Peter’s Command to a Comprehensive Love (1 Peter 1:22)

Every Christian loves other believers. By living in obedience to the truth of God’s Word, we grow in sanctification, increasing in our love for one another to the point where our love can be described as sincere. We are commanded to push that love to its limits, both in its depth and breadth outward toward other believers, and also inwardly through all of the faculties of the inner person. We are to love one another comprehensively, and that love is not to be done against our affections, reason, or will. An exposition of 1 Peter 1:22-25.


★ Support this podcast ★

First Peter 1:22 is really our Scripture for today. I know it says 22–25—didn’t get there. So it’s going to be verse 22 today, but let’s read verses 22–25:
22 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,
23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
24 For, ‘All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ And this is the word which was preached to you.” (1 Pet. 1:22–25 NASB)
As I said, our focus will be on verse 22. I’ll allude to 23–25 briefly, but we’re going to be in verse 22. Now when you read this verse, there are some thoughts and questions that arise in your mind immediately, and I’d like to ask you what those are, but in this format I can’t do that. So I’m going to tell you what I see in it, and I’m going to pray that that answers a lot of your questions around it. Let’s look at it.
First of all, the language of verse 22 is challenging to interpret. You may have a different translation than what I read. There’s different translation choices. And on first reading, I’m not sure what Peter means by that first phrase: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22). I’m not sure exactly what that means. I’m especially interested in what purified means here, but we’ll have to study that whole phrase.
Second, the passage is clearly about love, right? You see that twice in verse 22. Apparently this sincere love of the brethren is something that we have. Something we’ve acquired in some way. We have to understand that opening phrase to see how. But then there’s a command. This is the fourth and last command of chapter 1 of 1 Peter. There’s a command in verse 22. You see that. “Fervently love one another from the heart.” That’s the command. So there’s a sense in which we have to make progress from something we possess to something greater. In both cases, we’re commanded to love the same people. “One another” or “the brethren” refers to the same people, our brothers and sisters in Christ, each other. So those are things we have to make connections around. We have to understand all of those things so we understand what Peter and the Spirit has intended for us to understand from the verse. So that’s what we’re going to do today.
If you like outlines, I have five points and six p’s. If you don’t like outlines, I have five points and six p’s, but you can ignore them. It’s in your bulletin if you have one. If you don’t, someone near you does, so you can, I don’t know, borrow, steal, barter . . . share, I guess, would be better in the context of the verse. Share would be better. So we’re going to begin with the purification for love. That’s an attempt to understand that opening phrase—“since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls.” And then second, we’ll look at the possession of love, the brotherly love that Peter claims that we have for one another. Then we’ll look at the progression or the progress of love. See what Peter means by that brotherly love being sincere. Then fourth, we’ll examine the command to love. We’ll see the pinnacle of love, that fervent love for one another from the heart. Then we’ll end with two applications, what I’m calling my fifth point. We’ll call it 5A and 5B if you like, the practice and preservation of love. Ok, so we’re going to understand verse 22 as well as we can, certainly as well as I can, and then we’ll apply it in a couple of ways at the end.
At the heart of the verse lies the command; we’re to love one another. We don’t want to lose track of that. We won’t. That’s going to be our emphasis. But before we can get to the command, there’s a participle phrase that starts the verse. It’s hard to translate, hard to interpret. It’s one of the fun and challenging things about 1 Peter. There’s a lot of interpretive challenges in it. Peter’s language is very sophisticated. It’s interesting, it’s challenging. And the man absolutely loves participles. This book is full of them. Now, a lot of kids know what participles are. By the time we become adults, we generally have forgotten. The verb translated “purified” there is a perfect participle in the original language. So we would more literally translate it as “having purified.” That’s a perfect participle. Usually starts with “having” in English, having done something, and then the rest of the sentence. So “having purified your souls.” ESV for example, has it that way: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth.” So a perfect participle refers to something that has been done in the past, something that happened in the past, that has ongoing effects. So having purified our souls, we now have purified souls. That’s right. It’s something that has happened to us in the past and has changed something about us, and that’s still with us. So that’s our first point, the purification to love.
