Since You Have Been Born Again – 1 Peter 1:21-22

In 1 Peter 1:15-16, Peter said the reason a believer ought to be holy is that they were ransomed by God with the greatest price imaginable, the blood of Jesus, the perfect and spotless lamb. The second reason Peter gives for his call to holiness is that the believer has been born again (1:22-23). The believer has experienced a change in status before God, we are now his children.

Peter’s description of salvation as being “born again” is drawn from the teaching of Jesus (John 3), but is consistent with Paul’s “new creation” and adoption language. Like Paul in 1 Cor 15, Peter says that the believer has been changed fundamentally, from perishable seed but imperishable. The believer’s salvation is imperishable because it is through the “living and abiding word of God.” The “seed” that creates this new, imperishable life in the believer is the Word of God.

Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-8, although his words echo that whole passage. The original context of Isaiah 40 was a call for the exiles to leave Babylon and return to the land, the long exile of Israel was over.  Peter addressed his readers as those living in the Exile and claims to write “from Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13). The good news preached to his readers was that the exile is over and those who are born again in Jesus Christ are able to be the holy people that God desired from the beginning.

Baby with CandyIf the believer has really “tasted that the Lord is good,” then they ought to crave more and better food. When children are born, they are only able to drink milk, but they crave it so intensely that when a baby is hungry, everyone knows it!  When kids are young, parents try to get them to eat new kinds of food in order to provide more nutrition than Mac and Cheese with a hotdog. Most kids will not eat stuffed mushrooms or anything that “looks weird” (unless a stranger offers it to them in a store as a “free sample”!) This is the whole Green Eggs and Ham syndrome – if you taste it you will like it (Sam I Am).

The words “Taste that the Lord is good” is an allusion to Psalm 34:8. In that psalm David describes the blessed man who has found refuge in the Lord. The one who is protected by the Lord is safe, while the oppressors (“young lions”) go hungry. Since the believer has in fact “tasted the good things of the Lord,” it is only natural that they should crave.

The believer should put away things that are not consistent with that growth. As with human children, some things do not promote healthy growth. As parents, we tell our kids to eat the broccoli and asparagus because it is healthy and they need the vitamins, and we restrict their junk food because it is just that, junk. This restriction is not because parents are mean (or are hoarding the candy for themselves), but because they want to help their children grow up healthy.

He mentions specifically “all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” These are the sorts of things that destroy any community, but especially Christian communities. Malice (κακία) is the opposite of virtue (ἀρετή), but appears frequently in vice lists for a kind of “mean-spirited or vicious attitude” (BDAG). It appears with anger, hatred, rage, and even bitterness. It is a kind of attitude that finds fault with everything and cannot see any good at all in something.

Deceit (δόλος) is sometimes translated “underhandedness” or “treachery.” It is the word that appears in the LXX to describe the treachery of Jacob when he stole the blessing from his brother (Gen 27:35) and the treachery of Simeon and Levi when they attacked the people of Shechem.  The word appears in Psalm 34:13, which may supply Peter with his list of vices in this verse.

But it does not take a major sin to stunt our growth in the Lord – simple distractions are usually more effective for destroying our growth than “malice and deceit.” Peter’s point here is that the believer is a child of God and ought to act like it. It is only natural that the believer is growing and developing in holiness.

7 thoughts on “Since You Have Been Born Again – 1 Peter 1:21-22

  1. It is important to realize that Peter had an extensive background in Hebrew understanding of salvation. It is possible that he carried this understanding over to the present age and applied it to the believers in Jesus Christ. By Hebrew understanding I mean that the Old Testament people were saved by faith. In a paper I recently wrote for your class, Phil, I addressed this same issue in Hebrews. Faith for them was not only belief in God’s Word, but also involved some inclusion obedience. Both terms (believe and obey) went together to form Jewish understanding. It was difficult to separate the two of them, since they believed the latter always naturally followed the former. This is made evident in Hebrews 11 where Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses himself, the Israelites at the Red Sea and Jericho, Rahab, etc. all demonstrated their faith by doing either what God had told them, or what was according to God’s will. Each of these people did things by faith. They believed first, then obeyed. If the audience to which Peter was writing was primarily Jewish, which most people think was, then this concept of holiness would make perfect sense to them. I like your references to Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2 in another one of your blog posts regarding a similar topic.

