Persevere in Love
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 1:22-25
A lawyer walks up to a rabbi one day, and he has a question about the law. That might sound like the setup for a joke, but this is not a joke. This is an arrogant man seeking to test Jesus. And we find the story in Luke chapter 10.
The lawyer says, “Rabbi, what should I do if I want eternal life? How do I make it into the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answers back, “What does the Law say? How do you read it?” That would have been a reference to the Jewish practice of reading and reciting Scripture.
Well, the lawyer, or scribe, responds with one of the most well-known and recited Old Testament passages for the Jews. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
That was the right answer. Jesus said, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
On another occasion, Jesus Himself said, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Then Jesus said, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
What’s the key word in those commands? How did Jesus summarize a faithful, obedient, and blessed life? If you want to honor God, if you want to grow as a Christian, what you need to be pursuing is love. That is the summary of the Christian life—love for God and love for others.
Romans 13 says: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet—that’s all summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5 and James 2 say the same thing. The fulfilment of the law, in terms of your relationship with others, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the summation of Christ’s law, and it is our focus as we come to First Peter 1:22-23.
I’ve said it several times now, that Peter’s emphasis in this letter is that we live with hope and with holiness. Hope and holiness—those are the emphases of this letter. They are also somewhat broad or general. So, what we get in the body of the letter are some specific application or expansions of that. How do I live with hope? How do I live with holiness?
The first more specific command we get is that we should live with love. Listen to verses 22 and 23. This is God’s word to us this morning:
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;
There’s a lot packed into those two verses, and we’ll look at that in a bit. But for now, I want you to notice the command here: “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” This is a passage about love.
And as we look a little more closely at these couple verses, let me just organize our time under three headings. First, we have the preparation for love. Second, we have the instruction for love. And thirdly, we have the justification for love. And under each of those headings, I’m gonna give you a main point.
Let’s start with the preparation for love, and here’s the point: If you’re a Christian, you are prepared to love. If you’re a Christian, you are prepared to love.
Before getting to the main command in verse 22, the Holy Spirt gives us a little bit of background. If you’re a Christian, verse 22 starts by describing you. You have purified your soul by your obedience to the truth. You have purified your soul by your obedience to the truth. What does that mean?
That’s a reference to salvation. Your standing before God was purified. Your record was wiped clean. How did that happen? From God’s side, it happened because He chose you and drew you to Himself. From the human side, it happened because you responded in repentance and faith. Salvation doesn’t come by works, but it does come from an obedient response to the gospel message.
The gospel is not just the truth about Jesus. The gospel is a command to turn from sin and to trust in Him. And if you’re a Christian, you were obedient to that truth. You recognized Jesus as Lord, which means He’s the Master of everything, including your life.
Obedience has actually been a big emphasis in Peter’s letter. In verse 2, he said that we were chosen to obey Jesus Christ. And in verse 14, we’re called to be obedient children.
So, that mindset of obedience prepares us for the command to love others. You get that? When you surrender your life to Jesus the Lord, you’re now ready to love others. That’s part of the package.
Peter says we purified our souls by our obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love. That’s where it’s headed. Your salvation was the preparation for love. If you’re a Christian, you are prepared to love. And that love should be sincere, genuine, not fake.
Now we come to the second section: the instruction of love. This is the command: Love one another earnestly from a pure heart. What’s the point here? Here’s the simple point. If you’re a Christian, you are commanded to love. You are prepared and you are commanded.
Now, in our culture, even people who reject Christianity are fine with saying we should love others. The problem is that the world, and our own sinful nature, wants to define love in its own way and then qualify that love. We want to set the rules for love, rather than follow God’s rules for love.
Biblical love is self-sacrifice for the genuine wellbeing of someone else. That’s biblical love. The greatest expression is Jesus laying down His life for the church. The expression of Christ’s love wasn’t just His willingness to die, it was that He actually accomplished something by it. He died to trade places with sinners. He died to satisfy the wrath they deserved.
And now, we are called to show the same kind of love. We can’t die for someone’s sins like Jesus did, but we can, in all sorts of ways, demonstrate that we want to put the other person’s interests and wellbeing above our own.
That sounds nice in theory, but Peter’s not talking about theory. He’s talking about specific application. And His specific application is that we show love to one another, that is, to our brothers and sisters in the faith, particularly those who are in our own church.