But what does it mean? What does it mean that we have purified our souls? What did we do? We’re given a couple clues in Peter’s statement. The purification of our souls was done in obedience or by obedience to the truth. So whatever it means, it has to be connected to that. The other clue is it was done for or unto sincere brotherly love. OK, we have those clues, but what does it mean? Now it’s interpreted in at least two ways. Both of them are good, God-glorifying interpretations of the text, OK? I think one of them does a better job of paying attention to the subject here. I think it is more true to the way the word is used in the Scripture elsewhere. And I think it’s better connected to the immediate context of chapter 1, in particular the other commands.
So the first interpretation, the one I’m going to disagree with mildly, is that the purification of the soul is regeneration or conversion, being made alive in Christ, given repentance and faith. So in short, this would mean our salvation, OK? Then if this interpretation is correct—so if having purified our souls means being saved, then what would be entailed in “obedience to the truth”? If we were saved in obedience to the truth, what would that truth be that we obeyed? It would be the gospel, right? The gospel. We live in obedience to that gospel. And there’s a lot to like about that interpretation. Obedience is sometimes used to mean that initial saving faith. We see that a couple of times in Romans where it’s referred to as the obedience of faith.
But here are some of the problems that I see with that interpretation. I think it’s unlikely. First, look at your verse. Who is said to be doing the purification in the verse? Who’s doing it? Us, you, right? The readers. So Peter would—if this is salvation, then Peter would be claiming that we have at least some part in our salvation. That’s something that the Bible doesn’t support. In fact, look at verse 23. We’re born again through the living and enduring word of God. In what Cornel read earlier, back in verse 3, it says that God has caused us to be born again. All right? So I think that’s misplaced.
Second, the word for purification of the type we’re talking about here—the word that’s used doesn’t normally mean “conversion.” It usually means “sanctification.” The word for “purified” is hagnizo. It’s from hagnos. It’s the base for words like pure and purified, purification, in your New Testament. It’s used either to refer to ceremonial purification or to being made more holy, doing the work of sanctification. This is James 4:8: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” So that’s an act of the person to purify their hearts, to sanctify themselves. Now, it doesn’t mean sanctification is solely the work of a human, but we strive in sanctification. We participate in it. This word always refers to something a person does to himself and never refers to something God does to the person.
Third is the context. Living a holy life, that’s Peter’s emphasis; sanctification is Peter’s emphasis. You see that in the immediate context. “Be holy” in verses 15 and 16. “Conduct yourselves in fear” in verse 17. So I agree with Grudem. He says in his commentary, “this purification then signifies some clear progress in gaining more purity from the moral pollution of sin.”
So I think you can see what I think is a more reasonable interpretation. Purification isn’t salvation here. It isn’t conversion and regeneration. It’s post-conversion growth and moral purity. It’s sanctification, progressive sanctification, that process. So then what would “obedience to the truth” here mean? We could take it at face value. It’s plain reading. Obedience to all the truth of God’s Word, in particular the ethical requirements of the new covenant, living in obedience to those, to what Paul calls the law of the Spirit or the law of Christ. Now you understand there are laws. There are commands of Scripture that pertain to the believer in the new covenant. Here’s one now. “Love one another” (v. 22). Right, you see that? That’s a command that pertains to us. So we have commands that we have to follow. There are other commands in 1 Peter. You’re going to see more and more of them over the years as we go through 1 Peter. But you know there’s lots of commands in the Bible that pertain to the believer in Christ. And we obey them. We live in obedience to them, not in order to be saved, not to obtain justification, but because we have obtained justification. And so we live in obedience to Christ, although we’ve been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
So I’m interpreting this to mean—I’ll kind of paraphrase—since you’ve grown and are continuing to grow in sanctification by living in obedience to all the truth of Scripture that pertains to you, including the saving truths of the gospel and all the sanctifying commands of Scripture, you have gained a sincere love of the brethren. Your sanctification has grown to include a sincere love of the brethren. I think that’s what Peter is saying.
