Can you imagine a stereotypical career fisherman penning the above exhortation in 1 Peter? The testimony of Simon Peter is fascinating. From fisherman to a fisher of men. From an accomplice to Satan’s interests to the CEO of the 12 apostles of Jesus. From a scaredy-cat, thrice denier to a celebrated martyr. The very fact that Peter recovered from an epic failure of faith to author two amazing letters testifies to the power of Jesus’ intercession, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). This spectacular quote from Peter’s first epistle testifies to the power of Jesus’ love and the gospel. As we launch into 2023, I hope Peter’s exhortation will echo in our hearts for the entire year and throughout the rest of our lives.
Over the first six months of 2023, we will look at six different phrases from 1 Peter 1:22-23. They are:
- In obedience to the truth
- Purified your souls
- Sincere love of the brethren
- Fervently love one another from the heart
- You have been born again
- The living and enduring word of God
“Since you have in obedience to the truth…”
Faith in the gospel produces a very gracious transformation in the life of a believer. Before faith came, he was disobedient to the gospel and to Jesus Christ. Once faith comes, he has a heart to obey. Obedience was important to Peter because, in this first chapter, he mentioned it three times.
The first time he mentioned the quality of obedience was in his greeting. He was writing to those who “are chosen…to obey Jesus Christ” (1-2). The words in between are modifiers to “chosen”, “according to the foreknowledge of God,” and “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” Peter understood that the indwelling Holy Spirit produces obedience in the life of believers and sets them apart from everyone else in the world by identifying them with the atoning work of Christ.
The second time in chapter one, Peter cited obedience as a modifier of their identity as children of God. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (v. 14-15). Obedience, in Peter’s mind, issued out of holiness or union with Jesus, who was obedient to His Father in all things. Jesus, the Holy One, commands His children, “You shall be holy, for I am Holy.” So Peter echoed the command to his readers (and indirectly to us) to “be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” So we were chosen to obey Jesus and be holy, be one with Him, and set apart to Him as He commands.
In verse 22, if we follow Peter’s line of reason, we see that this obedience to Jesus is the basis for the command to love. We love because we are one with Jesus as He was one with His Father. Let’s not miss this. We choose to obey because we were chosen for that purpose. There is a choice to be made, but that choice rises from the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God, according to Peter (1:2).
Jesus came to set us free to submit to Jesus’ government with a whole heart and to act independently of Satan's and sin’s oppression and control. He also gives the capacity to act in obedience to God’s will and to the truth. This is the true grace of God, of which Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:12. “I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!”
To the truth
“Since you have in obedience to the truth…”
Those who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood have been made one with Jesus. That is the truth, and that’s what holiness meant to Peter. See if you can see this point in what Peter wrote.
But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work.
The apostle John recorded Jesus’ words about who judges the works of all men. “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). Notice how Peter reasoned with his readers. He knew they had been taught that the Father has made Jesus the impartial judge of their deeds. They also knew that Jesus and the Father were one, so they addressed Jesus, their judge, as Father. That’s another way of describing the holiness of Jesus and, thus, the holiness of all believers. Just as Jesus was obedient to His Father in all things because they were united as one, so also are believers obedient to Jesus because they are one. This great truth, holiness—oneness with Jesus—governs all our behavior.
Where did Peter get this idea of holiness and oneness? He got it from Jesus’ teaching the night before He was crucified. Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). In the next two chapters, Jesus explained how loving each other would happen. It would happen in the same way that Jesus loved. Jesus loved them with His Father. They were one. All of Jesus’ behavior was determined by His holiness to the Father. In the same way, believers would love one another with Jesus. They and He were one. Therefore, their love would be determined by their holiness to Jesus. He would abide in them (be one with them), and they would abide in Him (be one with Him). Apart from that holiness, they (we) can do nothing (John 15:5).
Oneness with Jesus is the great truth of our identity with Jesus. It is not only the foundation and motivation of all our behavior, but it is the glorious confidence we have in the judgment. The One who will judge all our behavior is our Savior, God, and Father, Jesus Christ! If God is for us, who can be against us? It is God who justified us through our union with Jesus Christ and His shed blood. Peter affirmed this wonderful reality to his readers when he wrote, “Since you have in obedience to the truth...”
All out love for one another
As we launch into 2023 and the rest of our lives. I want to encourage us with Peter’s thought process: Since we know that we are holy and one with Jesus, and since we were saved to obey Jesus’ command to love (agapao from agape) one another with Him, fervently love (agapao from agape) one another from the heart. Fervently envisions intentional, zealous, earnest, active love. We might refer to this kind of love as “all out” love. We will talk more about this in future Live to Love blogs, but for now, I want us to see the foundation of living to love with Jesus. It's loving others “all out” in obedience to the great truth that we are one with Jesus. It is holiness unto the Lord, our identity as His children, that drives our behavior toward each other. We love each other because we have, in obedience to the truth, purified our souls so we can love.
Next month we will delve into the phrase “purified our souls.” I hope you will take a few moments and consider the truth of your identity. Will you be obedient to Jesus and walk in holiness with Him this next year and the rest of your life? Will your oneness with Jesus impact your daily walk? Will your obedience to Jesus govern your relationships with others? I hope so.
The first of the year is a time when many people make new year’s resolutions. May we resolve to glorify God by being holy as He is holy, and in obedience to that glorious truth, live to love with Jesus. If you are not already following the daily Live to Love Scripture Encouragements on Spotify or Apple iTunes podcasts platforms, I invite you to tune in and download them (See links below). You’ll be encouraged each day through chapters 18-20 of the gospel of John to love as Jesus has loved you.
Colombia and South Africa
This year, Elijah Ministries will be involved in two international ministries where we have told my hosts that they may contribute to the ministry as the Lord enables them to do so. We invite you to assist in providing for our travel expenses so we can plant the seeds of living to love with Jesus in the hearts of future ministers in Colombia, South America and in South Africa. I will be teaching a week long course on Living the Gospel at Nueva Providencia outside of Medellin. Steve Woods, a friend from high school years (yes, you read that right) who has been a career missionary to Argentina, is going to translate for me. That is Feb. 5-10. Many doors of ministry have opened in South Africa from Feb. 14-March 11 where I’ll be speaking/teaching in churches and ministries all over the country. We invite both your prayer and financial support for these ministries. If you would like to give to either of these ministries, you can do so by check or by donation on line. Please put the country name in the notation box. Thank you so much for partnering with us as we take the live to love with Jesus message into these nations.