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Review: God Without Passions: A Primer by Samuel Renihan

When addressing the wicked, God says to them after recounting their continued transgressions, “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.” (Ps. 50:21)

As I read A God Without Passions: A Primer, by Samuel Renihan, I was struck over and over by that phrase in the verse above, “You thought I was just like you…”. The book deals with the subject of divine impassibilty, which simply means that God does not have passions or emotions. It is a subject that is often confusing to many. Some have encountered the doctrine before, but it was never sufficiently explained, and without the proper groundwork to understand the doctrine, let it fall by the wayside, undeveloped. Some have never heard of this doctrine before and therefore conflate the human experience of emotions with God’s perfections. Renihan’s singular focus is to exalt God by showing the vast difference between the creature and the creator. God accommodates man’s deficiencies and frailties in order to graciously communicate with him. This includes language. But, because some theologians have not exercised clear thinking on this matter, they have muddled the proper distinctions of emotions and perfections and have caused many to think of God in a very human way. God is thought to have emotions in the same way that men do. Men think God is altogether just like them. Does God love in the same exact way that a man loves? Is there a clear and direct one to one correspondence to love from God and love from Man? Renihan explores this in a clear and succinct manner.

Renihan’s writing style is both pastoral and didactic. He builds one concept upon another so that nothing is left dangling in mid-air and a proper foundation is set to examine the next area. He writes in an easily understood manner, and whenever he cites older theologians (Reformers, Puritans and Baptists), he clarifies where the language of the time might impede modern understanding. He clearly articulates the challenges of understanding this doctrine and why it is often confusing for some. At the same time, he removes the confusion and presents to us a glorious God who is not subject to the whims of emotive affections, but is a God who is enthroned upon his own perfections.

The subject matter is eminently important, for much poor preaching and doctrine has come forth by confusing the nature of creaturely emotions and divine perfections and imposing the creaturely emotions upon the divine creator. In this primer (which suggests that there is a more in-depth study forthcoming) Renihan seeks to explain these differences and demonstrate the implications of ascribing to God the humanly emotions. Indeed, Renihan trumpets the words of the Psalmist as an admonition to the church, “You thought I was just like you” throughout his work. If God is immutable, then subjecting him to experiences of emotion suggests that his perfections were not perfect and were in need of improving. Thus, the creation improved upon the creator. Doctrine has implications in areas we often least expect it, and hence, it is important not to become undisciplined when it comes to thinking of our great God and Savior.

I highly recommend this book. It can be useful for study groups (each chapter has questions that can be answered from the associated chapter). It is not expensive or lengthy and can be read in an evening.

To Him Be the Glory!

One of the first tasks given to Gideon by the Angel of the Lord was to tear down his own father’s altar to Baal and to use the wood from the Asherah that was beside it as firewood for a burnt offering:

Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it;
26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.”
(Jdg 6:25-26)

I have always found this to be rather interesting especially in light of the fact that in his first encounter with the Angel of the Lord, Gideon was able to reference great and mighty acts of Yahweh which he had heard from the fathers among whom would have been his own father:

Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Jdg 6:13)

How did Gideon hear about this? Where did this history come from? Would it not come from his own father?

It is truly enlightening as to the idolatrous nature of man to behold the ease by which he can set the holy and the profane side-by-side, on equal footing, without any sense of contradiction. The fathers passed down stories of how Yahweh proved that the gods of Egypt were not gods only to turn and bow the knee once again to those things which are also by nature not gods.

I contemplate this passage from time to time to remind myself that it is very easy to couch our language with religious terms, to cite with precision Scripture, confessions, doctrinal statements, and the like and yet at root be an idolater. I do not negate the importance of such precision, only to remember that theological precision is not antidote to idolatry if the theological belief is not one that is held in faith and does not promote reverence. True theology melts the heart, for it is in sound theology where one meets his Lord and King.

I also remind myself that if those who hold to sound theology can nevertheless have an idolatrous heart, how much more so will those be who have unsound doctrine as their guiding light? It is the nature of man to be a lover of self, and to desire his own good and pleasure above God.

