The opening chapter of 1 Peter has two sections:
- Verses 3-12 praise God for our great salvation in Christ.
- Verses 13-25 teach us how to respond to our great salvation.
This lesson is Christian conduct consists of four exhortations. Verse 13 says, “Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Verse 15 says, “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Verse 17 says, “Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” Verse 22 says, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
The first three commands teach us to live before God the Father. Our text teaches us to live with one another in Christ. This transition from our vertical relationship to our horizontal relationships does not change the subject. Peter continues to teach how to live a gospel-shaped life.
We do not experience the power of the gospel because we do not understand the place of the gospel. The gospel is not an entry-level subject from which we graduate to deeper truth. The gospel is the unchanging curriculum we study throughout Christian discipleship.
Peter says saved people should love one another as much as we fear God. Christianity is evidence by Christian love.
1 Peter was written to Christians living in a hostile society. Cultural animosity would soon become outright persecution. Peter exhorted these troubled churches to face persecution with hope in Christ. One way to live with hope is to live with love.
the church would suffer severe and extended persecution. However, by loving one another, the Christian church would undermine the Roman Empire. The church did not have financial power, cultural status, or political influence. They have love for one another.
Tertullian wrote: “It’s mainly the deeds of love so noble that many lead many to put a brand upon us. See how they love one another, they say, for they themselves are animates by mutual hatred; how they are ready to die for one another, they say, for they themselves will sooner put to death.”
The church today must show the world the difference Jesus makes. It does not happen through large buildings, celebrity leaders, ministry programs, business techniques, or local outreach. It happens by loving one another.
John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The world will not know Jesus is real by our sound doctrine, moral causes, or charitable acts. The world will know Jesus is real by our love for one another.
What does it mean to love one another?
A Call to Sanctified Love
Verse 22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love.” This elaborate clause describes salvation. The affirmation fo salvation precedes the exhortation to love.
- We do not love one another to be saved.
- We love one another because we are saved.
Love for one another is an essential part of the sanctified Christian life. The opening clause of verse 22 gives three marks of genuine conversion.
Purification of Your Soul. Verse 23 says, “Having purified your souls. Sin defiles the soul. Salvation purifies the soul. In the Old Testament, purification referred to the ceremonial act of cleansing oneself from defilement to be acceptable to God. In the New Testament, purification is moral, not ceremonial. It is the spiritual transformation that takes place in those who are saved by faith in Christ.
John 15:3 says, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.”
This is what happens when Christ saves you. Your life is changed. Your heart is cleansed. Your spirit is renewed. Your mind is converted. Your soul is purified. The verb “purified” indicates a past act with present implications. It is the act of becoming purified and the state of being purified. A saved soul is a purified soul.
Obedient to the Truth. verse 2 calls Peter’s readers elect exiles “for obedience to Jesus Christ.” Verse 14 calls them “obedient children.” Verse 22 says, “Having purifies your souls by your obedience to the truth.”
Ultimately, God purifies our souls. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “But we ought to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved in the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” Yet there is a real sense in which we purified our souls through saving faith.”
Peter describes saving faith as “obedience to the truth.” The gospel is not just a promise to claim; it is a command to obey. Galatians 5:7 says, “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Saving-faith is obedient faith. The proof of faith is obedience to the truth.
We have purified our souls for obedience to the truth, not false teachings, pagan religions, and satanic lies. Our culture has jettisoned the notion of objective truth. Truth is not preceded by personal pronouns. It is preceded by the definite article. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
Sincere Brotherly Love. Verse 22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love.” “Brotherly love” is one word in Greek. It is the word from which we get the name “Philadelphia. The term describes the loving affection of a family bond. It is translated “brotherly love.’ It should be translated “brother-love.” It is not that we should love as though we are brothers. It is that we should love because we are brothers.
- Physical birth makes us brothers by blood.
- Spiritual birth makes us brothers by grace.
Peter does not command brotherly love. It is evidence of conversion. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” A genuine profession of faith fosters sincere brotherly love. “Sincere” means “without hypocrisy.” Hypocrites were actors who donned a mask to play a role. 1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
A Call to Sacrificial Love
Verse 22b commands: “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Love here is different than the word used earlier in the verse. This is not brotherly love. It is the love God has for us. God’s love is not sentimental. It is sacrificial love that works for the highest good of the unworthy.
You cannot command brotherly love. You can command sacrificial love. It is not a response to the emotions. It is an act of the will. The sacrifice of love is to be mutual, not one-sided. We are to love one another. This does not mean we should disregard unbelievers. It means we reach unbelievers by showing them our mutual love for one another.