So I have to take a little bit of a step off 1 Peter to establish a fact so that we don’t get confused about this. It’s one of the key lessons in 1 John—David [addressing a KCC member who is teaching through 1 John in Sunday school]. Christians, all Christians, love one another. Christians love one another. That’s a lesson of 1 John. We just do. If you read 1 John, you’ll see John does not usually or generally express love for the brethren as a command. He doesn’t usually. It’s usually as evidence of genuine conversion. He says that Christians love one another. He’s not ordinarily commanding Christians to. He does do that, we’ll see that here. But let me give you the flavor of the message of love in 1 John. This is 1 John 3:10: “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifested: everyone who does not do righteousness is not of God, as well as the one who does not love his brother.”
1 John 5:1 (listen to this carefully): “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the One who gives new birth loves also the one who has been born of Him.”
If you are in Christ, having been born of Him, you love all who have been born of Him—if you love the One who gives the birth. That’s his point. Christians love one another. If you claim to be united with Christ, you share in the life of Christ, but you don’t have love, you don’t have that preferring, sacrificial love for those for whom Christ died, you’re a liar. That’s John’s message. Christians love one another. It’s just part of the new birth. It’s something we possess by virtue of our joint union with Christ. It’s a possession of every believer. So that’s our second point. The possession of love on the part of every Christian for one another.
OK, so you may be thinking through this a little bit. If my understanding of the participle phrase in 1 Peter is correct, then Peter seems to be contradicting that message of John’s. Right? You see that? If Peter is claiming that we’ve achieved brotherly love through the work of sanctification, purifying our souls by living in obedience to the truth, that’s different from what John is saying, that we have brotherly love by virtue of our salvation, our regeneration. Right? So that’s the question. Is brotherly love something we have, as John says, or is it something we get over time, as Peter seems to be saying? Is love for the brethren a gift of the Holy Spirit that we acquire as part of our regeneration, or is it something that only happens when we reach a certain point in our sanctification? It’s an important question.
Well, that’s where the adjective comes in. There’s an adjective here describing our love of the brothers in verse 22 as “sincere.” That’s one of the adjectives. Sincere or without hypocrisy or unfeigned. So that word has the alpha, the a, in front of a word meaning “hypocrisy.” And the word for “hypocrisy” had its origins in saying lines as an actor in a play. So it’s saying this type of love is not like that. It’s not just playing a part. It’s not just speaking or acting in a way that’s inconsistent with your affections. So this is a love that moves beyond feeling, and it’s reflected in action. Right? Your words and your thoughts and your deeds are consistent, all of them feelings of love toward one another.
So this sincere love is not an immediate gift of the spirit to all believers. This is something that we grow into. This is the progress of love, our third point. All believers have a preferring affectionate love for one another. We get that by nature of our conversion, our being united in fellowship with Christ and so with one another. But it’s not true that our actions are immediately consistent with those feelings. We have to learn that kind of love. Right? We have love for one another, but we have to learn it. It’s true in 1 Peter and in 1 John. So John clearly says that brotherly love is something we gain at regeneration, but he also commands sincere love. Listen to this, 1 John 3:17–18: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” He commands a consistent love, a sincere love, a love that acts in the way that it feels. That’s a command from John. We saw a command in what David read this morning in Sunday school. So we’re taught that Christians love one another. Christians also are commanded to pursue love in action, to make brotherly love consistent or sincere.
