In this sermon, Pastor Babij continues his lessons from 1 Peter and expounds Peter’s fourth introductory exhortation: to love one another. Pastor Babij shows from various scriptures three biblical aspects of the love Christians are to have for one another: love’s origin, love’s terms, and love’s qualities.
We have been looking at the destiny of the Christian, which is specifically pointing to the holiness of salvation. Also, we have already been reminded that we are aliens and strangers on the earth, but while we are here, God has given us certain responsibilities. We are to be citizens of His kingdom, and to live differently in our life.
These exhortations, in 1 Peter, are given for believers to be prepared and equipped with whatever lies ahead. Whether we face hostilities or sufferings in this world, we are to be prepared, and the way to get prepared is by learning the Scriptures. So far, we have been exhorted to have a fixed hope. 1 Peter 1:13:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
When we do this, we are to do it for sobriety in prayer and resisting the enemy. Second, we are exhorted to live a holy life, and we’re to do that as obedient children. We have been given a warning not to do what we used to do, 1 Peter 1:14:
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.
Then, we are commanded to live within our new spiritual natures. 1 Peter 1:15-16:
but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”
Our Lord is holy, and expects us, as His children, to live out that communicable attribute that comes from Him, and because we are in a new family, we are to live out a holy life. Our Heavenly Father has a holy character to Him; therefore, He is holy and calls His children to be holy. Holiness includes the thought of approaching God, who is holy, so He must be approached in holy fear. Our heavenly Father is not only a good and loving parent, but He is a judge and demands our obedience. As a result, we are exhorted to fear God, the Father. 1 Peter 1:17:
If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.
Again, this behavior is done during the time of your stay on earth. The Lord is very aware that when we became Christians, He didn’t take us to heaven right away, but He left us here. In leaving us here, He has given us work to do. When addressing the Father, as believers and as His children, we should never forget that He is an impartial judge, a holy one, and is without respect of persons, judging each one according to their deeds.
When it comes to worship, we must keep in mind that our God is both a consuming fire and of consuming love, which are both present when we worship God. When we do worship, we are to do it with reverence and awe, which makes us run to God, not run away from Him. Therefore, keep in mind that this passage is pointing us to a healthy kind of fear, which is not a fear of a slave or a creature to the creator, but rather a reverential fear of an obedient child, who understands the Gospel and wants to love His God.
Our God is loving, and as a child understand that, he doesn’t want to take God lightly or indifferently, but wants to be very respectful in his understanding and approach to God. Therefore, having a high level of respect, care, and humility for God is included in us fearing the Lord. Christian reverence rests upon the knowledge we have of God’s holy character, and the knowledge we have been given of God’s plan of redemption.
Each exhortation, which is to fix our hope in the future, to live a life of holiness, and to fear God all have been preparing us to understand our vertical relationship with or Lord, which is always first. True salvation changes our relationship with God because one’s belief in Christ brings us into the family of God, which makes God our Father. In the Word of God, we discover that God’s method to bring us from sin to holiness of life is first to make us know that He loves His children.
Because of their belief in Christ, their sins are blotted out. God’s children’s consciousness has been purged from the guilt of sin by the offering of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we walk away knowing that we are washed and made clean with the blood of Jesus Christ. Now that we have been reconciled to God, and born into the family of God, we desire to love and serve Him. True service, for God, should not proceed of a hope of reward or fear of punishment, but only out of our love for God. As we grow in holiness, our affections for God become more inflamed towards Him, and our love, for the desires of the flesh and of the world, grow less and less as we are inclined to love God more and more.
At this point, we are readied to do something we never knew how to do before. As cleansed and purified people, the effects of our new, growing vertical relationship with God spills over into our horizontal relationship with others. We never knew how to genuinely love one another. Therefore, we are exhorted to love one another. 1 Peter 1:22:
Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.
If we were able to love people in this way, we would have no need to be exhorted to love one another. For the most part, the love we had for others was driven by selfishness, sensuality, superstitions, social disorders, and personal accesses flowing out of an evil and sinful heart. Yet, we would call it love, especially since we cared for someone here or there along the way with a passion to help people. However, this portion of Scripture is describing to us what it looks like living as the new people of God. As said in Scripture, all things pass away, and behold, all things become new. As children of God, we have new life in Christ. Because of that, there are new patterns and new principals we must learn to then live accordingly. Therefore, Christians are exhorted to love one another.
