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“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” – Titus 3:5

      NOT BY WORKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS – at these mighty words, every mouth is stopped, and all the world becomes guilty before God. Since we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), it would be absurd to suggest we may use them to “earn” our salvation. They are proof only of how vile and sinful we are, and how thoroughly we deserve to go to hell. Of course, there are Scriptures which, when stripped of their contextual baggage, will seem to indicate otherwise, but these simply cannot be. God clearly declares in Titus 3:5, the verse I take as my text for this article, that he did not save us by works of righteousness which we have done, but by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. And because he cannot lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2) or contradict himself (1 Corinthians 14:33), we must conclude those verses which works-based plans of salvation employ do not disprove this clear point: salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary – no more, no less. I would like to stew briefly on this point, to highlight we need only the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to go to heaven, and that there is absolutely nothing we can do to attain that but receive him as Savior.

Before we discuss how we are saved, it would be first useful to mention why we must be saved at all. We must be saved, because we are sinners (Romans 3:10). Because we are sinners, we will die (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 5:12, Hebrews 9:27). After we die, we will pay for our sins forever in hell (Revelation 20:15). We owe a debt of sin, and we have nothing but filthy rags of self-righteousness and dead works (Hebrews 6:1) which can never pay that debt. Because we can do nothing to deliver ourselves from this terrible fate, we need salvation. There is only one way in which we can receive salvation, and that is through the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:18-19).


The first portion of my text avers that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done”. The “we” here, it must be understood, is born-again Christians only. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, you are not a born-again Christian, and you are on your way to hell as you read these words. I do not need to hear that you are a “good person”, and that you go to church, and that you tithe, and pray, and read your Bible, and try your hardest to fear God and keep his commandments. It is good that you do these things, but you must not be so foolish as to rely upon them for salvation. If your being good could get you to heaven, then pray tell me why Jesus Christ needed to die in your place at Calvary? Why did the crown of thorns needs be pressed upon his brow? Why must the cat of nine tails have lashed his back to shreds? Hark, dear reader! The blood of Christ is perfectly sufficient to wash away your sins! You cannot “assist” him with your good works. It is insulting even to suggest that you may, for it implies what Jesus Christ did for you is not enough to be saved. It implies that the Lord of glory, who came to this wicked world to be despised and rejected of men, to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, and die a criminal’s death so that as many as receive him might have eternal life, was not entirely capable of ransoming your soul from hell. It asserts that to his vicarious sacrifice must be added your good works and faithful life.

But what saith the Scripture? Did not the apostle Paul declare, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21)? And that, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20)? Surely a law we could never keep, cannot be the instrument by which we are saved. Yet many are in earnest in believing so. They do not like to think they have no part in their salvation. They do not like to hear that only the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and never their works of righteousness, can justify them before God. Turning over a new leaf and changing your life to be saved, discipleship confused with sonship, justification confused with sanctification, salvation confused with service – each takes part in the sordid deception, and each preaches differing degrees of WORKS. And if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Romans 11:6). Now, such things as mixing gospel with sacraments, or mixing gospel with turning away from sins, or mixing gospel with surrendering their lives to Christ, are mixtures of faith and works. These do not save the soul from hell; rather, they defile the bread of life, for a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (Galatians 5:9).

Once more, I will draw your attention to my text: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” I will also add, that this difference between grace and works is no mere issue of semantics. There is a great gulf fixed between simply trusting Christ for salvation, and combining trusting him with making a commitment to serve him, or to turn from your sins, or to make him your “Lord”.


If it was not by our works of righteousness, then by what are we saved? Firstly, it was according to his mercy. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. There was no obligation to provide a means of pardon for us. God would be completely justified in simply letting the creatures who sin daily against him burn forever in the Lake of Fire. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, if we have trusted him as Savior. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. His mercy is great, indeed, for scarcely a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. According to his abundant mercy he hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Nothing but his mercy and love – for God is love – kept us from plunging into the fires of hell. Nothing but his mercy and love sent Jesus Christ to the cross, to pay for the iniquity of us all with his precious blood. For we may well declare with Jeremiah, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22).


According to his mercy, he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. When we, knowing we were guilty sinners who could do absolutely nothing to save ourselves from the everlasting destruction in hell we most assuredly deserved, simply looked to Jesus, and believed with all our hearts that he died on the cross to pay the debt of our sins with his blood, was buried, and was bodily resurrected three days later, we trusted him as Savior, and were immediately and irrevocably born again. We were made his child (John 1:12). Our names were written in heaven (Luke 10:20), in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27). We were given eternal life, which we can never lose (John 10:28). We have been cleansed of all our sins – past, present, future – by Christ’s blood (Revelation 1:5), for as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). We have been indwelt with the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13). But we do not have all of these wonderful things because of what we did for Jesus, but because of what Jesus did for us, in giving himself for our sins. In response to our faith in the gospel, he regenerated us – we were born again. This is the washing of regeneration; this, the renewing of the Holy Ghost.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God.


I would be remiss, if I concluded this article without making a direct appeal to my reader. Are you saved? Before you answer that, you must know that you are not saved by your church membership. You are not saved by your tithing. You are not saved by your baptism. You are not saved by your praying, and reading the Bible, and being kind. You are not saved by surrendering your life to God and pledging to turn away from your sins. You are not saved by keeping sacraments. No, you are not saved by ANYTHING you do. You are saved only when you know you are a sinner who deserves to go to hell and cannot save yourself, and you believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross to pay for your sins with his precious blood, was buried, and bodily resurrected three days later.

If you have trusted Christ as Savior, without attaching any works of any kind in any fashion, you are saved. But if you have never done this, I beseech you with as much fervency as can be conveyed through a keyboard, that you trust Christ now. Do not wait. Your life is but a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vaniseth away (James 4:14). Do not make the mistake of thinking you can postpone salvation until “later on”. “Later on” may never come, and you will find yourself burning in hell for ever and ever because you delayed a matter of utmost importance. Leave off trusting your church and baptism and sacraments and lordship and works, and trust Jesus Christ, and him alone, for salvation. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36).

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