The letter of 1 Peter reminds God’s people how God has enabled us to have a new life and what we can expect from this new beginning. While its opening verses reveal that the new beginning God provides enables us to have hope for tomorrow, when we step further into the letter we discover that it also transforms who we are today!
To appreciate Peter’s message regarding what God does for us today, we need to remember that our rap sheet is long. The details may vary among us. Maybe we’ve been impatient and hurtful. Perhaps we’ve struggled with lying. Addictions may have crushed our hearts. At times we may have harbored grudges against those who have hurt us. Has jealousy and bitterness pierced our hearts? Or did self-centeredness, self-sufficiency and the pride of life swell our hearts into distorting the beauty God created? Although our details might differ, our rap sheet is long.
The new beginning God grants frees us from the weight of whatever has broken us, because it cleanses our souls today. “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth … You have been born anew …” 1 Peter 1:22,23
The new birth is better than simply being released from the burden of our guilt. The word often translated purified is in the perfect tense signifying that the cleansing has been completely accomplished plus its effects continue on into the present! With the new birth no need exists for another new start. God’s merciful provision has taken care of our deepest need.
What made possible this liberation of our souls? We might focus upon one answer, but there are in fact two answers.
You know that you were ransomed from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors … by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ. … Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth … You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:18-19, 22
Jesus’ blood makes possible God’s gift to experience this new life. However, for us to possess God’s gift, we must obey the gospel. Peter’s words, “by your obedience to the truth” and “through the living and enduring word of God” remind us where we can learn about God’s transforming power.
While we can learn a lot from nature that is true, and we might find inspiration on New Year’s Eve to embark on new resolutions, neither nature nor a new year can connect us to God’s power to cleanse us and provide hope. Rather, it is through God’s word that the Creator unveils his power to graciously work within us something that comes from beyond us – a new birth with a cleansed soul.
Peter writes to the reader who has obeyed that timeless true message about Christ, you have been born anew. This is the same Peter who told the crowds how to obey the truth that Jesus had died and God had risen him from the dead.
Don’t run too fast past Peter’s lesson in Acts 2. Using the Psalms, he told the crowds that Jesus is going to subjugate under his feet those opposed to him. Furthermore, God revealed Jesus is truly Lord by raising him from the dead. Because both assertions are true, responding to Jesus as Lord and Savior becomes very important. The crowd realizing this asked, “What must we do?” Peter responded,
Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
When someone responds to the gospel, God’s power grants a new birth into a new life that Christ’s death made possible while simultaneously cleansing that person of his or her sin. This is why the language of the new birth and becoming God’s children is associated with trusting in Christ at baptism.
- “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4
- “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27
- “He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
- “Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. … Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” John 3:3,5
1 Peter is a wonderful reminder that our new life in Christ is one that has been purified from all sin. It also reminds us that Christ made it possible and we had to obey the gospel to enter into it.
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A companion article (Jewish background, early church & application): The New Birth