New Love in the Same Old Place
Passage: 1 Peter 1:22–1:25
New Life in the Same Old Place
New Love in the Same Old Place
I Peter 1:22-25
March 1st, 2009
Way of Grace Church
This morning we are coming back to an ancient letter we know as I Peter. Every other month we will be looking together at what God wants to teach us through this conversation between the Apostle Peter and the church or churches to which he wrote so long ago.
Of course, what connects us, or should connect us with these ancient readers is expressed by Peter in chapter 1, verse 8: Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory...
I hope that describes your heart this morning.
II. The Passage: "Love One Another Earnestly" (1:22-25)
Let's look this morning at verses 22-25. Let's see how Peter goes on to encourage these followers of Jesus:
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Let's look more closely at several different pieces of this passages in order to understand more clearly what Peter is telling his readers, and in turn, what God himself wants to communicate to our hearts this morning.
A. Review: Obedience to the Truth (1:22a)
Look again at the first several words of verse 22: Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth...
Peter tells us something important hear about his audience, doesn't he. He sets up a condition or context, from which will flow his encouragement. These readers are uniquely set up to hear Peter's words because...because why?
Because they have obeyed the truth and thus, have purified their souls
What does this mean exactly? Well remember what we've seen up to this point. Peter addresses his readers in this way:
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 [elect exiles] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood... (1:1, 2)
Peter goes on to write:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! 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... (1:3)
Later in this chapter he reminds them that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
And he reminded them only verses earlier that all of these truths were in fact things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven...
So the reality that this predominantly Gentile church is now living in, the reality that they have, through their faith in the Good News, the gospel about Jesus, they have been sanctified, they have been born again, they have been ransomed, bought out of slavery, this reality is summed up by Peter here in these words:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth...
When Peter uses the word obedience here, he may be talking about a believer's every day submission. But in the context, it seem more likely that he is describing a person's submission the truth of the gospel of Christ. Paul uses the word ‘obey' in the same way when he talks about "those who... do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (II Thessalonians 1:8)
So what he is about to tell them is based on the assumption that they are now "new" because they have believed the "news" about Jesus.
B. Sincerely, Earnestly, Purely (1:22b)
But as he finishes this sentence, look at how he clarifies one of the distinct purposes of this new life in Christ:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love...
What they have experienced through Jesus was not purification that would enable them to attain a new state of cosmic enlightenment. Their souls were not purified so that they could follow their dreams or achieve worldly success. This purification was not simply about, not only about these readers finding personal peace and hope.
If you know this soul-purity that Peter speaks of, because you have been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ (v. 19), then this gift is not simply about you, or even you and Jesus. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love...
We have been made new for a new kind of love. What kind of love? Peter makes it clear that he is talking about "brotherly love". The city of "brotherly love" takes its name from the Greek word used here: philadelphia.
No matter where your from, no matter what you've done, no matter what you look like or sound like, if you have placed your confidence in Jesus as your only hope for this life and the next, then you are joined to every other person who has done that very thing...no matter where they're from, no matter what they've done, no matter what they look like or sound like. All who are in Jesus by faith are now brothers and sisters. We are family.
And one of the reasons we were cleansed, purified, remade by God's power is so that we could love one another. New life for a new community knit together by a new love. Are you living in that newness this morning?
Peter wants his readers to live in light of this newness. That's why he goes on to encourage them to love one another earnestly from a pure heart..."If God has remade you for love, then love", Peter tells them.
Love for one another as God's people is such a fundamental part of what it means to be a Christian, isn't it?
In His final hours, as Peter sat with him at the table in that upper room, Jesus himself instructed his disciples with these words:
34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
The same apostle who recorded those words, later wrote about how fundamentally this "love for another" really is connected to God's work in us:
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (I John 2:9-11)
As we are gathered here this morning as a church family, I think we need to stop, as we should often do, and consider how responsive we've been to Jesus' new commandment to us. Are we loving one another as we should?
But the question is deeper than that, isn't it. Here's what I really want us to see this morning. Notice all of the terms that qualify the kind of love to which Peter is calling us.
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart...
The bar has been raised. Peter knows, God knows that we are tempted to substitute a counterfeit love for the genuine love that God calls us to have for one another.
The love to which we are called is first sincere; it is, second, earnest; and third, it is pure.
The first word "sincere" is literally, ‘without hypocrisy'. The second word, "earnest", literally means ‘to be stretched out'. The picture is of someone giving it all that they have. It contains the idea of not only intensity, but also constancy; consistency. The third term, "pure", describes the heart from love should flow. This idea corresponds to the ‘purified soul' that Peter mentions at the beginning of the verse.
This call to love from a "pure heart" should remind us of Paul words in I Timothy:
But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
Is this...is this the kind of love that we have for one another? Peter is simply reminding us of what Jesus told us: as I have loved you, so you must love one another. There is no doubt that the love of Jesus was sincere, earnest, and from a pure heart.
So we are to love like Christ. It is a godly love; it is a holy love. Peter's encouragement here flows right out of what he wrote 7 verses earlier: but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct...
Don't love one another as the world loves. Let your love be set apart, distinct because of the divine work that's been done in you. Our love should not be tainted, our hearts should not be tainted by any of the things Paul mentions in 2:1...
