“The Kindness and Love of God Our Savior Appeared”
(Titus 3:4-7 – Epiphany 1/Baptism of Our Lord – January 13, 2019)
Titus 3:4-7 – But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Dear Redeemed, baptized children of God and heirs of eternal life in Christ:
You cannot see love. It is an invisible quality. Yet, we know that we love others and that others love us. How? Because where there is true love, there will be evidence.
A man and woman may fall in love and get married. But down the road, they neglect each other’s needs and divorce. Do you see evidence of love there? Not when Scripture says of true love that it “endures all things” and “never fails.” Two Christians may say, “I love God.” But they keep holding grudges and refusing to help each other in need. Do you see evidence of God’s love in them? Not when Scripture says: “Love suffers long and is kind” and “does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).
God’s Word says of Jesus: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
Here we learn how we will know true love: not in mere words on the tongue, but in actions and in truth. Sinful man may use words conveniently to speak of love, and then fail to show evidence. But “God, who cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), not only speaks of love. He showed it to us to the fullest extent when He sent His own beloved Son to lay down His life for us.
This is what our text is telling us as it says: “The Kindness and Love of God our Savior Appeared.” 1) It has appeared in Christ’s coming to win mankind’s salvation, and 2) It has appeared to us personally in our Baptism into Christ.
1) It has appeared in Christ’s coming to win mankind’s salvation
It is easy to say, “I love you,” and to be kind to someone who has been good to us, when there is something we might gain from association with that person. But it is not so easy to show kindness and love to someone who has offended us right and left, and who still appears to have no remorse at all for the ways they hurt us, and for their sins against us.
This is how it was “when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared.” What did God see in us sinners that should cause Him to love us? What did He have to gain by association with us? In the words leading up to our text, it describes the condition God saw us in: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
It is not exactly the rosy picture we might like to paint of ourselves as good-natured people. As God saw us in our sinful state we were not like cute, cuddly children, tugging at His heartstrings by our innocent little words and actions. Rather we were “foolish, disobedient,” like rebellious children who bring shame and hurt to their parents. We were like the prodigal son, who took all the goodness and wealth his father had provided all his life, only to go off to a far away land and waste it all in sinful living (Luke 15:13). God saw us in our runaway lives of sin, wasting His gifts of life as those who are “deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures.” He saw us trying to fill our hearts by our selfish pursuits and immoral desires. He saw us trying to be happy apart from Him, living in sin. But our restlessness and discontentment in life showed as we were “living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.”
It was not a pretty sight as God saw our lost condition as sinners. We were living apart from Him, nothing like children He could be proud of. The heart of God is pure and perfect in love. But Romans 8:7-8 says: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Goodbye to popular ideas that God is such a loving Father that He just doesn’t let sins bother Him. Our sins were hostile and offensive to Him. Goodbye to popular ideas that we could ever be good enough to please God and earn heaven. Even our most earnest attempts at good were soiled with sin and stunk to high heavens before God. The only inheritance we runaway sinners had coming was that of Satan’s children – doomed to eternal death and separation from God.
If we do not know how true this is of ourselves, then we do not know how truly we need our Savior. But like the prodigal son, faced with our miserable condition, we confess that we have sinned against our Father in heaven, and that we are unworthy to have any status in His house. We plead only His mercy and forgiveness. Then and only then can we truly appreciate what our text now says: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.”
God did not just say the words, “I love you,” and then leave us in our miserable condition. He showed His love by His actions. 1 John 4:9-10 says: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
In Jesus, the kindness and love of God has appeared in Person. The word for “Love” here is “philanthropy” meaning “love for mankind.” As God came to live among us in our human flesh, He showed that He does not want to reject us but to befriend us. God loves mankind as a friend. As Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Then He showed that love by sacrificing His own life on the cross to pay for our sin and rebellion. Our text speaks of it as an accomplished fact: “He saved us” from sin, death, and hell. Christ has won salvation for all mankind. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 tells us: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them… For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2) It has appeared to us personally in our Baptism into Christ
Therefore, the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared first in Christ’s coming to win mankind’s salvation; and secondly, it has appeared to us personally in our Baptism into Christ. For it says: “He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This tells us that, in Baptism, we were given a new status before God. For He washed away our sin and gave us new spiritual life; therefore, we are to inherit eternal life as God’s children.
Just imagine if you found yourself in utter poverty with nothing to your name but the tattered clothes on your back, dying of starvation and exposure to the elements. What if someone came along and offered you a whole new life of riches. All you needed was to be born again into a royal family, as an heir of great wealth! You might think that person was joking.
But Jesus was not joking when He offered Nicodemus such a rebirth and new life in His kingdom, complete with heavenly riches. Jesus told Nicodemus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus asked: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:3-6).
Jesus was speaking of the spiritual rebirth that takes place in Baptism by water and the Spirit. For Baptism is a means through which God’s Spirit comes to us as individuals and gives us new spiritual life. According to our text, in this “washing of regeneration and renewal… the Holy Spirit” is “poured out on us abundantly.” It is the Holy Spirit who gives us saving faith in Christ. So in Baptism, we are united with Christ and all the blessings of His life and salvation.
Ephesians 5:26 calls Baptism Christ’s “washing with water by the Word.” It is His washing of forgiveness, applied to us in sacramental form. Peter proclaimed this promise to a great crowd on Pentecost Day when he urged them in Acts 2:38-39: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
In Baptism, God makes all things new for us and for our children. Remember what happened when the prodigal son returned to his father in the poverty of repentance? There was the father, running out to meet him, putting his arms around him, kissing him, and telling his servants: “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:22-24). So the father treated him as a reborn and renewed son. He treated him royally, pouring out the riches of his love upon him.
So also in our Baptism, God’s Spirit worked in our hearts repentance and faith to bring us back to Him. God the Father embraced us in love, and He replaced the tattered clothes of our sinful life with the pure robe of His Son’s perfect life. As God the Father said at Jesus’ baptism, He also says of us: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Galatians 3:26-27 says: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
So we see how in our Baptism, “the kindness and the love of God our Savior” appeared to us personally. He has turned our lives into a miracle. We have been born again of the Spirit as God’s children in Christ. We have “become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” God is treating us royally, giving us eternal riches beyond compare in His heavenly kingdom. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).
Therefore God shows His love for us, not just in words but in action. And now, may that saying also be true of us: “Like Father, like children.” As His new creation, “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). As children of our heavenly Father, we can share His royal treatment with others. We can share the riches of His forgiveness and love in Christ for them. May the kindness and love of God our Savior appear to others through our word and action. May our whole lives, as His reborn and renewed children, express the words of the hymn:
Baptized into Thy name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among Thy seed, Thy chosen host,
Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
Thy Spirit now shall live within.
Yea, all I am and love most dearly
I offer now, O Lord, to Thee;
O let me make my vows sincerely
And help me Thine own child to be!
Let naught within me, naught I own
Serve any will but Thine alone.