“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, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23
I hope you’ve been encouraged by the Live to Love blogs this year as we have pondered verses 22-23 of 1 Peter. Hopefully, we’ve recognized that before we can offer what God has commanded us to offer in our worship to Him, namely, an all out love for others, we need to purify our souls. We purify our souls because we were chosen by God to be holy, to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, to obey Jesus, and be sprinkled with His blood. This month, we continue diving into the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of God revealed in these verses. We purify our souls so that we can have a sincere love for our brothers and sisters.
When we say someone is sincere, we mean that they are genuine, unhypocritical, and real. In verse 22, Peter wrote that the goal of purifying our souls is so that love for our brothers and sisters will be sincere. This isn’t the only place in Scripture where love and sincerity are connected. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Notice that Paul’s goal was the same as Peter’s goal, namely, love for others. It’s also meaningful to note that the heart and conscience are separate aspects of the soul, and it is with the heart that man believes. So it’s not difficult to see that both men understood that love for others comes from a pure heart or soul. That’s what makes the love sincere.
If the heart or soul are clean from defilement, if the conscience is clean, then the love that issues forth from the individual will be sincere. It will have depth rather than shallowness or insincerity. On the other hand, if a person harbors a resentment in the heart or soul toward a brother, then a holy love is impossible. Any attempt to love will be insincere and hypocritical, thus falling short of the glory of God. Insincerity and hypocrisy are incompatible with our calling to be holy and live to love with Jesus. Most of us have experienced the reality of this great truth. When someone says to you that they love you, yet you know they have said things against you to others or have done hurtful things without ever acknowledging them and repenting of them, then you probably wondered if their love was sincere. This should help us understand what Peter wrote. In obedience to the truth that we are holy and united with Jesus, we purify our souls, and we clear our consciences with God and our brothers and sisters, so our love for them will be sincere. Let’s talk about this sincere love.
Holiness with Jesus means we are united to brothers and sisters also
The sincere love that Peter had in mind was because of the great truth that believers are united with Christ. They are holy as He is holy. Let’s think about this with Peter. He used the word, phileo, when he wrote that they purified their souls for a sincere brotherly love. He started with phileo, brotherly love, because of the concept of holiness. If I believe that I am united with Jesus by God’s choice, then I also believe everyone whom God chose to be united with Christ is united with me. By the power of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, I am not only set apart to God but I am also set apart with others for the glory of God. What is my relationship to those who are also chosen if I consider myself a child of God? Of course, they are my brothers and sisters. We have the same Father, and therefore our relationship is one of phileo, love—with Jesus. He is the elder brother to us all, and we are also His friends. Thus our relationship is also friendly with warm emotions.
This makes so much sense, doesn’t it? We who have been chosen by God have been adopted as His children (to use Paul’s lingo in Ephesians). We are all sanctified by the Holy Spirit to obey Jesus and be sprinkled with His blood. Our salvation is not merely personal, it is also familial. Therefore, the blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences of anything we have done or said to offend or cause a breach in our relationship with a brother or sister. Because we are holy as He is holy, when we are aware that we have sinned against a family member, we purify our souls, so our love will be sincere toward God and others.
But there’s another side to this holiness—forgiving our brothers and sisters of their offenses. Not only do I purify my soul by confessing my sin against my brothers and sisters, but I also purify my soul by forgiving them as I have been forgiven by God. Remember how the Lord taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us?” It’s impossible to love your brother as you ought if you are harboring resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness toward him. For brotherly love to be sincere, our hearts must be free from self-centeredness and focused on our relationship with Jesus. We were chosen to live to love with Him. He has forgiven us our transgressions, and therefore since we are one with Him, we also forgive the transgressions of others.
God, our Father, in His great love for us, chose us to be in His family. It was the gracious regenerating, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that united us with Jesus and brought us to God through the glorious, justifying work of Christ. He has cleansed our hearts by faith. Peter explained God’s work among the Gentiles in Acts 15:7-9.
"After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, 'Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.'"
God testifies that we are adopted into His family by cleansing our hearts by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how we know our sins and our brothers’ and sisters’ sins are forgiven. That faith works through love, a sincere love. In a fallen world, where everyone is a sinner, we should expect that one important aspect of family life is giving forgiveness and receiving forgiveness, and a lot of it. Together, God’s family loves Him and each other sincerely because we have been forgiven much for His glory and joy.
I hope you are encouraged by these verses in 1 Peter to love much and to love sincerely. May we purify our souls so that our love will be without hypocrisy. The name of Jesus is worthy of such purity of love. Giving glory to His name should overcome any bitterness, selfishness, or unforgiveness that surfaces in our souls toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a joy to forgive and a privilege to love with Jesus everyone He puts in our paths. If you are not already praying your own version of the Live to Love Prayer, I hope you’ll begin today making it a regular feature of your morning devotions.
Father, thank You for another day of life to know and love You and to live to love with Jesus. Anoint and fill me with the Holy Spirit, the presence and power of Christ, so that I can love and trust You and love those You put in my path, for Your glory.
This month I am in South Africa until March 13 sharing the live to love with Jesus message. I spent a week in February making disciples who will carry the message of God’s love revealed in and through Jesus to many nations as I ministered at Global Challenge Expeditions in Jeffreys Bay. You can learn more about Global Challenge at www.globalchallenge.org. They are sending out teams of young people to 10-20 nations this year. Thank you for praying for the anointing and filling of the Holy Spirit for me as I live to love with Jesus in South Africa this month.