Love One Another (1 Peter 1:22-25)

Click the picture to listen to the sermon
Click the picture to listen to the sermon

I made the point last week that God didn’t just die to give us eternal life with Him. He also died to save us from the “vain conversation” (worthless way of life) we were in before we were called by the Holy Spirit.[1] He died to redeem you from your sins right now, not only in the next life. We were created in the image of God. That image was ruined and scarred by sin. Once we’re saved, we’re commanded to grow in our faith and grow into Christlikeness: 

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” (Colossians 3:8-10).

When we become children of God, that perfect, harmonious and sweet relationship with both (1) God and (2) other people that we were created to enjoy can slowly be re-fashioned and reformed.[2]

Peter has already talked about us fighting our way to holiness in our thoughts, attitudes and actions: 

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

We’ve looked at this already – Peter was referring to our conduct in general and how that impacts our relationship with God. He’s holy; He saved us; our obligation is to be holy, too! Today, Peter has another implication for us about our relationship to fellow believers in our local church – even this one. It’s that we’re commanded to actually love one another. Not to pretend or put on a fake face – but to actually love the other believers in your church – in this church.

 

22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

 

We’re born dirty – our souls are polluted and filthy. Without the saving work of Christ in our lives, our souls are as rotten and putrid and unacceptable to God as Lazarus’ rotting, maggot-infested flesh in that tomb in Bethany. I know unbelievers don’t accept that, because the Bible says they don’t. I also know that many Christians don’t believe that about themselves. We’ve been told since we were children that we ought to think a whole lot of ourselves and have a good opinion of ourselves. “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” (Romans 3:18).

But, Peter is writing to believers. He writes that because your souls have been purified by the Spirit[3] (we’re called, our heart is changed, we repent and believe), you ought to do something very specific – you ought to love your fellow believers! Not just in a general sense where you can say, “I love all Christians!” I mean very specifically – you are commanded to love the people who fellowship with you in your own church![4] What does this love look like? 

Peter said, “see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” Christ redeemed you and cleansed you so that you would love the brethren in this church fervently. This means this love isn’t fake. You don’t think to yourself, “I’ll smile at you and pray for you, but I really don’t like you at all!” No, real love for your fellow church members comes out of a pure heart.

Let’s go back to the image of God. If sin hadn’t ruined God’s perfect creation: 

  • We’d all worship God in spirit and truth
  • We’d all live in peace with one another – the first thing that happened after the Fall was a murder!

Now that you’re saved, you’re commanded to worship God in spirit and in truth, and you have the Holy Spirit to make that happen. Also, Peter commands you to love one another. We’re commanded to grow closer to Christ and be renewed in His image (Col 3:10). Our Christian life now is supposed to be a little preview of the glory to come, where (1) we actually do worship God in spirit and in truth, and (2) we actually do love fellow believers fervently, with a pure heart.

 

23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

 

You’ve been born again, redeemed and made a new creation by the word of God – the Gospel. That means that believers ought to have real brotherly love among one another. There’s enough backbiting, backstabbing, gossip and slander going on out in the world; this should never be named among Christians. Peter is reminding us of what God did for us, so that we admit what our own responsibilities are – to love one another with a pure heart, fervently!

If you say you can’t love one another, you’re saying God is a liar – period.[5] Because you’ve been born again by the word of God – it’s possible! You may object: 

  • “Yeah, but God doesn’t know Mr. Smith! God didn’t see him coming!”
  • “He’s a really unlovable, mean guy! You know it’s been three weeks since he shook my hand!”
  • “He smells sometimes and his wife didn’t even come to the last ladies meeting!”

Let me respond: 

  • God does know Mr. Smith
  • God did see Mr. Smith coming – Scripture says that God decided to save him, individually and specifically, before the foundation of the world (e.g. Eph 1:4-6)
  • Smith may not be the nicest guy in the world – have you prayed for him? Have you make an effort to be-friend him?
  • Smith might smell sometimes, just stand upwind from him!
  • Maybe his wife was worried and burdened with something, and wasn’t trying to snub you – maybe she needs prayer, too!

