“God has caused us to be…”
1 Peter 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
Picking it up from our last session we want to ask the following questions: What does Peter say here about this new birth? What is it about the new birth that causes him to praise God so enthusiastically? From verses 3 and 4 we’ll see that the new birth is a past change and that it leads to a present consequence and a future certainty.
A past change
We see that it was a past change that Peter was referring to because, in addressing fellow believers in Christ, he said that “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has “caused us to be born again”. You see, it’s in the past tense. This was something that had already happened to them. They weren’t in the process of being born again. They hadn’t started to be born again. Neither had they been earmarked to be born again in the future. They had been born again. That change, that new birth, had taken place. You see, having experienced that change is essential to being a Christian.
If you have not been born again, you are not a Christian.
If you have been born again you most definitely are a Christian.
You sometimes hear people use the term “a born again Christian”. You know what they mean by that. They’re using that expression to distinguish genuine Christians from those who are merely nominal Christians. The problem with the term is that it gives the impression that there could be non-born again Christians or that there could be born again non-Christians. The fact is that speaking of “a born again Christian” is a tautology. It’s using different words to say the same thing twice. The fact is that if you’ve been born again you are a Christian and if you are a real Christian you must have been born again.
Spiritual Birth from above
Now notice that Peter was praising “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, not simply because they had been born again but because God had caused them to be born again. It wasn’t something that had just happened. It wasn’t something that they had produced for themselves. Neither was it something that any other human being had done for them. Peter said: “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again”. The NIV says that God “has given us new birth”. Now it’s perfectly true that God has given this new birth but there’s more to it than that. The ESV is quite right in emphasising that it is something that He has done. He has made it happen.
God has caused this new birth
We don’t contribute to our new birth in any way just as we didn’t contribute to our natural birth in any way. Your natural birth was the result of the activity of your parents, the wonder of amazing biological processes that God has set up and a lot of heaving and straining by your mother. You were passive throughout. You contributed nothing to your birth. You can’t remember it happening. You weren’t even aware that it was happening. So it is with the spiritual new birth. We contribute nothing. It is entirely God’s doing.
Some Christians seem to think that you have to believe in order to be born again. The idea is that being born again is the result of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem with that is that you are then doing something to make yourself be born again. That doesn’t fit with the analogy with the way in which physical birth comes about and it doesn’t fit with Peter’s assertion that our rebirth is caused by God. To say that it is belief in Christ that leads to the new birth is to completely get it the wrong way round. You must be born again in order to believe. Until you are born again you are “dead in trespasses and sins”. Until you are born again you “cannot see the kingdom of God”. Only God can cause spiritual life to come into being. Once that happens believing follows just as surely as a new born baby naturally starts breathing.
So, it is God who causes us to be born again.
The other thing we must notice that Peter said about this past change that God caused is that it was “According to his great mercy”. Again, it’s not according to anything that we do. It’s not according to anything that we deserve. Quite the opposite. We deserve death but God in His great mercy has not given us what we deserve. Instead, He “he has caused us to be born again”. In mercy He has given us life, He’s made us His children and brought us into His family. No wonder Peter praised “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”!
But, there’s even more than the wonder of that past change that God has caused.
In our next session we will see that it leads to “A Present Consequence”
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!