We know what we have been ransomed from.
1 Peter 1:20-23
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 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. 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. ESV
Love one another (continued)
Having considered the first and second slices (top and bottom?) of bread that makes up the sandwich served up by Peter let’s examine the filling but first a brief review.
We previously noted that, it is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” who has “caused us to be born again”. It wasn’t our doing; it was His doing. He caused it. He brought it about. I pointed out that it’s very important to maintain the distinct emphases of these two slices of bread if we’re to have a Biblical and balanced understanding of the gospel and how it is worked out in people’s lives. On the one hand we must recognise that the working out of the gospel depends fundamentally on God working in sovereign power in bringing about new birth. If we don’t recognise that then you essentially have a man centered gospel. And as we have previously seen, we must nonetheless do the believing. We can only do that once God has “caused us to be born again” but we must believe. So how does Peter’s assertion “since you have been born again” support the command to “love one another”? I suggested it does so in two ways.
Firstly, being born again gives new life. It’s a new type of life.
Secondly, Peter goes on to say that that is “through the living and abiding word of God”. It provides us with the context in which to love. It provides the “one another” to love.
Having considered the two slices of bread, let’s now take a look at:
The filling that is sandwiched between “Having purified your souls” and “having been born again” is the command that we find in the second part of verse 22 where we read: “love one another earnestly from a pure heart”.
So, what is the command?
It’s the command to “love”. Now, interestingly, the Greek word that Peter used here is different from the one he used in verse 22 when he spoke of “brotherly love”. The word here is “agapae”. That is a love that goes beyond sincere brotherly affection. It’s an especially deep, strong love that is to characterise believers in Christ. Jesus Himself commanded His followers to exercise such “agapae” love. He said in John 13v34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.
The key to understanding what is meant by this “agapae” love lies in the words “just as I have loved you”.
It means to love as Jesus loved. That’s why Jesus referred to this commandment as “A new commandment”. There was nothing new about the idea of being loving but loving as Jesus did was utterly new because, until He came, no-one had ever loved like that. How did Jesus love? Well, He denied His own wants and put the needs of others first. He actively served others and sacrificed Himself. It was love that went beyond feelings or words or good intentions or what was convenient. It involved actions and it was costly.
Paul describes this love in Philippians 2 and he made it very clear that Jesus is the pattern for such love. We read in verses 2 to 8: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.
Or, we read in 1 John 3v16-18: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth”. So, that is the sort of love that is being commanded for believers in Christ.
Who is to be the object of such love?
Well notice that both Peter and Jesus gave the command to “love one another”. This “agapae” love is to characterise the body of believers. It’s to mark us out as followers of Jesus. That’s why Jesus went on to say: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.
Now, when you hear that command to “love one another” your first response is probably to ask yourself the question “do I really love my brothers and sisters in Christ in that way?” That’s a challenging question that we do well to ask ourselves. There’s also a, perhaps, less obvious question that arises from this command to “love one another”. You see, that phrase “one another” suggests the reciprocal nature of this love. We are each to love and be loved. So, you must not only ask “am I loving my brothers and sisters in Christ?” but also ask “am I allowing my brothers and sisters in Christ to love me?”.
We British can be very self sufficient and self contained can’t we? We have a stubborn determination to get by on our own and not trouble anybody. That might sound very polite and honourable but it’s not the way it should be among believers in Christ. If you turn down offers of help on the grounds that you don’t want to inconvenience anyone, you’re not only denying yourself the benefits of the love of your brothers and sisters in Christ, you’re denying them the opportunity to obey Christ’s command to them to love you and you’re denying unbelievers the opportunity to see this “agapae” love in action and perhaps be drawn to faith in Christ.
So, this love is to be for “one another” and that is to be a two way thing.
Next, notice the manner of this love?
The ESV says that we are to “love one another earnestly”. That sounds a bit serious and sombre. The NIV has “love one another deeply” but I don’t think that “deeply” quite captures the sense either. A better translation is probably “fervently”. Yes, it’s to be a love that is to be earnest and deep but it’s also to be strongly felt and passionate too because that is how Jesus loves us.
Finally, notice the source of this fervent love.
The text says that it is “from a pure heart”. And where does the “pure heart” come from? We’re back to the first reason or first slice of bread in the sandwich aren’t we? Peter’s readers can love “from a pure heart” because he can say to them: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth”. And they had been able to obey the truth because Peter could say of them: “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”.
The Beatles sang “All you need is love”. We do need love. We do need to love. But the love we need doesn’t arise in a vacuum. It doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth” and that comes about by having “been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”.
We’ll think about that “living and abiding word of God” next time.
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!