Praise God For The New Birth: A Past Change

 

“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”
~ Steve
 
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!

True Worship according to Paul

 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers,
by the mercies of God, to present your bodies
as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship.” Rom 12:1

 

How many people when they think of Christianity think that being a Christian is a matter of sitting in church on Sunday, singing a few hymns, and putting money in the offering bag? Is that all there is to Christianity?
Christianity is not about sitting in church.
Christianity is about transformation! Paul understood that God’s plan of salvation, which encompasses Jews as well as Gentiles, has implications for how we live. Being a Christian involves following God’s way of life.
A lIving sacrificePaul writes in Rom 12:1 about this transformed way of life in Christ in terms of believers presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to God. In ancient Israel, worship at the temple involved bringing sacrifices to God. These were offered up as symbols of a person’s dedication to God. These sacrifices usually consisted of animals that were dedicated to God by being killed. In being killed, they were being removed from ordinary human use, and handed over to God for his use. Paul indicates that Christians should view themselves as sacrifices, but we are called to be a living sacrifice, not a dead sacrifice. The idea here is not that we serve God by literally dying for him like an Old Testament sacrifice, but that we serve God as we live in our bodies in the here and now. Every day of our life is supposed to be dedicated to God.
A Sacrifice to God
Paul describes the kind of sacrifice that we are to be in terms of being holy and pleasing to God. The concept of holiness in Greek has connotations of that which inspires religious awe or fear, or that which is fitting or appropriate in a sacred context. But underlying this Greek word is the use of the word קדוש in the Hebrew Bible. קדוש expresses the idea of separation from common use in order to be consecrated to God. Being holy means that we are to give ourselves over to God for his service. Being a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God means that we are to be dedicated in our service to God in a way that is appropriate in terms of what God desires.
A Living Sacrifice
Paul says that dedicating ourselves as a living sacrifice constitutes our spiritual worship. The word translated as spiritual in the NIV usually means rational or reasonable. The word translated as worship means service, and has connotations of the service that the Levitical priests offered to God in the tabernacle/temple. What then is this rational worship? It involves using our thoughts and minds to direct our bodies in the service of God. Paul speaks about the need for a mind-transformation in Rom 12:2, so he probably wants us to understand that being a living sacrifice for God as we engage our minds for him in our daily lives is the kind of worship that we are to show.
This service is mind-full, always mindful of God and what pleases him. This is the kind of worship that God desires, and it contrasts with the physical worship of God that took place in the temple in Jerusalem. For Paul, therefore, Christian worship is basically a new way of life based on a new way of thinking.
Our Motivation
The motivation for us in offering ourselves in this kind of worship is particularly God’s compassion that has been shown to us in his plan of salvation. All human beings (apart from Christ) have sinned, but God has chosen to be compassionate. The meaning of the word translated as mercy in the NIV indicates that God has identified with our pain or grief. As the word compassion implies, God has felt our feelings. God has felt our passions of pain or grief, and has been moved to do something to help us.
Seeing us tormented on the pathway of death, God sent Jesus into the world to rescue us; and a key part of that rescue involves us being set upon the way of life, no longer serving sin but serving God instead. God does not have to save anyone, but he has! And in response to his mercy, it behooves his people to respond to his compassion by offering themselves in grateful service to him.

To comment on Steven Coxhead’s article visit his blog page here.

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Steven Coxhead
Brother Coxhead has served as visiting lecturer in Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College since 2002. He’s taught Advanced Classical Hebrew regularly at the Macquarie Ancient Languages School since 2009. As a part-time lecturer at the Presbyterian Theological Centre in Sydney from 2002 to 2010, teaching the Old Testament, Romans, John’s Gospel, Biblical Hebrew, and New Testament Greek; and taught Johannine Theology and the Old Testament at the Wesley Institute in Sydney from 2010 to 2011. Steven also taught Old Testament, New Testament, and Systematic Theology in South-East Asia.
Visit Steven Coxhead’s Berith Road Blog