You Must Love Your Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Passage: 1 Peter 1:22-25
Good morning, turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter 1:22-25. Pastor Kit and I figured it would make sense for me just to continue his series in 1 Peter this morning. But when I agreed to that, I didn’t quite realize how much work it would be. When you’re preaching through a book of the Bible, your study builds upon itself as you get to know the human author and follow his flow of thought. So jumping into the middle of an ongoing series is a bit challenging. All of that to say, if we don’t do it this way again, you’ll know why. ☺
So you might remember that throughout chapter 1, Peter has been expounding eternal realities which he intends his hearers to cling to so that they will live holy lives during trying times. Two weeks ago, we were challenged with the command to “be holy.” Last week, we considered the command to live lives characterized by a healthy fear of God. This week, we’ll consider the command to love one another.
So without further ado, let’s go ahead and read 1 Peter 1:22-25.
So my proposition this morning is very simple: “you must love your brothers and sisters in Christ.” And my three main points are going to be questions regarding that proposition—questions which Peter answers in these verses.
“How do I prepare my soul to love my brothers and sisters in Christ?”
The first phrase in this passage is a little bit tricky, and there are a couple of possible ways to interpret it. Many commentators believe that this phrase is a reference to conversion. In other words, they would say that this phrase is talking about a person purifying his own soul when he obeys the commands to repent and believe, which are rooted in gospel realities or truths. I agree with that statement, but I’m not sure that’s what Peter is talking about here.
The word translated “purified” here is used two other times in the NT to refer spiritual cleansing; and in both cases, it’s not conversion, but Christian growth which is in view (James 4:8; 1 John 3:3). Interestingly, the 1 John 3:3 passage shares a number of striking similarities with our passage this morning. Notice that in both passages, the authors are talking about being born again as sons of God and about the future hope that new birth entails. Also, John applies these truths by saying that we ought to purify ourselves like God is pure, which sounds a lot like 1 Peter 1:16— “Be holy, for I am holy.” And in fact, the word for “purify” in 1 Peter 1:22 comes from the Greek word for “holy.” So I think it makes good sense in context to take this first phrase as a reference to sanctification.
Now obviously, we do prepare our souls to love our brothers and sisters in Christ by repenting of our sins and believing the gospel; but we also prepare to love them by confessing and forsaking heart sins, and I think that is what Peter is talking about here.
So there is a sense in which this first phrase in v. 22 reminds us of everything we have covered so far in 1 Peter. We are to respond to the glorious truths Peter has presented by forsaking the desires associated with our former ignorant lives and pursuing holiness like obedient children. And Peter says that doing so will result in love for the brethren.
“In sincere love of the brethren” can also be translated “unto sincere love of the brethren.” In other words, sincere love for the brethren is the result of purifying one’s heart.
There have been times in which I was struggling to love someone like the Bible commands me to. And I thought to myself or maybe even prayed, “Lord, why is this so hard?” And then He graciously revealed to me that the reason it was so hard was because I was harboring sinful desires of one kind or another in my own heart! There have been times when I failed to love my wife like I ought because I was proud and worrying about something. There have been times in which I failed to love my girls like I ought because of an inordinate desire for rest or to get things accomplished around the house, so I didn’t respond to their needs like I should have.
Does this kind of thing ever happen to you? Maybe this morning there are some nasty sins that have taken root in your heart and are keeping you from loving your brothers and sisters in Christ like you ought to. Let me encourage you to purify your hearts this morning.
So how do we prepare to love our brothers and sisters in Christ? (by purifying our hearts) Great, but now what what should that love look like?
“What should love for my brothers and sisters in Christ look like?”
It should be sincere.
The word sincere is not hard to understand. It means “un-hypocritical” or “without play acting.” It is not good enough for us to fake love for one another. Our love for one another must be genuine.
How many of you have ever lived in the southern United States? How many of you were born there? Okay, hopefully I won’t offend too many of you with this illustration. I lived in the South for 4 years, and during that time, I learned that in the South, kindness is a cultural expectation. I mean, if you go around being rude to people, you are going to stand out like a sore thumb. Now that’s a good thing in many ways, but it also makes it hard to tell who genuinely cares about you. I mean out here in the West, we tend to have a more “what you see is what you get” philosophy. Which results in a less-refined society, but at least you know where you stand with everyone. Out there, even the clerk at Walmart asks about how your family is doing! So it’s sometimes hard to tell whether they actually care or whether they are just doing the socially acceptable thing.
What’s my point? In the church, don’t we face the same kind of pressure to express love for one another. I mean, if you don’t shake hands on Sunday and ask how people are doing, you are going to look like a big jerk! So how do we often respond to that pressure? We fake it. We get really good at smiling and pretending to love people so that we fit in. Peter says “that’s not good enough.” Your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ has to be real.
So #1, my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ should be sincere, but it should also be warm.
It should be warm.
