Hope Motivates Character: Love
What characteristic of yours would define who you are?
Another way to ask this question is, “Who are you?” So often, we define ourselves by our jobs. We respond to this question by saying what it is we do for I job…doctor, lawyer, secretary, clerk, nurse, etc. But this doesn’t answer the question. These tell others what we do not who we are.
As I was growing up, I learned that my value was found it what I did. I completely believed that my value was tied into what I did. So, if my mother asked me to clean the bathroom, I made certain it sparkled. As a result, she asked me to clean more and more. At one point, while I was an impressionable teenager, she told me I should have been a girl.
But I wasn’t a girl. I was satisfied with who I was. As a result, I poured myself into athletics. Through my athletic pursuits, I seemed to receive the recognition I so desperately wanted. So, it was natural for me to make athletics my whole life. I went on to earn a football scholarship.
Now if someone were to ask me who I was, the answer was simple…I was a football player. But that wasn’t who I was either; instead, it was what I did.
Then I became a Christian and all of this thinking transferred to my Christian life. I studied more, memorized more, and evangelized more than did my peers. Even after I had been a growing Christian for some twenty-years, I still measured my value as a Christian by what I did.
Then came the crash. I had a brain abscess. Not only was I paralyzed for a time, but also to get rid of the abscess, the neurosurgeon penetrated the complex-thinking part of my brain. My brain didn’t function so well anymore. I couldn’t memorize scripture the way I used to. I had difficulty problem solving. I couldn’t do what I used to do. At this point, my opinion of myself dropped to zero.
I told my wife that God must be through with me. That I could be of value because I could do those things that I thought gave me value. But this was the great awakening in my life. I have value not because of what I do, but rather, because of who I am.
And who am I? I am a child of the living God. As Peter points out in the first 12 verses of 1 Peter, as a child of God, I have a future inheritance in His Millennial Kingdom, I have expressible joy knowing that I have eternal life in Christ Jesus, my Lord, and I have encouragement through His Word.
Yes, I have a living hope in Christ and that defines who I am. Because of who I am, Peter goes on in 1 Peter 1 to tells his readers how this hope motivates our character. Our character defines who we are. Our living hope motivates us in three ways.
- Our living hope motivates a character of holiness (1 Peter 1:13-16).
- Our living hope motivates a character of redemption (1 Peter 1:17-21).
- Our living hope motivates a character of love.
We have previously discussed the first two of these characters. Let’s look into the third of these characteristics of who we are.
Conformity to Love
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22–25)
If I claim to be a Christian, then my life should be defined by love. In verses 22-23, Peter commands those who have been purified to love one another. The love spoken of here is agape love—love of the will. We are to love each other with a fervent heart. This is a love brought forth by our will. This isn’t romantic love. Instead, it is a determined love. It is also to be a mutual love…we are to love one another.
The source of this love is from the heart…a pure heart. We have been born again. We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our love should always be expressed in its fullest capacity. We should always love one another.
How unfortunate is the Church of today. Many in the Church do not demonstrate this type of love. They choose whom they will love. If they disagree with a person, they will go out of their way to ostracize the individual and they will spread malicious gossip regarding the person.
But this is wrong-headed. Peter presents four aspects regarding the command to love.
We have purified…souls
This deals with our moral purification. Our purification is not ceremonial. We do not undergo a “baptism” to have our souls purified. Our purification is not external. We do not live our purification on our sleeve. Our purification is moral…it is internal. Our souls have been purified.
We are called to obey the truth
The purification of our souls is demonstrated when we obey the truth. Peter is here reaffirming the points he made in verses 2 and 14. This is not the means of purification. In other words, we are not made pure because we obey the truth. We are made pure by trusting in the work of Jesus, the Christ. When we allow the Holy Spirit to purify us, we become obedient to the truth.
It is important to notice that we are obedient to “the truth.” The emphasis is that we are obedient to the gospel. The obedience here does not appear to be one of works; rather, it is obedience of faith. Thus, our souls are purified when we become obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are to have a sincere love for the brethren
Our purified souls and obedience to the truth result in a sincere love for the brethren. This is the result of purification. The love spoken of here is philadelphia—a word used only of love between believers in the New Testament. This love should be without hypocrisy—it should be sincere.
Because of this brotherly love, believers should have agape love.
We have been born again…through the word of God which lives and abides forever
When we are born physically…our first birth…we are born of corruptible seed—the seed of Adam. The seed of the natural life is subject to decay and ultimately death. This is natural. All people are born, they live, and they die. Look at the gravestones in a cemetery. Notice the format. There is a name, a date of birth, and a date of death. It looks like this: John Doe 1917-1998. One’s life is the hyphen in the middle. That is all we get…a hyphen…to describe our life.
Yet, because of our regeneration when we trusted in Jesus Christ, believers are born a second time of incorruptible seed, which is the Word of God. Peter is speaking of logos—the totality of God’s Word, written and spoken.The Word of God is not subject to death and decay. It cannot fade away—it cannot become degenerate. The means of our regeneration (being born again) is the Word of God, which lives and abides forever.
Peter is telling us that we can actively possess a life that abides forever. It is permanent and its state does not change. Our regeneration is for all time.
Proof for this truth
As proof to what Peter has been sharing, he quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8:
“All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6–8)
When Peter refers to “the word of our God,” he is not referring to logos. Instead, he uses the word rhema, which is the spoken word or the proclamation of the gospel. The quote from Isaiah proves that the Word of God lives and abides. Human life (including human glory) is transitory like grass. All of man’s achievements are transitory. They are merely the hyphen on a gravestone. But the Word of God—the gospel message—is not transitory.
Peter presents the application of all of this to our lives. He says, “Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” This is the evangelism that leads to regeneration. At the center of our Christian lives must be love. We must love one another; but we must also love those in the world as God loved them.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Do you love (philadelphia) all your brothers and sisters in the Lord? How do you demonstrate that love?
Do you love (agape) those outside the Church? Do you faithfully speak the Word of God to them so they might believe and be saved?
This is the challenge Peter has made to us in 1 Peter 1.