"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." (I Peter 1:23)
It would seem that with all of the preaching in religious circles today regarding the new birth that some few would stumble up on the truth. But not so. We are told from every quarter that all that a sinner has to do to be born again is to accept, believe, to receive, to work, to hold on, to be baptized, or a whole host of other duties on which the Scriptures are completely silent regarding the birth from Heaven. But we are not concerned so much in this treatise with what the Arminians would lash the dead to do, but rather to seek light from Heaven on the text before us. God's little children rejoice in the subject of being born again. To them it is meat and drink. They have found consolation and satisfaction in knowing that they were born, not by will, nor by flesh, nor by blood, but of God. They are consoled in the idea that their Heavenly Parent is God, and that they had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with being born again.
In this context the expression, "being born again" is the equivalent of saying, "seeing that you have been born again". Being born again is not an ongoing thing, but birth is something that takes place in a moment of time. So we understand this Spiritual birth. Peter first lays the groundwork by informing the reader how they were not born; that was that they were not born of corruptible seed. By corruptible he means Adamic, or earthly, or timely. They were not born of a seed which will see corruption; of the flesh, fleshy; of the earth, sensual, and temporal, that which will live and then die. But rather, he says they were born of an "incorruptible seed". That incorruptible seed was by the Word of God. The Word of God is not the seed itself, but it is by that word that the seed is planted. Spiritually, one is born again in a fashion very similar to what took place when the Holy Ghost came upon the Virgin Mary and she conceived and was with child. There was nothing that she could do, no assistance that she could render; it was simply a Divine operation. There was no power, or even will within herself to cooperate, but rather, God moved, and she brought forth. So every Heaven born soul is moved upon by the Spirit of God, and an incorruptible seed is placed within them. This is as Paul expressed to the Corinthians when he said, "We have this treasure m earthen vessels." The vessel and the treasure are not the same, but one is contained within the other. They are two separate entities, two separate products of two separate origins, and they cannot be confused, though one is manifest within the other. The earthen vessel is the old Adamic man. The treasure is the seed which has been placed within it.
We know of a preacher some years ago in the South who tried to explain being born again this way. He said, "When God makes a man alive in Christ, it's like a mechanic overhauling a motor. He fixes it up so it is new again." We do not believe a word of that statement, and yet it is passed off among many Primitive Baptists as being the truth. God does not "overhaul" His people. Rather, He gives them a new man which is Christ in them, the Hope of Glory. Christ is born (not overhauled) in them. Christ is in them, the Hope of Glory. And so they have something they did not have before, when they have been born again. The Lord Himself, in using the illustration in John 3, compared the Spiritual birth with the earthly birth when He said, "Ye must be born again," or another time. Not born over again, but born again. Old Adam will never be born over, but within old Adam a new man is born, a son is created, a life is conceived. So we see, in comparing nature and Spirit, when a natural child is conceived in its mother's womb, there was nothing on the part of the child that caused its begetting. It had no power to summons life. It did not select its parent, nor the time, nor the place of its birth, nor of its characteristics and genetic composition. Conversly, it was absolutely and entirely passive. It had the nature that its parent passed on to it. It received its life at conception, and so in comparing for our sake of illustration, the Spiritual birth, we do not believe a poor sinner has anything to do with his Spiritual birth any more than a natural sinner does with his natural birth. He receives his life when that seed is conceived within him.
We must recognize, too, that life does not begin at birth, but rather, life begins with conception. In natural life there is conception, then a period of growth for approximately nine months, then a travail, and then a birth, or a bringing forth of a life that already existed. In grace, so it is. We are conceived by the Holy Ghost. Oftentimes, God's children wander in ignorance and darkness for a long period of time before they are brought to a knowledge of the truth, before they are given light and made to see and to know that Jesus is Christ, their Lord. That birth only brings forth a manifestation of the life. The life was brought into existence in the conception at some point previous.
There are many people who probably mistakenly confuse the time that they were enlightened, or brought to a knowledge of the truth for when they were born of the Spirit of God. But we say this should be avoided. When individuals are made to rejoice in Christ Jesus, when they are made to say, "This is the truth, this is the way, and how I love it," this is not the time when life is given. But rather this is when the sensibility of it is manifested. When a natural child is born, it does not have the capacity, the knowledge, or the capability of identifying itself, of understanding its surroundings, and its settings, or communicating with others, but that is left for the period we call development. We see children after some months beginning to discover their hands and their feet, the environment around them. They did not bring these things into existence then. But rather, this was when they first recognized they were there. When a spiritual child sees that Jesus is their Lord, learns the sweet doctrines of Grace, finds the beauty and the glory of the Church and other such things, this is not their birth, but this is when these truths have been manifested to them because they have been born again. There may have been much in spiritual travail previous to these things, much groaning and ignorance along the way.
In Chapter Two of First Peter, the Apostle describes one of the cardinal evidences of being born again. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." Plainly, Peter follows the pattern of his Lord in comparing the Spiritual birth to the natural. He describes those who have been born again as newborn babes, or little infants. Their desire is the sincere milk of the word. Whatever could he mean by "sincere milk" other than that milk in its purity, which comes from the word of God. As little infants desire their mother's breast, so God's newborn children desire to be fed from the breast of consolation. They cry out to their Heavenly Father for their meat and drink, for their life, for their instruction, for light, and yea, for all things. Nothing is too far fetched for them to seek for, for it all to them is but milk. Their chief substance is derived from their Heavenly Father. But the Apostle interjects a speculation here, "If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." We submit without hesitation that all who have been born again will taste of the Lord and His graciousness. But there are those who would profess to having been born again who know not God nor His Son. They speculate in religious notion, they traffic in religious merchandise, and their language is of an earthly Caanan, but they know not the Lord of the vineyard. They are more interested in the Pharisaical attire than they are the Heavenly garments. But the little newborn babes, seeking only for the word and its milk, have tasted of something that is so gracious that they can want for nothing else, and this is the chief and evident mark of those who have been born again. That is, their grand want is for their Lord. When all else has been set before them, it pales into insignificance compared to a sweet communion with their dear Redeemer, their God, their Shepherd and their Guide. This is among the surest marks of those who have been born again.
Volume 3, No. 2
March - April, 1989