All right, so that’s what’s happening. I’m trying to put all this together in my head. So by living in obedience to the commands of Scripture, we grow in sanctification and gain a more sincere form of the love that we all have by virtue of our regeneration. That’s the message. OK, well, that’s good. That makes sense, right? But why do we need a command then? If Peter is saying we’ve accomplished that sincere love of the brethren, then why do we need a command? Why does he tell us to fervently love one another from the heart? Why tell us to do something we’re already doing? That would be curious. Well, let’s understand exactly what that command is. And this is the heart of this verse. What exactly does this command mean?
First point we have to make is a difference in the verbs. There are two verbs translated as “love” in the verse, two different Greek words. The love of the brothers—and kids, you’re thinking, is he ever going to say the word [referring to the Word of the Day, which KCC kids count during the message]? Get your pencils out because it starts now. And there’ll be a burst of you putting your little notches on the papers, OK? I don’t know how many there are or I’d just tell you and we’d just shortcut the whole thing. So the two verbs. The verb that is translated as “brotherly love” or the “love of the brothers” is that philadelphia. That comes from phileo for “love” and adelphos for “brother.” The love in the command is that familiar agapao or agape love. So we’re assumed to have a sincere version of the one, philadelphia. And we are commanded to have a fervent agapao that’s from the heart.
So Peter—and Peter more than the other writers of Scripture—seems to see a progression in intensity between the two words. To Peter, philadelphia seems to be less intense, lower than agapao. So Peter here declares we have a sincere philadelphia (brother-love) for one another. Then he commands a fervent agapao love, implying that his readers don’t have that. They don’t always have it in the right intensity, to the degree that they should.
You can see Peter’s view of these two types of love in 2 Peter. It might be worth turning to 2 Peter chapter 1. It’s right after 1 Peter. Yeah, they arranged it nicely. They also put all the t’s together in the New Testament, which I find very helpful. 2 Peter 1. In verse 3, he tells us there that God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” He tells us in verse 4 we are “partakers of the divine nature.” That sounds very much like 1 John. Then he commands us to make diligent efforts to supply or add to our lives a list of virtues that seem to be, if you look at them, of increasing moral quality, moral intensity. Look at verses 5–7:
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness [that’s philadelphia], and in your brotherly kindness, love [that’s agapao]. (NASB)
The list ends with those two: philadelphia, then agapao; brotherly kindness, then love. So if this is a list of moral virtues that is increasing in value for Peter, then the two highest virtues are there at the end with love, agapao, surpassing philadelphia, brotherly kindness.
So let’s talk about Peter for a minute. You can’t get away from this. I think some of you know where you have to go when you start thinking about Peter’s use of these words. Peter learned a lot about love from his own life with Christ. I think this may account for why Peter has such an emphasis on the progress of love in the letter. So you remember the record of Peter’s betrayal of Christ and his restoration after Jesus rose from the grave. I’m going to talk about that a little bit. You may not remember, Peter had betrayed Christ after he declared he never would. “ ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times’ ” (Matt. 26:33–34). And do you remember what Peter said? “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You” (Matt. 26:35). Wow. So you know he did. He did it repeatedly, obstinately, loudly, even profanely. Peter denied he even knew Christ. He betrayed Him after he had so self-righteously and emphatically said he never would—“I’ll go to death for You.” Luke records in his gospel that at the time of his betrayal, Jesus looked at Peter, and Peter remembered what He’d said (Luke 22:61). And he went out and cried bitterly, Luke says.
