Our New Way of Life 1:13-25
INTRODUCTION: Peter wanted his readers to live joyfully in the midst of sufferings. Consequently he outlined his readers' major responsibilities to enable them to see their duty clearly so they could carry it out. These responsibilities were their duties to God, to other believers, and to the world.
The first sub-section of this epistle (1 Peter 1:3-12) stressed walking in hope. The second sub-section (1 Peter 1:13-25) emphasizes walking in holiness, reverence, and love. Peter held out several incentives to encourage his suffering readers to walk appropriately: God's glory (1 Peter 1:13), God's holiness (1 Peter 1:14-15), God's Word (1 Peter 1:16), God's judgment (1 Peter 1:17), and God's love (1 Peter 1:18-21). [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:395.] Peter presented the believer's duty to God as consisting of three things: a correct perspective, correct behavior, and a correct attitude.
1. Verses 13-16 - A life of holiness
v. 13: Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. - "Therefore" ties in with everything Peter had explained thus far (1 Peter 1:3-12). He said in effect, Now that you have focused your thinking positively you need to roll up your sleeves mentally, pull yourselves together, and adopt some attitudes that will affect your activities.
▪ ". . . the thought is: 'Make up your mind decisively!'" [Note: Lenski, p. 51.]
▪ "The English phrase 'pull yourselves together' would express the meaning." [Note: Selwyn, p. 139.]
▪ "In Israel an ordinary person wore as the basic garment a long, sleeveless shirt of linen or wool that reached to the knees or ankles. Over this mantle something like a poncho might be worn, although the mantle was laid aside for work. The shirt was worn long for ceremonial occasions or when at relative rest, such as talking in the market, but for active service, such as work or war, it was tucked up into a belt at the waist to leave the legs free (1 Kings 18:46; Jeremiah 1:17; Luke 17:8; John 21:18; Acts 12:8). Thus Peter's allusion pictures a mind prepared for active work." [Note: Davids, p. 66. Cf. Exodus 12:11 LXX.]
▪ Sober of spirit describes a Christian who is in full control of his speech and conduct in contrast to one who allows his flesh (i.e., his sinful human nature) to govern him.
▪ The main duty, however, is to become conscious of the culmination of our hope when Christ returns (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 4:3; Titus 2:10-13). When we do this, present trials will not deflect us from obeying God faithfully now. In other words, Peter urged his readers to face their daily trials with a specific attitude clearly and constantly in mind. We should remember that what God will give us soon as a reward for our faithful commitment to Him is worth any sacrifice now (cf. Romans 8:18).
v. 14: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance - A better translation of "obedient children" might be "children whose spirit is obedience." Negatively we should stop letting our sinful passions dominate and control us (cf. Romans 12:2). Self-indulgence is characteristic of those who are ignorant of God. Practically this involves saying no to the flesh. The fact that Peter said that his readers had lived in "ignorance" identifies them for the first time explicitly as Gentile Christians (cf. Acts 17:23; Acts 17:30; Ephesians 4:18). The Jews were not ignorant of the importance of abstaining from fleshly lusts since their Scriptures informed them.
▪ The fact that Peter said that his readers had lived in "ignorance" identifies them for the first time explicitly as Gentile Christians (cf. Acts 17:23; Acts 17:30; Ephesians 4:18). The Jews were not ignorant of the importance of abstaining from fleshly lusts since their Scriptures informed them.
v. 15: but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; - Positively we should Positively we should emulate our holy God who called us to be holy and to be holy in all our behavior: thoughts, words, and deeds (cf. 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 5:10; Mark 1:17). Holy means set apart from sin to God. We are to strive after sinless living, namely, purity. Peter was not implying that his readers had been living unholy lives but that holiness should mark them.
