Born A Second Time

January 24, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First Peter 1:3-12

The Birth That Comes From Faith

1. Today I read to you [from] an epistle of Peter. In it the expression "to be born again" is found. It is [in] verse three. Peter himself obviously wrote this as a born again person, as a person born twice. And indeed not just Peter, but because it says, "we," he wrote this with the assumption that the persons who would receive [the letter] were also born a second time.

2. If you go by the scriptures, a person can be born twice. The first time born is [one's] birth in the normal sense. Every year we say each time, "Happy Birthday!" It's that birth. We were born with somebody, without fail, as our parents. We were born into a family where we regard somebody as our parents. Of course, it is possible that [your] parents are not carrying out their duties as a parent, that [your] family is not carrying out their duties as a family, and for [you] to grow up not knowing either [your] parents or [your] family. But regardless though, whatever shape it may take, we are invariably born as somebody's child, and we are born into [some kind of] family. We start out our lives some way like that. This is the first birth. Of course, all of us experience that birth. Therefore, we are now in existence in this passing world.

3. Some people experiencing only this birth live the one life and finish their lifetimes. But, if we go by the scriptures, a person can have another birth as well. It is the second birth. That is the birth that comes by faith. Through faith another life starts out. Just as in the first birth [I] was born a child of parents in this passing world, "as a child of God I" can be born in the second birth. Just as in the first birth [I] was born into a family in this passing world, in the second birth, "I" was born "into the family of God." As children of God we, as Jesus taught us, begin to live praying, "O Father who art in heaven!" As the family of God, we begin to live praying, "O Father who art in heaven!" Thus then, we live another life which we begin through the second birth. That is "the faith life." Today I would like for us to remember three things in particular from the epistle that Peter has written concerning this second birth and the faith life that begins after it.

The Birth That Comes From God's Mercy

4. The first point is that "It is a birth that comes from God's mercy." In verse three it is written in the text that "From God's abundant mercy, he has made us to be born again."

5. Just ago, I simply made the statement that "In the second birth, 'I' was born 'a child of God,'" but it is not really as simple as that. Peter says just before this, "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." He is the God whom Jesus called "Father!" To call out to God "Father!," like Jesus did, is neither an automatic nor a naturally given thing we can do at all. We have lived in complete rebellion against God the whole time in our lives that we began with the first birth. We have lived committing that which is considered evil in God's eyes. Until our lives, which we began in the first birth, reach the end called death, we also know that we will probably repeat our sins and errors and live in repentance turning one leaf over to the next. Any way we look at it, we are not fit as "children of God." That's us.

6. When we consider the way we are, that we have received this being made into a child of God from God, [we will see that] it single-handedly comes from God's mercy. It comes from the abundant mercy of God who forgives our sin. And the mercy of God has appeared taking on a specific form. God sent his only son into the world. He made his sinless son the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Jesus said, pray "O Father who art in heaven!" That is the words of the one who [directly] knows the mercy of God. They are the words of the one who came into this world as the manifestation of the mercy of God. As the manifestation of the mercy of God, they are the words of the one who came into this world in order to hang on the cross.

7. The second birth. That is the birth that comes through God's mercy. Therefore, in order to be born a second time, it is every bit necessary to believe in God's mercy. It is every bit necessary to believe in Christ and to believe in God's mercy as revealed in the cross of Christ. It is from that very point that the other life begins as "I as the child of God," [and] as "I in the family of God."

The Birth Unto The Living Hope

8. Then the second [thing to notice] is "the birth unto the lively hope." The reference as found in verse three to "the lively hope" means "the living hope." It is a rich expression deep with meaning. The fact that it is deliberately written as "the living hope" would be, in the opposite other way to say it, "the unliving hope" or "the dead hope." If we look at it the same way, cut flowers are very different from living flowers. One has life, the other does not have life. It is the same way with hope, there is a hope that has life and a hope that does not have life. Unless hope is accompanied by true life, it will soon fade away and die. There is so much of that kind of hope, that soon withers and dies out, all around us.

