“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. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7
There is much in these 5 verses. I particularly love this phrase in verse 7, "become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." As children of God, we have become heirs according to the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Savior! Nothing in our lives is more important than this statement. We can certainly do great things during our lives on this earth, but nothing we do matters more than being an heir according to the hope of eternal life.
These verses lay out some very important truths:
- We were slaves to sin.
- Because of the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior, he saved us.
- Not because of works we've done, but according to his own mercy.
- By the washing of the regeneration, we are justified by his grace.
- Being justified, we've become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The truth of these verses is that we are "heirs according to the hope of eternal life." That being the case, the condition to be an heir is to be "justified." That begs the question, "Why justification?”
Here's the simple dictionary version of the meaning of justification: "to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit." The condition of justification is to be declared innocent. The scriptures we read above in Titus 3 make it clear that we weren’t innocent; in fact, Paul says we were foolish, disobedient and slaves to what amounts to all unrighteousness. To be heirs according to the hope of eternal life, our condition has to change. Somehow, we need to be justified or declared innocent before God.
In Galatians chapters 2 & 3, the Apostle Paul deals with this subject of justification, how important it is and how we obtain it. He declares emphatically that "a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16). This was a serious issue for new Christians in the first century as they learned about the new covenant. They struggled with holding on to the old law, still trying to count the keeping of the old law as righteousness to themselves. The whole of verse 16 tells us the fallacy of this idea: “yet 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" (Galatians 2:16).
Righteousness didn't come by the works of the law; in fact, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:24-26 that the purpose of the old law was a guardian to keep God's people until faith was revealed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith (v.24). It wasn't works of the law that justified God's people--it was the coming faith in Jesus Christ our Lord that would ultimately justify us (declare us innocent) before our Creator. This was God’s plan from the beginning. Though we were dead to sin, because of the loving kindness of God our Savior, our faith in Him justifies us before our Creator. Paul reinforces this truth in Ephesians 2:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...” (Ephesians 2:4-8).
It is God’s grace that has saved us, not of our own doing. He’s expressed his loving kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. It is because of God’s grace that we can be raised up with Christ and be seated with our Savior in the heavenly places. It is by His grace that we can be heirs according to the hope of eternal life. None of this we deserve. None of this we’ve earned. It is because of the immeasurable riches of his grace that we are saved. We do, however, have a part to play in accepting this wonderful gift.
Ephesians 2:8 says we’ve been saved by grace (God’s part) through faith (our part). Galatians 2:16 says we’ve been justified by faith in Christ Jesus. Titus 3:7 says being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. How can we thank our God and Savior enough that He would prepare a way for us to be justified (declared innocent) and become an heir with Him? We can accept the gift of His grace by expressing our faith in Christ Jesus, beginning with being baptized into Christ and living our lives knowing we are heirs according to the promise.
“[F]or in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).