Since the good news of Jesus appears in what became known as the “New Testament,” readers might assume that the gospel is a completely “new” phenomenon. Insofar as Christianity has deemed Israel’s Scriptures the “Old Testament,” it has established a superficial scriptural bifurcation by which the “New” constitutes an innovation of the “Old.” However, what God accomplishes through Yeshua—salvation through divine initiative rather than human effort—reiterates what God does for Israel in the exodus from Egypt. The New Testament’s good news is a salvific exclamation point on a divine decree that was already written in the Scriptures of Israel.
The New Testament letter to Titus summarizes the gospel, saying that God “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Messiah Jesus our savior” (3:5-6). The word for “mercy” (ἔλεος; eleos) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew חסד (hesed), which denotes God’s covenantal fidelity. After the exodus, Moses sings to God, “In your hesed (חסד) you have led forth the people whom you have redeemed” (Exod 15:13). Later, Moses tells God of “the greatness of your mercy (ἔλεος; eleos), just as you have been gracious to [Israel] from Egypt until now” (Num 14:19 LXX). More, the divine mercy that “saved” (σῴζω; sózo) according Titus 3:5 is the same liberating force that made the Israelites “a people saved (σῴζω; sózo) by the Lord” (Deut 33:29 LXX). The mercy and salvation that God lavished on Israel reemerges in the work of Yeshua.
Titus also notes that salvation was not based on “works done by us” (3:5). This truth resonates just as strongly in Israel’s case: as slaves in Egypt, the Israelites could do no works to bring about their own salvation. The exodus was based on divine grace, rather than human effort. Indeed, the Sinaitic commandments begin with God’s declaration of grace (based on no works): “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exod 20:2). After this initial reminder of pure grace, God gives Israel some rules to follow. Yet, the Torah’s rules do not earn the Israelites salvation, relationship, or favor with God; the people receive divine commands after God has already commenced relationship, shown favor, and enacted salvation in taking them out of Egypt.
According to Titus, God’s saving mercy comes to fruition in “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (3:5). While this language may sound “Christian,” it originates in the Jewish Scriptures. Isaiah recalls the time of “Moses and his people,” when God “put his Holy Spirit (רוח קדשׁו; ruach qadsho) in the midst of them” (63:11). Just as the Holy Spirit renewed the formerly enslaved Israelites, the Spirit renews those who had been “slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). More, Scripture anticipates Titus’s “washing (λουτροῦ; loutrou) of regeneration” in Ezekiel’s expression of relational cleansing that Israel received in its infancy: “On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed (λούω; loúo) with water to cleanse you… so I washed (λούω; loúo) you with water” (16:4, 9). It is this kind of cleansing that transpires according to Titus: in the Messiah-led exodus from sin, the Holy Spirit washes and renews humanity. Thus, the New Testament gospel is not all that new; in the good news of Jesus, God reruns the salvation of Israel.