#10 GOD HAS GIVEN US NEW BIRTH

In 1Peter 1:3 Peter makes it clear to his Christian readers that salvation is the work of God. He writes: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth ...’ In these words:

Peter praises God for saving us, because it is God’s doing, not ours.

He sees salvation as the result of God’s abundant mercy, not the result of our merit.

He knows that the spiritual change that takes place in salvation results from God’s action: God has given us new birth, that is, God regenerates us, God gives us new life. By God’s action those who were spiritually dead in sin become spiritually alive in Christ. We are the recipients of God’s pro-active regenerating action.

This concept of regeneration, otherwise termed new birth, being born again or born of the Spirit, was anticipated by Ezekiel:

‘I will ... put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh’ [11:19].

‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you ...’ [36:26].

Jesus taught that this new birth was essential:

‘... no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again’ [John 3:3].

‘ ... no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again”’ [John 3:5-7].

Paul contrasted our pre-conversion condition of spiritual death with our post-conversion condition of spiritual life:

‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ [Romans 6:23].

‘... through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ [Romans 8:2].

‘God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions ...’ [Ephesians 2:4,5].

John also acknowledges this regeneration, this death to life transformation, is the work of God:

‘ ... to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ [Gospel of John 1:12,13].

‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ...’ [1John 5:1].

Peter refers to this regenerating action of God here in 1:3 and again in 1:23 after grounding our salvation in the death of Christ:

‘For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’

These texts teach us that being ‘born again’ is not something we have to do. Nor is it something we can do to or for ourselves. It is God doing his merciful and miraculous work. It is God, the Holy Spirit, changing spiritual death into spiritual life. It is the living and eternal word of God generating life where there was no life.

We are the passive objects in this new birth. Indeed this new birth, says Peter, is given to us by God. God is the active person, not us. We are, says John, born of God. We exist as Christians today because God has given us new life in Christ Jesus. Indeed, as Paul puts it, Christ is our life [Colossians 3:4].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017