This verse contains the first use of a key word in 1 Peter: "behavior" (Gr. anastrophe). Other frequently recurring words include "bear up" (Gr. Pascho); "submit" (Gr. Hypotasso); "do right" (Gr. agathopoieo; Taken together these words indicate one of this epistle's distinctive emphases, namely, the importance of bearing up submissively and practicing good deeds while enduring persecution for one's faith.
v. 16: because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY." - Peter reinforced this imperative with an Old Testament quotation (cf. Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7).
▪ "When it comes to the use of the OT, 1 Peter stands out among the NT letters, especially when one compares the number of citations and allusions to the length of the letter. 1 Peter contains about the same number of OT references per unit of text as does Hebrews. Only Revelation contains more."
▪ In the context, Israel was to be holy so she could have intimate fellowship with God. We cannot expect to enjoy intimate fellowship with God who is holy unless we are holy too. Intimate fellowship with God is the greatest good human beings can experience (cf. Philippians 3:8), but without holiness it is impossible.
▪ "The Word reveals God's mind, so we should learn it; God's heart, so we should love it; God's will, so we should live it. Our whole being-mind, will, and heart-should be controlled by the Word of God. . . .
▪ "We do not study the Bible just to get to know the Bible. We study the Bible that we might get to know God better. Too many earnest Bible students are content with outlines and explanations, and do not really get to know God. It is good to know the Word of God, but this should help us better know the God of the Word." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:397.]
2. Verses 17-21 - A life of reverence 1:17-21
NOTE: Peter continued the exposition of the Leviticus commands to be holy because Yahweh is holy that he began in 1 Peter 1:16. "Peter's point is that if he and his readers have a special relationship to God by virtue of their calling and their new birth, then it is all the more urgent that they remember who he is in himself, and display the reverence that God deserves." [Note: Michaels, p. 60.]
v. 17: If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; - "If" means "since" here (a first class condition in Greek). We do call on God as our Father because He is our Father (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Nevertheless He is also the Judge of all, and He judges impartially, not on the basis of appearances but on the basis of reality. Since we must all stand before God for an evaluation of our works, we should live now accordingly (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
▪ "Each of us will give an account of his works, and each will receive the appropriate reward. This is a 'family judgment,' the Father dealing with His beloved children. The Greek word translated judgeth carries the meaning 'to judge in order to find something good.'" [Note: Wiersbe, 2:397.]
▪ It is good for us to maintain respect (fear) for God as our Judge since He has this power over us (cf. Hebrews 12:29). Again Peter reminded us that our earthly life of trials and suffering is only a brief sojourn.
vv. 18-19: knowing that you were not [r]redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. - The Greek word for "redeemed" (elytrothete) means to ransom, to free by paying a price (cf. Mark 10:45; Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14).
▪ "He [Peter] has some of the most noteworthy statements in the New Testament about the atoning value of Christ's suffering." [Note: Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, p. 319. See 1:1-3, 18-25; 2:21-25; 3:18; 4:1, and Frederic R. Howe, "The Cross of Christ in Peter's Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:626
▪ "Any representative first-century church would have three kinds of members: slaves, freemen [those who had never been slaves], and freed men. People became slaves in various ways-through war, bankruptcy, sale by themselves, sale by parents, or by birth. Slaves normally could look forward to freedom after a certain period of service and often after the payment of a price. Money to buy his freedom could be earned by the slave in his spare time or by doing more than his owner required. Often the price could be provided by someone else. By the payment of a price (lytron, antilytron), a person could be set free from his bondage or servitude. A freed man was a person who formerly had been a slave but was now redeemed." [Note: Blum
▪ As the death of the Passover lamb liberated the Israelites from physical bondage in Egypt, so the death of Jesus Christ frees us from the spiritual bondage of sin (cf. Exodus 12:5). In speaking of redemption Peter always emphasized our freedom from a previously sinful lifestyle to live a changed life here and now. [Note: Douglas W. Kennard, "Peterine Redemption: Its Meaning and Extent," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30:4 (December 1987):399-405.] Jesus Christ's life, represented by the blood, is of infinitely greater value than any mere metal, as precious as that metal may be (cf. Acts 3:6; Acts 8:20). "Futile" means vain or powerless, and it suggests that many of Peter's readers were indeed Gentiles. We would normally expect this in view of where they lived (1 Peter 1:1). This word better describes the lifestyle of an unsaved Gentile than that of an unsaved Jew (cf. 1 Peter 1:14).