 

24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

 

God saved you from the worthless way of life you were imprisoned in – a way of life that might look and sound great for a time, but would rot away and die in the blink of an eye, like dying grass or a fading flower. God’s word endures forever, and it was this word that was preached to you when you repented and believed. He redeemed you to live for Him. Living for Him means holiness. Paul told the believers in Thessalonica that they should “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory,” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Part of that means we love fellow believers everywhere, but particularly in this local church, fervently out of a pure heart.

If there is a fellow-believer somebody in this church specifically, or in your life generally, who you despise or dislike . . .

  • Have you prayed for the love and kindness God commands you to have?
  • Have you prayed that God would soften your heart and wipe pettiness and sin away?
  • Have you prayed that He would do the same for that other person?
  • Are you even willing to do that? If not, why not? It’s a commandment from the Word of God?

It’s possible to love fellow believers – Peter says it’s our obligation. More than that, he says it should be the logical and inevitable result of our salvation. We should want to love fellow believers in our local church! Are we willing to submit to this?

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Footnotes:

[1]The design of Christ in shedding his most precious blood was to redeem us, not only from eternal misery hereafter, but from a vain conversation in this world. That conversation is vain which is empty, frivolous, trifling, and unserviceable to the honour of God, the credit of religion, the conviction of unbelievers, and the comfort and satisfaction of a man’s own conscience,” (Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994], 2424). Emphasis mine.

[2] Millard Erickson writes: “God’s creation was made for definite purposes. The human was intended to know, love, and obey God, and live in harmony with other humans, as the story of Cain and Abel indicates . . . The image itself is that set of qualities that are required for these relationships and this function to take place. They are those qualities of God which, reflected in human beings, make worship, personal interaction, and work possible,” (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998], 532-533).

This image can only be “realized” through the new birth which results in salvation through Jesus Christ. Only in Christ can we begin to realize the fulfillment of our horizontal relationships with others of faith, and our vertical relationship with God.

[3] The entire context of 1 Peter 1 supports this view. It seems that only Wayne Grudem argues that Peter refers to progressive sanctification, not positional sanctification. Grudem writes, “this ‘purification’ is something the readers have themselves done (‘having purified your souls’), but Christians are never in the New Testament said to be active agents in God’s initial cleansing of their souls at conversion. On the other hand, they are said to be active in the progressive work of sanctification,” (1 Peter, vol. 17, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988], 93). The sticking point for Grudem is that the Peter suggests that we have purified ourselves. This is an unduly pessimistic viewpoint; who would deny that men and women make free and voluntary decisions to repent and believe? The fact that people only believe because of the work of the Spirit is irrelevant. Not every reference to the Gospel is meant to be a treatise on the compatibilist view of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. The greatest, most succinct statement on this tension with regards to salvation is found in Article 6 of the 1833 New Hampshire Confession of Faith:

“We believe that in order to be saved, we must be regenerated or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; and is effected in a manner above our comprehension or calculation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the Gospel; and that its proper evidence is found in the holy fruit which we bring forth to the glory of God,” (from William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, revised ed. [Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1969], 364-365). Emphasis mine.

Grudem’s arguments aren’t convincing; see Thomas Schreiner for a rebuttal (1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003], 92–93).

[4] In some sense, we could see this as another example of how impractical it is to talk of the (1) church in prospect, instead of (2) the local church.

[5] Jay Adams wrote, “Peter makes a play on this common word and says in effect, ‘Now what people have talked about can really take place,’  . . . Christian counselees who deny the possibility of loving another Christian can be faced with this passage. ‘Either it is possible,’ they may be told, ‘or you deny your own salvation. Christ cleansed us for this purpose,’” (Trust and Obey [Greenville, SC: A Press, 1988], 49-50).

