The Nature of the Salvation 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.



To quickly bring you up to speed, we’re a few weeks into a series looking at the key doctrines of Titus 3:3-7. Two weeks ago we saw what God saved us from (our total depravity), last week, we saw the nature of the God who saves (good and loving and merciful and gracious and generous and Trinitarian). This week we’re going to look at what it means to be saved—the nature of God’s salvation.

Titus 3:5 tells us that God saves people, but what does that mean?

The vast majority of the people I’ve met in my life have at least a basic concept of salvation. The majority of those people have understood salvation to mean primarily (and in many cases merely) going to heaven when they die. Grace, the main point that I want you all to see this morning is that salvation certainly includes “eternal life” (3:7), or going to heaven when you die, but it also includes much, much more than that as well.

You may recall (from the sermon two weeks ago) that we are born spiritually dead in our sin, enemies of God, under the wrath of God, and altogether unable to do anything about any of that. You may also recall, however, that God, on the other hand, is able to do something about it. Again, the main point of this sermon is to describe what God has done, is doing, and will certainly do about it—how he has worked, is working, and will continue to work for our salvation.

Let’s pray that God would grant us understanding, salvation, and worship.


He Saved us

As I mentioned in the introduction, we’re going to look at the spectrum of God’s work on our behalf to bring us from death in sin to everlasting fellowship with God. We looked at this a couple years ago when we were in 1 John. Therefore, this morning we’re going to move very quickly through the nature of God’s salvation before closing with a plea to look to God and not yourself for your salvation and the salvation of the world.

Again, Titus 3:5 tells us that although we were dead in our sins, God saved us. From our perspective our salvation begins when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. It is not so from God’s perspective, however. In fact, our salvation began in the mind of God even before time began. Consider again the following ten aspects of God’s saving work on our behalf.


1. Election (God’s choice of people to be saved). Before the creation of the universe God elected (or chose or predestined) a people for himself; not based on anything in them, but based on his perfect and sovereign will.

We see this in passages like Ephesians 1:4-6, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

That God saved us (Titus 3:5) means that we will go to heaven when we die, but we do not understand the glory of our salvation if we do not understand that it began with God’s loving choice “before the foundation of the world…through Jesus Christ…according to the purpose of his will…and to the praise of his glorious grace.”


2. Hearing the gospel call (receiving the good news of Jesus’ work on our behalf). At some point in time, then, those elected by God will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ—the good news that God sent his one and only Son to pay for the sins of, reconcile to himself, and grant everlasting life to, everyone who would trust in him.

We see this in passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Apart from hearing the gospel call, we cannot be saved. By God’s sovereign choice, the gospel is the only conduit through which God’s saving grace comes to us.


3. Regeneration (being born again; being given new spiritual life). As you and I know, however, many millions have heard the gospel message and not believed it. The reason people do not believe is because, as I mentioned earlier, we are born spiritually confused, blind, and dead. Confused people can’t understand the gospel, blind people can’t see the gospel, and dead people can’t do anything with the gospel.

Before a confused person can believe anything they must be given understanding. Before a blind person can see anything they need to be given sight. And before a dead person can do anything they need to be made alive. God does all of this by causing us to be regenerated; to be born again.

The only hope that we have, then, of being saved is to be given new understanding, new sight, and new life. This is precisely what God promises to bring to the elect in order that they would believe in the gospel. We see this all throughout the New Testament.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Grace, let all of this help you to see God’s love for you and I—a love that began before time; a love that led to the willing and joyful humiliation of God’s only Son; a love that pulled atoms and planets and people and the gospel together to rescue us from our depravity; a love which caused God to bring us back from the dead. When you hear that God saved you, don’t let that be a too-small thing in your soul.


4. Conversion (responding to the gospel in faith and repentance). While no one will be saved apart from election, hearing the message of the gospel, and the regeneration of our souls, the fact remains that we must still choose to trust in the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior. Jesus himself (along with the whole of the NT authors) makes plain that the elect, upon receiving the gospel and being born again, will believe in Jesus and repent of (or turn from) their sins. This is what we call “conversion”.

Mark 1:14-15  Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Again, while our experience of God’s saving work begins at our conversion (when we first believe the good news that Jesus is our Lord and Savior), the saving work of God does not begin there. Thank God that even while you and I were still foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another; while you were still confused and blinded and dead; and even long, long before that, he was working to save us.

Don’t let the good news of the salvation of God become a too-small thing in your soul.


5. Justification (right legal standing). Immediately after our conversion two more aspects of our salvation happen simultaneously. First, we are justified by God. That is, God declares us to be righteous in his sight. He does this, not because we immediately stop sinning and act with perfect righteousness, but because, by grace through faith in Jesus, God unites us with Jesus and, therefore, God sees Jesus’ righteousness as our own. On this basis he declares us to be free from guilt—he justifies us.

Consider going to the White House. If you were there as a guest of Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, you’d have access to places that you otherwise wouldn’t. President Obama and, more importantly, his security detail would see you as connected to Mr. McDonough and grant you freedom and privilidges not according to your own authority, but according to Mr. McDonough’s. If Mr. McDonough were to leave you, however, you’d have no standing in the White House on your own.

Our justification in Jesus works much the same way. That’s the point of passages like Galatians 2:16.

