A new day dawned on planet Earth when the “kindness of God our Savior” and his redemptive “love toward” humanity “appeared” (cf. 2:11). By means of the great divine plan of forgiveness, the Lord saved us (i.e., Christians). It was not on the basis of any system of “works” humanly originated, crafted, and implemented (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). Instead, that salvation was divine in composition, and the process was consummated by the “washing of regeneration.”
This expression is without question a reference to water baptism. This is confirmed by both the parallelism with passages like John 3:3-5, Ephesians 5:26, and 1 Peter 3:21, and the almost universal acknowledgement of this by the world’s leading scholars (cf. Thayer, Danker, Spicq, et al.)—even some who are biased against the connection between baptism and the remission of sins (Robertson). The term “washing” refers to the washing of the “whole body.” The pronoun “us” identifies the action here specified with Paul’s own conversion (cf. Acts 22:16). The “renewing” of the Spirit signifies the operation of the Spirit though the gospel message, which in turn produces belief and leads the sinner to submit to the act of baptism.
Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary
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