Where the world comes to study the Bible

4. The Cross And Christian Love (1 Peter 1:22-25)

Related Media

Peter’s first epistle is addressed to believers in Asia Minor who were being persecuted for their faith. Peter, therefore, reminds them of the foundation of their salvation and their hope for the future, both of which have a practical application to the Christian life. Thus, Peter shows in this first chapter how that, even in suffering, Christians can and should praise God because of our salvation in Christ, a salvation that (1) grants us the reality of a living hope, (2) guarantees us the reward of an eternal inheritance, and (3) generates in us the results of genuine faith.

One of the primary evidences of genuine faith is purity of life, a subject that Peter addresses in this first chapter. He argues that the reception of salvation and the hope of salvation should motivate us to holy living, which holiness of life is demonstrated in four imperatives…

1. Focus your mind on your hope at Christ’s revelation (1:13)

2. Conform your desires to Christ’s holiness (1:14-16)

3. Fear God who is the judge and redeemer (1:17-21)

4. Love one another as regenerate believers (1:22-25)

Peter’s point, then, is this: The prospect of our ultimate salvation at the return of Christ should radically purify our lives. Having established the basis for holy living in the character of God and the cost of our salvation, Peter now turns to the consequence of holy living, namely, to love one another (1:22-25). The first distinguishing mark of genuine growth in holiness is love for one another as fellow Christians. Because God has loved us, even to the point of giving his Son to be our Saviour, then we ought to express our love to one another as fellow believers. There are two reasons in this passage why Christians should love one another…

I. Love One Another Because Of Your Purification (1:22)

“Having purified your souls… love one another.” In the O.T. purification was achieved by external washings that made the people temporarily fit to present themselves to the Lord (cf. Ex. 19:10; Josh. 3:5). In the N. T. this is portrayed as internal, spiritual purification through “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). The apostle Paul puts it this way: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? … And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9, 11). And again “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Note these following characteristics of purification…

1. The process of purification is spiritual. “Having purified your souls…” (1:22a). This is a spiritual process in which we, as Christians, actively participate (cf. 2 Cor. 7:1; Jas. 4:8; 1 Jn. 3:3). This is post-conversion growth in holiness. It is the inward, spiritual purification of “your souls.” It’s not a completed stage of sanctification since there is no such unique stage of growth. Rather, it’s a progressive process of gaining more purity from the pollution of sin. It’s not ritual cleansing nor physical cleansing of the body. Rather, it is a cleansing of the heart, a spiritual cleansing.

2. The means of purification is obedience. “…by your obedience to the truth…” (1:22b). The context is the apostle’s call to holiness (1:15), which suggests that the purifying obedience that he has in view results from an active response to that call – something that Christians actively participate in after salvation, not the initial purification at the time of conversion. It is, therefore, through a process of active obedience that Christians purify their souls - obedience to the gospel, obedience that is not merely intellectual but behavioral, obedience to “the truth” as in the whole of Christian doctrine and life (Jn. 14:16; Gal. 5:7; Eph. 1:13; 1 Tim. 4:3; cf. also 2 Jn. 4:3; 3 Jn. 3,4; 2 Pet. 1:12; 2:2).

As Peter noted earlier, the key to such obedience and growth in moral purity is “sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:2). We cannot do this on our own; we need divine help. In fact some manuscripts insert here in 1:22b, “obeying the truth through the Spirit” (cf. NKJV). Whether that clause is in the original or not really makes no difference. The reality is that if the means of purification is obedience then surely the power is the Holy Spirit. Obedience to the truth is under the direction and through the enablement of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who guides us into all truth and illumines our understanding. He is the One who enables us to respond to the truth in obedience.

3. The evidence of purification is love (1:22c-e). If the means of purifying our souls is “obedience to the truth,” then the practical objective and evidence of such obedience is “sincere brotherly love” (1:22c). This is not an outward, superficial love - not love in appearance and profession only - but a love that is genuine, unhypocritical, sincere. As we are obedient to the truth through the enablement of the Holy Spirit so we will show love for other believers. This love is evidenced in two ways: “philia” love and “agape” love.

Sometimes, philia love is defined as human, brotherly love while agape love is defined as divine, sacrificial love. I think those definitions are often overstated since, based on those distinctions, there are many places in the Bible where you would expect to find agape but you actually find philia (and vice versa). It seems that the two words are almost interchangeable - at least they certainly overlap significantly. Nonetheless, there must be a nuance of difference since Peter uses both words in the same verse here: “…for sincere brotherly love (philia) (1:22c) … love (agape) one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1:22d).

