COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
"22Seeing 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: 23Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."KJV (1 Pet 1:22-23)
The value of continual the affirmation of the cause and nature of our status in Christ Jesus cannot be overstated. Never must we allow an emphasis of duty to supplant a stress upon the Gospel of Christ and our acceptance in Him. There is a reason for this approach to Apostolic doctrine. We have the treasure of the "knowledge of the glory of God" in "earthen vessels" (2 Cor 4:6-7). That circumstance introduces a liability. How well it is stated in Galatians 5:17. "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."NKJV This inner warfare is what requires the repeated affirmation of Who Christ is, what He has accomplished, and what we have become in Him. Your own heart will confirm the truth of this. Great inner strength is realized by being exposed to these inspired utterances of central matters. Effective exhortation, as we will see in this passage, is founded upon the truth of our salvation. We are never placed at a disadvantage by hearing how and why we were born again. The ultimate disadvantage occurs when these things slip from us.
OBEYING THE TRUTH AND PURIFYING THE SOUL
" Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit. . . "KJV The Spirit is always express in what He declares. The matter of our purification exhibits this manner. On the one hand, it is God Himself who has "purified" our hearts (Acts 15:9). Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might "purify" us (Tit 2:14). The truth of the matter is that there can be no purification of the individual apart from a Divine working. That, however, does not imply that we play no part in the purification. It is true, we do not provide a basis, or reason, for the purification. However, we are involved.
The word "purify" means "made holy." In this case, it is the result of the removal of impurity, or defilement. Sin so contaminated us, in our entire persons, that we needed to be "washed" (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11; ), "cleansed" (Eph 5:26; 1 John 1:9), and "purged" (Heb 1:3; 2 Pet 1:9). By saying "your souls" have been purified, the Spirit means the totality of our lives. Our intellect, emotion, and will had to be "purified." Sin caused us to think wrong, react wrong, and have wrong desires. That circumstance required total cleansing.
Our text says that we "have purified our souls." While God Himself accomplishes the cleansing, we entered into the process. Thus it is written, "purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8). Again, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (1 Cor 7:1). Thus, the language should not be strange to us. We purify, or cleanse, ourselves by taking hold of the cleansing God has provided in Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the grace of God cannot be held in a contaminated vessel or by a defiled heart. Purity IS essential.
This purification was accomplished through "obeying the truth." This is a most intriguing expression., Notice, the Spirit does not say "obeying a commandment," but "obeying the truth." Elsewhere the Scriptures speak of those who "obey not the truth" (Rom 2:8). The Galatians, after coming into Christ, were soundly rebuked for falling into a condition described as "not obey the truth" (Gal 3:1). Obeying the truth is aligning ourselves with the truth, and conforming to it in every way possible.
In this text, the reference is doubtless to our initial entrance into Christ. "The truth" is thus the Gospel of Christ, and our obedience to it took place in our baptism. The sixth chapter of Romans provides extensive teaching on this matter. There, baptism is related to being put into Christ's death, being buried and raised with Him, the crucifixion of the "old man," the destruction of the "body of sin," being "freed from sin," and being made "alive unto God" (6:3-11). The reality of these things is summarized in this marvelous statement: "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you" (6:17). The phrase "the doctrine" equates to "the truth" in our text. In summary, the doctrine was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The "form" of that doctrine was baptism, in which we die, are buried, and are raised with Christ. There is where our acceptance began.
But lest we become too enamored of obedience itself, or approach it from Mount Sinai, the text adds, "through the Spirit." That is, our obedience was rendered in the power of the Holy Spirit. You will recall this Epistle started by telling us we were sanctified by the Holy Spirit "unto," or in order to, "obedience" (1:2). The Holy Spirit is the Divine Enabler, given to us, among other things, to facilitate obedience. It is through Him, for example, that we "mortify the deeds of the body"-another view of purifying ourselves (Rom 8:13).
It stands to reason, therefore, that those who "quench" or "grieve" the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30), by that very action, make obedience impossible. The Spirit will lead us into a life of obedience to the truth. Not only will the commandments be kept, and not be grievous to us, our lives will conform to the Gospel of Christ. An affinity with the world will be denied, and "Christ will be magnified" in us, whether by life or death (Phil 1:20).
In these few words, we have been urged to live in view of our cleansing. The truth is seen as something to be obeyed as well as believed. The Holy Spirit is to our obedience what our spirit is to our body. He is the great Leader and Animator of God's people.
UINFEIGNED LOVE OF THE BRETHREN
" . . . unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently."KJV Being washed is not an end of itself: it is in order to something. Obeying the truth is also not the end of the matter: it leads to something else. Here is a statement that appears simplistic, yet is unusually profound. Our purification through obedience and by the Spirit is in order to "unfeigned love of the brethren." The word "unfeigned" is used four times in the KJV, and refers to "love" and "faith" (2 Cor 6:6; 1 Tim 1:5; 2 Tim 1:5; 1 Pet 1:22). The same root word is used in James 3:17, which refers to "wisdom" that is "without hypocrisy."