With that thought, consider the recent video making the rounds which has Victoria Osteen making some very fantastic claims regarding the nature of worship and its purpose. You really must hear it for yourself, but here is a section of the clip:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy.

We’re not doing it for God. Really. We are really doing it for ourselves because God’s greatest pleasure comes from the pleasure of His creation.

Ponder that for a moment. God’s *greatest* pleasure is when we are happy. What would he ever do without us?

This is not the Christian mindset. Of course, it attempts to sound Christian by declaring that by doing that which pleases us we actually please God — after all, we do want to please God, right? So, Osteen sort of gives us permission to seek our own pleasure in order to please God. Oh, I know, she tells us that we should “obey God” but the motive for doing so is not the pleasure of God primarily. It is the pleasure of man primarily and the pleasure of God as a secondary means (only when we are happy is God happy). What Osteen here offers us is a religion that is really about Man by means of God. That is to say, while they speak of God in the most flattering terms and speak with elevated vocabulary, the ultimate aim is the glorification and happiness of man. God is a motivating factor, but not the end and purpose of our being, we are. So long as they say that this is somehow for God and his glory they believe that they have done sufficient worship and reverence to His name. But, when one distills all the rhetoric and emotive words, it comes down to being all about man and his pleasure.

This is truly a far cry from the message of the Apostle Paul who declared:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
(Rom 11:33-36)

For whom are all things? To whom belongs the glory forever? True worship, if it can be called true and proper worship, has as its aim the glory of the Lord. Its primary purpose is the exaltation of God. “Help us, O God of our salvation,” declared Asaph, “for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.” (Psa 79:9) Even pleading for their own good, safety, and salvation, the motivation was for the glory of His name and for His name’s sake.

When we consider the words and thoughts of Victoria Osteen, we must recognize that this expression is the core of their theology. Indeed, and quite often unknowingly, this man-centeredness is the theology of much of what is considered to be theology today. Would that Christians examine the motives of their worship, to see whether or not its primary concern is the majesty of God or the good of man. B. B. Warfield, if I may paraphrase him, once described Reformed Theology as the apprehension of God in majesty. This is the core of Reformed worship. We declare with one voice the words of Paul, with no sense if irony or contradiction, “To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

In the Fullness of Time

As I was doing some sermon preparation recently, I caught myself reading through some sermons by G. Campbell Morgan (who, I must say, was was an excellent orator).  I was struck by his development of the role of Caesar Augustus in the how it came about that Jesus should be born in Bethlehem.

He began by observing the greatness and majesty of the first Roman Emperor, emphasizing the “peace” (here defined as the absence of war) that he ushered in. He spoke of how Augustus rejected the title of dictator because it was not permanent enough. He rejected the title of King because it was not grand enough. He was given the title of Augustus, therefore, as a title of religious reverence — a step toward the claim of divinity that was eventually bestowed upon him after death.

Campbell developed this so that he could look closely at the verse of Luke 2:1 where Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that the whole world should be taxed. At this point, he cited from Micah 5:2-4:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.

Observing that this occurred many centuries before Caesar Augustus was to ascend as emperor, I spent some time thinking through the history from the time of this prophecy to the birth of Christ.

At the time of this prophecy, Rome was barely on the historical radar, having been only recently founded (accepting Varro’s traditional date for Rome’s founding). The dominant power at the time would have been Assyria.

Assyria, says Isaiah, was merely a tool in the hand of God to chasten the rebellious people of God. When the chastening was done, and as a result of its cruelty, bloodthirstiness, and arrogance, God destroyed Assyria. Nahum records the destruction as being utter. So profound was the destruction that a mere three hundred years later, an entire Greek army could travel through the region and have no idea they were in the area of Nineveh.

God had raised up the Babylonians and the Medes to destroy Assyria. The Babylonians took God’s people captive and brought them into exile. God, then raised up the Persians to conquer the Babylonians and let the Jews return and rebuild the temple.

