“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart...”
1 Peter 1:22 (ESV)
If you were asked how your walk with God has been, you would probably begin with a short list of particular sins you have avoided (or that you’re still battling). We think like this because we focus on the restrictions of the law rather than the positive instructions that the Lord has given to us. When summarizing the Law, the Lord Jesus gave two positive commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37–39). In our section today, we are reminded once again that we are not just saved from something (sin), but also, primarily, saved to something (love).
Peter describes the starting point of his command as, “having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth.” Christian obedience has a lot to do with your starting point. You are not attempting to purify yourself by loving others. You have been purified by your “obedience to the truth.” This obedience is the response to the command given to all men to repent and believe in the truth about Jesus, who lived perfectly for us, died innocently in our place, was raised triumphantly to secure life for us, and who reigns eternally. As we saw in the earlier sections of the letter, His return is the hope of the believer even in periods of suffering. We must begin any conversation about obedience from this point: have you purified your soul by obedience to the truth? Have you believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
The result of our souls’ purification is “a sincere brotherly love.” Christians share a connection that goes deeper than natural family ties. Since we have been united to Christ, the images that the Bible uses to describe us (as the corporate Bride of Christ, as well as His body) all show us how intimately connected we are to Him and to one another. We are described as the family of faith. When we begin to understand these truths, we see that our only natural response to one another is love. A sincere brotherly love. Our salvation provides us with the ability to love like this, and that is the basis for Peter’s next instruction.
“Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” It is commonly said that God supplies us with what He requires from us. Having purified us with the truth, He calls us to love one another from a pure heart. Notice, this love doesn’t produce the pure heart, it is the pure heart that we now have in Christ that produces this love. Once again, the Lord requires from us what He has provided to us through Christ. Having already seen that we have been purified for “a sincere brotherly love,” we are now called to “love one another earnestly.” Remember that, for the believer, this is not an impossible command. God has transformed us from within. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. He does not call us to do something unnatural here, but rather calls us to the very thing for which He has saved us.
Therefore, dear Christian, may you look around you and see the brothers and sisters that the Lord has given you in the church, and pour yourself out to love them sincerely and earnestly. Inconvenience yourself for their good. Go out of your way to demonstrate the kind of love that only God can produce in you. And if you struggle in loving any one of them, cry out for the Lord’s help. He is gracious and kind to help us to love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
Is there a particular believer that you find very difficult to love? Commit yourself to praying for them and asking the Lord to help you see them as He sees them: forgiven and beloved in Christ.