Two Distinct Things
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-8 (ESV)
The truth of the gospel: salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. My deliverance from sin is not based on my performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross. Faith tells me that what Christ did for me on the cross will be worked in me by the Holy Spirit preparing me for glory in the Father’s eternal presence. “I have been saved from the penalty of my sin; I am being saved from the power of my sin; and I shall be saved from the very presence of sin.” [R. C. Lucas, “The Christian’s Inheritance,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 141.]
It ought always to be remembered that there are two distinct things which the Lord Jesus Christ does for every sinner whom He undertakes to save. He washes him from his sins in His own blood, and gives him a free pardon: this his justification. He puts the Holy Spirit into his heart, and makes him an entirely new man: this is his regeneration.
The two things are both absolutely necessary to salvation. The change of heart is as necessary as the pardon; and the pardon is as necessary as the change. Without the pardon we have no right or title to heaven. Without the change we should not be ready to enjoy heaven, even it we got there.
J.C. Ryle, Regeneration (Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Heritage, 2007), 22.