell look unreasonable. Our passage (along with the rest of the bible) won’t allow for that.

So again, in light of this passage and in light of what we saw last week, here’s our dilemma: we are sinful by nature and so we make sinful, treasonous, choices. Our nature and our choices have made us enemies of God, under the wrath of God, and deserving eternal punishment from God. What’s more, there’s nothing we can do about any of this.

If there is any hope for us, then, it must come from outside of us. The great news of Titus 3:4-7 is that it has! Help has come from the very God against whom we’ve committed high treason; from the very God whom we’ve declared our enemy; from the very God who owes us nothing but wrath and judgment; from the very God to whom we’ve been unfaithful. From that God, help has come.

Titus 3:3-5  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us…

Grace, what a story. What a God! Having felt freshly the sinfulness of our sin and the justice of God’s wrath, we’re going to spend the rest of our time together this morning considering the nature of the God who has chosen to rescue us even though (and even while) we’ve rejected and despised Him.


The Nature of God

So what kind of God would work to accomplish the salvation of his enemies? Titus 3:3-7 mentions six particular attributes of God that drove his saving work in our behalf. In invite you all to consider (perhaps for the first time, but more likely again, freshly) these aspects of God’s nature, particularly as they relate to his desire to save us.


1. God is good and kind (3:4). The first attribute, mentioned in 3:4, is the goodness or kindness of God.

The ESV translates one word to make it look like two. In the ESV v.4 reads “but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…”. This makes it seem like Paul is describing two separate attributes of God—good and kind. Of course God is both of those things, but here Paul uses one word that means both good and kind. To highlight the dual meaning of the word the ESV translators put both in. Nevertheless, it’s one word (chrēstotēs), not two.

Interestingly, this word is only used by Paul in the New Testament and, when used of God, only refers to God’s goodness or kindness in relation to his saving mankind from his sins.

That God is good or kind in this sense means that He is genuinely generous and benevolent.

There is a parallel in Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

The word translated “kindness” at the end of v.7 is the same word translated as “goodness” and “kindness” in Titus 3:4.

God is good and kind, then, in that He genuinely wants to save His people from their sins. He genuinely wants to show us help in state of depravity. This is the sense in which Paul writes,

1 Tim 2:3-4 God our Savior…desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

What type of God would work for the salvation of His enemies? The kind of God who is good and kind. This is our God.


2. God is loving (3:4). God’s second attribute mentioned in this passage (also in 3:4) is the fact that He is loving.  This is another unique word (used only here and in Acts 28:2). In the previous attribute, in order to highlight the meaning of one Greek word, the ESV translators used two words (goodness/kindness). They very well could have done the same in this case as well. The word Paul uses here (translated “loving”) is really a combination of two words: phileō (a Greek word for friendly love) and anthrōpos (the Greek word for mankind). When we place those two words together, the meaning becomes plain. They signify the fact that God has a certain love for all mankind. This compound word rightly draws our attention to John 3:16.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Commentators note that God’s goodness/kindness and his love (used the way Paul uses them here) are virtually synonymous and point to one who is compassionate to those in need.

What type of God would work for the salvation of His enemies? The kind of God who is loving toward mankind. This is our God.


3. God is merciful (3:5). The third attribute of God mentioned in this passage is that He is merciful.

…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

The meaning of mercy in this passage is very similar to the previous two attributes. God’s is merciful in the sense that God has pity on us in our hopelessly depraved condition.

Beautiful Eulogy has a song called “Blessed are the Merciful” that helps us get at the heart of God’s mercy. It asks the question, “what does God’s mercy look like in the person of Jesus”.

Jesus healed the sick, Jesus fed the multitudes, Jesus gave legs to the crippled, Jesus granted sight to the blind, Jesus opened the ears of the deaf, Jesus found prostitutes and tax collectors and drew them into the sphere of His love.

Jesus touched the untouchable, and loved the unlovable, and forgave the unforgivable, and welcomed the undesirable. Jesus even now saves the otherwise unsavable, why!? Because they deserve it!?

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us not because of works done in righteousness, not because we met Him halfway, not because we took the proper steps forward, and in good faith have elevated ourselves to the place of the deserving poor, but according to His MERCY!

We are here because Jesus Christ didn’t say with cold indifference, “Give them what they deserve, they brought it on themselves!” Jesus Christ is the Mercy of God!

And seeing us in our misery and need, He doesn’t just feel for us, He takes the necessary action to relieve our distress. He leaves the eternal glory of heaven and the perfect fellowship of the Trinity.
He condescends to us, lives among us, suffers like us, dies for us!

That is God’s mercy! What type of God would work for the salvation of His enemies? The kind of God who is merciful. This is our God.


4. God is gracious (3:7). The next of God’s attributes described here is his grace.

…being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

John MacArthur notes that God’s grace and mercy are similar except that “whereas grace relates to guilt, mercy relates to affliction. Whereas grace relates to the state of the sinner before God the judge, mercy relates to the condition of the sinner in his sin. Whereas grace judicially forgives the offender for his wrongdoing, mercy compassionately helps him recover” (MNTC on Titus, 154).

God is gracious to us in that he provides the remedy for the condemnation and guilt produced by our depravity. God is merciful to us in that he cares for us in the broken, beaten down condition produced by our depravity.

We’ve got to feel this, Grace. That God is like this toward us is our only hope. That God is like this toward us even while we were still making war against him is our great source of worship.