vv. 20-21: For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. - The Fall did not take God by surprise. He already knew what He would do in view of it and Who would do it. We have two good reasons why we can come to God: what Christ did for us, and what God did for Christ for what Christ did for us. Our attitude toward God, therefore, can and should be both reverential (1 Peter 1:17) and confident as we endure suffering for our faith.
▪ So far ". . . the ethical impact of the epistle barely begins to make itself felt. The call to action and to a holy and reverent life is general rather than specific. The imperatives of hope and of godly fear have more to do with eschatological expectations than with ethics, and more to do with the readers' relationship to God than with their relationships to each other or to their pagan neighbors." [Note: Michaels, p. 71.]
▪ "At this point ends what we may call the doctrinal section of the Epistle. St. Peter has been explaining the three Names [i.e., Jesus Christ, God, and Holy Spirit], their three attributes, and their several relations. Here he passes to the practical Christian life, catching up and expounding the words hagiasmos [sanctification], anagennan [born again]." [Note: Bigg, p. 122.]
3. Verses 22-25 - A life of love 1:22-25
v. 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, -- The purification to which Peter referred occurred at conversion as a result of believing the gospel (cf. John 13:10). This cleansing made it possible for us to love other Christians constantly (Gr. ektenos). Now Peter urged his readers to do everything out of love for the brethren. We do not need to love one another as though we were brethren. We can love one another because we really are brethren.
NOTE: Peter next turned his attention from the believer's duty to God to the believer's duty to his or her Christian brethren. He did so to explain further the implications of living joyfully during trials and suffering. He returned to what he set out to do in 1 Peter 1:13, namely, to spell out the implications of Christian faith and hope. However, he continued to reflect on the theological basis of our ethical responsibilities. He would get into practical Christian ethics later. Obedience to the truth produces a sincere love for the brethren (1 Peter 1:22-25), repentance from sin (1 Peter 2:1), and a desire for spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:2). [Note: Roger M. Raymer, "1 Peter," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 844.]
v. 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. -- The Word of God is the instrument God uses to produce new birth (cf. Matthew 13:20; Luke 8:11). This "seed" shares the character of its Source. It never passes out of fashion nor does it become irrelevant.
▪ "All the way from the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, to 'Babylon the Great' in Revelation 17-18, man's great attempts at unity are destined to fail.
▪ "If we try to build unity in the church on the basis of our first birth, we will fail; but if we build unity on the basis of the new birth, it will succeed." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:399.]
v. 24-25: 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--This quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8 contrasts the transitory character of nature and the eternality of God's Word (cf. James 1:10-11). Every natural thing eventually dies and disappears, the opposite of God's living and abiding Word (cf. Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The seed lives and abides, and so do those to whom it gives new life.
▪ "My friend, we need the preaching and the teaching of the Word of God above everything else. I do not mean to minimize the place of music, the place of methods, and the place of organization, but there is absolutely no substitute for the Word of God today." [Note: J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5:687.]
▪ The duty of Christians to one another then is to love one another unremittingly. This is true even of Christians who are suffering for their commitment to follow God faithfully. We can and should do so because we are genuine brethren and because we will abide forever.
Peter calls these Christians to live "as children of obedience" (v. 14)-living holy lives, "because it is written, 'You shall be holy; for I am holy'" (v. 16; see Leviticus 11:44; 19:2).
Holiness is always derivative-derived from a relationship to God. To be holy is to be called out from the sinful world into a deep and abiding relationship with God so that the person becomes more God-like-more upright-less like the sinful world-at-large.
