1 Peter 1:23

1 Peter 1:23  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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Yet the purification of the believer's soul, effected as it is already, is not all that enforces brotherly affection unfeigned and fervent. Our new birth as saints has this love essentially in its nature, as surely as it is through God's word. So the passage proceeds—
“Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, through God's living and abiding word” (ver. 23).
It is not without intention that the participle of the active perfect is employed in ver. 22, and of the passive perfect in ver. 23. Rigid Calvinism seems hardly compatible with the former, nor rigid Arminianism with either. Revealed truth, large no less than exact, insists on both as a settled standing of grace; on which is based the call to be imitators of God as children beloved, and to walk in love, as the apostle of uncircumcision exhorts us. It is not that purification precedes the new birth as matter of fact; for to be born anew is the first vital dealing of grace with the soul, but purification attests it.
Evangelicalism is here utterly lame and short, if we may judge by the theological text-books, and such discourses as meet the public eye. Of course, one could not expect sound doctrine from Romanist divines; but those considered orthodox Protestants are on this scarcely better. Their idea is a change on man by the Spirit's action through the word of God on his faculties, which are no longer devoted to self and Satan but directed to His service. But this is rather descriptive of the effect than a statement of the operating cause or means under His hand. Scripture is abundant and clear that a life is given to the believer (and Christ is this life, as the old one is from Adam fallen), which acts through our faculties on objects revealed by God and far beyond those of natural life. Thus, as our Lord taught, one sees and enters the kingdom, not only by-and-by but now by faith; or as the apostle puts it, translated by the Father into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
In vain do unbelieving professors, or saints misled by tradition, decry this now order of being as mystic. For the life of which the saint partakes was comparatively hidden from O.T. believers; yet they had it in Him Who had not yet appeared, but was truly hoped for. Now since Christ came, this and much more is cleared up; and the believer is assured that he has it as a present thing, whatever be the added blessedness at His coming again when the body is swallowed up by the life which the soul has already in Christ. For indeed it is life eternal, and so declared even now; and woe to him who is emboldened by the enemy to deny it! For this is the soil out of which grow the fruits of the Spirit working on the inner man to the glory of Christ its source, a life even now quite as real and incomparably more blessed and momentous than the old Adamic life. Calvin is almost as vague as the rest; only Leighton here speaks as one taught of God as far as he goes.
We have then been begotten again, as not even the Jews were, whatever their boast of being Abraham's seed and of never being in bondage to any, at the very time when they were undeniably slaves to the Romans for their apostasy, and of their father the devil, in believing his lie against Him Who is the true God and the life eternal. But the believer has been begotten, “not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible,” not of man or through man, but through God's living and abiding word. So the Lord declared to Nicodemus, Except one be born anew (i.e. of water and of Spirit), he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God (John 3:37). That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. The flesh does not become spirit, any more than the spirit becomes flesh. The life given is of God, in Christ, and by the Spirit who employs the word here figured as often by “water.” To bring in baptism here is not only foreign to the context, but opposed to all the scriptures which treat of the subject. James 1:1818Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18) is as adverse as Paul (1 Cor. 4:1515For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15)), and John (15:3) no less than the text of Peter before us. Very likely all the fathers who discuss it join in gross and superstitious error; and Calvin may have been the first of the theologians, as Hooker says, who rejected the error; but so much the greater is their shame. This truth is transparent.