Series: 1 Peter: This Exiled Life

Earnest Love and the Abiding Word

  • Nov 13, 2016
  • Mark Vroegop
  • 1 Peter 1:22-25

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:22–25, ESV)

It is really good to be back at College Park this Sunday. Over the last ten days, Sarah and I, along with Nate and Bruce, set foot in five different countries and flew on thirteen different flights as we visited Southeast Asia and India. We literally traveled around the world, and it was an amazing opportunity to see what God is doing to reach unreached people around the world.

I must tell you that our investment in missions is worth every dollar, and we have some people who are doing wonderful and creative gospel work. We were able to visit a house church in the poorest village I’ve ever seen, observe a business model being used to open doors for the gospel, witness illiterate people sit on the edge of their seats as they heard gospel stories, and hear about the sufficiency of Christ from people who have suffered for the sake of the gospel.

My heart is full of gratitude today for what God is doing around the world. I am reminded that God is drawing - even now – people from every tribe, nation and tongue. This is an amazing time to be a follower of Jesus as it relates to seeing unreached people being reached with the gospel. The Word of God is moving forward all over the world! It is so good to be home and to worship with you this Sunday.

I was so grateful for the focal point of REACH two weeks ago. Nate and his team did a marvelous job turning our attention to what God is doing through our church in global missions. With REACH completed, we have a number of really important things happening in the life of our church over the next two months.

  • Next week is a very important Sunday, with our congregational meeting in the evening. This gathering is the most important meeting of the year for our congregation, as we vote on the budget, elect Elders and Deacons, make changes to our By-laws, and vote to affirm the purchase of property for the Fishers campus.
  • In the morning of November 20, Chris Beals and I will be delivering a message about where we are headed in terms of our vision for 2017.
  • At the end of the month (November 23), we’ll host a Thanksgiving Eve service, where I’ll be preaching a message on being thankful for God’s mercy and how thanksgiving can easily result in malfunction.
  • In December we have a great opportunity for you to connect with someone who doesn’t worship here by inviting them to the Christmas Concert and finding a way to have a gospel conversation.
  • And then we are going to have a wonderful time worshipping together on Christmas Eve in one of our three services.
  • Finally, don’t forget about the Christmas Offering for our vision for the Brookside Community. We have a great opportunity to really make a generational impact in that community and to keep building bridges of grace that can bear the weight of truth.

These next two months are full of many unique opportunities to live out our mission of igniting a passion to follow Jesus.

The End of 1 Peter 1: Love One Another

Today we bring to close the first chapter of 1 Peter where we have been introduced to the idea of being a Christian exile. Last week Chris Beals walked you through a great message about the preciousness of the redemption that we have in Jesus and what it means to not waste our exile.

Now, we are going to resume our study of 1 Peter at the beginning of 2017, and I’m excited for us to see how an exiled life affects our Christian identity and how it informs our understanding of suffering, as well as our relationships to the government, to our employer, and to our spouse. It is going to be great study as we begin next year.

Our final text in chapter one speaks to what kind of culture is to be present inside the body of Christ while experiencing the reality of exile. After looking at the nature of God’s plan for the exile and how God calls His people to be holy, we now turn to the way that exiles are to treat one another.  In the midst of a hostile culture, the church of exiles is to be marked by pure and earnest love.

It means that as we understand, in our own context, what it means to be an exile is that we should be a people more and more marked by pure and earnest love for one another. This text invites us to think carefully about our own church culture – what it means to be a member, what happens on Sundays, what happens in Small Groups, what happens in all of the programs that we offer. We need to consider not just what it means to attend a church service, but what it means to really be the church.

Peter makes this point about love by placing a command between two biblical reasons for that command to be lived out. So let’s look at the connection between the church culture of love, the work of God in people, and what it means for our church even this Sunday.

The Command: “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart”

Peter issues a command to these exiles about the kind of people that they are to be. They are to be marked by a special love for one another – an affection marked by earnestness and purity. Verse 22b states it very clearly: “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” The NIV translates this as “love one another deeply, from the heart.”

The first chapter of 1 Peter has included a number of commands. Do you remember them? After detailing the preciousness of God’s mercy in verses 3-9 and the story of God’s grace in verses 10-11, Peter issued three other commands:

  • “set your hope full on the grace brought to you” – v. 13
  • “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” – 15
  • “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” – v. 17

Peter wants the culture of this group of people to be marked by hope, holiness, and godly fear.  Peter envisions a group of people whose lives are marked by some very important biblical words and concepts. He desires for their culture to be one that is counter-cultural.

Let’s unpack this command in verse 22b.

The command to love is not a new concept as it relates to the body of Christ. In fact, it is the essence of what a gospel-shaped community should look like. Throughout the New Testament, love is the center of gravity for what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  A few notable texts include:

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.” (John 13:34-35, ESV)

 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10, ESV)

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, ESV)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV)

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, ESV)

It is very clear from these texts, and from many others, that the chief characteristic of the community of Christ is to love. In fact, the Scriptures go so far as to say that a group of people who are not marked by love do not have a clear understanding and possession of the gospel itself.