So then after His resurrection—you know the story after Christ’s resurrection. You can follow along with this in John 21, if you like. It’s John 21:15–18 I’ll be referring to. Jesus orchestrates an event where He has breakfast with Peter on the beach. Remember that? He asked Peter three times if Peter loves Him. Three times Peter says he does. Three times Peter expresses his love. And each time Jesus tells Peter to tend or shepherd His sheep. The first two times Jesus asks the question, He asks Peter “Do you love Me?” using a form of agapao. “Do you love Me?” Both times Peter responds with “You know that I love You.” But he uses phileo, which is the same word for love in philadelphia, it just doesn’t have the brother part on it. It’s that same strength and intensity. The third time, Jesus changes it up. He says, “Do you love Me?” This time He uses phileo. And Peter was grieved by the question, it says. And he again claims that he loves (phileo) Christ. Peter never would claim—at least he’s being honest this time, right? He can’t claim that he has that agape, that agapao love for Christ. He can’t do it, not even now. He recognizes, “I didn’t demonstrate that kind of love. I’m not sure I can claim that even now.” So when Jesus switched His words, what was so grieving to Peter is that Jesus is admitting the same thing. He’s confronting him with it: “I’ve asked you twice if you love Me with this most intense, sacrificial type of love, and twice you have deflected. So now I’m only going to ask you if you have affection for Me.” And he says, “Yes, I have affection for You.” Then Jesus tells him to tend His sheep. We see that again. But then He gives him a prophecy about how he’s going to die, about how Peter’s going to die. So Jesus knew that Peter would in fact grow into that kind of love. He knew that he would.
So for our purposes, they both had an understanding that there’s a difference of some kind between these two words for love. Peter had the one, philadelphia, but he hadn’t shown the other, agapao. And on the beach, he didn’t possess that intense kind of love. So what’s the difference? What is the difference between those two? It’s mainly a difference in emphasis. Brotherly love or philadelphia stresses affection and feeling. It’s used outside of the Scripture to mean exactly, literally love between brothers. So if you have a sibling, you love them. It’s kind of natural for you to love them. You may fight with them more than anybody else, but you love them. It’s natural for you to have a concern for them, an affection for them, an emotional bond. You have each other’s back. You can beat each other up, but nobody else can. That’s natural. Now when we are united in Christ, that sort of affection is extended to one another, to your brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s natural.
Agapao love, on the other hand, that’s different. That places an emphasis on preference, actually esteeming the other more highly than yourself, and on will, determination to follow that feeling. It doesn’t leave out the affection, but it includes and emphasizes decisiveness, this type of love. It’s a love that flows from reason and will. So to love this way is to prefer—an easy way to think of it is preferring one another over worldlings and also preferring others even over ourselves. It extends that far. It’s to live out preference by action, by sacrifice for one another, putting each other ahead of ourselves, actually thinking that other people are more important than us and acting that out. Hiebert puts it this way in his commentary on the passage: Agape “does not make prominent the emotional aspect of philadelphia; it is rather ‘the love of full intelligence and understanding coupled with corresponding purpose.’ It is a love of rational goodwill that desires the highest good for the one loved, even at the expense of self” (1 Peter, p. 113). That’s a high love.
Now Peter’s an interesting case study in love. I think understanding his life helps us understand what he intends here. Peter had to learn love, didn’t he? He hadn’t loved Christ. Certainly not sincerely. Certainly not without hypocrisy. You see the hypocrisy. “I will die before I deny You—I don’t know who He is. Never heard of Him.” That’s hypocrisy. That was Peter’s certainly not sincere love, insincere. Jesus had sincere love, didn’t He? Jesus was willing to make the sacrifice that Peter needed for his good and for ours. Peter wasn’t. So Jesus told Peter at his restoration to do something. He told him to do that which would be an expression of genuine love by Peter for Christ and for His sheep, for Christ’s sheep. He told him to tend the sheep. That’s how Peter would demonstrate love. As chief among the apostles, as an elder, his work was to show love for Christ by showing love for the sheep through shepherding, through loving and sacrificial leadership. That was to be his expression of love.
So by the time Peter wrote this, he knew about love. He knew about hypocritical love. He knew a lot about that. He knew about insincere love. He also knew now about sincere, practical, preferring love. He understood fervent love. He understood love from the heart. He’d seen it. He’d seen it in Christ, and he spent the rest of his life expressing it for His sheep. We see that from the rest of Peter’s life. We see it in Acts. We see it here in his letters. The prophecy of his death and the tradition of how he died. He followed through.
