Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Born Again to Love One Another

"[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. [1] So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. [2] Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—[3] if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 1:22–2:3)
In this passage, the apostle Peter tells his readers to do three things: (1) to love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (2) to put away malicious attitudes and practices opposite to this sincere love, and (3) to long for the pure spiritual milk of the Lord. He gives the following reasons:

1. Put away malice and hypocrisy and love one another, since you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for this purpose (1:22). A purpose and result of this purification is a "sincere brotherly love." Peter exhorts them to love earnestly and whole heartedly because they now have the heart that is capable of doing such a thing and because they were delivered from the dominion of sin for this purpose. Now, saying that you have purified your soul is not the way you might expect him to put it. Usually the Bible speaks of purification being a work of God. But viewing it from the side of human responsibility, how have Christians purified their souls? By their obedience to the truth. Interestingly, Peter uses similar terms in his speech at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. There he says, of both Jews and Gentiles, that God had "cleansed their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). Therefore, the "obedience to the truth" in 1 Peter refers to the fact that they have responded to the gospel with faith, and had thus received its benefits, including the initial purification of their souls. In verse 22 he emphasizes their believing response to the word; in the next verse, he emphasizes the grace of God which made this believing response happen:

2. Put away malice and hypocrisy and love one another, since you have been born again by the word of God (1:23-25). The word of God is living and active - God uses it to create the world out of nothing and to bring life from the dead, writing it on the hearts of His people by His Spirit. Our doctrinal statements call this "effectual calling" (i.e. the calling of God that has saving effect). Not only have Christians obeyed the truth - they have been born again by it. This is how they are able to obey it. Peter uses an analogy in this passage of the conception, birth, and growth of an infant. Our natural birth resulted from conception by the seed of mortal and fallen man, but our new birth resulted from conception by the seed of the abiding word of God. Because this word is living and abiding, it causes permanent results, giving us a new nature which grows unto sincere love for one another. This nature grows unto its intended end as it continues to be fed by this abiding word. This leads us to the third duty:

3. Long for pure spiritual milk, for you are newborn infants who need milk to grow (2:2). You have been born again, having been conceived by the word, and this makes you a newborn infant. My wife and I have a newborn infant, and we know the importance of milk and growth. Our baby is designed and intended for growth, but she needs milk to do so. Likewise, Christians are designed and intended to love earnestly and sincerely and to put away malice and hypocrisy, but they need the word of God to grow in this way. Here "salvation" is considered broadly, including all the benefits of Christ, including the way of life that He produces in His people. To grow up into this salvation, long for the word of God. Do not long only for an intellectual knowledge of the word - although that is necessary - but also a believing and submissive reception of this word, so that by it, your union with Christ might grow and your new nature flourish. Long for it, desire it, the way a baby longs for her milk.

Peter concludes this section with an additional appeal: "if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" (2:3). Have you not tasted that the Lord is good? You have received this word - has it not been a good thing? You want more of it, right? Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander do not tase good and they rot the insides. But the word of the Lord is good, producing growth in love that comes from a pure heart.
"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"
(Psalm 34:8)

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