Take a second and look at everyone else who with us today. Or look at the members list sometime this week. You’re called to love them.
How do you do that? Well, that can happen in a lot of ways. Maybe a good way to expand this commandment to love is to think about the other commands in the Bible directed toward one another. There are positive commands, things we should do, and there are negative commands, things we should not do for one another. What’s on that list? It's not a short list.
Negatively, we have commands like: Don’t steal, Don’t lie, Don’t complain, Don’t challenge, Don’t judge, Don’t be a stumbling block, Don’t boast, Don’t envy, Don’t bite and devour.
Positively, we got commands like: Accept or Greet, Meet needs, Be at peace with, Serve, Encourage, Be humble toward, Admonish, Be kind to, Bear the burdens of, Forgive, Confess sins to, Seek the good of, Pray for, Comfort, Seek counsel from.
That list of “one anothers” is something we cover in our membership class, and it’s a good list to think about as you think about the other members in the church.
In our passage for today, though, the focus isn’t on what we can do to love, it’s on the nature or the quality of that love.
Love one another... how? Peter says, “Earnestly and from a pure heart.” Because of some differences in the manuscripts we aren’t sure if thew word “pure” is original. Peter might have just written, “Love one another from the heart.” But either way, the idea of purity was already expressed in the first part of the verse.
What’s new here, though, and what is being emphasized, is the idea of loving earnestly or fervently. This is not a common word in the Bible. The adverb “earnestly” comes from a verb that means “to stretch out.” That verb is used 14 times in the Bible, and 13 of those times it’s referring to someone stretching out their hand. The one time it’s not used for hands, it’s used for sailors stretching out the lines for an anchor.
So, think with me for a second about a rope or maybe a measuring tape. Have you ever wanted to use a rope or a measuring tape, and when you’re just about done, you realize it’s too short? You just wish it would stretch out a little farther, right?
Well, maybe that’s a good analogy for our love sometimes. We love someone for a little bit, but then eventually we get to a point where we think, “That’s it! I’m not gonna love them anymore! I’ve reached my limit! I don’t have any more love for them! I can’t go that far!”
Peter says, “You do have love! Christ has given it to you. You just need to stretch it out. You need to extend that love to them.” Love one another earnestly, or extendedly. Another way to express it would be to say: “Persevere in your love for one another. Keep extending it.” That’s the instruction here. If you’re a Christian, you’re commanded to love like this.
Now, I’m gonna come back to this idea because it’s the heart of the passage. But for now, we’ll move to our final section—the justification for love. And what I mean by that is the reasoning behind it. Why should we love one another earnestly or extendedly? Look at verse 23.
Your translation probably starts with the word “for” or “since.” There’s a connection here. You need to love other eagerly because “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”
We talked about being born again back in verse 3. It was all God’s doing. He gave us spiritual life.
In the physical realm, we understand that life comes from a seed. Trees and plants come from a seed. Human life comes from a seed too. The seed of a man produces life. In the spiritual realm, there’s a seed too. That seed is the word of God. God brought about our new birth by His Spirit and through His word.
Physical seeds produce things that decay and eventually die. Spiritual life, on the other hand, is eternal. It never ends. And once again, just like Peter did in verse 18 about redemption, he contrasts what it perishable with what is imperishable. Peter goes on to make a theological statement about God’s word.
God’s word is living and abiding, or living and enduring. “Living” points to its power. God’s word is powerful. “Abiding” or “enduring” points to is constancy. It doesn’t change. And verses 24 and 25 expand on that.
“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.”
The stuff in this life, no matter how pretty or impressive, is temporary. It won’t last. But God’s word lasts forever. It endures. It remains. It doesn’t change. God will fulfill His promises.
Most of us hear that, and I assume our spirits say, “Amen.” And that’s good. But here’s the Bible study question: What’s the connection between being born again and loving others? Or, to ask it another way, why does verse 23 begin with a “since”? What’s the connection Peter is making?
Some people have pointed to the idea that being born again means we are in the same family. Since we’ve all been born of the same seed, we’re all in the same family, so we need to love one another. That’s a true statement, but I don’t think it really gets at what Peter is saying here.
What Peter is saying is this, and this is the final point: If you’re a Christian, you are empowered to love. You are empowered to love.
I say that because the connection Peter is making is between the nature of the seed and the nature of our new life. His command to love is a call to live out the characteristics of the seed that gave us life.
