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Brethren: How did we get this title? 

Gary Googe Nov 29

Throughout the apostle Paul’s epistles, believers are all called this.  What does it mean and how did we come to be called this? It is a term used many times throughout the Bible.  But what about its use in the apostle Paul’s writings? You’ll find it used the same way in all thirteen of them.  How is it primarily used there and what do we need to know about it? Let’s look at a few of those.

Romans 1:13  

13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. [Emphasis added]

1 Corinthians 1:10  

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. [Emphasis added]

2 Corinthians 1:8  

8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: [Emphasis added]

As you may know, this is simply an Old English word that connotes kinship.  In this case it refers to brothers and sisters who are believers, people who have accepted by faith God’s provision for their salvation.  In fact, you’ll note that Paul uses it in a passage I refer to often when speaking to the Corinthians about our means to salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4  

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you [before they were saved], which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  

2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]  

What we all need to realize is that when a person puts their faith in this which Christ did for them, they are at that moment in their lives brought into the family of God.

Galatians 3:26  

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

The apostle John says the same thing on this subject.  When he wrote this next verse we’ll note, the people to whom he was writing still knew nothing about the meaning of the cross and resurrection, but they had believed on “the name,” meaning the identity of Jesus as their promised Messiah.

John 1:12  

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: [Emphasis added]

In fact, we have some other Scripture that tells us that until the time of our salvation there’s a real sense in which we are not only not children of God, but we are said to be “children of the devil.” It is not until we’re saved that we’re His children.  Note what our Lord said to some “religious” leaders [unbelievers] during His earthly ministry about all this.

John 8:44  

44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. [Emphasis added]

Again, these people were not only not children of God, but they are said to be children of Satan. This just tells us that mankind is not just one big brotherhood.  There’s this distinct and extremely important difference between unbelievers and believers.  The whole world of mankind isn’t just divided geographically, linguistically, and in other such ways.  The most important difference of all is to do with salvation.  We have saved and unsaved, believers and unbelievers, and we have Heaven and hell bound.  So far as the subject of this article goes, we have children of God and children of Satan living in the world today and in every generation. So, how is it that a person goes from being a child of Satan to being a child of God.  The apostle Paul tells us it happens through regeneration.  And what exactly is that? It is the exact same thing as being born again.  In fact, that is exactly what the word regeneration means.  Let’s look at a very important passage of Scripture on this.

Titus 3:3-7  

3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

Certainly, that’s a description of the practices of many unbelievers.  

4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,  

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;  

6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  

7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs [because we then become family of God] according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis added]

Several things need to be noted about this passage.

1—The apostle, our apostle, wrote it.  Therefore, unlike some Scripture, it is to do with us today.

2—The washing of regeneration Paul describes is a complete cleaning in which our filth becomes a distant memory and we as believers are literally a New Creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17  

17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [KTISIS = creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. [Emphasis added]

3—The “washing of regeneration” occurs through a new birth for us. The word for regeneration in the Greek text is PALINGENESIA which is a compound noun made up of PALIN = again and GENESIA meaning birth.  GENESIA is where we get the term generation.  So, in salvation we are born into a new generation.  This is called a new birth, being born again, resulting in a new creation.  All this speaks of the new life we have in Christ as believers and as children of God.

4—It is God the Holy Ghost [PNEUMA = spirit] who performs this work of regeneration in us. 

[I hope we all know there’s no such thing as a “ghost” as we use that term today.]

5—It is because of the work of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection that this is made possible for us or for anyone to become a member of the family of God.  When we put our faith in that work we are credited with the perfect righteousness of God and then said to be justified.

6—All that’s done for us in this is courtesy of the grace of God.  We don’t earn it or deserve it.  There’s no work on our part involved in it at all.  Faith is a non-meritorious expression as a part of a decision on our part.

Romans 3:28  

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [Emphasis added]

7—As per the Titus 3:7 passage we noted, we then become “heirs” of God’s blessing because we are then made sons of God by this new birth.  This is another way of reminding us that we were “born again” by grace through faith to be in this new relationship with God.

Again, Titus 3:7  

7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis added]

So, never let anyone tell you that being born again has nothing to do with God’s people today.  If you haven’t been born again through regeneration, you’re not even in the family of God.  You’re by no means an “heir” of God or “family” of God.

8—The end result of being born again is that we are said to be ones having the hope [ELPIS = confidence] of eternal life  

There is definitely a difference between the physical life and the spiritual life we gain at salvation.  In our first birth we were born physically alive but spiritually dead.

Ephesians 2:1  

1 And you hath he quickened , who were dead in trespasses and sins; [Emphasis added]

Still another term used in Scripture for our new situation is “newness of life.” This is because of the new identity we then gain because of our newborn identity with Christ.  We become “members” of His body.

Romans 6:3-4  

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

These two verses are speaking of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that unites us with Christ, having been identified with His death, burial, and resurrection.

4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. [Emphasis added]

This walk in newness of life is speaking of the manner of life we are now to live as a new creation in Christ. Because we are a new people, we need to now think and act like it.

One final thing about all this is that our new birth can only happen once. Scripture tells us physical birth only happens once, meaning, too, that there’s no such thing as reincarnation.

Hebrews 9:27  

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: [Emphasis added]

The same is true with this new birth.  It, too, only happens once.  And once it happens it is perfectly secure.  Our new status is said to be permanently sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13  

13 In whom [speaking of Jesus Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, [Emphasis added]

This seals and settles the matter of your salvation once and for all time. You need never fear losing it.


The new birth happens in a moment of time, even as your physical birth.  Just as our Lord told a religious Jew named Nicodemus, being born “from above” through this spiritual birth is absolutely essential for one’s salvation.

John 3:5-7  

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water [as when a mother’s water breaks when she’s giving birth to a baby] and of the Spirit [speaking of one’s spiritual birth in salvation], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. [Emphasis added]

This happens today just as it did then.  Spiritual birth is essential for gaining the life of God in salvation.

While there’s an abundance of differences between God’s program and policies for His people in former times, in this present Dispensation of the Grace of God [Ephesians 3:2], people must be born again to enter their new status as being one of those who are called members of the Body of Christ. When this spiritual birth occurs, a person becomes a member of the “brethren.” It is in this way that we become God’s children.

Again, Galatians 3:26  

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

As with physical birth, it is then also said that we even become heirs of God, our heavenly Father.

Romans 8:17  

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. [Emphasis added]

From that moment on, we even address God in prayer as our heavenly Father.  What a wonderful position we all hold as ones who have been born again! As family of God our wonderful future is guaranteed.  We will someday get to enjoy all the blessed features of His Son Jesus Christ. What a wonderful day that will be!

Romans 8:29  

29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. [Emphasis added]

So, the next time some fellow-believer addresses you as “brother” or “sister” please realize that it is merely a respectful address because of your everlasting spiritual relationship with them and your heavenly Father. You have truly been born again.

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