Out of holiness, this understanding will come out on how to love people. We have a new pattern of life, and it’s going to be characterized by ongoing, inward purity. Personally, I struggled with 1 Peter 1:22. When I first read it, I thought it was simple, but then when I got into it, I realized I ran into two big problems. First, it seems that there is a reflexive sense to 1 Peter 1:22. We are called to purify ourselves. Secondly, the nature of this exhortation since we’re often thinking we are doing this good; however, we are not. We must learn this from God. In other words, this love he is taking about is not a human love. It is a love that proceeds from God himself. 1 Thessalonians4:9:
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.
We must look at how God loves before we can ever get a sense of how love looks on the human level. Growing in purity is included in loving your brethren. When we believed, we were initially purified by God, but this is talking about something more. In fact, I had to look at other translations to see if they had any trouble translating this passage of Scripture. Here are a couple of translations for 1 Peter 1:22:
NRS: Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.
NIV: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
ESV: Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
NKJV: Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.
The struggle I had was this: is this talking about the time of purification when they were converted, or is this talking about post-conversion growth in moral purity? The passage could refer to a time of conversion, the post-conversion growth in morality, or to both. However, the stress is really on the second one – the post-conversion growth in morality.
When you become a Christian, before you can genuinely love, you must have purity of heart such as what’s going on in our mind and heart when we think about people. A trustworthy theologian such as Wayne Grudem suggests several reasons for interpreting this as a reference to their post-conversion experience.
Grudem states, first, the word obedience never clearly means initial saving faith. Secondly, Peter uses obedience, in 1 Peter: 1:2,14, as obedience in conduct and behavior. When used figuratively, the word purify means moral cleansing after conversion. Then, the context in the Apostle’s call to holiness, in 1 Peter 1:15, suggests that the purifying obedience Peter has in view results from an active response to that call.
Meaning, the way one obtains moral purity, in post-conversion, is by obeying the truth. If the truth is given to us to transform the mind, then it is going to transform our mind, which consists of emotion and will, and it’s going to begin to purify us in moral purity such as how we handle our body and our thoughts regarding other people. The true way of pleasing God is obedience to the truth, not merely the gospel message, but the holy Christian block of teaching in doctrine and life.
The result of such action, on the believer’s part, is to obey the command to love one another. God has given us the command, and He has also given us the ability to carry out that command. However, the ability to love one another did not happen before you became a Christian. In other words, Christians have a responsibility to act in their own moral purity post-conversion, which also supports our understanding of the Doctrine of Progressive Sanctification, or progressive holiness. We’re becoming more like the Lord, growing more in holiness, and we’ll be growing more and more in moral purity. 2 Peter 1:2-10
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
In that passage, we get the sense that we are to practice moral purity, and we are to add to what God’s already doing in our life, with understanding from Scripture. It is not a mistake that moral excellence comes first, and love comes last. As a believer, the most difficult thing to do is to learn to genuinely love people like God loves us. Therefore, all our assumptions of how we are loving must go out the window, and we must start from scratch.
Bottom line, purification is an ongoing state. The Lord’s means of purging the souls of His people from the love and power of sin, which is naturally in us, is their obedience to the truth by aiming at conformity to the precepts of the truth of purity and holiness. Because God raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory, your trust can be in God, your faith can rest in God alone, and now, you can have genuine love for everyone.
Because we are cleansed and purified people, we can carry out this command and live it out every day. Because we have been cleansed from our selfishness, hatred, and other defilements of the heart, we can genuinely love others, which is also an ongoing process. Daily, we are being purified, but we are cooperating with that in our own life, examining ourselves honestly, and seeing how we are doing in that area.
If you have been cleansed and purified, you will have your hope fixed on the revelation of Jesus Christ, you will grow in holiness, godliness, and moral excellence, you will revere God, and you will mature in love for God and fellow believers. If you are not cleansed and purified initially, there is no evidence of the former, and there can be none if there is no conversion. Therefore, we have a new pattern of life to live by, which is characterized by ongoing purity. Also, it is going to be a life committed to a growing love.