The word "unfeigned" means "without hypocrisy, genuine, or sincere." It is the opposite of an actor, pretending to be something he is not. Under the Law, Israel conducted themselves in a manner precisely the opposite of our text. Jesus said of that unbelieving generation, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:8-9; Isa 29:13). Their profession was "feigned," or pretended. It was a false appearance, and produced a false impression. They said they loved God, but they did not. They said they worshiped Him, but they did not.
An unfeigned love of the brethren of Jesus is one that is real. It is not an institutional love, centered around sectarian interests and men's persons. A feigned love is one that cannot hold up under conflict, and maintains "self" as the primary person. But "unfeigned love of the brethren" reveals a preference for them (Rom 12:10). They are seen as the "workmanship" of God, and the household of Jesus.
If men were asked to state a fundamental objective for purity and obedience, few would even contemplate the "unfeigned," or unpretended, "love of the brethren." Among other things, this confirms believers can only be loved by other believers: those who have been washed and are obedient. As soon as defilement occurs, the brethren begin to lose their value, and self becomes dominant. "The brethren" are our companions to glory. They are the people who alone have received of Christ's "fulness" (John 1:16). They are the only ones in the world who have been given the Holy Spirit of God (Gal 4:6). They alone have their names "written in heaven" (Heb 12:23). Every single spiritual gift has been deposited with them for the purpose of edification (1 Cor 12:7). There can only be one reason why such people are not loved, preferred, and given honor: SIN!
Our love for "the brethren" is not to be casual. Not only is it to be sincere and without hypocrisy, it is to be "fervent." That fervency is not to be assumed, nor are we to sit by passively until some strange ability descends upon us from above. We are to "see that" we love one another "fervently,"throwing ourselves into the work. That means there are contrary influences that will attempt to draw us away from "brotherly love."
Just what is loving "fervently?" It is seeking to please our brethren by edifying them (Rom 15:2). It is by "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph 6:18). We love the brethren fervently when we "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10). Such love includes "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb 10:25).
Above all, we love them fervently by clinging to the Lord "with purpose of heart" (Acts 11:23), keeping ourselves "in the love of God" (Jude 21), and running "with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1). In so conducting our lives, we become a resource to the saints of God, bringing strength, joy, and spiritual advantage to them. God has "begotten us again" not only to obtain an inheritance ourselves, but to assist His people in doing the same. He has placed us in the body according to His own will, giving us gifts that will help our brethren. We love them fervently when we employ these gifts for their good.
BORN AGAIN OF INCORRUPTIBLE SEED
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."KJV How frequently the Holy Spirit reminds us that we have been born again! God has "hath begotten us again" (1 Pet 1:3). We have been born "of God" (John 1:13). He begat us "of His own will" (James 1:18), and we are "His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:10). We are, indeed, a "new creation," and are thus being conformed to the "image of His Son" (2 Cor 5:17; Rom 8:29). We have been raised from death in trespasses and sins, and put into the Kingdom of God's Son (Eph 2:1-2; Col 1:13). It is not that believers OUGHT to be born again: they ARE born again: "BEING born again." That is their present status, and it is evidence of God's own work.
The means through which we are "born again" is the incorruptible "word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." The Word of God is to the spiritual birth what male gamete ("corruptible seed") is to fleshly birth. It is what causes the new birth to take place. Whatever may be said of the human spirit, free will, or Divine qualities related to being in the image of God, they are all lifeless until awakened by the Word of the Living God! Among other things, this confirms the total futility of the flesh. As our blessed Lord said, "The flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63). If the flesh could not remove our sin, induce a spiritual awakening, bring us to God, or cause us to be born again, why should we listen to it, or obey its lusts? As it is written, "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts" (Rom 6:12).
Because the Word of God "liveth and abideth forever," it never loses its power, or fails to effectively work in us. As it is written, "the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess 2:13). If one is prone to doubt the effectiveness of God's Word, consider what it did in you through the Gospel. That blessed message enabled you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, that you might be saved. When you embraced that Word, you experienced the very power of God. Your allegiance to sin was brought to an abrupt conclusion. You saw Christ as you had never seen Him before. Hope was kindled in your heart, together with a fervent desire to please the Lord. You saw your sins were forgiven, and that you could approach confidently unto God. That Word has NOT lost its power!
The reasoning of the Spirit is strong, pulling upon the cords of the heart, and drawing us more fully into the will of the Lord. He has urged us to a fervent, or ardent, love of the brethren. We are not to allow anything to come between us and those who have been joined to the Lord. If we question that this is possible, ponder the condition in which we find ourselves. Our souls have been purified by US obeying the truth. We did not do it in our own strength, but "through the Spirit." Further, the very work of the Spirit leads to the love of the brethren, making it apparent to the heart and joyful to the soul.
We DO have the capacity to zealously love the people of God! We have been born again, recreated in Christ Jesus. Our "new man," or the part of us that is born again, is "renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col 3:10). That renewed part of us is addressed in this text. While our minds are involved, they are secondary. It is our heart and spirit that have been made new, and that is the part that can respond to this summons. The "brethren" have the same new nature you have! They are in the same body, and possess the same Spirit. The "brethren" are motivated by the same "hope" you hold, and worship and serve the same Lord. Both their faith and their baptism are the same as yours, and the same God dwells within them (Eph 4:4-6). So extend yourself! Love them fervently, consistently, and faithfully. Thus you will honor the Lord who bought you.