Then God raised up the Greeks to conquer Persia. And God raised up Rome to conquer Greece. Then Caesar Augustus ascended to power as the first Emperor of Rome and at that moment, at that time, declared that the whole world should be taxed.

So, why did Caesar, the most powerful man in the known world, send out the decree? Because “this…has been written by the prophet”.  Because “the heart of the King is in the hand of the Lord as rivers of water — he turns it wherever he wills”. Because the fullness of time had come, and for no other reason. It was God’s sovereign design, and not that of men.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…”

Wilhelmus à Brakel on Sanctification and Holiness

Wilhelmus à Brakel was one of the most influential men to come out of the Dutch Further Reformation. He wrote with a scholarly mind and a pastoral heart. He exemplified the maxim: Correct doctrinal thinking leads to godly living. His work, The Christian’s Reasonable Service is both challenging in its doctrine, and convicting in its piercing observations.

I had been reading his section on Sanctification and Holiness, when I read these very rich and poignant observations about the “old man”. I thought them worthy of posting. You can find an electronic version of all 4 volumes at this site.

The Functioning of the Old Man in the Believer

The old nature stirs up to the commission of sin.

(1) Sometimes it does so by violent assaults. The lusts are so agitated and are stirring so vehemently that there is no time to think upon the fear of God. Even if the fear of the Lord surfaces, the lusts increase so forcefully in strength that any good inclinations are immediately extinguished. Thus, sin is committed before one can think about anything else, the heart being carried about as chaff in the wind.
(2) Sometimes the old nature seeks some rest; to be so intently focused upon God tires the body and the mind, so that it appears impossible to live in such a manner. The old nature, in seeking some rest and relaxation, begins initially to think upon natural things; however, the lusts of the flesh begin to stir, and the thoughts pertaining to natural things become sinful, due to one‘s ego entering the picture. A person will begin to build castles in the sky, imagining himself to have possessions, to be in a position of prominence, of being honored, and of having riches. Even though he knows that he will never attain to this, he nevertheless entertains himself with such imagery. From this point the old nature proceeds to reflect upon that sin which most readily presents itself be it immorality, a lust for money, or pride. Being thus drawn away from his steadfastness, he commits sin to the degree that the moment permits, and if the opportunity were not lacking, he would fall into sins which he never thought himself to be capable of. Or, if the opportunity is there, he will fall into sin from which he thought to have been delivered be it in a natural sense or by grace.
(3) Sometimes the old nature gains in strength due to recklessness. A person will bring himself into situations, knowing from experience that they have repeatedly ensnared him. This can either be solitude, or the company of certain people, yet he is of the
opinion that he will now be able to abstain from the previous sins. In making use of the opportunity, however, he is inclined to it before realizing it, and sin having found an opening must proceed; the sin which is then at hand gains the upper hand. Contact with grease cannot but leave a stain.1
(4) Sometimes the old nature presents something as being beneficial but conceals its sinfulness. It presents it as a necessity, as being delightful, as being advantageous, or as being honest, etc. Sometimes it is presented as a white lie, as being a necessity
(not being able to do business otherwise), as being an honest deed, or as something which would otherwise prevent you from intermingling with people in a civil manner. Sometimes it suggests that one will thereby come into a position, in which he will be able to do more good subsequently and similar pretenses, which are not advanced in a premeditated manner, but suddenly present themselves at a given opportunity. And thus, man takes more liberty or at least he does not resist sin as much, and the old nature breaks through, one sin begetting another.