Now, there must be an origin of love that the Bible is talking about, and the origin of Biblical love comes from the Trinity of God. In other words, God, the Father, initiated this love. 1 John 4:10:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
God’s love, imitated by the Father, is active. The action is that the Father plans salvation, sends Christ into the world as the only substitute for sinners, and He gives His son as a gift to sinful humanity. Second, we know this love is demonstrated by the Son. Ephesians 5:1-2:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
It is demonstrated by God the Son, by giving Himself up to be a sacrifice, and we are, in turn, to be imitators of that sacrificial love. Also, the Holy Spirit pours out this love in our heart. Romans 5:5:
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
At conversion, this love is poured out, by God, to us. Because of the new birth, we are to live this love. As we have seen, this love has a divine origin, which comes from the Trinity, the triunity of God in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In 1 Peter 1:22, there are terms the Bible uses to describe this love, which are two-fold in the passage. However, in the Greek language, there are three words for love. In English, we have one word for love, and then we use a bunch of adjectives to describe what we are talking about. In the Greek, it is very clear what kind of love they are talking about at any given point in the passage of Scripture. Therefore, Biblical love has terms connected to it that describes how love looks.
First, it’s the word Eros. Ordinarily, this word is used in the classical Greek to describe love between the sexes, sweethearts, husband for wife, and wife for husband. Also, to describe erotic things. Secondly, there is the word phileo, which is a broader word in the Greek used to describe love of friends, parents to children, children to parents, fellow citizens, and to the state in which we belong. For example, when we say, “I love my country,” phileo is the term used to describe that statement. Thirdly, there is the word agape, which is a higher type of love that is all-absorbing and completely dominates one’s whole being. For example, when 1 John 4:8 says God is love, that is agape:
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
That is a statement that describes the very character of God in one three-word statement: God is love. He is consumed by that characteristic, and the other characteristics of God are included within that phrase. It is a word, in the New Testament, to describe the deep, abiding affection of God, in Christ, for each other within the Trinity.
In 1 Peter 1:22, we might view this passage as two of the same kind of love. However, in the Greek, there is two words for love in this passage. First, it is the word phileo, which means affection for a fellow believer or members of the Christian community. Second, the word “fervent” is connected to the term agape, which means the deep affection of God, in Christ, for each of His children. Therefore, He is calling us to have phileo and agape love for the brethren.
Remember, these exhortations are given to those living as aliens on this earth and are amid suffering. Even in circumstances of suffering, we are to love, so we cannot make excuses by saying we don’t have time for people to carry out this admonition. Love within the local church is vital. On the earthly level, our new relationship with God has brought us into a new visible community of diverse brothers and sisters. On the spiritual level, we have a new identity, and we are more than a community or gathering of people. We are a family, in which we have the same Father. In the true church, love must be the dominating characteristic in our relationships.
Also, in 1 Peter 1:22, there are qualities of love. First, it is a sincere love, which means it is riddled with truth and a brotherly love that is honest, pure, unfouled, and absent from carnal and worldly motives. Moral purity plays a role in sincere love. If you don’t have moral purity going on in your heart, you cannot really love people because you are looking at them wrong, treating them wrong, and categorizing them in your mind incorrectly. However, a sincere love is for the brethren, so it is not talking about loving everybody. It’s talking about loving other Christians and other brothers and sisters in Christ. To love them in a way that, in your heart, you’re sincere, not hypocritical, play-acting, or giving lip service.
Secondly, fervent love, the new love given to us by God, is a Christ-like, sacrificial love. It is a love that stretches out and extends its efforts to the limits. God calls us to a love that is with all our strength. When we do give people love with all our strength, we will keep on forgiving them. We will find ways to settle privately the wrongs others do against us. We will reach out to people no matter how deeply they have fallen. We won’t hold their past sins against them like a ball and chain connected to them, but we will try to help them build a better future. In a small way, this is fervent love, which is the kind we owe our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the end of the book of Romans, Apostle Paul says that you do owe something to people, which is love. Romans 13:8:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Christians are the only ones who know how to do this since they are given the power and ability to love. We share brotherly love because we are all related to Christ, and we share godly love because we belong to God, which is another attribute of God that we can live out. In 1 Peter 1:22, we are also to love from the heart, which is talking about the depth of love. It is a love out of a purified heart. It is to be a consistent deeply felt love from a pure heart, not someone acting on the stage.
