Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Born Again In The U.S.A.

Who said, “You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable through the living and abiding word of God?” Peter (I Peter 1:23)

In Christian circles, “born again” delineates a spiritual rebirth, as opposed to the universal experience of physical birth. Being born again is synonymous with salvation. Though the phrase “born again” is featured prominently in the evangelical lexicon, it is not stressed in the Bible where the term appears only three times (John 3:3; I Peter 1:3, 23).

The designation gained popularity in evangelical circles in 1976 with the publication of the book Born Again . In the memoir, Chuck Colson (b. 1931) describes his conversion from Watergate conspirator and convicted felon to Christian disciple. The book helped solidify “born again” as a cultural construct in the United States.

Do you identify yourself with the term “born again”? Birth is a painful process. If you are a born again Christian, was there any pain associated with your rebirth?

The phrase “born again” originates with Jesus. Christ affirms “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3, NASB).” Jesus uses the nomenclature “born again” with a Pharisee named Nicodemus (John 3:1). Pharisees were a powerful and educated Jewish sect and it is significant that Jesus uses this terminology with this audience. Jesus challenges the traditional Jewish notion that salvation was rooted in being the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Psalm 105:6; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:16), a physical lineage. Instead, Jesus declared that redemption occurs through being born again, a spiritual inheritance.

I Peter expounds on the concept of being born again and assures that the second birth is an improvement over the first as it is imperishable (I Peter 1:23). The Greek for “imperishable” is aphthartos meaning “uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable”. I Peter uses the word three times (I Peter 1:4, 23; 3:4), more than any other book in the New Testament . The epistle stresses the eternal nature of Christian blessing as it is written to a community suffering persecution in the present (I Peter 2:12, 3:9, 16, 4:4, 1, 5:9).

Do you find comfort in having been reborn of imperishable seed? Do you ever take salvation for granted as I Peter’s original audience likely did?

Why were humans not born with imperishable seed in their initial physical birth? Why were we designed in need of rebirth?

“He not busy being born is busy dying.” - Bob Dylan (b. 1941), “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”

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