22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, 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 OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ABIDES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you. 2:1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
“I don’t love you any more,” words repeated every day by two people so in love at one point and now so quickly fallen out of love. How can this be so? Why does love not last?
Jesus made it clear in speaking to His disciples about the end times that tough days were ahead for the church and that persecution would threaten the love of many:
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. 10 And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. 12 And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved” (Matthew 24:9-13).
In the Book of Revelation, God spoke these solemn words to the church in Ephesus:
2 “‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them [to be] false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love’” (Revelation 2:2-4)
While Scripture and experience inform us that love seems short-lived, the apostle Paul tells us “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). As I understand the Scriptures, love never fails us, but we fail to love. Peter’s words in our text have much to say about the promotion and preservation of love, a love that endures.
Peter’s words in 1:22–2:3 are a part of a whole, although the chapter divisions imposed upon this text do not help us see them as a whole. The central theme uniting these verses is the Word of God. The Word is referred to as “the truth” (1:22), the “seed” by which we were born again (1:23), the “living and abiding word of God” (1:23), the “word of the Lord” (1:25), the “word which was preached to you” (1:25), and the “pure milk of the word” (2:2).
The passage we are studying has two primary commands:
(1) “Fervently love one another from the heart” (1:22), and
(2) “Long for the pure milk of the word” (2:2).
While 1:22-25 and 2:1-3 all deal with the subject of the Word of God, each has a different emphasis. In 1:22-25, the Word is the “seed” by which we have been born again, by which we have become Christians. In 2:1-3, the Word is the “milk” by which we grow as Christians.
Our passage addresses the relationship of the Word of God to the mutual love of believers toward one another. In 1:22-25, Peter appeals to the eternal nature of the Word of God to show that the love of believers should be eternal. In 2:1-3, Peter appeals to the nurture of the Word of God, which results in the growth of the saints and promotes love toward one another.
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified26 your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart (NASB).
22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently (KJV).
Verses 22-25 contain one central command, supported by two explanatory phrases.27 The command is to “love one another.” The two phrases are: “having purified your souls” (1:22) and “having been born again” (1:23). In verse 22, Peter commands the saints to love one another. This love is described as fervent and proceeding from the heart. The basis for such love is obedience to the truth by which the saints have purified their souls, resulting in a sincere love for the brethren. We shall now explore this in greater detail.
When God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptian captivity, He also gave them laws by which they were to live. Just before the second generation of Israelites were to possess the promised land, God reiterated these laws and then made this statement:
29 “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
The sad reality was that the Israelites did not have the heart to obey God. They were sure to disobey His law and to endure the consequences He had spelled out:
15 And the LORD appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent. 16 And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they shall be consumed, and many evils and troubles shall come upon them; so that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ 18 But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods” (Deuteronomy 31:15-18).
19 Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22 And Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the LORD, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses” (Joshua 24:19-22).
Only when the Lord gave the Israelites a heart to believe and obey would the promised blessings come upon them:
6 “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34; see also Jeremiah 32:36-42; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26).
That “new heart” is the result of the new covenant brought about through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary:
14 And when the hour had come He reclined [at the table,] and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. “ 17 And when He had taken a cup [and] given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes. “ 19 And when He had taken [some] bread [and] given thanks, He broke [it,] and gave [it] to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way [He took] the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. 21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Me on the table. 22 For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” 23 And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing” (Luke 22:14-23).
2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
On the basis of the new covenant, and the cleansing which the blood of Christ has accomplished, Christians are able to love one another. This is Paul’s argument in Galatians 5. The new birth results in love for one another:
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only [do] not [turn] your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the [statement], “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another (Galatians 5:13-15).
The difficulty was the “flesh,” the desires and appetites which characterized and enslaved the Galatians before their conversion. They were called upon to forsake these desires of the flesh and to follow the promptings of the Spirit so that true love could abound:
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:16-26).