From a human analogy, we understand that a child has the DNA of his biological father. The father’s seed brought that life about, and it is part of that child’s makeup.
The same thing happens spiritually. Since we were born again through the word of God, we could say, then, that the eternal qualities of God’s word should be seen in our lives. And specifically, here, Peter’s focus is our love.
Since God’s word is alive and powerful, our love should be alive and powerful. Since God’s word is abiding and enduring and constant—since it remains forever—our love should be constant and abiding, too. Our love should endure. Our love should remain.
That’s the connection Peter is making. Persevere in loving one another. Your love shouldn’t end because God’s word never ends.
Human love ends. But the love of God never ends. That’s what 1 Corinthians 13 says, “Love never ends.” Biblical love is modeled after the love of Jesus. Biblical love doesn’t come with unspoken qualifications.
Our love might look different at different times, but it can’t go away. So, take some time today and think about this question: What are some of the unspoken qualification you put on your love? What are some of those unspoken requirements or limits?
I’ll love them, once they admit how wrong they were... I’ll love them as long as it’s on my day off... I’ll love my husband as long as he’s home on time for dinner... I’ll love my wife, as long as she meets my own needs... I’ll love that person in the church, just as soon as they ask me for it.
Ask yourself: What are your limits? Where’s the end of your love? And then compare that to the love Jesus is calling us to.
Jumping back to Luke 10, when the scribe or the lawyer asked Jesus about the law, do you know how he responded when Jesus said to love God and to love his neighbor? He said, “Well, Jesus, who is my neighbor?” That’s such a lawyer question. “Let’s get technical, Jesus, who is my neighbor? What are the limits to the love I’m supposed to show?” The Bible said, he was trying to justify Himself. He was trying to prove to Himself that his love was enough.
How did Jesus respond? He responded with the story we know as The Good Samaritan. An Israelite man is robbed and left for dead. And a priest and a Levite both decided they were too holy to help. Blood is unclean. So, they passed by on the other side of the street.
But then comes a Samaritan. To the Jews, this is an unclean man. Samaritan were to be avoided. They were hated. And what does he do? He had compassion. He ministered to this man in his uncleanness and in his weakness. He bandaged him up. He let him ride his animal. And he paid for his stay at the inn.
And so, Jesus asks the lawyer, which of them did the right thing? Who was really the neighbor there?
What was Jesus doing? He was proving to the lawyer that his perception of love didn’t line up with God’s. And the same is true for us. Let’s not try to convince ourselves that we’re doing enough to love others. Let’s listen to the words of Jesus who ended the parable by saying “You go and do likewise.” Love like that.
Let me just close by saying that this parable of The Good Samaritan is something that I’ve been thinking about the past couple months because this quarantine makes it so easy to make excuses not to love others, doesn’t it?
We’re physically detached. And if there’s an opportunity to minister to someone in person, our thought might be like the Levite or the priest. Let’s stay as far away as we can.
I’m not saying you need to go and do something foolish. I’m saying that biblical love will grow if you learn to question your own priorities and measure them against the word.
Some of us here have a very strong desire to meet with others personally. Maybe biblical love will mean NOT attending an event—or doing so in a way that different than what you prefer. Maybe you can think about creative but still meaningful ways to love. Love is going to mean not looking down on those who prefer to stay home during this time.
For those us who have a stronger desire to stay home, maybe loving others will mean taking some deliberate steps to minister to someone.
Again, I’m not saying be flippant or dismissive. But we can’t let what’s happening in this world hinder the love God desires us to show others. If you believe you can love someone just as meaningfully without being in their physical presence, that’s fine. But then it needs to show. You need to do it. It won’t happen just by talking about it.
And wherever it is you think you fall on this spectrum, love means that you are going to hope for and believe the best. Loving your neighbor means recognizing they will make a different choice without villainizing them.
When you see someone stepping past the boundaries you are comfortable with, what’s your response? Are you hoping they get sick, so that they realize how foolish their decision was? Or if you see someone being more cautious than you are being, what’s your response? Are you hoping they get sick so that they realize how futile their attempts to protect themselves are?
I don’t think any of us are going that far, but the root of that sin is in all of us. Love is not the default position of the sinful nature. But love is the pursuit of our new nature in Christ.
Let’s love one another earnestly from a pure heart. We’ve been empowered by Christ and His word to do so.