9. Unfading, unwithering hope. Hope with life in it. The living hope. It comes from God. For, even though human beings feel hopeless, God is never hopeless. For, as seen from the human perspective, even though it may be the end, it is not the end for God. For, even though it may be a full-stop period for a person, it is no more than a comma to God. God has clearly revealed this truth. Peter is a witness to it. Peter [now] knows that it was not the end when Christ died on the cross. Christ rose again from the dead. Peter is a witness to the resurrection. Even though for a human being death may be a decisive and final "the end," but for God it is not "the end." It keeps on going into the future. Hold it, more than that, it begins from there. God is the One who is able to turn the end into the beginning.

10. We begin to live by calling this very One "Father!" What's more, as persons forgiven of sin, as persons knowing [his] mercy, we begin to live by calling God "Father!" Trusting in such a father, we begin to live by trusting him no matter where we are. That is the second birth. If a person only knows the first birth, he or she will only live going to his or her death. [Such persons] only live ever looking upon their dwindling lives, or ever averting their attention from it. On the other hand, the born again person is not living going to his or her death because he or she knows that death is not the end. They live going into their futures. They live in the hope that comes from God, the hope with life in it, the living hope, the lively hope. That is the other life that begins from the second birth.

The Birth That Demonstrates Its True Worth During Trials

11. And then the third thing we ought to remember is that the other life that begins from the second birth will demonstrate its true worth right during the times of testing and trials. In a certain sense that seems right on course and natural; because right during times of trials, especially during the last trial at the end of life, whether a person has within himself or herself true hope or not, the difference between the two, will always become plain.

12. As a matter of fact, the recipients of Peter's letter were going through a trial. They were experiencing the trial of persecution. It was the trial of their having their life threatened periodically. Peter knew that reality for himself. He wrote it like this, "Now for a while, you will probably have to suffer different trials," (verse six).

13. However, Peter knew [something else too]. [He knew that] the genuine and the real would begin to shine for what it really was. Your faith will be proven as the genuine and real thing through those trials, he says. If put another way it would be that the true worth of the other life that had begun through the second birth will be made clear during trials. What is "by far more precious than perishable gold, even though it is purified by fire" will be made clear. The darker it gets, the more the light of the lamp shines. Light is clearly stronger than darkness.

14. But then on the other hand, as a pastor living with the church in the real world, I see it in my mind like this: There certainly have been some who have lost their wills while the trials kept coming and others who have had their faith shaken while the suffering kept coming. Peter wrote, "Therefore, you will rejoice from the heart," however, in the church in the real world, I'd say there are some who are shaken by trials, and whose joy is sucked completely out of them. Aren't there? "I truly don't have any faith or any thing that resembles it." I'd say there are folks who feel exactly that way. Aren't there?

15. As [I] ponder this point, I am really fascinated by the way Peter did not say it here in this text, "During trials the fake and the false will be proven as fake and false." Peter doesn't say anything close to this, "Claiming to be Christians, the false that have no faith will actually be made plain during the trial."

16. The main thing is not that we add up trouble after trouble claiming, "I'm no fake!" Rather than that, we are to turn our attention to the truth of "I am living the other life after being born again." Therefore, while first giving praise to God, Peter declares what God has done, that "God has made us born again, according to his abundant mercy, and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, he has given us the lively hope," and he is trying to put the focus of attention on that. That's right, it is right there where we must truly turn our attention. More specifically, we must turn our eyes right there on the truth that after we have received baptism, he has caused us to start the life of faith. After being born again, we have begun to live in the family of God with God as [our] father, and it is on this very truth indeed that we must turn our eyes.

17. [God] has already given to us the lively hope. He has already given to us that which begins to shine forth during trials, that which demonstrates power. We have already received that which is far more precious than decaying gold. Therefore, we will not be defeated by trials. We will not be defeated by suffering. Nor will we be defeated by death. He has given to us this other kind of life. Thus, we should live that other [second birth] life to the end, treasuring the fact we've been born again through the mercy of God. If you've stopped calling the Father even though you were so preciously made a child of God, you should begin to live and call the Father once again. If you have become distant in your fellowship with the family of God and from the Holy Communion in the Lord's table, you should start living and putting yourself in the family and at the table again. If you have been neglecting to incline your ears to the word of God, you should begin to live and seek out the will of God once again. -- Because we are given not just the first birth, but also the second birth.