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.

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

  1. I really like this blog ,and I think Phil your doing a great job .

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Like you stated above, it is important for Christians to be holy because God has randomed us and because we have been born again. We are to live a light separate from the world, being “in the world, but not of it.” We can’t do this unless we are actually different from other people and the world. The thing that allows us to be different is this holiness talked about above. Our lives are a testimony and a way of sharing the gospel to others. Additionally, actions are not what save us but they are evidence of our salvation. If we are truly saved, we will act differently and our actions will reflect our heart and holiness. If someone says they are saved but they are not acting holy or acting like they have been born again then it may be an indication that they truly did not have a real conversion of the heart.
    God’s gift to us allows us to be holy and born again. We should not view that as a set of rules we have to follow, but as a gift of God that allows us to become closer to Him and to worship and praise Him with our lives. We are made in God’s image and He desires all of us to praise Him for it. By following His commands, acting in holiness, and showing that we have been born again, people will be able to see Christ in us and tell that we are different and living separate from the world.

  8. Both Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and 1 Peter 1:23 use this concept of being born from above or born again to demonstrate that the believer has, as written in the post, “experienced a change in status before God.” The one who believes in Jesus Christ becomes an adopted son or daughter of God. Karen Jobes writes that a person who is adopted by God in this way defines their entire identity (330). A person’s parents define their ethnicity and race, physical characteristics, some personality traits, and initial economic standing (330). Because the believer is adopted by God, their characteristics and traits now reflect God more closely thanks to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit and the conscience, and their socioeconomic status reflects the riches stored for them in heaven. But this all takes active effort on the part of the believer. The stirring of the Holy Spirit certainly causes the conscience to be especially guilty, but the Holy Spirit does not physically prevent us from sinning. The believer must strive to be like their new Father in heaven, just as a child imitates their own earthly father. This is another aspect in which having a “child-like faith” (as written in Matthew 18:3) is a good thing. Jesus originally talked about becoming like little children by means of humbleness, but it can apply in this area too. Like a small child putting on their father’s shoes or mimicking their father’s behavior, believers are to mimic Christ and put on the armor of God (as in Ephesians 6).

  9. I love talking about this concept of being born again in Christ. I recall Jesus explaining this concept to Nicodemus in John 3, and him being so confused at the time about what Jesus is saying. It’s easy for us as believers to look at this and be amused by Nicodemus’s lack of knowledge, but it is easy for us to forget that reality for an unbeliever, who is not familiar at all with the church, this can easily be a concept that is very odd and perplexing. They may be asking if I follow Jesus, does that mean I literally am born again? I think Peter touches on this concept beautifully in 1 Peter 1, when he talks about us being a new creation. When you unravel the truth of the new creation, this whole concept of being born again starts to make a lot more sense. The old is gone, the new has come. Who we were before Christ is different from who we are now- we are new, we are transformed. That is something beautiful and worthy of celebration. Just as detailed in the passage and in this blog post, we must distance ourselves from things that don’t promote growth, as we relate this to the new believer, we can continue to point them towards the concept of a new creation and a new life, to provide the hope of Christ, which is wonderful encouragement.

  10. As we devote ourselves to a holy lifestyle our walk will get a little more difficult because the enemy is mad that we are actually taking a serious step in the right direction to make a strong relationship with God. But we should not act on these roadblocks that come up while we try to deepen our walk with the Lord, rather we should take these problems to the Lord. This is showing growth in developing a holy life. The point that Peter is making here is crucial that once we start our holy life, we will strive to make decisions that will reflect the way we want to live, not what we are ashamed of. As Scripture says “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt 7:15-20). When we are born again and dedicate ourselves to a holy life other around us should be able to see the undeniable change that is happening in us.
    When we start to act out of this natural boundary created by convictions in our holy life, it starts to reflect that we are not bringing forth fruit to lead a life that is set apart from those who live a normal lifestyle. When we break that boundary, we should then redirect ourselves in a position to reflect on the mistake made and use it to glorify the kingdom of God.

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