Peter calls for the same kind of change in his first epistle. Having been chosen by the Father, set apart by the Holy Spirit, and cleansed by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1-3, 18-21), believers are given a living hope (1:3-9). We are to fix our hope on these blessings which are to be brought to us at the return of our Lord (1:13).
The result should be a lifestyle of holiness and fear during the time of our pilgrimage on this earth (1:14-21). Our relationship with our fellow-Christians should be characterized by a mutual love, one for the other. This is made possible by the purification of our souls, a purification provided and accomplished by the Godhead, and which includes our obedience to the truth of the gospel (1:1-3, 22). This purification of our souls has made it possible to love one another without the selfish desires and ambitions of the flesh, enabling us to sacrifice our lives for our brothers and sisters (see John 15:13).
Peter writes that the goal of the purification of our souls is a sincere love of the brethren. This is not the well-known Agape love Peter calls for in his command to “love one another from the heart,” but the Philadelphia love also found in the New Testament. Both kinds of love are found in Peter’s second epistle:
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness (Philadelphia), and in your brotherly kindness, love (Agape) (emphasis mine 2 Peter 2:5-7).
Why does Peter seem to say that salvation produces one kind of love (Philadelphia) and then command us to exercise another kind of love (Agape)? Peter is teaching us that God provides us with all the essentials for Agape love (both a purified soul and the existence of a new, brotherly affection), but that the highest love is attained by our obedience to God’s Word and our diligence in striving to please Him. This is why Agape love is the end of the process Peter describes in 2 Peter 1. Love begins by obedience to the Word (see 1 Peter 1:22), and it continues to grow by our obedience to the Word (2 Peter 1:5-7).
God commands Christians to do that which He has made possible. Christians are consistently commanded to love one another (see John 13:34-25; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5). He also commands us to exercise diligence in knowing and obeying His Word to achieve what He has made possible.
The love God requires of us is described in verse 22. It is both a Philadelphia kind of love and an Agape kind of love. Philadelphia love is a love of warm brotherly affection, the kind evident in a closely knit family. This is the love members of God’s family have toward other family members—brothers and sisters in Christ.28 It is also a purposeful, sacrificial love, Agape love, the kind our Lord demonstrated on the cross of Calvary.
Further, the love God requires of His children is not a hypocritical29 one but a sincere, genuine love. This love is not a front we put on to impress others. Rather it is a genuine love which follows through with truly loving attitudes and actions and seeks the best interests of our brothers and sisters—at our expense. Having our hearts and souls purified now enables us to love from a pure heart:
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).
Finally, the love God requires of us, for which we are to strive, is a lasting love which never fails. In our text, the translators have chosen to render it “fervent:”
“… fervently love one another from the heart.”
This rendering does not do justice to Peter’s meaning. In verses 23-25, Peter sets out to show the basis of the love for which he calls. He does this by stressing the relationship between the nature of our new birth and the nature of Christian love. The new birth was brought about by the “seed” of the Word of God. The nature of this “seed” (or “Word”) is that it is “living and abiding” (verse 23). This Word “abides forever” (verse 25). As the Word of God lasts forever, so should our love for one another. Our love should be neither fickle nor frail. It should “never fail” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
The adverb rendered “fervently” is found only here in the New Testament. However, other forms of the term are found in the New Testament. The verb form means to “stretch out,” as used in describing Paul’s gesture in Acts 26:1. Outside the Bible, it is used figuratively for speaking at length.30 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich indicate that the adjectival form of the word includes “perseverance,” and that the adverbial form (as it is found only in our text), indicates not only eagerness and fervency, but also constance. They indicate that the adjectival form, used in 1 Peter 4:8, should be rendered, “keep love constant.” And so it is that in the King James Version, we find this translation:
5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him (Acts 12:5, KJV. emphasis mine).
While few translations render the text in a way that emphasizes the element of perseverance, it is nonetheless a strong nuance of the word, and that which Peter seems to emphasize in our text. Few commentaries point out this sense of the term; fortunately J. Ramsey Michaels calls attention to it:
“Although ektenws and its cognates may refer either to the fervency or the constancy of their love (BGD, 245; the term is more characteristically used of prayer), the latter is more likely in the present context.”31
Peter now reinforces the element of perseverance by citing from the Book of Isaiah in the verses which follow.