Someone has pointed out the following distinctions which, I think, bring some clarity to understanding the difference in our text:

1. Philia love, in secular Greek, is used to denote the love of friends which in the ANE was considered the highest kind of love.

2. Agape love is love that springs from the will, whereas philia love springs more from the emotions.

3. Agape love is not conditional on the other person’s response to you, whereas philia love is more of a mutual love relationship. Perhaps philia love was the love that Jonathan and David had for each other. “Your love to me,” David says, “was wonderful, passing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26). (See

I conclude that our initial love for other believers is philia love, brotherly love. There is a familial bond that unites us in Christ through his blood. We are born again into God’s family and we are bonded together as his children. We are fellow heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). We all have a common life that God pours into us through the Holy Spirit. That’s why we love one another and that’s why it’s described as a philia love – the love of fellow members of the Christian community of faith.

Being purified from sin enables believers to show genuine love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, a love that reflects our identification with those with whom we share a common life. The gospel has called us out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. The gospel has translated us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God. The gospel has moved us from the world to the church, from secular culture to Christian fellowship.

But brotherly (philia) love is not enough. Brotherly love is the initial response from our hearts towards other Christians, but our love for one another must not remain at that level. It must mature as our purification matures, progressing to agape love, which in our verse (1:22) seems to have more to do with the abiding, unconditional, sacrificial love like Christ’s love – a love by which one is willing to lay down one’s life for the brethren (1 Jn. 3:16).

If the process of purification is spiritual, the means of purification is obedience, and the evidence of purification is love, then the command to love one another naturally follows: “…love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1:22d). Purity of heart and agape love go hand in hand here, undoubtedly because agape love comes about as we grow in grace and holiness. Growth in holiness leads to deeper love among Christians. The more we become like Christ, the more we will love those who are Christ’s. As we progress in our Christian walk and our holiness becomes a progressively deeper part of who we are, then we will demonstrate agape love.

The thought here seems to be this: “Having purified your souls by your obedience in believing the truth of the gospel, continue to grow in and demonstrate your holiness through a genuine and deep love for one another.” So, how does this love manifest itself? “Earnestly from a pure heart” (1:22d). A pure heart is one without ulterior or impure motives, one that has been inwardly purified. Divine love pours out of a pure heart. Only a heart that is pure can express this sincere, unfeigned, genuine love, love that is “earnest,” sincere, fervent, zealous, constant, and intense.

This command has three important applications for us. First, no matter what our personalities or backgrounds may be, we can and are dramatically changed through the power of the gospel so that we love those with whom we would otherwise have no affinity.

Second, this kind of love isn’t automatic, otherwise Peter would not command it. You might not necessarily choose everyone in the church as your closest friend. There are some Christians that you don’t find naturally attractive, that you wouldn’t necessarily choose, for example, to accompany you to a ball game. But, it isn’t that kind of relationship that is being talked about. It isn’t a superficial friendship. It’s a deep relationship based on our relationship with God.

Third, brotherly (philia) love is easy to show but divine (agape) love is difficult. Agape love is not a feeling – it’s a matter of the will. Agape love is loving one another with God’s love – it sees beyond the superficial. Agape love is treating others the way God treats us, forgiving them because he has forgiven us, being kind to them because he has been kind to us.

The challenge here is: How do you show love to your fellow Christians? Are there Christians whom you have mistreated? How do you show love for your family members? Do you spend time with them, encourage them?

So then, first Peter exhorts Christians to love one another because of your purification (1:22). The second reason is that Christians should…

II. Love One Another Because Of Your Regeneration (1:23-25)

Previously, Peter related holiness of life to our redemption (1:18-19). Now, he relates holiness of life (“a pure heart”) to our regeneration, our new birth. The underlying motivation and ability to love one another is our new life in Christ: “…since you have been born again” (1:23a). Indeed, this is the premise of all Peter’s instructions in this chapter (cf. 1:3ff). So, you see once again how the cross of Christ is central to Peter’s argument here.

What does the new birth have to do with loving one another? The new birth initiates a new spiritual life, new eternal fellowship with one another. And so, Peter says: “You have been given new, spiritual life which has drawn you into a new eternal fellowship with one another, therefore, love one another earnestly.” We must love one another earnestly because…

1. Regeneration is eternal in its nature (1:23a). “…since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable.” Regeneration is eternal in its nature because of its “imperishable / incorruptible” life-giving source / “seed.” This seed is the word of God, that message of life in Christ (Matt. 13:1-23). Through it, we have been “born again” (Jn. 3:3), “born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9; 4:7), “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8).

