A passive verb indicates an action is performed on the subject and not by the subject of the sentence.
If the subject performs the action, the verb is active. In the sentence “Johnny hit the ball,” the verb “hit” is active because Johnny (the subject) does the action.
In the sentence “The ball was hit by Johnny,” the verb “was hit” is passive because the ball does not perform the action but the action is performed on the ball (the subject) by Johnny.
We should pay attention to these kinds of verbs because the Bible is literally filled with passive verbs! We need to recognize them and understand their significance.
Today’s scripture is 1 Cor. 12:12-13. Look for the passive verbs:
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Do you see the two passive verbs?
1. We were all baptized.
As strange as it may seem, baptism is a passive activity on our part. Someone else performs the action on us. Someone else lowers us into the water. But this verse does not mention the person who baptized us in water; it mentions the Holy Spirit by whom we were baptized. What does that mean? Was the Spirit the One who baptized us? Were we baptized in the Spirit as opposed to water in the context of this verse? Depending on your overall understanding of salvation and the function of baptism, you might answer that question different ways. The wording and context of this verse is a bit ambiguous, not answering our questions as clearly as we might like. In any case, whatever power happened in our lives to baptize us into the one body of believers happened by the Holy Spirit’s influence.
This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3)
2. We were all made to drink.
Again, this action was performed on us by someone else. Someone made us drink of the Holy Spirit! Who did that? I dare say it was not the human being who baptized you in water! God did this work in you, if indeed you have been made to drink of the Spirit.
Now on the last day , the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
May I share a mind-boggling verse with you from 1 Peter 1:1-2? Read it carefully and consider what this sentence actually says. Wrestle with the verb tenses.
Peter, and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood:
May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.
Do you see the three prepositions following the verb “chosen”? In this verse, we do not choose God; He chooses us! This choice is passive on our parts. And we are chosen…
- according to the foreknowledge of God
- by the sanctifying work of the Spirit
- to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood
Chew on that for a while!
God bless you in your thoughts and studies.