At this point, we get the sense that this is something we must work hard at doing. This is not something that just comes to us, that we are born with, or something that can be taught by other human beings unless they are believers. We have love in our heart, but we don’t always manifest fully.
It is impossible to love the truth and hate the brethren. According to the epistle of 1 John, love of God is a necessary foundation to love others. 1 John 4:11:
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 3:14:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
There is divine life that communicates divine love to people. The source of all love is God. God dwells in us, and God’s love is perfected in us. Anyone claiming to know God, and failing to show love to other believers, can only mean that person is a deceiver, or is self-deceived. 1 John 4:19-20:
We love, because He first loved us. 20If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
We are children of God, but if we lack love to God, we lack love to God’s church. So, the question must come up: how do you love your other brothers and sisters in Christ? Possibly, we can gain another level of understanding in this new love if we placed against the works of the flesh. Perhaps the most striking quality of fleshly indulgences, as over against love, is that the works are spawned in selfishness. Quite clearly, in 1 Corinthians 13, love seeks not its own or is self-oriented. Rather, other-oriented. In direct contrast, the works of the flesh, particularly those with social disorders, are foundationally inspired by self-interest, which is usually behind a lot of things that we do.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment. John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
If you have love for one another, the world will know that Christians are indeed Christians and are intimately connected with Christ. Francis Shaeffer said, “According to Jesus, Himself, the world has the right to decide whether we are true Christians and true disciples of Christ based on their view of your love for each other.” Therefore, this is observable amongst Christians. The world can argue, or easily dismiss, observable love among professing Christians. There is something very attractive and beautiful about practicing observable love in the visible church.
If we, as a called-out group of believers, practice visible holiness, we will show forth the holiness of God. We would be sound in our practice of holiness. If we, as a called-out group of believers, practice visible love, we would show forth the love of God, and we would be sound in our practice of community. The Lord teaches this all over Scripture: you will know them by their love, which is the characteristic amongst God’s people. This love is the growing characteristic of God that takes time and work. God has given it to us in our heart, and now it must work out. The question raised by one man, regarding this, said, “How do you regard your brother-man?”
Do you regard your brother as negligible? Such as making plans without including them. We may live with the assumption that his or her needs, sorrows, welfare, or salvation is nothing to do with us, but with someone else. Do we live as, if in your world, no one matters except you? Secondly, we may treat our brothers with contempt or as a fool with comparison to other intellectual attainments, and as one whose opinions are brushed aside or looked to as less useful. We may treat our brothers as a nuisance, such as one who is weaker, less fortunate, under-privileged, in poverty, or in sickness.
If we are looking at people in this way, this is the stuff that needs to get out of our life. Ultimately, do we treat our brethren as enemies? You may regard all other brothers and sisters as potential competitors, who we compete against to be defeated. Therefore, viewing them as a potential enemy. Christianity is not a competition sport. In fact, this is a place where we are to live out the passage of 1 Peter 1:22.
In saying that, we can love with this new love. Reason being that we have received a new divine nature. The Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us to carry out these imperatives. Therefore, the motive and the ability to obey this command to love, flows from the new birth and life that opens. In other words, the divine seed produces divine love to other people.
This principal of love is to be this new life, which is characterized by the eternal intention with the temporal. 1 Peter 1:23:
for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
1 Peter 2:1-3:
Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
This is what is behind us loving the brethren. We have a divine seed planted in our hearts, which brings out divine love in our life. As we grow in Christ, purity and love is communicated through life to others. Let’s pray:
Lord, Thank You for the Word of God. Lord, I must say that the Word of God often brings deep conviction to our heart. When it comes to loving the brethren, Lord, we really have not gone very far in our sanctification. We have much work to do in this area, in cooperating with Your spirit. We have work to do individually, and work to do corporately as a body. I pray, Lord, that this would be one characteristic that if it is seen amongst us in its infant state, I pray that it would continue to grow and be manifested through our lives, speech, actions, thoughts, and purity of our heart. That, Lord, we would be concerned about other people, and not just concerned about ourselves. Lord, we know that, in doing and thinking like this, it honors and pleases You, and it is what you want us to live out. I pray, Lord, teach us to be like this and like you, Lord. You loved us first. Now, we are understanding how You did, so let us love others the same. I pray this, in Christ’s most precious and holy name, Amen.