Secondly, the old nature is likewise always engaged in keeping man from that which is good.
(1) There will be no time for one to engage in his godly exercises of praying, reading, singing, and meditation. Therefore these exercises either do not occur at all, or only in a casual manner to satisfy the conscience. It is as if he is rushed, even though he frequently would have the time.
(2) At another time one will postpone the matter, determining to do it, but to do it in a more quiet and composed manner; certain things first have to be accomplished. In the meanwhile time slips away or the Spirit has departed, and one does not get to it, or it is void of all spirituality.
(3) Then again the task appears as being exceptionally difficult; one looks up against it, and seeks to avoid and postpone it. Having burdened himself with many difficulties, he approaches the duty as a lazy person and, so to speak, crawls forward. It is too difficult and one is not fit to do it.
(4) Again he thinks that all that he does is in vain, that God does not hear, that one shall not obtain it, and he suggests to himself that he shall not obtain anything in the future anyhow. Our words do not carry any weight with others; we shall be put to shame, and our careful walk will only be construed as hypocrisy.
(5) Or one will try to compromise. The way to heaven is not so narrow as one generally claims. Would all those perish who are not so precise? No! It is not contrary to godliness to have determination, and to be courteous and cheerful. Thus, the old nature will prevent one from making vigorous progress and from carefully following the footsteps of Jesus.

Thirdly, if the old nature cannot keep man away from that which is good, she will endeavor to spoil that which is good.
(1) At one time she will cause the thoughts to wander from one thing to the next.
(2) At another time there will be good thoughts which, however, will not be applicable at the moment. They are only fit to break the resolution toward that good thing which at that moment is to be performed.
(3) Again, ulterior motives and our ego can enter the picture which will hinder a person in his duty, causing him to lose his resolve and the stimulus to be removed; thus the purity of the duty is contaminated.
(4) Then there will be thoughts that all is devoid of the Spirit and but the work of nature yes, even hypocrisy.
(5) At another time the atheistic heart and unbelief come to the surface, which contaminate the performance of spiritual duty and instead of being refreshed by the performance of one’s duty, there is consternation and abhorrence that he has performed this good duty in such an evil manner. And thus the old nature agitates within.

Titus 3:4-7: Not By Works At All – Vintage

It is common when the discussion of baptismal regeneration comes up between Protestants and Catholics, the Catholic is quick to point to Titus 3:5 to argue for baptismal regeneration. The assumption given is that this passage speaks so clearly and evenly about being regenerated by water of baptism that it becomes the hammer in the discussion. Trying to discuss passages that speak of regeneration being an act of God alone outside the context of ritual becomes irrelevant. It becomes, then, an example of arriving at one’s conclusion before proving it.

Often, various arguments are given to solidify the stranglehold on the passage:

  • The word for washing can also be translated water, or is used of ritual cleansing
  • All the church fathers believed this, and they were experts in Greek, Latin, etc.

And, at first light, these arguments might sound convincing. I mean, has any Protestant ever checked every reference of the Fathers to see if Tit 3:5 was always interpreted as baptismal regeneration? And, even conceding that point, does that really make a difference on what the text actually says? This article will leave it to others to examine the Early Church Fathers on the issue, as this is primarily concerned with the text itself.

As one who adheres to Sola Scriptura, it is my assertion that the text does not speak of baptismal regeneration, and that it is a tradition forced onto Titus 3:5. If we allow the text to define its own meaning, and allow it to speak on its own terms, then I believe that we will find an entirely different viewpoint than what the Catholic will hold to.

Let us look into the surrounding context, then. Titus 3:4-7:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

When the entire sentence is read, one must wonder where the argument holds ground in the first place. For in the text, several things are certain:

  • God is the subject. He is doing the saving (v. 5)
  • God’s mercy is given as the motivation for the action
  • There is an explicit denial of human activity, as he has not saved us by works done in righteousness
  • The agency of the salvation is not of human origin, as both washing of regeneration and renewal have the Holy Spirit as the source
  • The means by which we received the Holy Spirit upon us was Jesus

So, one has to wonder the basis upon which the Catholic feels justified to argue that baptism done by human accomplishes spiritual regeneration.

The focal point of the argument seems to hinge upon a singular word, which carries with it a great deal of assumption and theological baggage. It is the word “washing.” Though it looks to be a verb, it is, in fact, a noun. The verb-like qualities often confuse people as to its meaning. We will deal with that term momentarily.

Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and benevolence of God our Savior appeared,

The sentence actually begins in verse four. Here, we see a reference to Christ’s coming. The word translated “benevolence” is translated by the NASB as “love toward mankind”. It is as though these two terms, kindness and benevolence, are personified in Christ. One might make this case in that in a previous verse, we are told that the grace of God has appeared, and in 2:13, which certainly seems to be a reference to Christ. However, it appears that the Father is the subject in the following verses, since God is described as our savior, and then we are told that he saved us. And, since Jesus Christ is mentioned as the means by which we have been given the Holy Spirit, it is not likely that Jesus is the subject of the verbs following, else we would expect a reflexive pronoun.

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

It is important to note that at no point in this sentence are humans mentioned, nor is human activity ever the subject or means of any verb. But, humans are the objects of the main verb in this clause. He saved us. In looking into this passage, observing these things is important:

  • Who saved? God saved.
  • Saved whom? God saved us.
  • Why did he save? Because of his mercy.
  • By what means did he save? By the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Spirit.

We observe from the very outset that human activity is explicitly denied in this passage. Certainly, if baptism were in view, we would see some reference to at least our obedience (if, perhaps someone wishes to separate obedience from an act of righteousness). There would at least be some reference to our activity. There is not, however. The phrase translated above as, “not on the basis of deeds” is a negation of human works. To further separate the work of salvation from human effort, Paul uses a strong adversative (grk. alla). Thus, a strong contrast is given here. It is not on the basis of works (not just any works, but those done in righteousness) but it is on the basis of his mercy. Thus, God was not motivated to save because of a work of man, even those deeds that are righteous (of which baptism is certainly one), but because of his mercy. Even still, baptism is not listed as a parallel activity, since the “washing” is not given as a separate function from the Holy Spirit. In other words, were one to be able to show that baptism does regenerate a person in other passages, it still does not affect the meaning of this passage. The meaning if this passage is that in every respect, we are saved by God, and not by any action on our part. It is entirely unilateral here. Therefore, even if a person baptized another, and regeneration happened at the same time, one could not say that the baptism performed in anyway resulted in regeneration. Otherwise, the meaning of the passage would be on its head, and the motivation for God to save would, indeed, we a work done in righteousness. If, truly, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags”, then even the greatest of our deeds does not merit eternal life. Surely, one could never make the case that anything less, or anything other than a righteous deed would be worthy of merit. But, Paul denies even the righteous deeds.

A great deal of weight is placed upon the word “washing.”  It is the Greek term loutron, which certainly bears that meaning.  The idea of the word is a ritual cleansing, rather than simply a cleansing from dirt, though that meaning is there.  The practice of ritual cleansing before service is not at all uncommon, as this was the rite the sons of Aaron were required to practice.  Thus, many have gone through great lengths to somehow tie rituals of cleansing to loutron in this context.  But, this is an example of what is often called      “one-word exegesis”.  This is another way of saying that the people are practicing eisegesis, or reading into the text their assumptions.  Let me explain.  A single word with  no context has no meaning, since it has no defining parameters to limit its meaning.  To put  it another way, a word with no context bears every possible meaning that a dictionary might give it, including poetic and metaphoric usage.  I have often used the word “fire” as an example.  With no context, the word fire can be a command (Fire!) as in an execution, an exclamation (Fire!) as in the warning of a fire, it can mean passion ( heart of fire) or anger (heart of fire).  Without context, it is simply impossible to know truly the meaning of a term.

In this passage, there is no difference.  Simply connecting the lexical meaning of loutron to ritual cleansing without observing what the context is telling us about that term is irresponsible exegesis.  In the context, we must note that though the word is rich in meaning regarding ritual cleansing, and has been interpreted as baptism (being a Christian symbol of cleansing), loutron is the work of the Spirit, and not of men. In context (v. 1-3), Paul tells us that we need to be kind, respectful, and benevolent to others, “we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” In contrast to that, God’s undeserved kindness and benevolence toward us resulted in our salvation. The sins and attributes that Paul uses to describe our lost state are grim, as Paul pulls no punches. But, works done in righteousness will not offset the ugliness of that sin. Therefore, in accordance with his mercy, he saved us, by pouring His Spirit upon us.  He is the one who cleansed us, by His Spirit, as the passage clearly states.

