SPECIAL TOPIC: The Washing of Regeneration (from Titus 3:5)
This is literally "through the bath of regeneration." The term washing (loutron) is used only twice in the NT (Eph. 5:26 and Titus 3:5). It was rarely used in the Septuagint. It can refer to
1. the place of bathing
2. the water of bathing
3. the act of bathing
In Leviticus, washings (i.e., two Hebrew roots, BDB 460, 934) were a symbol of cleansing or purifying persons or things (cf. also done by the Essene Community, see Dead Sea Scrolls). In Eph. 5:26 the bathing refers to a ritual bath before marriage.
The term "regeneration" (palingenesia) is also a rare term, found only in Matt. 19:28 and Titus 3:5. It is a compound from "again" (palin) and "birth" (genesis). Therefore, it refers to the new birth brought about by the finished work of Christ and the wooing of the Spirit. The occasion of the public acknowledgment of the new birth is water baptism; the agent is the Holy Spirit (cf. Titus 3:5-6); the means is the death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Titus 3:6); and the basis of it all is the love and mercy of the Father (cf. Titus 3:4). This is not a text that supports baptismal regeneration (see Special Topic: Baptism). Baptism was the occasion for the public confession/profession (cf. Acts 2:38) and the symbol of the believer's death, burial, and resurrection with Christ in symbolic action (cf. Rom. 6:3-9; Col. 2:12). In the early church baptism was the opportunity for a person's public profession of faith ("Jesus is Lord" cf. Rom. 10:13). The focus is the action of the Holy Spirit (i.e. birthing and renewing).
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