23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, 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 OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ABIDES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.
Once the emphasis on perseverance in love is apparent, the relevance of Peter’s words in verses 23-25 also become apparent. Peter first appealed to the purification of our souls, accomplished at salvation, as the foundation for Christian love. The purification of our souls made love for one another possible. Now, once again, Peter turns to our new birth, this time to establish the basis for perseverance in love.
Peter argues that the “offspring” should have the same nature as the “seed” which produced it. Our love should be lasting because the seed (the Word) by which we were begotten is everlasting:
35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
As all creation was brought into existence by the spoken Word of God (“And God said, ‘let there be
… ’” Genesis 1:3f.), so we were brought to life by His Word:
18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures (James 1:18).
6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
This word is not perishable, but imperishable. It lasts, like all the other precious things Peter has mentioned, things which we should greatly value (see 1 Peter 1:4, 7, 18-19). The imperishable seed is the “living and abiding” Word of God (verse 23).
Man and his glory are temporary, lasting only for a short time. As an illustration of temporary glory, consider the flowers of the field which have such a short life span and then disappear. Like the azaleas in Spring which are so beautiful, they last for a little while and then are gone. So it is with man and all of his glory. In contrast stands God’s Word which is eternal, enduring forever.
This passage in Isaiah 40 assured the Israelites of their future hope. While they were being chastened for their sins, there was yet to come a day of redemption on which they were to fix their hope. While the prophecies of Isaiah may have seemed impossible in their day, his readers were to be reminded that the glories of earthly empires would fade away, while God’s Word with all of its promises would endure. Their hope was certain because His word is eternal.
Peter, in the previous verses, stresses the connection between the eternal Word by which we are born again and an eternal love which does not fail. In verse 25, Peter makes another connection with profound implications. The Old Testament text in Isaiah 40 refers to the “Word of the LORD.” Actually, a careful look at Isaiah 40:5-8 shows Isaiah speaking of the “mouth of the LORD” (40:5), the “breath of the LORD” (40:7), and the “word of our God” (40:8). The Word, in this Old Testament context, is the Word of God the Father, of Yahweh or Jehovah.
The last line of verse 25 equates this Old Testament “Word of the LORD” with the New Testament gospel which was preached to Peter’s readers. This is not news to us, for Peter has already said something similar in reference to the Old Testament prophets:
10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).
The Word of the LORD is the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ:
1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in [His] Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away [from it.] 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Hebrews 2:1-4).
The Word of the LORD is the gospel, the gospel proclaimed to Peter’s readers, the Word by which they were born again. That Word, which commenced their life in Christ, is eternal, and thus the love which flows from their new birth must be everlasting as well. The Bible knows no short-lived love for Christians, for love never fails, just as His Word never fails.
Not only does Peter link the New Testament gospel with the Old Testament, he also links the Lord Jesus with God: “With the term Lord Peter highlights Jesus’ divinity; he shows that the word of God is identical with the word of the Lord Jesus.”33
This was the consistent claim of the apostles: “Jesus is LORD.” One must not only believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world whose shed blood cleanses us from sin, but that He is one with God the Father (see Acts 2:36; Romans 10:9; John 8:31-59; 10:30).
1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
I do not understand Peter’s “therefore” in verse 1 as the beginning of a new thought but as the conclusion to his teaching in 1:22-25. The focus is still on the Word of God and the love it enables and inspires. The imagery and emphasis do shift at verse 1, even though the general subject matter is the same. While maintaining his focus on the Word of God, Peter shifts his imagery from the Word as the everlasting “seed,” by which we were begotten, to the “pure milk,” by which we grow.
Only one imperative is found in these verses: “Long for the pure milk of the word” (verse 2). The “putting aside” (a participle) of the evils enumerated in verse 1 is a subordinate duty which prepares one for carrying out the principle command.
