Having been born again, living a life for God
Published 7:47 pm Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Minister, Church of Christ Northside
In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter says, “…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…”
This short statement has a great deal to say about the Christian life. What isn’t obvious from the English translation is that the phrase “having been born again” is all from one Greek word. The reason it’s translated with the phrase in English is because of the tense and voice of that Greek word. It is a perfect passive verb. The Greek perfect tense, according to the Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology, is “the verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer)”. The passive voice is “the grammatical voice that signifies that the subject is being acted upon; i.e., the subject is the receiver of the verbal action.”
Just like a physically newborn babe begins a new life in this world, so the spiritual new birth produces a new life. A spiritually new-born person is not the same person they were before. They are a new creation in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
The new, spiritual (John 3:3, 5), birth that Peter speaks of is something that happened at a specific point in the past in the life of his audience. They would all know exactly when they had been born again. It was a verbal action that actually took place. They would certainly know exactly when that happened because it put them in a different state of being. That was the exact time that they changed from being dead in sin to being alive in Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-4, 7-14, 16-18). So, having been born again, we now live a life toward God in Christ. The new birth made us something new and put us in a new way of life – the Christian life.
This verb is also in the passive voice, it was something that was done to us. We don’t decide for ourselves how we want to be born. Peter says that the new birth is produced by the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). What Peter says here, in 1 Peter 1:23, is exactly what Paul said to the Corinthians about their having been born again.
“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:15, NKJV). It is the same thing Paul said about the conversion of Onesimus. “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains,” (Philemon 10, NKJV).
It is the same thing that James says about being born again.
“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” (James 1:18, NKJV).
So, the passive nature of the new birth does not refer to our own decision to be born again. It refers to the means of the new birth.
While we all must make the personal choice to respond to the gospel’s call, we have no say whatsoever in how the new birth is accomplished.
If whatever we believe we did to be born again doesn’t match what the incorruptible word of God says, then we have not been born again.