Shelby G. Floyd
1 Peter 1:22-25
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
I have just lived to see the new birth of our fifth and sixth great grandson. The physical new birth of a child is one of the great wonders of life and blessing from God. An even greater wonder is how Almighty God can take a sin-laden person and give that person new life spiritually, with the promise of everlasting life to come.
In a conversation with Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, Jesus stated that there must be a radical change before he could enter the kingdom of God. In highly figurative language, Jesus spoke of this radical change under the figure of a new birth. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3: 3-5 NKJV).
WHAT IS MAN?
We notice in these verses that Jesus stated that a man must be born again. This means that every department of man’s constitution is involved in the new birth. But what is a man? Paul affirms to the Thessalonians that man is a spirit, soul and body: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify[a] you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5: 23 NKJV). Therefore, man has a physical nature and a spiritual nature; he has an outward man and he has an inward man; he has a nature that is visible and a nature that is invisible. The inward man or invisible part of man’s constitution involves the intellectual department which concerns the mind of man, involving the world of thought, and it also involves the sympathetic department of man’s nature, involving the world of emotions. This concerns the power to love and to hate. In the third place the inward man has a volitional department which involves the will of man in the world of choice; and finally, man has an outward nature, his physical nature, which involves the body of man in the world of action. Therefore, the new birth involves a radical change of relationship in man’s intellectual, emotional, volitional and physical departments of his constitution.
THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE NATURE OF MAN
When Jesus explained the new birth to Nicodemus, he did so in such a way that Nicodemus should have drawn the conclusion that the new birth involved the inward and the outward man. For Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3: 5). In this statement we notice that the two elements involved in the new birth concerned both the inward, and the outward man. Water is material and visible, while Spirit is immaterial and invisible. Therefore, the new birth involves both the visible and the invisible departments of man’s nature.
THE NATURAL BIRTH AND THE SPIRITUAL BIRTH
Nicodemus did not understand the words of Christ for he was only thinking about a natural birth. But Jesus explained to him that there is a natural birth and there is a spiritual birth. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of spirit is spirit” (John 3: 6). There is a natural birth and there is a spiritual birth. The birth of which Jesus spoke was spiritual or from above. Since the new birth involves the inward or spiritual man, it involves that which is invisible to the eye of man. Jesus explained, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3: 8). The wind is invisible, one cannot see from where it comes or to where it goes, but one can see the effects of the wind blowing. So it is of everyone who is born of the Spirit. The inward man is invisible, and therefore in the new birth, the changes that take place in the inward man cannot be seen, but the effects of that change can be seen in the change of a man’s life.
THE WHOLE MAN PARTICIPATES IN THE NEW BIRTH
Every department of man’s constitution is involved or participates in a natural birth of and from the flesh. A natural birth is designed by God to produce natural beings with natural life. Therefore, it should not be thought strange that in the spiritual birth spoken of by Christ, of and from the water and the Spirit, that it should produce spiritual beings with spiritual life. The natural birth inducts one into the kingdom of nature, but the spiritual birth, spoken of by Christ, inducts one into the kingdom of God, or the church of Christ.
GOD THE FATHER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW BIRTH
But by whom is the new birth brought about? We learn from the Bible that God the Father is the author of the new birth. In the gospel according to John we have this record, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1: 11-13). The new birth then is not a birth involving blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but a birth involving the will of God. God the Father is the first or originating cause of the new birth.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE CAUSAL AGENT OF THE NEW BIRTH
But while God the Father is the author of the new birth, the Holy Spirit is the causal agent of the new birth. For in John 3: 5, Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “Of Spirit” is genitive of cause or source, and indicates that the Holy Spirit is the causal agent of the new birth. But does the Holy Spirit cause the new birth in a direct or indirect way, in an immediate or remote way? The Holy Spirit while the causal agent of the new birth operates not directly but indirectly through an instrument. The instrument of the new birth is the word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:22-23; James 1:18). Apart from this instrument, no one can be born of water and of the Spirit.
THE WORD OF GOD IS THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE OF THE NEW BIRTH
In a remarkable statement, the apostle Peter has simply and clearly stated both the agency and the instrument involved in the new birth. He said, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever….But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1: 22-23, 25 KJV).
FAITH, REPENTANCE, CONFESSION OF FAITH, AND WATER BAPTISM IS THE OBEDIENT CAUSE OF THE NEW BIRTH
Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the word of God changes every department of man’s constitution. Faith in Christ, repentance of sin, and confession of one’s faith (Romans 10:9-10), involves the change of the inward man, while water baptism for the forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38), involves the outward man and changes the entire state of man from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13).
WATER BAPTISM SAVES US JUST AS WATER SAVED NOAH ETC.
1 Peter 3:20-25
Who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Copyright © 2014 2022 Shelby G. Floyd All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd, Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142 Revised June 22, 2022