Please note that in 1:22 Peter spoke of salvation as that initiated by means of the Word. Now in 2:2, salvation is not the starting point (as in 1:22) but the goal toward which obedience to the Word moves us. Salvation in Peter’s epistles (1:1-13), as elsewhere (see Ephesians 1:3-14), has a past, present, and future dimension.
Those things we are instructed to put aside in verse 1 correspond to what Peter has been saying, as well as to the things he is about to say. Our initial purification (1:2, 22), together with our subsequent purification (1:14-21), requires the putting off of those things which characterized and enslaved us during the time of our ignorance and unbelief (1:14; see also Galatians 5:13-26; Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-11). Furthermore, these negative character qualities enumerated in verse one are hostile to true love. One cannot love with these attitudes and actions. Finally, these vices are also contrary to an appetite for the Word and the growth the milk of the Word produces. We cannot harbor malice and practice guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander and still desire the Word. To be full of these evils is to fail to have an appetite for the milk of God’s Word.
Peter specifies certain attitudes and characteristics of the flesh, all vitally important in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.34 “Hypocrisy,” “envy,” and “slander” are stated in the plural rather than in the singular. The inference is that various and sundry forms of each of these evils exist, and all of them are to be rejected and put off.
The first evil is “malice.” Rather than an attitude which hopes for the edification and blessing of another, malice hopes (and even strives) for the downfall of another. It is the opposite of well-wishing.35 “Guile” is deceitfulness or deception, often rooted in hatred, and frequently found in relationship to our speech. Consider the following texts which employ this term:36
How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalms 32:2, emphasis mine).
26 [Though his] hatred covers itself with guile, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly (Proverbs 26:26, emphasis mine).
3 For our exhortation does not [come] from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4, emphasis mine).
22 “WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH (1 Peter 2:22, emphasis mine).
10 For, “LET HIM WHO MEANS TO LOVE LIFE AND SEE GOOD DAYS REFRAIN HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING GUILE” (1 Peter 3:10, emphasis mine).
Guile is an impure motive of the heart which distorts or opposes the truth and results in deceptive or misleading speech.37 Hypocrisy is the pretense of appearing to be one thing when we are really another. It may well be that words indicate one thing while our lives indicate another:
14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation” (Matthew 23:14).
6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me’” (Mark 7:6).
The next evil is “envy” or jealousy. It is most difficult to seek the best for your brother when he possesses what you think you should have. Jealousy, or envy, is wanting what another has for yourself. Love is the willingness to give what you have to another. The evil of “slander” is literally a speaking against. It is the evil speech which seeks to defame or slander another. It is the opposite of speech that edifies.
The Word of God is the “seed” by which we were born again (1:23) and also the “milk” by which we grow. Having been born again, Peter now addresses his readers as though they were newborn babies. On the one hand, these babies have an inborn appetite for milk. Normally, you don’t have to teach a baby to want milk.
Why then does Peter command us to “desire the pure milk of the word”? The logic is the same found in 1:22-25. The new birth has purified our souls so as to produce and promote brotherly love. A God-given love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is implanted in our souls at our conversion. This makes possible a growth to a greater love which Peter commands Christians to pursue. The new birth causes us as newborn babes to desire the “milk of the Word” of God. Peter then commands us to develop this appetite by partaking of the Word, so that we become more and more dependent upon it, even addicted to it as it were.
The instinctive appetite should be enhanced into a developed appetite, the result of having “tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Allow me to illustrate Peter’s teaching here. Peter was a very hungry man as he waited for the meal to be served on the rooftop of Simon’s house (Acts 10:9-10). When he saw the vision of the sheet being lowered from heaven, he was repulsed by the thought of eating unclean food. But when God called it “clean” he was now permitted to eat of it. Peter had an appetite. The food which had been unclean was now declared clean. Only after Peter ate his first bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich did he know what he had been missing. The more he ate of these foods, the more he yearned for them. His appetite for these foods was developed by eating of them. So it is with our appetite for the Word of God. Since we have a certain inborn appetite, a much greater appetite can be developed by partaking of the Word which God has provided for us. And this appetite should be satisfied, just as in eating, on a regular, daily basis so that we might “grow in respect to salvation.”
