Born of Mercy

In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter gives glory to God highlighting His blessedness and His great mercy for His causing sinners to be born again. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” Of this verse, Wayne Grudem notes,

This being born anew is by his great mercy, a phrase with the same preposition (kata) as ‘according to the foreknowledge’ (v. 2). No foreknowledge of the fact that we would believe, no foreseeing of any desirableness or merit on our part, is mentioned here or anywhere else in Scripture when indicating God’s ultimate reason for our salvation. It is simply ‘according to his great mercy’ that he gave us new life.

Being born again is not a work of God and man, but a work of God in man. It is not according to our merits, but His mercy. Now, let’s contemplate this whole sentence in 1 Peter 1:3-5.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In the Old Testament, there is a Hebrew word “chesed”. It is often translated as “steadfast love”. It might be better understood as “covenantal love” or “loyal love.” It’s a word pregnant with comfort for the Christian. According to the CSB Study Bible, it’s used 249 times in the Old Testament and 129 of those times in the Psalms. It appears in Isaiah 54:8, which says, “’In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love (chesed) I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer.”

In Psalm 136 this word is used 26x, once in each verse. Psalm 136 ends this way in verse 26, “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” For Greek writers to convey that word they would usually use the Greek word eleos which is translated in the New Testament as “mercy” (Luke 10:37, Romans 9:23, Jude 1:21, etc.). In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, both Isaiah 54:8 and Psalm 136 use the Greek word eleos to translate the Hebrew word chesed. This word for “mercy” is used to communicate the Hebrew understanding of Yahweh’s loyal covenantal steadfast love.

It is right for us, then, at times, when we see the word for mercy used in the New Testament, to understand a connection with the Hebrew concept of chesed. And that’s exactly what we have going on in 1 Peter 1:3. The way we are born again is by God and the reason He does this is because of His loyal covenantal steadfast love. Peter understood the concept of chesed. He understood the Greek Septuagint.

It is not a stretch, therefore, to surmise that Peter is communicating this Hebrew idea of chesed to us by the Greek phrase “great mercy”. The Apostle emphasizes more than mere mercy, but an eternal, sovereign, loyal, faithful, covenantal love. We are born again according to God’s steadfast love. We owe our lives to God’s mercy. The cause of our regeneration does not originate in us but from the incalculable depths of God’s abundant mercy.

There is nothing in us to bring about our new birth. In fact, all that is in us – sin – demands justice. We are not neutral and in hope of God showing us a bit of kindness. Rather, we are rebellious by nature and choice and in desperate need of great mercy.

Being born again, then, is all of God, in God, by God, through God, and for God’s glory. And this is possible because of the gospel – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Richard Sibbes wrote, “God quickens us with Christ and in Christ.” Regeneration and union with Christ are inseparably linked and the point here is this is all attributed to God’s great mercy.

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