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Titus 3:5 in the ESV reads:

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,

Should we read the second part of the verse like so: "by the (washing of regeneration and renewal) of the Spirit" or like this: "by the (washing of regeneration) and (renewal of the Spirit)"? In other words, what is the "and" actually joining?

The NET bible (also NIV) seems to read like the second option: (washing of regeneration), (renewal of HS)

through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit

Whereas the NLT reads like a third option with the washing separate: (washing), (regeneration and renewal of HS)

He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit

In this verse, is the author applying the Holy Spirit to renewal only or to regeneration as well as renewal?

Though I'm looking for a hermeneutical answer, I don't want to lose sight of the gravity and wonder of this verse and passage (v3-7).

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  • Up-voted +1 for the interesting observation. But I doubt it can be answered without a degree of interpretation, which, here, would be probably classed as 'off-topic'.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 26 '20 at 22:51
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The Greek for the last part of Titus 3:5 reads:

ἔσωσεν ἡμᾶς διὰ λουτροῦ παλινγενεσίας καὶ ἀνακαινώσεως Πνεύματος Ἁγίου

Very literally, I would translate this:

[He] saved us via washing of rebirth and renewing of [the] Spirit Holy.

Note that washing, rebirth, renewing, Spirit, Holy, are all genitive. Thus we understand this to mean being saved by either:

  • the washing of rebirth, PLUS, the renewing of the Holy Spirit, or,
  • the washing and renewing both accomplished by the Holy Spirit

Grammatically, both are possible. Most versions are ambiguous, but some are clearly one or the other. For example:

Those that separate:

  • NLT: He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.

Those that combine:

  • CEV: God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning.

The resolution of this partly hinges on the antecedent of the implied pronoun [He] from the verb "saved" ἔσωσεν. Note that in Titus 3:4-6 we have three persons mentioned:

  • "God our Savior" (v4)
  • The Holy Spirit (V5, 6)
  • Jesus Christ our Savior"

The subject of "He saved" (v4) is "God our Savior" and the Spirit is "poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior" (v6).

Thus, we have all three persons intimately involved in the salvation process. I am reticent to try and separate such a mysterious and miraculous process as described in Titus 3:4-6.

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Yes, regeneration and renewal are a work of the Holy Spirit just as those qualities outlined in Romans 8:30 which are also a work of the Holy Spirit: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” To help us understand the inner work of the Holy Spirit, the text is written in such a manner as to denote a process of salvation though salvation within itself is actually a “one time/one step” work of the Holy Spirit. Though there is a distinction between regeneration and renewal, they are both a "spiritually singular" work of the Holy Spirit.

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  • While I broadly agree with you, I think your answer would be improved if you edit it to tie it more specifically to the verse in question, and how that verse has been translated. It's not really a question about doctrine but translation.
    – cdjc
    Dec 29 '20 at 6:34
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Of the two options you suggest, I would go for the second one: "by the (washing of regeneration) and (renewal of the Spirit)"

Genitives are always ambiguous. If both the regeneration and renewal were to be governed by "the Spirit", the word λουτρόν is hanging in the air and seems not needed. Maybe if we used different words, it might be clearer: he saved us through/by means of the regenerative λουτρόν and Holy Spirit renewal.

λουτρόν is only used two times in the NT, the other place being Eph 5:26. It does not in my view refer to a literal bath nor baptism, but to a spiritual cleansing which is compared to a bath. The cleansing aspect is explicit in Eph 5:26 where the spiritual cleansing during the rebirth is compared to the physical (using water) cleasning of a bride before she is brought to the bridgroom.

The two expressions both refer to the new birth and are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, but there seems to be a difference in describing this, either as a renewal or a cleansing. One could say it is two aspects of the same concept.

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TITUS 3:5 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.

This verse needs to be interpreted not just by analysing the verse, but also by using the wider context of all the New Testament epistles.

I (personally) am shocked by the NLT translation, it clearly seems to have been interpreted from a doctrinal foundation. The word ‘sin’ does not appear, neither is it implied!

The Washing (λουτρόν, loutron) implies fully bathed, as in baptism. And, believers are all ‘baptised’ into Christ. Then looking at, and including Regeneration (παλιγγενεσία palingenesía), this clearly is a reference to the new birth - Strongs has its meaning as ‘new birth, reproduction, renewal, recreation, regeneration’.

So, ‘washing of regeneration’ simply means that through being born again, we are ‘baptised’ into Christ. This ‘process’ is also clearly outlined in Paul’s letters, that is, it ‘fits’ with the rest of what is taught in the New Testament.

The context, taken from the start of this verse is righteousness - which can not come from ‘our’ works, neither the Law, but comes through our new birth, through ‘regeneration’.

Now let’s consider ‘renewing of the Holy Spirit.’ The New Testament clearly outlines the ministry of the Holy Spirit that is, what ‘He’ does..

JOHN 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things [snip]

Now, with this in mind, consider the following...

ROMANS 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, [snip]

So now we can see, from scripture, what renewing of the Holy Spirit.’ refers to.

Now to the Q - ‘what is the ‘and’ joining’, the two parts of this verse in Titus ... This verse is about being saved. We are ‘saved’ by being ‘born again, regenerated. Our soul is saved by the renewal through the Holy Spirit. (He restores my soul - psalm 23). One is ‘instant’, and results in eternal life. The other is a life long process, for living in this life.

So in summary, we are saved through regeneration (new birth), and then (after that), we (our ‘soul/mind/thinking’) are ‘renewed’ through the work of the Holy Spirit.

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  • 1
    Down votes are fine, but a reason would be helpful.
    – Dave
    Dec 26 '20 at 23:00

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