Whom he poured out richly upon us through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

So, flowing into this next thought, having seen the meaning, we now see exactly the means of “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Again, this next verse further denies human activity in that it is not the Spirit being poured out upon us in baptism, for it is not the work of man by which the Holy Spirit is poured out. God is the subject here. He poured out the Holy Spirit upon us. And, once again, neither man, nor the activity of man is the means of this activity, for it is Christ that is the means by which we have the Spirit.

What we see, then, is that this passage is not speaking of water, or physical baptism. It is in fact using such language to refer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is poured, not water, God does the pouring, not man, and water or ritual is not given as the means by which such is done, but either the Holy Spirit, or Jesus is the means, motivated by God’s mercy alone.

This concept does not exist in a theological vacuum. Indeed, the background of this passage can be found in the Old Testament. One can easily see the parallel with Ezekiel 36:

23 “I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. 24 “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. 25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (emphasis mine)

Despite the rebellion of this people, and their “filthiness” and idolatry, God promises to redeem them, to “sprinkle clean water on” them. Surely no one can see a parallel to Baptism in this, since it is not men who pour this water. This unilateral working of God is truly awe-inspiring. In the vindication of his holiness, again, actions of men are not the motive for His action (indeed, their deeds should be cause for judgment, rather than mercy), He cleanses his people, gives them a new heart and spirit, removes the heart of stone, and gives them a heart of flesh. He will put his Spirit within us and cause us to walk in his statutes. This is the heart of the message of Titus. God saves men, and he does so perfectly. Who can stand within his presence and, however subtly or pretentiously humble and declare their own helping hand? This water came from God. He sprinkled pure water on us. He cleansed us. How could this be made clearer?

Of course, other passages can be brought into the discussion, such as Isaiah 44 and Joel 2. But I think Ezekiel makes the point clear: God saves. It is not by the washings or rituals of men wherein salvation is found, but in the mercy and grace of our Lord. But, there is more that can be seen in this. There is perfect and complete unity within the Godhead in the redemption of humanity. There is no confusion, no dissention, only the Almighty Trinity working toward the redemption of men, to the glory of his Grace.

Indeed, when one looks very closely at Titus at this point, one sees that magnificent sight: The blessed Trinity involved in our salvation, a complete agreement within the Godhead, promised long beforehand, regarding the redemption of man. God saves, the Spirit regenerates, the Son provides the Spirit. It is beautiful to see the perfect works of God, united in Trinity, rather than the errant works of men.

That, because we have been justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life.

It cannot be emphasized enough that we are the objects of salvation, we are objects of justification, and our efforts are utterly denied. The only verb that has man as the subjects (the exception being “we have done” in verse 5, where the works we have done are denied as the motivating factor in our salvation) is “we should be made.” However, this does not do anything to the denial or the negation of human activity since this is a passive verb, and as such we are receiving the action of being made heirs.

Verse seven constitutes a clause of purpose/result. What this means is that in the mind of the author, the purpose of the main verb in the clause not only indicates the intention of the action, but also its sure accomplishment. The nature of the construction, even though the mood of the verb (a subjunctive) is called the verb of doubt, in the context of the purpose/result clause, there is no doubt in the mind of the author as to whether or not the action will be accomplished.

Therefore, we can conclude very easily that our regeneration and salvation is brought about as a work of God, and not in correspondence to our actions. The text simply will not allow it to be so. Further, since there is no effort, cooperation, or rituals of men in this context, then the responsibility of salvation and its sure completion therein, is based solely and completely on the work of God. His honor and integrity are placed on the line.

It is here, where we need to be humbled, and not arrogant, as to the sovereign working of God. May our hearts be softened so as to praise his glorious grace.