So now we can see the content of the command. We can see the progression here. Brotherly love is the possession of all Christians. If you’re a believer, you love one another. We can’t help but look to our fellow believers as having that same central core of our being in common. At Liam and Molly’s wedding, I met someone I never met before in my life. Can’t remember his name. He’s my friend. You’ve experienced that. Somebody you’ve never met before. You’re on a plane, you start talking about—oh, they’re believers. Maybe you try to share the gospel with them. It doesn’t work because they’re trying to share it with you, and it doesn’t . . . Right? Immediate friendship. That we all have in common. But a sincere love of the brethren grows over time as part of our sanctification process. We make progress in love. We grow increasingly willing to suppress our own selfish self-interest. We grow. So philadelphia that is sincere, that’s a more mature brotherly love, a more sanctified brotherly love. It pervades more of our actions, more of our faculties. It takes more of our time and our money and our affection, becomes sincere. Then as we continue to grow, we tend toward agapao. And not just a bare or mere agapao—that’d be very similar to a sincere brotherly love—but to a fervent agapao, and one that’s from the heart. We’re to love fervently and from the heart.
Let’s look at those words. “Fervently”—I was going to bring something, but I forgot to bring it. I was going to bring a bungee cord. Nobody ever does illustrations really like that from here, so I decided not to. But then I decided I would this morning, and then I forgot. Jamie [the speaker’s daughter] talked me into it, and I forgot. But that’s what—if you imagine something that has some stretch to it, it gets to the end of its stretch, that’s what fervent means, stretched to its limit. It’s ektenos. Ektenos. You might hear our word extend in that. That’s what it means, to extend, be completely taut. We’re to push our love to the limits of what we’re capable—I would say of what we’re capable and willing to do. We’re to push it to its limits. Take all of the gifts and resources and talents and abilities that we have been given on this earth and use them to fervently love one another. That’s what Peter’s telling us. That word fervently is a strong word. Push it. Push it to the limit.
It’s said to be from the heart. I need to spend a little time on this, because we think of the heart as the seat of emotions. That’s how we speak. We think of the heart as that place of strictly emotion, as opposed to the brain, right? That’s where the intellect and the will and the decisiveness and all of that reside. That’s how we think. But that’s not how Scripture talks. In Scripture, the heart is not the source of emotional affection only, apart from the intellect or reason or will. It does include emotional feelings, affection, but also determination, reason, conviction, the will. It is the word kardia. It does literally mean “heart,” that organ that pumps blood, but it has a figurative meaning. And my point is only that the figurative meaning isn’t confined to emotion. Loving from the heart doesn’t mean with emotional affection only, but the whole mental, moral inner direction of the person, what I think is most easily understood of as the will. We’re to love willfully with resolve, determination, and affection. All of our faculties, our faculties of conscience, decision-making, affection, desire, all of that are to be bound up in this love. It’s to be comprehensive.
So if you put all that together, that’s Peter’s strongest possible expression of love. It’s the pinnacle of love. You see the progression? We go from the brotherly love that we all possess as part of our regeneration to a more sincere brotherly love as we grow and are sanctified, as we learn what God’s Word expects of us and we obey His commands. And then we continue on to a fervent love for one another. It’s extensive, it’s willful, it’s sacrificial, it’s obvious. That’s what he’s looking for.
Paul makes exactly the same command in a similar way. 1 Thessalonians 4:9–10: “Now concerning love of the brothers, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another [that’s that love we all have at regeneration—love one another], for indeed you do practice it toward all the brothers who are in all Macedonia. [They’re expressing their love sacrificially. They have a sincere love. And Paul tells them . . .] But we urge you, brothers, to excel still more.” They haven’t reached fervent love for one another from the heart. None of us will ever reach this completely, but this is our objective, this is our command. You love one another; love one another more. That’s what Peter’s telling us.