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  2. I think it is important to continue reading past verse 22 and look at the metaphor provided by Peter. Peter speaks about grass and how each person is a single piece of grass. The grass will die, the flowers will die, but the word of the Lord endures. It is the only thing that will never perish. The idea that we are all influenced by small evil actions that corrupt our lives and make us fall into sin, are all trials on why grass grows at a fast or slow rate. Just like anything that grows, it has to be first planted. We become planted when we accept Jesus into our hearts. Jobes notes that this part of Peters writings is key to defining the Christology found within his writings (Jobes 300). Even though we are in a state of growth, always pursuing to grow in our faith, we have periods where we fail. Droughts, shade, lack of rainfall or nutrients, and this causes us to stay in a state of stagnation. Yet, it is not where we stay for the remainder of our days. That is key because Peter speaks about the evils that destroy us, as fragile as we may be these are scary things to deal with. Yet, they cannot threaten the one truth we have when we became planted, our soil is too perfect to be disturbed. We will always be secure in where we find our roots.

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  3. Peter does a great job of paralleling the Old Testament Jewish beliefs to the New Testament Christian beliefs. This style of relating the words of the Old Testament, for instance the Psalms, Isaiah, among many other comparisons between Jewish tradition and Jesus Christ. I agree that Peter emphasizes the importance of becoming a new creation in Christ. It is important for Christians to fully understand this new birth through living a Christ-centered life, but often times Christians turn back to their old ways, as Peter was encouraging the former Jewish believers. Karen Jobes writes in her book “Letters to the Church” that this new birth in Christ is the only way that believers can become children of God and be adopted into His family. I found it interesting, in reading above, the concept of continuous “small sins” or sinful behavior that can stunt our growth in spiritual development. Although believers are considered to be children of God, believers should not remain children, but rather growth in their relationship with the Lord and become spiritually mature. Believers should not go year after year remaining “baby Christians” but growth and develop. Christianity is a journey that does not end until death, and maybe not even then, but growth with the help of God and other believers.

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  4. Cass,
    I agree with you! I think it is important that we understand new birth and that as a new Christian, it is understandable if someone may make a mistake and fall into some old ways, but instead of using that as an excuse or giving up, as Christians we need to learn and grow in our journey with Christ. I have witnessed Christians (or so they claim) keep their lifestyle and old ways while trying to proclaim that they’re saved and willing to do anything for Christ. I think the first step to being saved is changing the way we live and like I said before, when it is new to us (and even later down the road of our journey) it is common to make mistakes, but it is also important that we always continue to grow and learn from each and every mistake and that we are always trying to bring glory to God in everything that we do. Of course, we are fallen and we are sinners we will make mistakes no matter how long we have been saved, but it is the growth and the amount of work we put in to being better for God that counts and that truly matters to God, not how many times we have fallen into our old ways or made mistakes.

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  5. P. Long’s post makes it clear and allows a fuller understanding of Peter’s meaning in 1 Peter 1:21-22. I had not previously thought to connect the two reasons for living a holy lifestyle of being brought by Jesus’ blood and because of being born again but rather I had always thought them two separate points, but Peter connects them. P. Long’s analogy of a parent restricting junk food from their child and encouraging veggies instead helps to acknowledge that God is just some ruler maker but rather He truly does care and love for us.

    How extremely true than that 1) we should be living holy lives but than again 2) as P. Long mention how easy is it to become distracted and thus not experience growth in our spiritual lives. In my experience, especially as someone who lives in the American culture, I get so distracted so easily.

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