Second, notice the words “one another.” Now you should not just pass over this phrase because it is a very important concept as it relates to what the exiled community is to be like. The New Testament has at least 59 texts that make reference to “one another” in some form. These commands serve as the new ethic that is supposed to characterize the New Testament community. In other words, the “one anothers” become the new law for the new covenant community. “Love one another” could almost be considered the single most important and all-encompassing command.

Let me prove this to you from a text in Colossians 3.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12–14, ESV)

Do you see how important love is? It is a vital and central aspect of what it means for a community of people to be shaped by the gospel.

In fact, when Peter says “from a pure heart” he is referring to the way in which the gospel changes people from the inside out. We’ll look at this concept more in a moment as we look at the first part of verse 22, but at this point I simply want you to see that a heart that is pure because of the gospel provides the means by which love really happens. People who have been loved by God are able to truly love one another.

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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10–11, ESV)

What would prompt a person to be more concerned about another person? What would motivate a person to love someone else in a selfless manner? It is the way in which God has loved us. People who have been loved in this way are the ones who are truly able to love one another. At least they should be.

Finally, the command includes the word “earnestly.” The word means continuously, constantly, and eagerly. Interestingly, it is the same word used to describe Jesus’ prayer in the Garden in Luke 22:44. His earnest prayer led to sweat like great drops of blood. And it is used to describe the prayer offered to God on behalf of Peter when he was in prison in Acts 12:5. “Earnestly” is a word marked by passion.

Our mission at College Park Church is igniting a passion to follow Jesus. And one of the ways that we express that mission is by a passion to follow Jesus by passionately (earnestly) loving one another. In fact, I would argue that if we don’t passionately love one another, we probably are not passionately following Jesus.

Let me give you a few examples of what this earnest, gospel-shaped love might look like:

  • That this church is more than just a place that you attend for worship services, but it is a group of people that you are connected to and are seeking to love.
  • That when you come on Sundays, you are looking for people to talk with, pray for, and love on. You are not coming just concerned about your life, your needs, your schedule, and your pain.
  • That you build relationships with people who are different than you because the gospel shapes your affections more than your comfort with people who are exactly like you.
  • That we care for people who have problems, and we do our best to help them through difficulties.
  • That when people have needs, we are quick to meet those needs.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. An exiled community, shaped by earnest love from a pure heart, is an amazing place. And I hope that we can continue to grow into this reality as a church family.

Peter desires for this gospel-exile community to be shaped by love.

They are exiles, which means that there is something different about them in reference to the culture in which they live. And it is interesting that, once again, Peter focuses on what their internal church culture is to be like. Peter is not focusing the exiles’ attention on diagnosing the problems of the culture. Instead, he is calling them to embrace a particular kind of culture within their church.

That is a really helpful thought. Do you realize that Christianity can survive and thrive in all kinds of cultures? The call to love one another transcends history, national identity, and who happens to be in political power. The book of 1 Peter was written over 2,000 years ago in a very different period in world history and with very different circumstances, and yet the command to love one another applies just as much today as it did in the first century.

In other words, the call to love one another transcends time, circumstances, ethnicity, and national identity. The call to love one another is the essence of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It is what God calls us to.

Two Reasons: The gospel’s purpose and the Word’s perseverance

Now to reinforce this vital biblical command, Peter gives two reasons for it. Both of these serve as bookends or supports for this all-important instruction about loving one another.  Let’s look at them.

                  Love is the Gospel’s Purpose

We’ve already touched on this at some level as we looked at the command, but it is worth examining a bit more closely. I said earlier that love is the by-product of the gospel, but we see this very clearly in the first part of verse 22.

The verse begins with the phrase “having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…” The particular tense in the original means that something happened in the past which now affects the present.  And Peter’s point is that these people have experienced a spiritual purification that has stunning implications in their lives.

I take the phrase “obedience to the truth” to refer to their conversion experience. It is the same concept that Peter uses in 1:2 (“obedience to Jesus Christ”) and what Paul says in Romans 1:5 (“to bring about the obedience of faith”). The idea is simply that a person comes to agree with who they are (sinners), who Jesus is (Lord), and what they are called to do (repent). It means a faith-filled response to the gospel.

You could think of it as if Peter were saying, “In your response to the gospel, your souls were cleansed.” His point here is simply that something has happened to them by virtue of the gospel being received.

Which then leads to the very important word “for” in verse 22. This gospel response and heart-purification has an effect: “a sincere brotherly love.” Now we unpacked the meaning in the previous point, so all I want you to see here is the connection between faith, purification, and brotherly love.

The purpose in the gospel is not just to save individual people from their sins and assure them of what will happen to them when they die. That is surely part of the gospel purpose, but not in its entirety. Faith and purification produce the fruit of love toward other people, and this is not something that might happen; it must happen!