Peter uses two different Greek words for “love” in v. 22. The first is the Greek word “philadelphia”—the same word from which the city in Pennsylvania gets its name. So even if you haven’t studied Greek, you probably know what that word means. So what does it mean? (“brotherly love”) Outside of the NT, this word refers exclusively to relationships between blood relatives. And yet the NT takes the word and beautifully applies it to relationships between believers. Why? (Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ)
And it’s not that we are to love each other as if we were brothers and sisters. No, we are to love each other because we are brothers and sisters. Do you see the difference? When we say that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we aren’t pretending; we aren’t playing make believe. These are spiritual realities, and just because the bond between us isn’t physical in nature doesn’t make it any less real. And so there is to be a warmth about our love for one another.
Many of you are already planning your holiday vacations. Maybe you’ll see a brother or a sister who lives far away this Thanksgiving or Christmas. And when you greet a sibling after not seeing him or her for a while, there is a warmth to your embrace. We need to have that same type of love for one another.
By the way, in what context is this brotherly love that Peter is referring to lived out? (It’s lived out in the context of the local church.) Now, obviously the family of God is much bigger than this local assembly. It includes believers from all generations and parts of the world. But the fact is that in this life, you will never meet 99.9% of those people, and so we live out this command to love one another primarily in the context of our own local church.
Application: So let me ask you a question: do you love your brothers and sisters here at Life Point? You say, “Well, most of the them.” That’s not good enough. I mean, we all know that some of our siblings are easier to love than others, but we must love all of them. You say, “Well, I love them most of the time.” That’s fair enough. We would all have to admit that there are times that we fail to obey this command. But we shouldn’t be content to stay there. We should be striving to grow in this all-important area of love.
And that leads me to my next point. Our love for one another should be sincere, warm, and selfless.
It should be selfless.
The second Greek word for love in this verse is the word “agape,” which is the most common word for love in the Greek NT and usually signifies self-sacrificial love. So the question arises, “Did Peter intend for us to read significance into the fact that he uses two different words for love back-to-back, or was he using these two words more or less as synonyms?”
Well, turn with me over to 2 Peter 1:7. So here is an example of another passage in which Peter uses these same two words for love to signify two distinct concepts; and in this passage, the placement of agape at the end the list implies that it is the more difficult type of love to display toward one another. So if we take this understanding back to 1 Peter 1:22, I think we can reasonably conclude that Peter is saying that his readers ought to be growing in their love for one another.
In other words, we could say, “Having purified your souls by obeying the truth through the Spirit resulting in sincere brotherly love, go on to have agape love for one another.” In other words, don’t limit yourself to philadelphia love, which is more emotional in nature. Go out of your way to show love for one another. And don’t just love your brothers and sisters when they love you. Love them when they are mean to you. Love them when they mistreat you. Love them selflessly. Love them unconditionally. Love them like Christ loves them.
Application: No doubt many of you have heard sermons about agape love, so I probably don’t have to belabor this point, but let me just encourage you to love one another even when the person you are called to love don’t reciprocate and even when you don’t feel like it.
You say, “But Pastor Kris, that’s so hard to do!” I know, so when you are having trouble with it think of Christ. What does the Bible say in Romans 5:7-8? “For scarcely for a righteous man will one day; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So when you are having a hard time loving those you may consider to be unlovely, think of Christ.
So we’re supposed to love one another sincerely, warmly, and selflessly; but Peter doesn’t stop there. He says that we are to love one another “fervently.”
It should be fervent.
There is a little bit of debate over what the Greek word for “fervently” means, but it probably means just what it says in the NKJV—fervently. In other words, this word is probably describing the intensity with which we are to love one another. Our love for one another is not by any means to be weak. It is to be earnest. It is to be strong.
There ought to be a passion about the way we long to spend time together, an urgency about the way we seek to meet one another’s needs, and a depth to the way that we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Could your love be described as fervent?
And then finally, our love for one another is to come from a pure heart.
It should come from a pure heart.
Which just means that we are to love one another with pure motives—not for what we can get from them. Of course, if we have purified our hearts like the beginning of v. 22 instructs us to, this should not be a problem.
It is the norm in the world for people to love one another for what they can get from one another; but it should never be that way in the church.
I think that one of the best tests regarding the purity of our love is the way that we love those whom we perceive as having nothing to offer us. Perhaps like children. Or those who are poor. Those who probably won’t be inviting us over to their houses anytime soon. Or those who don’t necessarily hold important positions in the church. These are just examples of the types of people we might not expect anything in return from. And if we rarely if ever go out of our way to show love to these types of people, perhaps we ought to examine our motives.
So just to summarize point #2: what should our love for one another look like? Well, according to Peter, it should be sincere, warm, selfless, fervent, and should come from a pure heart. What a brilliant, multi-faceted description of Christian love!
So we’ve seen how we prepare our souls to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and we’ve seen what that love ought to look like; but finally, “Why should we love our brothers and sisters in Christ?” Are there any truths that underlie that command?
“Why should I love my brothers and sisters in Christ?”
