The Gospel and the New Birth

I am reading through Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching, and came across James Montgomery Boice’s exposition of 1 Peter 1:23.  Enjoy…

I think the verse that is most helpful in explaining what happens in the matter of regeneration is 1 Peter 1:23.  Peter is speaking there of how we are born again: “You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.”  When Peter says that we are born again of imperishable seed, I do not believe that he is talking about the kind of seed you plant in the ground.  That image is used elsewhere.  It is used especially of the resurrection: the seed is planted in the ground, it dies, it rises again.  But in this text, Peter is using the word seed to mean the male element in human procreation.  He is talking about new birth, and therefore illustrates this spiritual birth with physical birth.  He says we are born again spiritually in a way that is analogous to how we are born in a physical sense.

What is necessary in order for a new life to come into being?  You have to have the sperm of the father and the ovum of the mother.  They have to come together.  Peter is saying that this is what happens in the new birth.  God first of all plants the ovum of saving faith in the heart of the man or woman, because even faith is not from ourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9).  Then God takes His living Word, the seed of spiritual procreation, and allows that Word to be proclaimed in such a way that it goes into the person through the gate of the ears, through hearing, and penetrates the ovum of faith.  As a result, there is a spiritual conception; there is new life.

The life begins to grow within, and just as in the case of pregnancy there is a period when a woman is not even aware that she is pregnant, so there can be the same thing spiritually.  The life is there, but the person does not yet know what has happened.  However, things are starting to change.  The person is beginning to have an interest in spiritual things. He finds himself hungering for the Word of God.  He reads it.  He begins to feed upon it.  Then, as the months go by (sometimes longer and sometimes shorter), there is the point in a service when someone may say, “If you want to receive Jesus as your Savior, put up your hand,” so he puts up his hand and comes forward and the counselor says, “Well, now you’re born again.”  That is indeed how it may seem, but actually he was alive when the Word did its work.  It is just that now the birth has taken place.

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