Shelby G. Floyd
Good morning everyone. I had a wonderful visit in Florida with my daughters, my grandchildren, and great grandchildren. But I missed everybody here at the Heartland congregation. It is good to be back home with you and to sing these beautiful hymns today.
I was saddened to hear about the passing of our brother Pete Tinkle. We are going to miss seeing him every Sunday morning, as we come in here to worship. I was happy to see that things are really going great, and that Mitch came through his surgery in a fine way. Thank you all for praying for him and for others who have been going through some difficult times with their health.
A few weeks ago before I left to go to Florida, we were studying in 1 Peter 1:22-2:3. This context speaks of several concepts of being born and growing into mature adults. I love to study the Bible verse by verse, especially when things jump out at me that are going on in the real world. So I looked as we read about God’s children being as newborn babes, and said to myself, “That is what I am going to preach on the next time, because we have two brand new babes in our family—two great grandsons for me! We have Kai Gregory, Cheryl our daughter’s grandson and Damon’s grandson Kellen Brooks, who was born just recently. And then I started thinking about others who have newborns. Jacob and Melanie Surface have a new daughter Amity Wren. And I especially like that name Wren which is really a beautiful name. Then of course Gary and Robin Stevens have several beautiful little granddaughters. And I must mention Paul, who has been on the front row since his birth and in two weeks he will be one year old!
So my subject today is “As Newborn Babes! Peter writes, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2,3 NKJV).
THE INCORRUPTIBLE WORD OF GOD
The first thing that we notice is that those who read Peter’s letter were told that they had been born again by the incorruptible seed of the word of God which lives and abides forever: “ having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).
Now, the seed must be planted in order to have a newborn baby. The mammalian seed is planted and after so many months as God ordained a baby is born–a newborn baby. The same thing is true with newborn Christian people. There must be a seed and the seed must be planted, and it must germinate in order to produce faith that leads to obedience! And so Peter says, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and abides forever.” If anybody is born again today it must be by the word of God that is incorruptible, and which lives and abides forever! It is the eternal seed we need to sow in order to produce new Christians. Peter confirms that the word of God is living, it is the living seed, and it is the abiding the word of God. And in order to prove that he quotes the Old Testament prophet of Isaiah, who seven hundred years before Christ came into the world said,
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever” Isaiah 40:6-8 NKJV).
So the seed is the incorruptible, eternal abiding word of God. If we want new Christians today, newborn babes in Christ, we must go out and sow the seed of the word of God. Peter then reminds his readers that this word has been preached to them and that is the reason they are Christians—he is writing to newborn Christians (1 Peter 4:16). Why? Because he and others have preached that word to them—that abiding word, the word of the Lord that endures forever. Now this is the word of the gospel that has been preached to all nations under heaven. Therefore God’s word is expressed in the gospel message, and it will accomplish what it was designed to do—save our souls from sin and give us eternal life.
THE NEW BIRTH
Now when you think about a newborn babe brought about in Christ by the word of God, we think about “the new birth.” You cannot have a newborn baby unless you have a birth, and the Bible speaks about “the new birth” or being “born again!” Peter says of his readers, “having been born again, not a corruptible seed but incorruptible, by the word of God which lives in abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). When Jesus started his earthly ministry he came to his hometown of Capernaum up by the Sea of Galilee. He spent a lot of his time up around the Sea of Galilee. And in John 1:11-13 scripture says,
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who 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).
Notice that the word “own” is used twice, so the idea seems to be he came to his “own town” of Capernaum and his “own people,” his own family where he grew up did not receive him. In fact one time they said he was mad, and he needed to be checked into some kind of a place where they deal with people who are not quite right! So they did not receive him, but notice the next sentence says that as many as received him, to them he gave the right or the power to become children of God, to those who would believe in his name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Therefore, Christ gave to those who received him and who believed in him the power to become the sons of God or the children of God.
And James near the end of the Bible agrees and wrote, “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). Therefore, the new birth is like the first fruits to be offered unto God.
JESUS AND NICODEMUS
And then of course when we talk about the new birth we cannot skip over the great conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus. John writes that there was a man of the Pharisees, and we know that the Pharisees were the worst critics of Jesus in all of Israel. You see Jesus was working miraculous signs like turning the water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana, healing the blind, healing the sick, and doing all kinds of signs that God was with him !
“Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “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?” (John 3:2-4).
“Jesus answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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 3:5-8 NKJV).
Nicodemus is puzzled and he does not understand so he asked, how can a man be born when he is old, can he enter a second time in his mother’s room and be born? Well the answer of course is no! That is not possible. Therefore Jesus had to explain it to him, and we do that with our little children. They ask questions sometimes that are very profound, but they are not able to receive the full answer, so we answer them according to their capability of understanding. Jesus said “most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” But the positive is true: with water and spirit you can enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” These little newborn babies that we mentioned have a flesh and blood body—they are born of the flesh. On the other hand, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. So the new birth is not a new birth of the flesh. It is a new birth of the Spirit—a spiritual birth!
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Do not marvel that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again.’ “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 3:7, 8). I have always been fascinated with the wind, it’s invisible, you can feel the effects of it, but you cannot see it! What is the wind? In the New Testament the word “wind” is translated from the Greek word “pneuma.” Normally, “pneuma” is translated by the word “spirit.” And like the wind the “Spirit of God” is invisible. The “Spirit” is in the word of God because the writers of the Bible spoke as the Spirit guided them (1 Timothy 3:16, 17).