As vital as faith is in embracing the gospel, so love is vital in validating the gospel. Faith is how a person embraces the gospel, but love is one of the ways we know that the gospel is really present.  In other words, a community that is not marked by love is not really marked by the gospel.  Now I know that is a strong statement, so let me back it up with another important text from 1 John.

If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20–21, ESV)

Love is not optional in a community that claims to know the gospel, because the gospel purpose is to create brotherly love.

                  The Word’s Perseverance

The second reason that love is commanded is owing to the connection between love and the Word of God. Verses 23-25 extend the discussion from the gospel to the supernatural nature of the Word. Peter links the outworking of love with the power of Scriptures themselves.

In verse 23 he begins by indicating that the reason that these exiles are to love one another is because of the supernatural nature of their spiritual birth. Previously we saw him argue that love should flow from the gospel. This time he argues that their love springs from something supernatural that God has done in them.

Spiritual exiles have been born again by an imperishable seed. Peter is using a birth metaphor here to help these exiles understand something very special. The conception and birth of a physical baby is a marvel to behold. I’ve said this before, but I cannot imagine how anyone can deny the existence of God when they witness the birth of a baby. And yet as wonderful as that is, there are limitations connected to our humanity. Mothers and fathers are not perfect, and they will not live forever. The miracle of birth is overshadowed  with the reality of our humanity.

But there is not a shadow of perishability that hangs over the new birth! Those who are born again are brought into a new spiritual existence by the will of God, by the act of God, and by an imperishable seed. In other words, what God has wrought, no one can undo. A God-ordained miracle has happened in the new birth.

Why is that important? Because the kind of love that Peter is describing is a miracle-kind-of-love. And it is the very act of God that makes this love possible now and in the future. The miracle of the new birth creates miraculous love.

Central to this new birth is the Word of God since it is the Word of God that creates the context for the new birth (Romans 10:17). In verse 23 we see that the imperishable seed (of God) comes through the “living and abiding Word.” Peter uses these two descriptions of the Word to help us understand that the Word is more than just content and specific words and phrases.  The Word does something supernatural in us, and it does something that endures – that’s the meaning of “abiding.”

To make this point even stronger, Peter quotes Isaiah 40, and the context of this passage is set in the midst of the Babylonian exile. Israel is given comfort from this passage that God will once again work on their behalf and restore them.[1] The nations around them are like grass. They will wither and fall, but the word of the Lord will remain forever. In other words, as these exiles look around them they can have hope that something more foundational is guiding their lives. They can create a counter-cultural community regardless of the context in which they live.

The world’s culture is like grass. It will wither. It will fail. But the word of the Lord will be the preserving agent in their lives and in the community. They can love one another earnestly despite the pressures around them because there is something more powerful that is empowering their lives and their actions.

That is why the text ends with “this word is the good news that was preached to you.” Peter wanted these exiles to know that something powerful has been entrusted into their care. Something supernatural has been brought to bear on their lives. The gospel and the Word of God have created this exiled community, and they can not only survive; they can thrive!

So if they were starting to wonder how brotherly love was going to work and how they would really create a counter-cultural community, Peter reminds them and us about the power of the gospel and the persevering nature of the Word.

The Applications

Now that we’ve examined this text, let me make a few direct applications of this passage to our context and where we live.

First, this passage is a great invitation to those of you who have not yet received Christ. Coming to Jesus involves a transformation that is so deep and so miraculous that it changes what you love and why you love people. It may be that this passage is serving as a door of opportunity for you to put your faith in Jesus today. Why not respond to the call of God in your life?

Second, this text reminds us about the single most important fruit that should characterize our church: brotherly love. I wonder how you think that we are doing with that? Every church needs to take careful inventory of that question. And we need to be careful not to assume that God is blessing our church because of any number of other “markers.” We should really think through what it means to love one another.

Third, this passage encourages us to keep loving one another even when it is difficult. Whether it is in a conflict that you are working through, a marriage that is struggling, a small group with some unique people, or just your interactions with people on Sunday, we are called to keep loving one another.

When that gets difficult, we may wonder, “how am I going to do this anymore?” The answer is because of our hope in God’s supernatural work and Word.

Finally, my heart aches for some of you who know very little about what it means to love or to be loved in the context of the body of Christ. I want to encourage you that the gospel and word of God are both designed to create a very special community. Frankly, if you are not a part of that kind of loving community, you are missing out.

You are not able to see the beauty of how the gospel is lived out in and through the lives of other people. You are not able to see the compelling nature of a gospel-shaped community. And I’d invite you to take a step toward that community today.

Being an exile means that the gospel creates a compelling counter-cultural community in the world – a group of people born by God and sustained by the Word who love one another earnestly from purified hearts.

 

 

 

 

© College Park Church

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce this material in any format provided that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: by Mark Vroegop. Ó College Park Church - Indianapolis, Indiana. www.yourchurch.com

 

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 96.

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