I love Peter’s answer here. What does he say? Why should I love my brothers and sisters in Christ? (Because you’ve been born again) And of course that answer that Peter gives takes us all the way back to the beginning of the chapter, when he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Of course, the idea there is regeneration or the new birth. Jesus described the new birth to Nicodemus in John 3, and it is a major theme throughout the NT. We saw it, for instance, in James 1:18, when James says that God, of His own will, brought us forth by the word of truth. So the concept shows up quite a bit. However, the specific word used here only shows up twice in the NT—here and in v. 3.
You might remember from Pastor Kit’s explanation when he preached on 1 Peter 1:3 that this word describes the father’s role in producing offspring. And here at the end of chapter 1, Peter actually spells out that role in maybe a little bit more detail than you might have expected. He says, or at least implies, that the human father produces seed, from which a child is born. Of course, in the case of human reproduction, that seed is perishable; and guess what, so is the life it produces.
And so our physical lives are perishable. So Peter says in the quote from Isaiah that “all flesh is as grass,” one of the most short-lived plants. We are born, we live a few years, do a few things, and then die. And not only are we like grass, but our glories, our greatest accomplishments, our proud moments, are like the flower of the grass! Those don’t even last as long as the grass itself!
Some of you are shaking your heads right now. Why? Because you’ve been there, done that. Maybe you’re in the later years of life, and you know from experience that that our physical lives are perishable. That life is short. That like flowers, we fade and die. And that our glorious are so short-lived. Others of you have not experienced this dynamic for yourselves yet, but you will. We all will, unless the Lord returns first. You say, “Well Pastor Kris, that’s a little depressing.” Well yes, in a way it is, but look what comes next!
Peter says, “The grass withers and the flower falls away, but…” what? (the word of the LORD endures forever) Peter is quoting from Isaiah 40:6, 8. In that passage, Isaiah is addressing a tired, worn-down people, and giving them hope. He says in v. 1, “Comfort, comfort ye my people.” He tells them that their warfare will come to an end and that their iniquity will have been satisfactorily dealt with. And then he tells them that God is going to come to them, and there are a number of glorious promises. The only problem is that at the time of Isaiah’s writing, Assyria has all but engulfed Israel, in fact Jerusalem is the only city left standing. And not only that, but Isaiah has prophesied about another nation that God will use to judge His people—Babylon. And so Isaiah’s audience might be tempted to hear these words of comfort and promise and think, “How is that possible considering the strength and glories of these great nations?” And God’s answer to that thought process is simple. All flesh is as grass. Even the people who make up these mighty nations are like grass. When I’m done with them I’ll just blow on them, and they’ll wither like a blade of grass under the hot east winds. But my word, whatever proceeds out of my mouth will stand forever. So don’t doubt me or be discouraged, I will bring to pass what I have promised. And then at the end of the chapter Isaiah goes into one of the most incredible descriptions of God in the whole Bible. He says that God has measured the oceans in the hollow of His hand, that He’s measured heaven with a span—the distance between His thumb and pinkie finger—and that the nations are like a drop in a bucket. It’s just glorious. You’ll have to go home and read it this afternoon.
But I’m not preaching on that passage this morning, I’m preaching on 1 Peter 1:22-25. So what is the point here? Well in Isaiah, the reliability of God’s Word is described in terms of its indestructibility. And it is that thought which Peter picks up on here. He says that the gospel message, which by the way, later became the NT, is just as much God’s Word as was God’s message to Isaiah long ago, and as such, the gospel message is indestructible—it’s imperishable. Which caps off a theme of imperishability that Peter has carried throughout this whole chapter.
He said we have a living hope (v. 1), that we have an incorruptible, undefiled, unfading inheritance (v. 2), and that we ourselves are kept by the power of God (v. 5). He said that our faith is much more precious than gold which perishes (v. 7), and that we were not redeemed with perishable things but with the precious blood of Christ (vv. 18-19). And now He caps that all off by saying that we have been begotten again by means of the imperishable word of God.
You say, “Pastor Kris, that’s great, and I can tell you are really excited about it; but what does that mean for me?” Well, according to v. 23, that very imperishable word of God is the seed which produced new life in you. At some point, you read the Word of God, or it was preached to you, and you repented and believed. So the word of God was literally the sperm by which you were born again. So you tell me, what does that mean for you? (It means that if you are a Christian, then the spiritual life you enjoy as a result of the new birth is as indestructible as the Word of God itself.) Wow.
Peter’s going to go on at the beginning of the next chapter to say that if the Word of God is that important, you ought to desire it, with the same intensity that newborn babies desire milk. But you’ll have to come back next week to hear that sermon. For now, I want you to see that you have a new life, which means you need to start acting differently.
You resemble your Father, and so you need to start loving like He loves. You’ve been born again into a new family, and guess what—you’re not an only child! You’ve got lots of brothers and sisters, who born were born into this family the exact same way you were, by means of the imperishable word of God. Look at them, they’re sitting all around you! You need to love them sincerely, warmly, selflessly, fervently, and from a pure heart.