1 Peter: Love, Being Born Again, and God’s Word

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.

1 Peter 1:22

After reminding Christians that God “ransomed” (ESV) or “redeemed” (NASB) us from sin “with the precious blood of Christ” (1:18-19), Peter points out that Christ “was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1:20-21).

Peter is correct to say that Christ “was foreknown before the foundation of the world.”  Christ – the Word – was “in the beginning with God” and “was God” (John 1:1-2, 14).  “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3; cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).  Now, “in the last times” (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2; 9:26), Christ has been “made manifest.”  In other words, the Lord’s plan to save mankind through His sacrifice and the proclamation of and obedience to His gospel has now, in the final age of earth’s history, been completely revealed (cf. Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 3:3-11).  This was all done “for the sake” of Christians, i.e., “you who through him are believers in God.”  It was God “who raised him from the dead and gave him glory” (cf. Acts 2:24; Rom. 1:4; 4:24; 6:4; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; Acts 3:13; Heb. 2:9; 3:22; Is. 52:13; John 8:54).  He did this “so that your faith and hope are in God,” a notion with which Paul would agree (1 Cor. 15:13-19).

Peter knew that his Christian readers were saved because their faith and hope were in God.  He acknowledged this by pointing out that they had already “purified (their) souls by (their) obedience to the truth” (1:22a), thus showing a clear connection between faith and hope in God and obedience to God’s Word (cf. John 17:17).  It is noteworthy that the specific reason he gives for them obeying the truth is “for a sincere brotherly love” (1:22b).  Ask just about any Christian, including yours truly, why we obeyed the gospel and the first thing that will likely come to our minds is to receive the free gift of God, eternal life, and to avoid eternal condemnation in hell (cf. Rom. 6:23).  It would do us good to be reminded that God saves us for more reasons than our own salvation.  One of those reasons is that we will sincerely love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  This is why Peter then commands Christians to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1:22c).  Take note that this love is to be done “earnestly” and must emanate “from a pure heart.”  Real, unfeigned, genuine love is proved by actions even more than by the words “I love you,” although communicating love verbally is certainly part of it.  Yet love given “earnestly” and “from a pure heart” is the type of self-sacrificial agape love which puts others before oneself (cf. Phil. 2:1-5).

Peter then reiterates how having this love for each other is a big reason God saved us from our sins.  We love each other “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1:22b-23).  Jesus spoke of this to Nicodemus, the rebirth of water and the Spirit which is baptism into Christ (John 3:3-5; cf. Tit. 3:3-5; Rom. 6:3-5; Acts 2:38).  It is not a rebirth which comes from “perishable seed,” as in somehow being physically being reborn as Nicodemus misunderstood it to be (John 3:4) only to eventually experience physical death.  No, the Christian’s rebirth is through “imperishable” seed, specifically “through the living and abiding word of God.”  After quoting Isaiah 40:6, 8 to show the difference between our fragile, temporary humanity and the eternal nature of God’s Word (1:24-25a), Peter makes clear that the gospel which had been preached to them was that same word of God (1:25b).  We must never underestimate the value of coming to know and obey God’s Word.  It is what saves our souls.

— Jon

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