It’s a divine procreation, a holy life, eternal life. It is not a birth of the flesh (“perishable seed”), which decays and dies. It’s not human reproduction from perishable, temporal human seed. Rather, it is a birth of the Spirit, which is eternal, permanent. Because regeneration (new birth) is eternal, Christians have an eternal relationship. We have all been born into God’s family (Jn. 1:12-13). We are God’s children and have an inseparable, eternal, union in Christ.

The “seed” is the Word of God which we read and hear. But unless our ears and minds are attentive and our hearts prepared, that seed will be picked up by Satan and taken out of our lives and will be of no lasting value (cf. Mark 4:3-7). How ready are you to listen to the truths of the word of God? More importantly, have you received the life-giving Word? Have you been regenerated, born again? If not, you need to receive new life in Christ right now.

Not only is the regeneration eternal in its nature, but…

2. Regeneration is transformative in its action (1:23b-25a). Notice these characteristics of the transformative action of the word of God…

The word of God is transformative because of its divine agency. We have been born again “…through the living and abiding word of God” (1:23b). Our regeneration doesn’t come about through our decision or will or that of our earthly parents or any other human agency (cf. Jn. 1:13). Rather, it comes about “through” the power and agency of “the word of God, through the self-revelation of God in both his spoken and written word. “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (Jas. 1:18).

The word of God is transformative because it is “living and abiding.” These two descriptions of the word of God set it apart from all other communications.

It is “the living…word of God” because it imparts imperishable, divine life. It is a creative power (Ps. 33:9; Isa. 55:10-11). Unlike human words, the word of God lives. It awakens new life in us. “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn. 6:63). Again, “…holding fast to the word of life: (Phil. 2:16). And again, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

It is also “the abiding word of God” because it generates new, permanent life and endures forever. It is abiding because the God who speaks it is the eternal One. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

By contrast, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory is like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower fails” (1:24). Natural human existence is like grass that only lasts for a limited time before it “withers” (cf. Isa. 40:6b, 8), and it dies. It lasts for a season and then is gone (cf. Matt. 6:30; 14:19; 1 Cor. 3:12). (1:24b). All human beauty, splendor, and greatness fades and quickly disappears, its “flower fails,” but “The word of the Lord remains forever” (1:25a). Here is the stark contrast between human sources and resources and the word of God, which alone gives permanent hope and significance to life, the benefit of which we come into through regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:63) and which endures for eternity.

“This word is the good news that was preached to you” (1:25b). This is the utterance of the Lord, the message about Jesus. This is the word which was announced as good news when the gospel was preached to Peter’s audience and they were converted. This is the word that generated in them new life. Its power and eternality convicted them and they believed it. The word that they believed back then is still the word now. If it wasn’t the word of God, what had they trusted in - words of men? No! It was true then and it is true now and forever.

Final Remarks

Manifesting love for one’s fellow-Christians is no minor issue – it’s of central importance. It is the specific evidence of holiness of life and it is rooted in the new life received at conversion through the death and resurrection of Christ. Thus, the cross again is central to Peter’s message and central to our Christian lives.

Because we have received new birth through the cross of Christ and because this initiates us into a life of constantly purifying our souls, we can, should, and must express this reality by manifesting God’s love to one another. This is really one of the paramount distinctives of the church – the mutual love of believers for each other, a love that transcends earthly relationships because it is rooted in the love of Christ. God’s redeeming love in Christ, shown out most fully at the cross, transforms human relationships from temporal to eternal, from shallow to deep, from insincere to earnest, from superficial to intense. God’s love is demonstrated in the selfless giving of ourselves to each other, which is the key to unity (see the example of Christ Phil. 2:1-8). It draws people into an eternal union with Christ and with one another.

Final challenge: How many marriages could be mended if this kind of love were present? How many fractured relationships could be put back together with this kind of love? Nobody could put Humpty Dumpty together again, but God’s love can restore shattered lives and relationships. How many divided churches could be united? If we try to build unity in the church based on our natural relationships we will fail, but if we try to build unity in the church based on spiritual relationships we will succeed because we have the same Holy Spirit, the same Father, the same divine nature, the same infallible Word, the same Gospel.

D. L. Moody once said: “Satan separates; God unites; love binds us together.” May it be so by God’s grace that such deep, mature, holy love is evident and strong among and between Christians to the praise and the glory of God. May the love of Christ displayed so vividly and magnificently at the cross, a love that transcends all earthly loves, a love that is stronger than death, be seen and demonstrated among us such that unbelievers take notice and want to enter into that relationship through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Love

Report Inappropriate Ad