Love One Another Earnestly. Verse 23 says love one another “earnestly.” The KJV says love one another “fervently.” The NIV says love one another “deeply.”
The Greek word means “to stretch out.” It is an emphatic comped that describes strenuous or maximum effort. It is used for Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:44 says, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” It is also sued of the church’s intercession for Peter. Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”
Luke uses the term for believing prayer. Peter uses it for sacrificial love. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” Earnest love goes beyond superficial acts, sentimental feelings, or social companionship. It is to do whatever is necessary to meet needs.
Love One Another Genuinely. Verse 22 says, “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” “Earnestly” is the intensity of Christian love. “From a pure heart” is the source of Christian love. The love we show with our hands should flow from our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.’ We must guard the purity of our hearts to love as we should.
Christian love is always an inside job. The Judgment Seat of Christ will not excuse my failure to love because the people were unloving. I must focus on my character and the other person’s needs. Romans 12:9-10 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This kind of sacrificial love is not easy. It is impossible if the heart is not pure. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew the right spirit within me.”
A Call to Supernatural Love
Church growth experts teach “The Homogenous Principle,” which claims groups grow faster when built around what people have in common. Many churches are built around this principle. It is why the church has little gospel impact in the world.
We do church based on what we share in common naturally, not supernaturally. Race, money, and politics trump the supremacy of Christ in his church. The way the church can change the world is by a supernatural love that can only be explained by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the point of Peter’s argument in verses 23-25.
We have New Life in Christ. 1 Peter is filled with instructions about how we should live. But no one can call Peter a legalist. His personal exhortations are gospel-saturated. In our text, the imperative to love one another is virtually hidden between the indicatives of gospel truth. Verse 22 begins: “Having purifies your souls…” Verse 23 begins: “Since you have been born again.”
This is the second reference to regeneration in this letter. 1 Peter 1:3 says, “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.’ Salvation is about being reborn, not religious. In John 3:3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- You did not have anything to do with your physical birth.
- You do not have anything to do with your spiritual birth.
John 1:13 says children of God are born, “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Peter was sure his readers were born again. It was an event in the past with continual effects. We do not contribute to regeneration. But we know it when it happens.
Have you been born again?
New life is the basis of supernatural love. Peter wrote to mixed congregations. The ancient division between Jews and Gentiles was greater than the contemporary division between Blacks and Whites. Peter points them beyond racial, ethnic, and cultural distinctions and declares “Since you have been born again, love one another.”
We have Eternal Life in Christ. Verse 23 states the fact of regeneration. Then is states the nature of regeneration in a negative and positive statement: “not of perishable see but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” “Perishable seed” is a metaphor for human sperm. The seed of a man generates conception, birth, and life. But the life produced by the seed of a man will perish. Biological birth ends in death, decay, and destruction.
Procreation is not regeneration. We are born of perishable seed. We are born again of imperishable seed. New life in Christ is eternal life in Christ. What is born of man is sure to die. What is born of God will live forever.
What is this imperishable seed? Verse 23 answers: “through the living and abiding word of God.” “Living” means it possesses life. “Abiding” means it is permanent and unchanging. “Living and abiding” is the opposite of dead and gone.”
- How did Abraham and Sarah give birth to Isaac? By the living and abiding word of God.
- How did virgin Mary give birth to the Jesus? By the living and abiding word of God.
- How are spiritual dead people born again? By the living and abiding word of God.
James 1:18 says, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
We have Secure Life in Christ. Or new and eternal life in Christ is secure. To make this point, Peter quotes Isaiah 40:68. Verses 24-25a says, “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.'”
Our existence is transient like grass. We may last longer than grass. The end is the same. We are here one day; gone the next. This is true of “all flesh.” Flowers are more glorious than grass. They are not less frail or finite. The beautiful, wealthy, powerful, famous, and successful are buried in cemeteries alongside everyone else.
The grass withers, and the flower falls. Psalm 103:15-16 says, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it , and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
Verse 25 says” The word of the Lord remains forever.'”The nature of scripture is rooted in the nature of God. God is eternal. God’s word is eternal. Isaiah declared the word of God to be living and abiding. More than 700 years later, Peter made the same point by quoting Isaiah
- Verse 23 calls it the word of God.
- Verse 25 calls it the word of the Lord.
This is an affirmation of the deity of Christ. The word of God is the word of Jesus. Mark 13:31 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Verse 25 ends, “And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” This is Peter’s application of the Isaiah quotation. The gospel is the foundation of Christian preaching. God saves the lost and sanctifies the church through text-driven, Christ-exalting, and gospel-focused preaching. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”