Summary: Faith and practise are determined by what we accept as authoritative for our life. Baptist accept the written Word of God as authoritative for faith and practise.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.’
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
Faith and practise are determined by what one accepts as authoritative for life. Whether conscious of the fact or not, everyone has an authority for the conduct of his or her life. Some individuals submit to the consensus of their peers as the authority for life’s choices. For such people, this is a sort of acceptance of the lowest common denominator for the manner in which life is lived. Unfortunately, this choice can become a way to dumb down convictions as practitioners attempt to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. Other individuals see human government as authoritative. This particular view is often advocated by individuals promoting socialistic government (almost always some form of an oligarchy, if not a kakistocracy or a kleptocracy) as being wiser than the individual. In the estimate of such individuals, pseudo-aristocrats (so designated because of their exalted socialistic views) rule because they have established themselves as the authority for the masses. One modern view that has gained ascendancy within contemporary society (and even among the churches of our Lord) argues that whatever one “feels” is authoritative. Thus, emotions become a tyrant dictating life’s choices.
Ours is a Baptist congregation. As stated in an earlier message, the term “Baptist” is not one that we chose, though we embrace that name in this present day. The name was given in derision to our forebears; the name was conferred because of their insistence upon a regenerate church membership. In reality, however, we are not Baptists because we insist upon baptism as a mark of the new birth rather than reducing the rite to a contrived effort to obtain the new birth. Our convictions arise from an even more basic belief. We are convinced that the Word of God is authoritative for faith and practise. Where the Bible is silent, we have no warrant to speak. Where God has spoken, we are obligated to obey.
I find it fascinating to observe the role assigned to the Word of God in salvation. Peter claims that the New Birth is accomplished through “the living and abiding Word of God.” What a powerful statement is attributed to the Word of God! It is that Word that is the focus of the remainder of the message this day. For us as Baptists, the Word of God is received as inerrant and infallible; the Word of God is authoritative and accurate. Our hope is grounded in the Word of God, and our Faith is firmly established on the firm foundation that is the Word of God. Focus with me for these brief moments on this Living and Abiding Word of God.
THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING — Peter is writing to believers. This is obvious from the opening words of the text. He addresses those who have “purified [their] souls by obedience to the truth” [VERSE 22]. Therefore, they are the same individuals who have been born again [VERSE 23]. In order to ensure that we are all on the same page, I remind you that the New Birth refers to the results of faith in Christ the Lord. The term, “born again” was used by Jesus when He was approached by a member of the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin. The account of that interview and the response of the Master is found in JOHN 3:3-15.
“Jesus [said to Nicodemus], ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’
“Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’”