So Peter will go on to tell us in verses 23–25, that unfortunately I don’t have time—I could do it. You guys got another . . . ? No. [Someone in the audience indicates the speaker should continue preaching through verses 23–25] Yeah, good, thank you! Student of the week right there [laughs]. Verses 23–25, you can look at them. 1 Peter 1:23–25. You can see that really what he’s telling us is that our love for one another is a good investment. It’s a good investment in that its benefits are eternal. Loving anything else is a bad investment. You thought about that? Loving anything other than Christ or one another, other believers, is a really bad investment. It’s only going to last a few more years to have any benefit and then it’s gone. Right? But love for one another is eternal. It has eternal benefits.
He tells us then why our love is eternal. You see it’s because our salvation is eternal. And our salvation is eternal because His promise is eternally valid. The truths of the gospel are eternal. His Word is always true, never changing. So because of that, we can love one another and we can understand that it has eternal benefits. Like when that person whose name I don’t know—he was dressed nice, had a tie, some of you probably met him. It’s OK that I don’t know his name and that I’m not going to talk to him again because I could take—AJ and I were talking about this last week—I can say, “Let’s take ten thousand years and get to know each other.” Right? This love has benefits that last forever. But getting into that will be for another time.
But what’s the application? I’m going to make two applications I think we can make safely according to the Scripture. The first is a personal one. It’s what I’ll call the practice of love. And that application is very clear. Look at 1 Peter 1:22. It’s the command. Do that. That’s the application. “Fervently love one another from the heart.” Extend your sacrificial love for one another to its outer limits. Stretch it as far as you are willing. And then grow in your understanding of God’s Word so that you see the heart of God toward His people, making you more willing. This is a virtuous cycle. You love, you learn, you love more, you learn more. You move toward this fervent love. That’s the command. Go and do this. It’s the practice of love that’s commanded here.
Now Peter gives us more specific application of this later in the book. And this is a very brief, way too quick survey of this repetition of the application. We’re told to “love the brethren” in chapter 2, verse 17. We’re told to be “like-minded, sympathetic, brotherly, tender-hearted, and humble in spirit” in chapter 3, verse 8. We’re told to “keep fervent in your love for one another,” almost a verbatim repetition in chapter 4, verse 8. Then we’re told to express our love practically through hospitality in 4:9. We’re told to use our gifts for one another in 4:10–11. We get a glimpse of how love works itself out between Peter and Silas and Mark in chapter 5 (vv. 12–13). And we’re even given a—now listen—a culturally appropriate physical expression of this love between believers in the last verse: “Greet one another with a kiss of love” (v. 14). Culturally appropriate in the first century, not now, OK? Please. There’s two people in here [the speaker’s wife and daughter] that would be OK, but beyond that . . . And you know who you are—I hope [laughs].
But love is on Peter’s mind from beginning to end. And I’m never going to get to preach on that last verse, unfortunately, because I’m going to die long before I ever get there, but it’s a really good verse to preach on, somebody else who preaches. It’s a good verse to preach on. It’s good for hermeneutics, helping us understand how literal we ought to be and so on. But the point is Peter talks a lot about love, gives us more specific application. You can see that if you read this book. But I want you to see this love is not burdensome. It’s not burdensome. It’s sacrificial. It’s costly. Right, it can cost you money and time and emotional investment, frustration, awkwardness. It can be really hard work, but it comes from the will. It’s consistent with your affections and desires. It’s therefore ultimately fulfilling. It’s happy-making. It’s sin-avoiding. It’s sanctifying. It’s maturing, assuring. It is for the good of the recipient, but it’s also for the good of the giver and for the glory of God.