And so we see that longing for God’s Word develops our appetite for it and enhances our partaking of it; the result is spiritual growth. The truth of God enables us to grow in respect to our salvation:
32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
19 “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:19).
15 But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
Paul’s statement in verse 3 is a reference to Psalm 34, verse 8:
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
The relationship of this verse to Peter’s teaching can be readily seen. As newborn babes, we are to “long for the pure milk of the word” (2:2). This assumes, of course, that we have indeed been born again and that we have already tasted of the Word of God, for it is by this Word that we have been born again (1:23).
The connection between Peter’s epistle and Psalm 34 runs much deeper than this. This psalm seems to have played a key role in the shaping of Peter’s thinking, and it underscores much of what he writes in his first epistle. You will note that in chapter 3 Peter cites verses 12-16. One could profit much by comparing Peter’s epistle with the teaching of this psalm.
As I consider this passage, I am deeply impressed with the supreme importance Peter places on the revealed Word of God. It is the Word of God which the Spirit of God employs to bring about our new birth. It is also the “milk of the Word” which produces spiritual growth. The Scriptures are supremely important to the believer.
When I come to Paul’s writings, I expect him to be steeped in Scripture. I think of him as a scholar, well versed in the Old Testament, and so he was (Acts 22:3). But Peter does not strike me as the scholarly type at all. And yet, after his conversion, Peter becomes a man of the Word. His sermons in Acts 2-4 are packed with Old Testament references and allusions. His first epistle is also full of allusions, symbols, and quotations38 from the Old Testament.
In the Gospels, Peter does not appear to have been a man of the Scriptures. But from the Book of Acts on, Peter is truly saturated with the Word of God. It would seem that he became a student of Scripture later in life. I believe Peter’s example is one which should be emulated by every believer. We may not be scholars, but we should all be students of Scripture, so that the terminology and theology of the Bible shapes our thinking, speaking, and behavior—our lives. I urge you to read through Peter’s epistles to gain his perspective on the Scriptures and their critical role in the life of every Christian.
In our text, Peter emphasizes the relationship between the truth of the Word and love for one another. There seems to be a growing trend for some Christians to belittle an accurate knowledge of the truth while heralding the benefits of love. These two necessities are (if you will allow me to redeem an abused term) co-dependent. Like the song says about “love and marriage,” “you can’t have one without the other.” Paul puts it this way:
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5).
Paul and Peter could not be any more in agreement. Peter has indicated that our souls have been purified by our obedience to the truth (1:22). Paul tells us here that biblical instruction produces a pure heart and a clean conscience, and from these flow Christian love. Love and truth are inseparable. Whenever we separate one from the other, we shall distort both.
Peter’s teaching on love and its relationship to truth has caused me to rethink my understanding of love. I have always looked upon love as the source and motivation for my obedience. I have thought that God’s love produced love in me, and that this love produces obedience, leading to godliness and maturity. There is some truth in this way of viewing love, but Peter emphasizes a complimentary truth.
Peter presents love to us as the goal and the result of our obedience. Our obedience to the truth purified our souls, producing love for the brethren and laying the foundation for Peter’s command to love one another “fervently” (or persistently) from the heart (1:22). If this sequence is not clear enough, then we simply have to turn to Peter’s second epistle. There in verses 3-7 Peter spells out that a diligent pursuit of godliness in obedience to God’s Word produces, as its final outcome, love:
3 Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in [your] moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in [your] knowledge, self-control, and in [your] self-control, perseverance, and in [your] perseverance, godliness; 7 and in [your] godliness, brotherly kindness, and in [your] brotherly kindness, love (2 Peter 1:3-7).