This idea of holiness is important to the lectionary reading (vv. 17-23), because the God whom these Christians call Father will also serve as their judge (v. 17).
1 PETER 1:17-21. REDEEMED BY PRECIOUS BLOOD
17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
"If you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man's work" (v. 17a). The idea of God as Father is found both in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 3:19; 31:9; Malachi 1:6; 2:10) and the New Testament (Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8-9, 14, etc.). In some cases today, Christians have trivialized this to the point that they address God as dad or daddy. However, references to God as Father have at their root the idea of God's creative powers and authority. While the word Father suggests familiarity, it also suggests power and authority. We would do well to maintain a sense of awe when coming into God's presence.
▪ In this verse, Peter reminds these Christians that the God whom they address as Father is also their judge-a judge "who without respect of persons judges according to each man's work." Therefore, they can be sure that the holiness to which Peter calls them in verses 14-16 will prove important in the end.
▪ Jesus told his disciples, "For the Son of man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels" (Matthew 16:27). He "will render to everyone according to his deeds" (ten praxin autou-his or her work singular-not works plural). We learn elsewhere that we are saved by grace through faith, but Jesus makes it clear in these two passages that our faith must manifest itself in good work. Our salvation depends on it. This idea is found repeatedly in the New Testament (Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 11:15; 2 Timothy 4:14; James 1:19-27; 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; 18:6; 20:11-15; 22:12).
"pass the time of your living as foreigners (paroikias) here in reverent fear" (v. 17b). The word paroikias combines two Greek words-para (near) and oikos (to dwell). It means a sojourner-someone who is just passing through a place-someone who doesn't enjoy the rights and privileges of citizenship. This word recalls the experience of the Israelites in Egypt, where they were sojourners (and ultimately slaves) rather than citizens. An old Gospel song captured the meaning of paroikias as Peter uses it here: "This world is not my home. I'm just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven's open door. And I can't feel at home in this world anymore." ▪ The poetry might be unsophisticated, but the song expresses clearly the idea that Peter introduces in this verse-that Christians are sojourners in this world-that our true citizenship is elsewhere, in the kingdom of God.
"in reverent fear" (v. 17b). Sometimes people fear God because they have done something wrong and fear retribution, but fearing God can mean something entirely different-reverence and faith that lead to obedience. Fear of the Lord is serving the Lord and the Lord only (Deuteronomy 6:13). It is observing God's commandments (Deuteronomy 28:58). Fear of the Lord is "the beginning of knowledge," in the sense that the person who fears God will be open to instruction by God (Proverbs 1:7). Fear is "the beginning of wisdom"-wisdom being the kind of understanding that enables a person to make good decisions and to avoid bad consequences (Proverbs 9:10). It is often the result of seeing God's power in action (Exodus 14:31). Fear of the Lord engenders righteousness (Acts 10:22), faithful service to God, and rejection of false gods (Joshua 24:14). Fear of the Lord insures God's mercy (Luke 1:50), and results in spiritual prosperity (Acts 9:31). "Behold, Yahweh's eye is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his loving kindness" (Psalm 33:18).
"knowing that you were redeemed" (Greek: lytroo) (v. 18a). Redemption involves bringing liberty to a captive, usually through the payment of a price. Levitical law required Israelites to buy back (redeem) a family member who had been forced to sell himself into slavery (Leviticus 25:47-49). It also required them to buy back (redeem) family land that had fallen into other hands due to poverty (Leviticus 25:25, 33).
▪ The New Testament presents Jesus' death on the cross as a redemptive act for humanity-as a"ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The idea is that we have sinned, and our sin condemns us-but Jesus has paid the ransom-price for our redemption by his death on the cross. Paul speaks of "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24). He tells us that "we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7)-and that Jesus Christ is the one "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14).
"not with corruptible things (Greek: phthartos), with silver or gold" (v. 18b). This alludes to Isaiah 52:3, where God promised Israel that she would "be redeemed (from her exile) without money."