What type of God would work for the salvation of His enemies? The kind of God who is gracious. This is our God.


5. God is richly generous (3:6). This is the least explicit of the attributes I’ve pointed out, but I thought it was important to point out nevertheless. God, in his goodness and kindness and love and mercy and grace, would have blessed us beyond imagination by simply canceling our debt against him and then sending us on our way. What a kind God he would be to rescue us from our depravity and then leave us to our own devices (no wrath, no judgment, no hell).

But our God is greater still. He is good and kind and loving and merciful and gracious, but he is also richly generous. We see this clearly in vs.6-7.

…he poured out [the Holy Spirit] on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The rich generosity of God in the sense I’m speaking of it here isn’t Paul’s main point in these verses (we’ll get to that in a couple of weeks), but the fact that it’s embedded in and assumed by Paul here and that it is directly tied to the saving nature of God cannot be missed.

Grace, don’t miss this, God’s generosity causes him to pour out His Spirit richly upon us and to make us his children and as his children, his heirs, and as his heirs his companions in eternal life forever and ever. Let that sink in for a moment.

What type of God would work for the salvation of His enemies? The kind of God who is richly generous. This is our God.

Again, in light of our total depravity and total rebellion against God, in light of our treason and unfaithfulness, in light of our hostility and rejection of God, we must ask the question, what kind of God must he be to still desire and accomplish our rescue and reconciliation? The answer, as we’ve just seen, is that he is a God who is good and kind and loving and merciful and gracious and richly generous. It is these aspects of God’s nature that compelled him to save us.

But there is one more aspect of God’s nature presented in this passage that is significant to his accomplishment of our salvation.


6. God is Trinitarian. The final description of God’s nature that we must not miss in these verses is that he is Trinitarian. In simplest terms the fact that God is Trinitarian in nature is summed up in three affirmations.

  1. God eternally exists as three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
  2. Each person is fully God
  3. There is one God.


Each person of the godhead is explicitly mentioned in these short few verses. God the Father is mentioned throughout as the primary, gracious, merciful actor and the one who ultimately saves us. God the Son (Jesus) is mentioned in v.4 as the appearing goodness and loving kindness of God, and in v.6 as our Savior. And God the Holy Spirit is mentioned in vs.5-6 as the poured out washer and renewer of God’s people.

Because God is Trinitarian in nature our salvation is possible. Because of His Trinitarian nature God was able to be both just and the justifier. He was able to be the wrath and the wrath-absorber. He was able to die and be the dead-raiser. He was able to be tempted and remain faithful and obedient. He was able to atone for the sins of mankind as a man and atone for all the sins of all who belonged to the Father as God.

What type of God is able to work out the salvation of His enemies? The kind of God who is Three in One. This is our God.



If this is our God what, then, are we to do with all of this? At least two things are absolutely glaring to me.

Have any of you ever heard of geophagia? The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (I have no idea if this is a legitimate source of scientific research) says that “geophagia denotes the habit of eating earth, soil or clay and is not uncommon in southern parts of the United States as well as urban Africa. Fine red clay is often preferred. In particular, geophagia is observed during pregnancy…Where poverty and famine are implicated, earth may serve as an appetite suppressant and filler… Geophagia has also been reported to serve specific purposes. For example, young women in urban South Africa believe that earth-eating will give them a lighter color (making them supposedly more attractive) and soften their skin.”

Grace, there are people (perhaps many) who have given themselves to eating dirt in the hopes that it will fulfill them in some physical, emotional, or social way.

How do we apply today’s sermon? Let’s begin by humbly marveling at the fact that God is good and loving and merciful and gracious and generous. Let’s worshipfully understand that we would be stuck in our depravity if God were not like that. Let’s delightedly remember the fact that our salvation is the result of these aspects of God’s nature. Let’s joyfully meditate on the wonder of these things.

Let’s stop being geophageites—looking for our satisfaction in eating the dirt of the things of this world. And let’s wake up to the reality that God, the one thing that can truly satisfy us, has offered himself to us, to save us from our sinful dirt-loving depravity.

What do we do in light of all of this? First, we cry out to God to wake us up from our dirt-eating tendencies and to the heavenly banquet he’s prepared for us in his presence and fellowship forever more.

The second glaring application of this passage is that our humble marveling and worshipful understanding and delighted remembering and joyful meditation on these aspects of God’s nature must also, always produce them in us. That is, if we really understand these things we will grow in these things. If we truly grasp the glorious nature of our saving God we will fight in the power of the Spirit to become more good and loving and merciful and gracious and generous ourselves.

You have not really heard this sermon and you do not really know the nature of God if you will not fight to become more like God, for that is what he’s saved us to. The Beautiful Eulogy song that I quoted earlier ends with this:

Do you understand this? Have you experienced this? How then is it possible to experience it and not display it? It isn’t possible! You haven’t experienced it if you don’t display it! The evidence of God’s mercy in your life isn’t determined by how much theology you know, by how many books you read, but by your active goodness to people in misery and in need!


All of this, Grace, is why God is referred to by Paul as “God our Savior”. This is our God. This is who he is. And it is because he is this way that he saved us in spite of our continued rebellion. We love because he first loved us. We have hope because He acted on our behalf.

Last week we saw what God saved us from (our total depravity) and now we’ve seen the God who saves (good and loving and merciful and gracious and generous). What, then, does it really mean to be saved? That’s where we turn next week, even as we work our way closer and closer to celebrating Easter and the question of how God saved us.