Born Again by the Word of God2
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 1:22-2:3).
In the previous article we looked at two characteristic features of God’s Word as found in this paragraph.
(3) The third thing of note is that God’s Word is also the instrument for bringing about new life in Christ; it is the means for the new birth (vv. 23 and 25).
What is the “word” that Peter mentions in v. 23 and twice in v. 25? The universe was created by the “word” of the Lord (Heb. 11:3). Jesus is called the Word of God in John 1:1,14. The 10 Commandments are called the “word” of God (Mark 7:13) and the covenant promises made to Israel are also called the “word” of God (Rom. 9:6).
But here in 1 Peter the “word” is the gospel: the good news that God has become human in the person of Jesus, and that by the sinless life of Jesus and the substitutionary death of Jesus and the bodily resurrection of Jesus we may have eternal life if we but repent of our sins and put our faith and hope and confidence in who he is and what he has done. That is the “word” of God.
The means that God employs in his work of imparting new and eternal life to the human soul is the Word of the Gospel that is preached and proclaimed!
The way the Word serves as God’s life-giving instrument in causing us to be born again is by awakening faith when we hear it preached.
We read in James 1:18 – “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.” Not by our own will but by his divine and sovereign will were we born again, and that by the word of truth.
Note also the opening of v. 22 – “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth . . .” Obedience here is a right response to the truth. The “truth” is the word of God, specifically the gospel that was proclaimed (see v. 23 and v. 25). So obeying the truth means believing in the gospel. See also 1 Peter 2:8 and 4:17; 2 Thess. 1:8. So it is the Word of God that both produces the new birth in us and purifies our souls so that we can love one another!
Do you know unbelievers? Family? Friends? Colleagues? Neighbors? Do you long for them to experience the new life in Christ that you’ve experienced? Then they must hear the word of God, or see it, or read it, or in some way come into contact with its truth.
What is our responsibility when it comes to the non-Christian? What are we supposed to do? Tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. Preach to them. Teach them. Share with them. If people are going to be born again you and I must proclaim the gospel.
Then Peter tells us exactly what he is referring to with this phrase “the word of God.” He says in the last part of verse 25, “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” The good news preached to you—that’s the imperishable seed; that’s the living and abiding word of God through which you were born again. So the way God brings about the new birth in dead, unbelieving hearts is by the gospel, the good news.
Ultimately our lives alone will not bring new life to an unbeliever. Not our good intentions or our sincerity or even our holiness or our love, but the Word of God, the gospel, is the means the Spirit employs to bring life. In all likelihood Francis of Assissi never said what has been attributed to him, namely: “Preach the gospel often. When necessary, use words.” And it’s a good thing he never said it, because it’s unbiblical!