▪ Paul uses the word phthartos (corruptible) and its opposite, aphthartos (incorruptible) in his letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). In that passage, he contrasts the corruptible body that we now possess with the incorruptible body that we shall possess. In other words, our current bodies are subject to wear and tear and decay. None of that will be true of our resurrected bodies. Those bodies will last for an eternity with no decay. So when Peter uses the word phthartos here, he is talking about something perishable or subject to decay.
"with silver or gold" (v. 18b). The most common currency used to redeem people (i.e., slaves) in Peter's day would have been silver or gold. But our redemption was purchased, not by silver or gold, but by the precious blood of the Son of God.
▪ Someone with scientific training might protest that, gold is not subject to corruption. It doesn't tarnish or slowly evaporate. However, it is certainly subject to loss. How many tons of gold are lying at the bottom of the ocean, having been part of the cargo on ships that failed to weather a storm! How many tons of gold are buried in "safe" places-secreted there by people who died long ago, taking with them the secret of their gold's burial place! How many tons of gold have been stolen from their proper owner! How many tons of gold have been squandered at gaming tables! Silver and gold might be as durable as anything we can imagine, but they are certainly not immune from loss.
"from the useless way of life handed down (Greek: patroparadotos) from your fathers" (v. 18c). The word patroparadotos combines the word pater (father) and paradidomi (to deliver). In this context, Peter is describing the traditions and values handed down by their parents-their spiritual inheritance.
▪ Whether or not we received a monetary inheritance from our parents, they did deliver something important to us, for good or ill. We inherited their genes-their physical and mental strengths and weaknesses-their propensity to certain diseases. If they were present to parent us as we were growing up, we learned their values and beliefs.
▪ As adults, we must sort through this heritage to assess what was good and what wasn't. No parent is perfect, so most of us would do well to let go of some of the habits, values, and beliefs that we inherited. Peter is telling these people that Christ has delivered them from some of the unhelpful heritage that their parents delivered to them.
▪ This verse is one of the clues that the intended recipients of this letter are Gentiles rather than Jews (see also 4:1-4). Peter would never have told a group of Jews that the heritage that they received from their fathers was useless.
"but with precious blood, as of a faultless and pure lamb, the blood of Christ" (v. 19). The New Testament uses two related words-redeem and ransom-to describe the process by which God has brought us from the realm of darkness to the realm of light. When describing the process of setting a person free, it uses the word "redeem." When describing the price paid to effect the redemption, it uses the word "ransom." In other words, a ransom was the price paid to redeem someone.
▪ In this verse, Peter makes it clear that the ransom paid for the redemption of Christians was the precious blood of Christ, "a faultless and pure lamb." This hearkens back to the Jewish sacrificial system prescribed by Torah law. The Israelites sacrificed lambs for various purposes, but especially as a means of atonement. They were sinners, which condemned them to death-but they were allowed to substitute the life of a lamb for their own life. The law specified that lambs used for sacrificial purposes were to be perfect-free from imperfections such as blemishes or diseases or injuries.
▪ The New Testament applies this sacrificial language to Jesus:
"who was foreknown (Greek: proginosko) indeed before the foundation of the world" (v. 20a). The Greek word proginosko combines pro (before) and ginosko (to know), so it means "to know before"-"to know in advance."
▪ It was Jesus Christ who was known in advance. Known by whom? Known by God the Father! Known by the one who had a plan from the beginning-from before the beginning. The plan was to send Jesus into the world so "that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
"but was revealed (Greek: phaneroo) at the end of times (Greek: eschatos chronos) for your sake"(v. 20b). The word phaneroo (to reveal, make manifest) is similar in meaning to apocalypsis (revelation or unveiling). ▪ It was God who did the revealing (apocalypsis) in v. 5. Now it is God who does the revealing (phaneroo) here.