Now Jesus said to Nicodemus that a man must be born of “water” and “the Spirit!” Therefore when a person receives the gospel message, the Spirit through the word works in the heart (mind, emotions, conscience and will) to create faith, repentance from sin, a confession of faith and obedience in water baptism for the forgiveness of sin! Thus we have a new birth “of water and the Spirit!” In conversion we do not see what is going on inside of the head and the heart of people, but when we see a change of life and someone makes the good confession (Romans 10:9, 10) and asks to be baptized to wash away their sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38 etc.), we know they have been born again—“born of water and the Spirit!”
THE NEW LIFESTYLE-GROWTH
We have discussed the seed, THE INCORRUPTIBLE WORD OF GOD. In the second place we have explained THE NEW BIRTH. Now, in the third place we believe that this demands a NEW LIFESTYLE—OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH! When one has been born again of water and the Spirit this demands a new lifestyle. The newborn child of God cannot keep on living like so many people are living today! An ungodly lifestyle is incompatible with a newborn child of God. Also it is expected that new child in Christ will grow as Jesus did: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
My grandson told me when my great grandson was born, almost immediately he was ready to start drinking milk. I have seen people, immediately after they were baptized into Christ, they could not get enough of the Bible, and they would read their Bible through two or three times the first year. They wanted to grow and find out everything that they possibly could about how God wants us to live. And so the new birth demands that we live a new lifestyle different from the people of the world. Therefore, notice what Peter says in the second chapter of first Peter:
“as newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2, 3).
God wants us to have spiritual growth! At 85 I cannot grow physically anymore. I have stopped growing physically, but I am still growing spiritually, and I will continue to dig into the word of God till the day that I draw my last breath! So Peter says, “as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord God is gracious.”
As you get older your taste changes. I remember when I liked different foods than I do today. At one time I liked pizza pie, but not anymore. Over time our taste changes. But once I got the taste of peanut butter I have not lost that taste for peanut butter. And now they have pulled it off the shelf! We do not like it when people mess around with our peanut butter!
Does the word of God taste good to you? Do you read it every day, do you ponder on it, think about it, let it run through your mind—it is food to the soul. But you know sometimes after we become Christians for a few years we kind of lose our taste for the word of God. We get busy with other stuff, and we stop reading, stop studying, stop going to Bible study, and sometimes even stop going to worship! We have lost our appetite for the word of God and that is not good. Even the Hebrew Christians did the same thing according to the writer of the book of Hebrews. The writer used some pretty strong language to his brothers and sisters in Christ when he said,
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NKJV).
Mothers, when your babies grow up your milk bill goes down! Now your children and ready for strong meat—big hamburgers, steaks, and fried chicken. So it is for grown up Christians—we need the strong meat of the word of God!
THE NEW SPIRITUAL LIFESTYLE
Now notice the last thing that was said to those who were not growing like they should: “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14 NKJV). Therefore, children of God who are growing will be able to discern between a good lifestyle and an evil lifestyle. Peter then describes what a good lifestyle is not in the negative sense: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1-2). Let us therefore describe how a Christian should not live!
- ALL MALICE: A growing newborn child of God should not live with Malice. Malice is all ill will and desire to injure someone. The apostle Paul agrees, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
- ALL DECEIT: A growing child of God will not live with all Deceit. Deceit is guile, all bait, lure, snare, and craft. Again Paul agrees with Peter, “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit” (1 Thessalonians 2:3).
- AND HYPOCRISIES: The acting of a stage player, dissimulation. Paul advised Timothy to beware of those who: “speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).
- AND ENVIES: Paul wrote to Titus and described those who practice envy. “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
- AND ALL EVIL SPEAKING: “For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults” (2 Corinthians 12:20).
Therefore, we have learned that the new lifestyle of the newborn child of God demands growth, and it also demands a new way of living by not indulging in the worldly way of life. And the apostle Peter summarizes this new lifestyle in the latter part of his first letter: “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:3, 4).
LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITH A PURE HEART
So far we have mentioned in the negative all those things that we must put away in our new lifestyle. But what about the positive part of this lifestyle? The apostle Peter takes care of that also when he wrote: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). The most beautiful picture is of a newborn baby in a mother’s arms looking down at that babe with all the love that she has. She will take care of it, nurturing that little baby until it will grow up and be a beautiful human being. I am so thankful for our family and our children. I feel like my daughters and my son have done a great job raising their children, and loving their grandchildren and now the great grandchildren. And so I pray every night that all of my little children in our family will grow up to be faithful Christian boys and girls and will serve the Lord God all the days of their life.
Therefore the church family should fervently love one another with a pure heart since we have purified our souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit and have a sincere love for each other. At the Heartland family it does all of us a lot of good to see all the good things that our brothers and sisters are doing each week, reaching out with food to those that are sick, comforting those who are losing their loved ones, and helping those who are unfortunate. That is what it means to love one another with a pure heart. You are doing a good job and I praise you for that. Keep up to good work in love because that is what will win people to the Lord Jesus Christ.
God has purified the hearts of both the Jew and the Gentile by faith (Acts 15:8, 9). Since we have purified hearts we are to love one another fervently. In order to confirm that I remind you of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his great song of love:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV).
ABOVE ALL THINGS
We sum up all that we have said today with Peter’s ringing exhortations to serve God with all our being, and love each other fervently: “ And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9 Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Do you believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died as a propitiation for your sin? Have you repented of your past life and are you ready to confess the name of Christ and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin? Please let us know!*
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon June 5, 2022, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142. Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Heartland Church of Christ 1693 West Main Street Greenwood, Indiana 46142