Galatians 2:16 We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

The doctrine of justification, which is a part of God’s saving work in our lives, teaches that because of Jesus’ perfect and sinless life, our debt is not only paid in full and our entire record wiped clean, but we are also seen by God as righteous. This aspect of our salvation means that when God sees us (those trusting in Jesus) he sees not our sinful past (or present) but Christ’s perfect righteousness.


6. Adoption (membership in God’s family). The second thing that happens immediately at conversion is that we are adopted by God. He brings us into his family. We become his children. As the song goes, “once his enemies, now seated at his table.”

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

Before our conversion our sin made us God’s hostile enemies, but in Christ, God makes us his beloved children. As Christians we are brought into the family of God with all the privileges and blessing you’d imagine for the sons and daughters of a king. Again, this is what it means to be saved! And yet there’s still more!


7. Sanctification (God granting us growth in the Christian life). The next aspect of God’s salvation is sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which we partner with God to grow in our holiness (or in our likeness to Jesus Christ).

Ephesians 5:25-27 Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

God’s salvation includes the process of changing our desires and appetites from sin to righteousness—the process of making us more like Jesus. Again, in the bible, this process is called sanctification.

Our sanctification begins at our conversion and finally ends, as we will see, for our souls at death and our bodies at glorification. As we walk with Christ we will grow to be more like Christ. God works and we fight to kill the sin that confused and blinded and killed us to the things of God and walk in the righteousness that comes from understanding and sight and life! To be saved by God means being justified on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness, but it also means that God will certainly, gradually work out actual righteousness in us as well.


8. Perseverance (God keeping us faithful to himself throughout life). Another key aspect of the nature of God’s salvation is the fact that God, who elects, calls, regenerates, converts, justifies, adopts, and sanctifies, also keeps his people in Christ. That is, God, as part of his gift of salvation, keeps us saved.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:29-30 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The good news of the gospel, of the salvation of God, is that everyone who truly trusts in Jesus Christ will be saved. What glorious news this is. To be saved means to be securely and certainly saved! Don’t let the good news of the salvation of God become a too-small thing in your soul.


9. Death (our bodies decay and our souls go to be with the Lord). Believe it or not, death too is a part of God’s salvation of his people.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Death is where suffering ends for the saved and the sanctification of the souls of the elect is complete. It is also when God brings us (our souls) into his presence. For Christians, death is not a punishment but a passage into eternal life. It is the hope of eternal life that Paul talks about (Titus 3:7). Understood this way, we need not fear death. Indeed, when we see death rightly (as a part of God’s salvation), we cry out with Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is GAIN!”


10. Glorification (receiving resurrected bodies). Finally, salvation (or being saved by God) means being glorified. That is, being finally made fully human; having all of the curse of Adam’s sin completely removed, having all the effects and temptation of sin stripped forever from us, and receiving new, resurrected bodies in which we will dwell with God forever and ever. It is at our glorification that we are finally, fully saved.

1 Corinthians 15:40-44 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

All true believers will receive their glorified bodies, which will be reunited with their souls, at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

These things collectively are what it means to be saved. These things collectively are what Jesus died on the cross to secure for all of God’s people. And the great news of the gospel is that if any of them are true of you, all of them are always true of you.


Look to him for salvation

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us… Do you see how much bigger God’s salvation is than merely allowing us to go to heaven when we die? Do you see how much bigger God’s gospel is than merely the good news that we can pray a payer and have our sins forgiven? Do you see how much bigger God’s love is than merely granting us a few answered prayers while we are on this earth?

So what are we to make of all of this, Grace Church? What does that mean?

It means that at the coming of the Goodness and Loving Kindness of God, that is, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, all that God had planned from eternity past for the salvation of his people was shown to be certain. It means that at the death of Jesus all of God’s salvation was accomplished and secured for all of God’s people. It means that all honor and praise and glory for our salvation are to be directed at the shining Son of God.

What are we to do with all of this? We are to throw ourselves upon Jesus for mercy and he will give it. We are to trust in the Instrument of God for salvation and he will grant it. We are to fall down in worship before the Son and he will receive it. We are to cry out to God to take away our sinful appetite and he will kill it. We are to fight in God for a hunger for righteousness and he will provide it and satisfy it. We are to proclaim this good news of the salvation of God in Christ to the ends of the earth and he will empower it.

So let us give all glory to Jesus. Let us praise God for the salvation that is ours in Jesus. Let us live in the hope of eternal life that comes through the Grace of Jesus. Let us put off sin in the strength of Jesus. Let us put on righteousness for the honor of Jesus. And let’s walk as light in the darkness just like Jesus.


Titus 3:5 tells us that God saves his people, but what does that mean?

Ultimately, Grace, the nature of God’s salvation begins before time (with our election) and ends in the fulfillment of time (with our glorification). In between God saves us by working out our receiving of the gospel, our regeneration, our conversion, our justification, our adoption, our sanctification, our perseverance, and even our death.

Next week I’ll be on vacation and Matt will be preaching on Jesus’ glory in Colossians. Then, in two weeks, on Easter Sunday, I’ll pick back up in Titus as we look at how God accomplished all of this and how we gain access to it: by mercy, by washing, by renewal, by grace, by Christ.