"at the end of times" (Greek: eschatos chronos) (v. 20b). There are two Greek words for time-chronos and
kairos. Chronos has to do with chronological time-clock time-the time by which we keep daily appointments. Kairos has to do with special time-special moments in time-the forks in the road that make all the difference-moments with the potential to determine destinies. The fact that Peter uses chronos here instead of the weightier kairos suggests that he is talking about a recent period of time instead of the eschatological end of time.
"for your sake" (v. 20b). Now Peter personalizes this passage. God's plan, established "before the foundation of the world"-which required the precious blood of Christ-was set in motion for the sake of these fledgling Christians-and for Christians through the ages.
"who through him are believers in God" (v. 21a). "Him" in this verse refers back to "Christ" in verse 19. It is through Christ that these Gentiles have become believers in God. Jews had the advantage of their faith heritage to introduce them to God, but these Gentiles had received from their fathers only a "useless way of life" (v. 18).
"who raised him from the dead, and gave him glory" (v. 21b). Glory is characteristic of God, and refers to God's awe-inspiring majesty. God shared this glory with Jesus. Jesus' glory was revealed at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) and his death and resurrection (Luke 24:26).
▪ At the parousia (the Second Coming), Jesus will return "in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). At that time, "at the name of Jesus every knee (will) bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).
"so that your faith and hope might be in God" (v. 21c). Just as God vindicated Jesus in the end, so also God will vindicate the faith of these believers in the end. If their present lives are difficult, they can look forward to the time of their vindication. If God was faithful to Jesus (and he was), he will also be faithful to these believers. Jesus' resurrection was the "first fruits"-just the beginning (1 Corinthians 15:20 ff.). His resurrection signaled the abundance of resurrections yet to come-the resurrection of all those who have placed their faith in Christ.
1 PETER 1:22-23. LOVE ONE ANOTHER FROM THE HEART FERVENTLY
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.
"Seeing you have purified (Greek: hagnizo) your souls in your obedience to the truth (Greek:aletheia) through the Spirit" (v. 22a). Peter was Jewish, and purification was an important part of Jewish faith and practice. The basic premise was that God is holy, so his people need to be holy (sinless, upright, devoted or set apart for God's purposes). Peter established that principle for Christians earlier in this chapter, saying, "just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy; for I am holy'" (1:15-16, quoting Leviticus 19:2; 11:44-45; 20:7; see also Matthew 5:48; 1 John 3:3).
▪ But, while people could submit to purification rites, purification ultimately depends on God's action-so the Psalmist cries, "Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.... Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:7, 10)-and God promises, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18)-and "I will save you from all your uncleanness" (Ezekiel 36:29).
▪ Jesus emphasized that true purity is a matter of the heart-the thoughts that lead to sin-"All these evil things come from within, and defile the man" (Mark 7:15-23).
▪ Paul called the Corinthian Christians to purity, saying, "Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).
▪ In this verse, Peter isn't telling these Christians to purify their hearts, but is instead acknowledging that they have already done so "in (their) obedience to the truth (Greek: aletheia) through the Spirit."
Aletheia (truth) is that which is real, untainted by falsehood. The truth to which these Christians have been obedient was made known to them by the Holy Spirit.
▪ Jesus is truth personified-"the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Jesus promised, "If you remain in my word, then you...will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32).
▪ The opposite is also true. Living according to untrue principles can rob people of their freedom. Therefore, we in the church need to be sure that we are teaching the truth. The truth that we are tasked to teach is that which Christ taught us to observe. To learn what Christ taught, we need to look first to scripture, especially the New Testament, and not to pop psychology or politically correct thought-or even to pronouncements of denominational authorities. The reformers said "sola scriptura"-scripture only. Practiced rightly, this means that all other authorities are subordinate to scripture-must be measured by their adherence to scriptural teachings. It also means that our teaching will often be unpopular-out of synch with the popular culture.
"in sincere brotherly affection (Greek: philadelphia), love (Greek: agapao) one another from the heart fervently" (v. 22b). Here, side by side, we have the two Greek words for love that are used in the New Testament-philadelphia (brotherly love) and (agapao-the verb form of the noun agape).
