For 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.
(a) Enslaved. Those who indulge the flesh end up captive to the flesh.
In Romans, Paul writes about being slaves of sin (e.g., Rom. 6:6), but we can also become enslaved to fleshly desires – the desire to succeed, be recognized, be important, be number one, be somebody.
(b) Hating one another. The fleshly life leads to discord and destruction.
The flesh is selfish and will fight to the death to save itself. Remove the spirit of grace from an any family or group and the flesh will stir up quarrels, strife, bickering, manipulation, envy, hatred, and all the other works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:19–21.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
(a) The kindness of God was demonstrated on the cross (Tit. 3:4). Yet God plans to continue revealing his kindness to us today, tomorrow and forever more (1 Cor. 2:9, Eph. 2:7).
(b) His love for mankind. God’s love for all of us is revealed through his Son Jesus (John 3:16, Rom. 5:8).
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,
(a) He saved us on account of his mercy and grace. You are not saved because you are a good person, but because God is a good Father. Salvation is all his doing, not ours (Php. 1:28, Rev. 19:1). We merely respond in faith to what he has done on our behalf. See entry for Salvation.
(b) Deeds which we have done in righteousness. Jesus drew a line between our righteousness and God’s righteousness (see entry for Matt. 6:33). God’s righteousness is sometimes referred to as the righteousness of faith or faith righteousness (Rom. 4:13). Faith righteousness can be distinguished from works righteousness which is based on our own efforts. The righteousness of the law (Rom. 10:4-5, Php. 3:6, 9) is an example of works righteousness. See entry for Righteousness.
(c) According to His mercy. Mercy is one facet of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16). Mercy is how grace appears to the needy. Just as we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:5), we are saved by mercy. Just as we are forgiven by grace (Eph. 1:7), we are forgiven by mercy (Matt. 18:33, Luke 1:77-78, Heb. 8:12). See entry for Mercy.
(d) The washing of regeneration refers to being washed by the cleansing word of Christ (Eph. 5:26; see also 1 Cor. 6:11, 2 Pet. 1:9).
Ceremonial washing was an important ritual in the old covenant, but in the new we are cleansed by the blood of the lamb (Heb. 10:14, 1 John 1:7).
(e) Renewing by the Holy Spirit. Christians are born of the Spirit (John 3:8), which is to say they are remade into something entirely new.
so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(a) Justified by His grace. No one is justified or made right with God by doing good works or keeping the law (see entry for Rom. 3:20). Rather, our justification comes to us as a gift of grace (Rom. 3:24) that is received by faith (Rom. 3:28, 5:1, Gal. 3:24).
(b) Made heirs. In Christ we are heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14), heirs of eternal life (Matt. 19:29, Mark 10:17, Eph. 1:14, Tit. 3:7), and heirs of blessed and gracious life (Eph. 1:3, 1 Pet. 3:7, 9).
See entry for Inheritance.
(c) The hope of eternal life suggests that eternal life or salvation is not a done-deal. “You might get eternal life, you might not. Hope for the best.” That is not what Paul is saying here. Our hope is not based on the brittle promises of man, but on a God who cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). Since our hope is in God (1 Pet. 1:21), we can be sure that this hope will never disappoint us (Rom. 5:5). See entry for 2 Tim. 1:9.
(d) Eternal life is living forever in union with Jesus; see entry for John 3:15.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
The Law has two generic meanings in scripture. Normally it refers to the Law of Moses found in the first five books of the Bible. But it can also refer to the entire Old Testament. On occasion, people would quote from the law when really they were quoting from the psalms and the prophets (e.g., John 12:34). Jesus did this (John 10:34, 15:25) and so did Paul (1 Cor. 14:21). So there are two ways to read this: Don’t get caught up in disputes about (1) rules and regulations or (2) the Bible.
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