  1. Edmond Hiebert concurred, “Peter well knew that such a life of mutual love should be rooted in a new nature. The new birth makes possible and demands such a life,” (1 Peter, revised ed. [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992; reprint, Winona Lake, IN: BMH, 2008], 114).

Sufficiency of the Scriptures (Part #2b)

sola_scriptura

Part 2b on my series on the sufficiency of the Scripture as the sole, infallible authority for Christian faith and life. Part #1 was an introduction to set the stage. Part #2a was the first part of what different books of the New Testament have to say on the matter.

Romans

Paul grounded the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the authority of the OT Scriptures. He tied the Gospel to that which God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,” (Rom 1:2). The Book of Romans is literally saturated with references to OT Scriptures to make theological points,[1] far more so than a brief biblical theology here can hope to demonstrate. Once again, Paul does not base his arguments on philosophy or tradition – he bases them on Scripture.

It is not the hearers of the law who are justified, but the doers (Rom 2:12-29). None are righteous (Rom 3:9-18); “there is no fear of God before their eyes,” (Rom 3:18). Knowledge of the OT law brings about conviction and knowledge of sin (Rom 3:19-20; 4:15; 7:7-25). The Law and Prophets bore witness to Christ (Rom 3:21-22). Abraham was justified by faith (Rom 4). We are dead in Adam but alive in Christ (Rom 5:12-21). God’s sovereignty in election is grounded in His corporate election of Israel and the individual, single election of individuals (Rom 9).

Israel refuses to respond to the present provision of salvation through Jesus Christ (Rom 10), and Paul bolstered his argument by citing examples of Israel’s previous rebellion (Rom 10:18-21). Gentiles have been grafted into the promises given to Abraham (Rom 11), “so as to make Israel jealous,” (Rom 11:11). Her rejection is not final and her restoration is assured. Paul’s appeal for Christians to present themselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1) is rooted in the OT concept of a sacrifice to God. Christ came to the Jews in the form of a servant “in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,” (Rom 15:8-9).

Paul presents the new doctrine he received from Christ (Gal 1:12) as explicitly progressive revelation. This gospel and preaching of Jesus Christ, in complete accord with all which has come before it, is a “revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God,” (Rom 16:25-26).

1 Peter

Peter writes his epistle to Jewish Christians (1 Pet 1:1 – “elect exiles of the Dispersion”), demonstrating a clear connection in his mind between the OT and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He stated that Christ fulfilled the OT prophesies.[2]

The prophets prophesized about the grace of God in salvation in Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:10). These OT prophets sought to discern when the prophesy of Christ’s sufferings and subsequent glories would come to pass (1 Pet 1:11). It was revealed to these great men, presumably through the Spirit, that these prophesies were intended for a future time. Peter identified that time period as “now,” or the dispensation of grace in the church age.[3] The OT prophesies take on clearer, concrete and unmistakable meaning in light of the progressive revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:12).

It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Pet 1:12).

The context of 1 Pet 1 is that his readers could rejoice in their sufferings even though they could not see exactly how or when their present trials would end. Just as the OT prophets had limited understanding of their own prophesies, they trusted God to sovereignty work out all things according to good (Rom 8:28). God’s answer to Habakkuk’s plea for understanding of God’s ways was to live by faith (Hab 2:4). In the midst of suffering (1 Pet 1:6), it is very significant that Peter points his readers to Scriptures as the source of assurance. Several conclusions can be drawn:

  1. God has spoken propositionally to His people in a concrete fashion.
  2. Peter points to the Scriptures as the sole source of God’s revelation to men. He bases his subsequent call to be holy in a decidedly unholy world (1 Pet 1:13 – “therefore”) on the assurance of salvation and glorification in Christ, which was prophesied of in the OT and disclosed more completely by Peter and the other apostles.