Philadelphia combines philos (friend or love) and adelphos (brother). In the New Testament adelphos is often used metaphorically to mean a spiritual sibling-a brother or sister by virtue of being children of the same Heavenly Father. Christians in the first century referred to each other as brothers or sisters (Acts 6:3; 9:30; 10:23; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Timothy 6:2; Revelation 1:9; 12:10). Some Christians today still use that sort of language. The rest of us would do well to recover it.
▪ Agape love is more a "doing" than a "feeling" word. It doesn't require that we approve of the actions of the person whom we love-or even that we enjoy their company. It does require us to act in behalf of that person-to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion.
Peter's call that these Christians should love one another mirrors Christ's "new commandment... that you love one another" (John 13:34).
▪ Agape love provides us with our most powerful tool for witnessing to Christ. Jesus said, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Marcus Cornelius Fronto, a second-century Roman civic leader, noted, "They (the Christians) know one another by secret marks and signs, and they love one another almost before they know one another." William Barclay says, "More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world."
▪ In my comments on the earlier part of verse 22, I said that Peter wasn't calling these Christians to become pure, but was simply acknowledging that they had already done so. But now Peter shifts gears and tells them what to do. Given that they have purified their souls, he calls them to "love (agapao) one another from the heart fervently"-intently, earnestly. Bound together by their common faith, they will need to stand together-stand united as brothers and sisters in their witness to the wider kosmosworld-the world that is opposed to God.
"having been born again" (Greek: anagennao) (v. 23a). The word anagennao combines ana (again) and gennao (to beget). There are different words in the Greek for giving birth (by the mother) and begetting (by the father). Gennao is the word for begetting by the father. Peter is acknowledging that these Christians are enjoying a new life-a new status-by virtue of the begetting action of the Heavenly Father.
▪ The best-known reference to rebirth is Jesus' comment to Nicodemus, "Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can't see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3). The idea of rebirth is that we must leave behind our old life of sin and enter into a new life with Christ. The idea of rebirth occurs frequently in the New Testament (Romans 6:1-11; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:22-24; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Peter 1:3, 22-23). We experience rebirth at our baptism by being buried with Christ in the waters of baptism and being raised to a new life (Romans 6:4-11; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-3).
"not of corruptible (Greek: phthartes) seed, but of incorruptible" (Greek: aphthartos) (v. 23b). See the comments on verse 18b above for an understanding of aphthartos (corruptible) and aphthartos (incorruptible).
▪ Peter's point here is that the sperm of our earthly fathers is perishable, as are the children whom it produces. The sperm is active only very briefly, and the children will eventually die. But by the grace of God's gift of anagennao (being begotten again by the Heavenly Father), we enjoy a kind of life that is imperishable-eternal.
"through the word of God, which lives and remains forever" (Greek: menontos-from meno) (v. 23c). Christians enjoy a kind of life that is imperishable and eternal (v. 23b), because we live by "the word of God, which lives and remains forever."
▪ Jesus' uses the Greek word meno frequently in the Gospel of John, where it means to remain or abide or dwell. Jesus says "Remain in my love" (John 15:9). This is a call to immerse ourselves in Jesus' love-a love which will sustain us in this life and will go with us into resurrection life.
▪ So much in life is perishable. When we build buildings, we would like to imagine that we are building for the ages. However, I have lived long enough to have seen great building projects, built during my lifetime, destroyed during my lifetime.
▪ Most of us will die and quickly be forgotten-along with the work to which we devoted a substantial portion of our lives. But the word of God "lives and remains forever"-and so will we who have built our lives on the word of God.
▪ Furthermore, the work that we did in God's service will continue to live through many generations. When our witness brings someone to Christ, that person's life will affect everyone whom he/she knows. The ripple effects are incalculable. God, however, knows the full effects of our Christian witness. I like to believe that God will one day say to us, "Let me show you all the good things that resulted from your life of faith."