On the basis of Peter’s teaching on the relationship of love and obedience, we need to reject much of the popular thinking about love. How many times have you heard, “I don’t love my wife any more,” or, “I don’t love my husband any longer?” These statements are usually preambles to declaring they are leaving their mate or an excuse for finding another. The logic seems to be: “If I no longer love my mate, then I surely cannot continue to live together with him or her, and I surely cannot be expected to do what love requires of me.”
Peter’s words require a very different conclusion. If we do not love another, it is not an excuse for disobedience regarding our relationship. In fact, disobedience is the reason we have ceased to love others. If love for one another is the result of our obedience, then the absence of love is due to disobedience. Obedience is the prerequisite to love. The solution to a lack of love is a return to obedience to the Scriptures. This is what our Lord Himself instructed a loveless church to do:
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: 2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them [to be] false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent’” (Revelation 2:1-5).
Our Lord called a lack of love sin, and He instructed those deficient in love to repent and to return to those deeds which are in obedience to His Word. Love not only comes first as an incentive for obedience, but it comes last, as the result of obedience. Do we lack love? Let us turn to the Word, repent of our sin, and return to obedience.
Finally, let us not leave this text without being reminded that Peter expects obedience to the truth, love, and growth only from those who have truly been born again. It may be you lack the things spoken of by Peter because you have not yet obeyed the command of the Gospel to repent and be saved. If this is so, I urge you to acknowledge your sin, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who bore the wrath of God for sin at Calvary. Trust in Him as God’s only means of salvation, and be saved.
8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED” (Romans 10:8-11).
26 The term rendered “purified” is employed seven times in the New Testament, most of which speak of ceremonial cleansing (John 11:55; Acts 21:24, 26; 24:18) and three which speak of cleansing oneself (James 4:8; 1 John 3:3; and 1 Peter 1:22).
Two major types of cleansing or purification are emphasized in the New Testament: (1) the purification or cleansing we received at salvation (Acts 15:9; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:9), and (2) that on-going cleansing which should result from our salvation and our future hope (1 John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 7:1). Both cleansings are related to obedience to the Word of God (see John 15:2-3; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22).
28 While the Scriptures require us to “love our enemies,” and to love those who are outside the faith (see, for example, Matthew 5:43-48), it is love within the family of God Peter has in view in our text.
29 The original word rendered “sincere” in our text is literally “unhypocritical” and rendered “genuine” in 2 Corinthians 6:6 (“genuine love”).
32 A very similar statement is found in Psalm 103: As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more; And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children (Psalm 103:15-17). One would have expected Peter to cite from this psalm, which stresses the everlasting nature of God’s lovingkindness. But Peter seems to have chosen the other text in Isaiah because there the everlasting nature of the Word of God is emphasized, which better suits his argument.
34 By use of the word “all,” it would seem Peter is somehow suggesting there are categories of these evils so that we are to consider them in this way: All malice; All guile; hypocrisy; envy; All slander;
36 In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), the Old Testament passages cited here use the same Greek word dolos used by Peter in 1 Peter 2:1, 22; 3:10.
37 In verse 2, the word “pure” is the same Greek term rendered “guile” in verse 1, but with a prefix which negates the meaning. Thus, the “pure” milk of the word is the “without guile” milk of the Word.
38 “Peter quotes the prophecy of Isaiah six times: 1:24-25--Isa. 40:6-8; 2:6--Isa. 28:16 (LXX); 2:8--Isa. 8:14; 2:9a--Isa. 43:20 (LXX); 2:9c--Isa. 43:21 (LXX); 2:22--Isa. 53:9. By contrast, he cites the Psalms twice: 2:7--Ps. 118:22; 3:10-12--Ps. 34:12-16; and Proverbs twice 4:18--Prov. 11:31 (LXX); 5:5--Prov. 3:34 (LXX). Last, he has one quotation from Exodus: 2:9b--Exod. 19:6 (LXX); and one from Leviticus: 1:16--Lev. 19:2.” Simon J. Kistemaker, Peter and Jude (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), 1987. New Testament Commentary Series. P. 73, fn. 69.