I’ll make one last application. You guys are like, I zipped up my Bible cover after the first application. Unzip it. This is kind of a warning for our church in particular. I think it’s something we need to be on guard against in our church. So we’re a church that emphasizes what? If you had a friend or family member that asked you what makes Kootenai Church distinctive, what would you say? I’m going to let you think about it. Would you say—I made some guesses. Commitment to biblical sufficiency, something like that. Would you say a biblical eldership model comes to mind? Commitment to exposition. Reformed soteriology. Would you say things like that? I think most likely it’d be along those lines. We’re known for biblical precision from the pulpit, Sunday school classes, in our music. You notice we change words. Some well-known choruses and hymns, we change some words if we don’t think they’re biblical. We don’t sing some songs. Right? We’re biblically precise. Our youth group is biblically oriented. Our men’s and women’s Bible studies, or any ministry of our church that has pastoral oversight—and that’s what defines a ministry of our church—we’ll have that biblical precision.
OK, so believers to whom biblical precision is important will be attracted to our church. People who believe in biblical sufficiency and have a high view of Scripture will be attracted to Kootenai Church for that reason, and that’s a really good reason. That’s a great reason. But I thank God that many of you would also speak about the love that we have for one another. Right? You do that. You do express love for one another, and it’s a real blessing. I hear about those things, and sometimes, you know, it kind of—it’s very touching when you hear about some of the things that you do for one another. You’re a loving people. You bear one another’s burdens. And that was true long before I showed up here twenty-something years ago. It was a very loving people, and that continues on today. Now, were this not so, eldership here would be a tremendous burden, because right now at the moment there’s four elders and about four hundred of you. That’s not fair [laughs]. Right? That would be very, very difficult if you weren’t bearing one another’s burdens to the degree that you do. So I’m very thankful for our deacons and for just all of you who bear one another’s burdens, love one another.
But be on guard. Those things are not always held jointly. A church that insists on doctrinal precision and expresses that affectionate, willful, sacrificial love, that fervent love for one another from the heart, that’s unusual. It’s not unique. It shouldn’t be unusual at all, but it is. Churches can go off in two ditches, right? Either cold orthodoxy like the church at Ephesus in Revelation, or the other ditch, kind of an affectionate, ignorant, tolerant disobedience, like Laodicea and Sardis. I don’t see us going the way of Laodicea. I mean, who knows, right? Three generations, two generations, things could—who knows? But I don’t see us going that direction. But the way of Ephesus is a possibility if we don’t obey the command to fervently love one another from the heart. We have to preserve this love that we have for one another. We have to protect it and maintain it. We have to pass it from one generation to another. We have to organize everything—our formal activities, our informal activities, programs, your own private fellowship time together, everything—around this idea of protecting our love for one another.
Because what’s the danger? What’s the danger? If our determination, our determined obedience to the Word of God, if that makes us enemies of the lost or of one another, if we can’t tolerate disagreements over tertiary matters, we’ll lose that love. We could lose it. If we—you know, this is going to be . . . oh well [laughs]. I can still teach Sunday school after this I think. If we too closely identify with a political party, some political affiliation, or even a nation, there’s a danger. We have to live out our lives in love for one another, in service. We have to use our gifts. If you have a spiritual gift, you have something you’re good at, you have to use it for God’s glory. Or I pray He’ll take it away. God calls Himself a moth. He will take away that which you use for someone else’s glory. He will take it away. And I pray that He would. Use your gifts for His glory. Use your money for His glory. We have to excel in hospitality and generosity.
If we see this hour or this—I don’t know how long it’s been. If we see this two hours that we get together on Sunday morning—if we think that this is the only activity of the church, that’s a grave danger. There’s better preachers [laughs]. Right? Today. But, you know, you could sit at home and listen to John MacArthur, if this is all that this is. It isn’t. There’s a danger. We don’t want that love that we have for one another to grow cold, but it could. So we have to protect it. So may we remain true to Christ in every way, in doctrinal precision, in ethical purity and consistency, including the doctrine of love, the command to love, to increasingly love one another fervently and from the heart.