Peter quotes the OT to make theological points, underscoring the authority of the OT.[4] He quoted from Isaiah 40:6, 8 (1 Pet 1:24-25) and stated “the word of the Lord remains forever.” He concluded by noting “and this word is the good news that was preached to you,” (1 Pet 1:25b). Peter describes the role of the Christian in terms of Israel’s covenant responsibility similar to Ex 19:5-6 (1 Pet 2:9).

James

James also writes his epistle to Jewish Christians (Jas 1:1). His theology is steeped in the OT Scriptures. Without his unwavering reliance upon them as an infallible revelation from God, James could not have written his epistle. His theology of God’s character is one of holiness (Jas 1:13), and perfectly in tune with the OT description of His character (Lev 11:45, 19:2; Ps 99:9).

Pure religion, or piety,[5] consists of proper conduct and character. James’ example of proper religious conduct is to “visit orphans and widows in their afflictions,” (Jas 1:27), an admonition which is soaked in the context of the OT law regarding social justice (Ex 22:22; Deut 14:29). His exhortation to proper character is to “keep oneself unstained from the world,” (Jas 1:27), which likewise has its roots in the OT command for Israelites to remain separate and uncontaminated by the pagans round about them (Lev 18:24-19:2).

James’ overarching point is to contrast mere ritualistic observances with actual reverence for God; to illustrate what “religion that is pure and undefiled before God” (Jas 1:27) really is. It is merely a stepping stone from here to a contrast between mere outward circumcision and a true circumcision of the heart (Deut 10:12-16).

James quoted repeatedly from Scripture to condemn the sin of partiality (Jas 2:8, 11). James used the example of both Abraham and Rahab to make the point that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:14-26). He quoted Proverbs 3:34 to emphasize the need for humility and separation from worldliness (Jas 4:1-6). He pointed to the example of Job and exhorts his readers to have patience in the midst of suffering and trials (Jas 5:10-11). James cited the fervent prayers of Elijah as he exhorted his readers to pray diligently for one another (Jas 5:16-18).

Jude

Like his brother James, Jude’s theology simply would not exist without the OT Scriptures. Jude wrote of “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” (v. 3). This faith Jude spoke of was the body of truth taught by the apostles.[6] This underscores the progressive nature of God’s revelation, and is perfectly harmonious with Peter’s (1 Pet 1:10-12), Paul’s (Eph 3:1-13) and the writer to the Hebrew’s (Heb 1:1) comments in their own epistles on this point.

Jude noted the presence of false teachers who “long ago were designated for this condemnation” (v. 4). This refers to previously written prophesies regarding the doom of apostates (e.g. Isa 8:19-22; Jer 5:13-14).[7]

Jude notes God’s righteous pattern of punishing those who apostatize from the true faith, such unbelieving Israelites, angels and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities (v. 5-7). These “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire,” (v. 7). Jude then moves to his present day and condemns contemporary false teachers of these very sins! (v. 8). He mentions the archangel Michael, compares the false teacher’s way to that of Cain and Balaam, and compares their eventual end to that of Korah (v. 11). Jude also accurately puts Enoch as the “seventh from Adam,” (v. 14).[8]

The next post will be a discussion of several critical passages that focus on the sufficiency and authority of the Scriptures for the Christian life.


[1] Rom (3:4, 10-18); (4:7-8, 17); (8:36); (9:25-29, 33); (10:5, 18-21); (11:8-10); (12:19); (13:8-9); (14:11); (15:3, 9-12); (16:21).

[2] 1 Peter (1:10-12); (2:6-8).

[3] See also 1 Pet 1:20 – “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.”

[4] 1 Peter (1:16, 24-25); (2:9); (3:5-6, 10-12); (4:18).

[5] William D. Mounce, Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2006), 1170.  Θρησκεια, or “religion,” may better be termed “piety.”

[6] Edward C. Pentecost, “Jude,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1983), 919.

[7] Edwin Blum, Jude, vol. 12, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 389.

[8] See 1 Chr 1:1-3