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,Titus 3:5(NASB)
God was moved with compassion for sinners and because of His great love, He designed a perfect plan to redeem us. We have no role to play in His redemptive plan, other than to believe His word, for as fallen sinners we would fail, and so "He saved us, not on the basis of good deeds which we have done, like being righteousness or performing good works, but according to His mercy.. by the washing of regeneration and spiritual renewing by the Holy Spirit".
Washing in water may cleanse our body, but the cleansing of a polluted soul necessitates the supernatural cleansing of regeneration and spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit. The only way a fallen sinner can be saved and made holy is by God's grace alone. The only way a sinner can be forgiven, is if the price of his sin is paid by a righteous Man. God could not save us based on our own self-righteous acts or noble deeds. He could only save us by faith in the righteous act of a perfect Man - faith in His sacrificial death on the cross.
God's plan of redemption did not deny God's righteous character, which dictates that sin is punishable by death, but in His mercy, He designed a way of salvation, where sinful man is cleansed and declared righteous, by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Spirit of God - through faith in Christ.
But what is regeneration by the Spirit? What is spiritual renewal? Well, the old fallen creation has to be made into a NEW creation. The old fallen sin nature has to be exchanged for a NEW Christlike nature - it can't be improved, it has to be replaced. Just as the sinful flesh of our fallen nature was born from other sinful creature, (our parents and ancestral line back to fallen Adam), so we who are born spiritually dead have to be made spiritually alive. We have to be 'born-again' of the Spirit. We have to be given a new life in Christ which replaces our old like in Adam.
Jesus explained this to Nicodemus - 'that which is born of the flesh is fallen flesh and remains fallen, but that which is born of the Holy Spirit is holy'. It is reborn with a regenerated and renewed spirit. To gain salvation and be declared righteous by God.. you must be born again, as Nicodemus was told. Being reincarnated or born of the flesh a second time was not an option. "you MUST be born of the Spirit". That which is born of the flesh IS flesh BUT that which is born of the Holy Spirit is spirit - regenerated and spiritually renewed by the Spirit of God.
Regeneration is what happens at salvation. Spiritual renewal takes place the moment faith is placed in the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on Calvary's Cross. While 'positional' regeneration takes place at the moment of salvation, regeneration is also an ongoing process in the life of all believers, as they are transformed and restored and renewed day by day, into the likeness of the lovely Lord Jesus Christ.
It is sad that the term 'born-again' is so often used incorrectly or flippantly. The new birth is the glorious fact of regeneration and spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit when a lost sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. It is the point a sinner becomes a saint and is made a child of God. The term, 'born-again', has become a hackneyed phrase and has been misappropriated by both the secular world and religious groups, and has also been incorrectly associated with the speaking in tongues by certain Pentecostal groups.
But it is also a wonderful truth that by God's amazing grace and deep compassion for the fallen race man, who was made in His own image and likeness, that "the Lord Jesus saved us... not on the basis of good deeds, moral acts, noble exploits or righteous endeavours, which we have done to display our virtue and goodness before God, but according to His incredible mercy, by the washing of regeneration and spiritual renewing by the Holy Spirit".
Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for I have been saved - not on the basis of my good deeds and but because of Your great mercy - by the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. Thank You that I have been born of the Spirit and washed in the blood of Christ and am no longer a lost sinner but a saved saint. Thank You that I have been clothed in Christ's righteousness and declared righteous because of what He has done on my account. May I live and work for Your greater glory for You alone are worthy of all praise - in Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.