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Brothers and sisters, we need to consider whether or not we are being driven forward by this standard. Are we lowering the bar when it comes to our interactions with one another? Or are we willing to be convicted and challenges by this call to a sincere, fervent, and pure love?
Listen to how several writers in the first centuries of the church described this kind of brotherly love
In the late 2nd, early 3rd century, Tertullian wrote this about what the Romans would say about, often in mockery about the early Christians: "Look," they say, "how they love one another" (for they themselves hate one another); "and how they are ready to die for each other" (for they themselves are more ready to kill each other).
Justin Martyr wrote in the century after Jesus, "We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies."
Clement, describing the person who has obeyed the truth, wrote this: "He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain."
Way of Grace, is God honored by the love we have for one another? I hope He is. Are those around us impacted by the way we care for another. I hope they are.
The point is not that we say, "Yes, we could do a much better job. In fact, I can think of three or four people in this room who could be more loving." No, that's not the point. The point of these words is that each of us would be personally convicted and challenged by Peter's call to love; that each of us would look into our own hearts and see whether we are holding on to grudges; whether we are keeping brothers and sister's at arms length; whether we ourselves are being motivated by anything other than the love of Christ.
C. The Fruit of the Gospel (1:23-25)
Of course, it would be easy to characterize this kind of instruction as "pie in the sky", as unrealistic and unattainable. But building on what he has already written, look at what Peter goes on to tell them. He says, "love one another earnestly from a pure heart..."
23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Peter can call his readers to a sincere, earnest, and pure love, because he knows that God himself has done a work in them to accomplish this very thing. In these verses, that work is described in agricultural terms.
What God has done in us is not something that will fade or waste away. It is imperishable. It will last forever. And God's work in us is accomplished through His word. Peter goes on to back this up by quoting from Isaiah chapter 40. As God reminds us through the prophet, in and of ourselves, we are nothing. We bloom for only a moment, and then we fade away.
But the word of God remains forever. And Peter connects the word of God mentioned by Isaiah directly with the gospel that was announced to his readers. This takes us right back to 1:10-12, where we're told the OT prophets were really serving Christians with their prophecies.
And so, if the gospel, the good news about Jesus, has done its work in us, then there is something imperishable; there is something incorruptible working itself out from inside of us. It is living and it is abiding...and it is transforming.
You see, the fruit of the gospel is always a changed life. Why? Because the counterfeit love we so often give to others is driven by fear, failure, or foolish pursuits. And the gospel overturns all of those with the power of what Jesus Christ has done.
Yes, we may fail to love one another sincerely because we are afraid of what others might think of us if they get too close. Or we're afraid of what others might do to us if we allow them into our lives. Or we're afraid of being hurt again by a brother or sister we need to forgive.
But the gospel speaks directly to that fear, doesn't it? We don't have to be afraid of what might happen because we know what has happened and what will happen because of Jesus. We belong to the Father. He will work everything out. We are His for eternity. And He is bigger than any fear we might bring to Him.
And yes, we might fail to love one another fervently because we have failed to love this way in the past. Maybe we deeply hurt someone who trusted us. Maybe our love was interpreted the wrong way. Maybe we simply failed to be there when we should have been.
But the cross of Jesus offers us forgiveness for all of our failures. It breaks the chains of past failure and gives us freedom in the present to love as we should.
Maybe we are not loving as we should because we are foolishly pursuing other things. Maybe our priorities leave no room for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We might show up on Sunday or even in some other setting, but maybe that time is really for us. Maybe you think that all of your time is really ‘for you' and not others. Maybe we act loving only for what we might get out of this or that relationship. Maybe we love others for selfish gain.
Well, the word of God, the gospel, the message of the cross should overturn that kind of thinking because it calls us to die daily to ourselves. It reminds us that our foolish pursuits were the nails that pierced the hands and feet of Jesus. We have in the gospel, the perfect picture of God's Son putting the interests of other before His own. He loved from a pure heart, all the way to the grave.
The fruit of the gospel is always a changed life, not simply because it calls us to conform to some standard out here, but because it changes us on the inside through the truth. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth...
The imperishable, incorruptible seed that God sows in us through His word enables us to love as He loves, because the gospel give us the pardon, power, and perspective we need to love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Brothers and sisters, this is the kind of love we need for one another. I've seen that love on display here, in this body. But I also know that God is calling us to go further up and farther in; to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Peter put it at the end of his second letter.
Like the original readers of I Peter, we too are prone to lower the bar when it comes to love.
Will you pray for Way of Grace in regard to this issue? Will you pray for yourself in regard to this issue? How is God challenging you this morning? Is it in regard to your love's sincerity? Is it in regard to your love's earnestness? Is it in regard to the purity of your heart? In what ways will you and I need to change in order to live out God's word concerning love? In what ways, even today, will we demonstrate this very love?
Let's look to what God has done in us, through Christ. Let's look to that purifying work Jesus accomplished; to that imperishable seed that has given us new birth. He's given us new life right here in the middle of this same old place we call the world. But He's also given us a new love in this same old place, a new love for one another, in obedience to a new commandment.
May God help us to not be conformed to the world's standards of love, but to love one another earnestly, sincerely, in this way, through the power of His Spirit, for His glory.