“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, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23
This year in the Live to Love blog, I aim to give you monthly Scripture encouragement to help you grow in love for God and love for others. I’ve chosen to focus on 1 Peter 1:22-23 for six months. Last month we unpacked the phrase “Since you have in obedience to the truth…” We saw that those who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood, have been made one with Jesus. That oneness with Jesus, or holiness, governs the behavior of those who are His. He commanded them to be holy and love like He loves, and He gives them the grace to do it.
In verse 13 of chapter one, Peter wrote, “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.” Peter told his readers to get their minds ready for action. The Christian life isn’t about feelings, it’s about action. Holiness, oneness with Jesus, isn’t a feeling; it’s a reality, a truth that demands obedience. Since we are obedient to the truth and since we know the purpose of holiness—all out love for others—there’s some work to be done in our souls. We need to purify our souls.
When the middle-eastern Jew of the first century thought of holiness, he couldn’t help but associate it with the temple. Everything and everyone in the temple was holy. They were ceremonially dedicated to the service of God. The concept of holiness hung like a cloud over the temple and everything that occurred there. Holiness should rise above us like the fire over the tabernacle because we are God’s temple. Peter and most, if not all, of his readers were very familiar with this concept of holiness. Their lives were governed by what defiled them or made them unclean. Read through the book of Leviticus, and you’ll be amazed that everything is about maintaining holiness before the Lord.
Everything in the temple was sprinkled with blood—every piece of furniture, every utensil, every priest, his clothes, his body, everything. Every time a worshipper entered the temple, it was about holiness. His prayers in the temple could not be lifted to God without a sacrifice being made and the blood of the sacrifice being sprinkled before the temple, on the altar, and on him. One could not approach God without obedience to the laws of holiness and without being sprinkled with the blood of a sacrifice.
Knowing this helps us understand in greater depth what Peter wrote. The modern church hardly has an idea of holiness because we have not associated the death and sacrifice of Jesus with our worship, prayer, and daily walk like the faithful first-century Jews had thought of holiness all of their lives. It’s not that it is not true today! Without holiness, oneness with Jesus’ sacrificial atonement, we cannot worship, pray, or walk in fellowship with God. As the faithful Jew had to be sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice in order to relate to God, so everyone since the resurrection of Jesus must be identified (sprinkled) with His blood in order to be rightly related to God. The writer of Hebrews wrote that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22). It is impossible for sinners to approach God because they are not ceremonially clean and purified of their filthiness and uncleanness. They must be purified first.
The temple priests and worshippers could not simply enter the temple complex and think, “I feel pretty clean today. I don’t feel like I need to do anything before I go before God.” If one went to the temple, he planned to do something! He needed to be prepared for action. He came with a sacrificial offering and was prepared to repent of and confess his sins, his uncleanness of body and soul, upon the animal of sacrifice. Since he believed that God is holy, he knew he must also be holy. In obedience to this truth, he purified himself in body and soul. He considered himself one with the offering of sacrifice because God did. That unity of worshipper and sacrifice cleansed him of all that had defiled him before God.
Are you connecting holiness in the temple to holiness in your life and worship? Peter was, as he wrote his letter to his Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith. If you believe God is holy, sinless, that there is no one like Him, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united as one with all believers, then how have you purified your soul in preparation to offer the sacrifice God now commands all worshippers to offer—all out love for Him and others?
Is your mind prepared for action? How sober are you in spirit? Have you become intoxicated by anything other than Jesus Christ? Are you aware of attitudes or behaviors that have made you unclean and defiled your soul? Idolatry, unbelief, pride, anger, bitterness, hatred, malice, fear, jealousy, self-ambition, love for the world, and many other sins stain the soul and hinder our ability to offer our lives as living sacrifices to God. Only when our souls are completely satisfied in Jesus and His love are we prepared to worship and love as He does.
Understanding Peter’s mind and culture will make his words come alive. Before a Jew entered the temple area with his sacrifice to God, his sin, his uncleanness, was before his mind. King David, who committed murder and adultery, exemplified this. He purified his soul before God when he wrote Ps. 51:1-7.
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
“Purify me with hyssop,” pled David. He was referring to the ceremonial cleansing in the temple. Hyssop was an herb in the mint family with cleansing and medicinal properties. God commanded the priests to use hyssop as a means of application of the blood of sacrifices for the cleansing of individuals and houses. David asked God to purify him with hyssop because he was asking and trusting God to purify his soul through the blood of the sacrifice he offered. However, by faith, David saw what God really desired as a sacrifice.
“For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17).
Certainly, these concepts of holiness and purification of the soul are in Peter’s mind as he wrote, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls….” However, those concepts related to the temple were mere shadows of the greater and more powerful reality. Before we offer a sacrifice of “all out” love with Jesus, our souls, like the souls of the prior age, need purification. We are holy. We are God’s temple! The living temple of the holy God. Like the priests who were consecrated to God by the sprinkling of blood before they served in the tabernacle or temple, we have been set apart ceremonially by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, the perfect, spotless lamb of God. His blood was shed once and for all for the purpose of cleansing the conscience, and purifying our souls. Hebrews 10:14 proclaims, “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
This awe-inspiring reality requires action. It isn’t sufficient to only have feelings about Jesus’ blood sacrifice on our behalf. He didn’t die on the cross to make us feel good about Him and ourselves. He died to make us holy! Purifying our souls is an intentional action that evidences that we have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood (1:1-2).
Before we can live to love “all out” with Jesus, we are learning from 1 Peter 1:22-23 that our souls need to be purified. I’m convicted of my lack of holiness as I study and write on these verses. My conscience, an important part of my soul, under the rule of the Holy Spirit, testifies that I need to be cleansed. This requires action. I prepare to offer my sacrifice to God of His love for others by purifying my soul. I purify my soul by reckoning on the wonderful truth that I am one with Jesus Christ by God’s choice. Jesus became my sin offering, whose blood atoned for my sins so I could be saved, sanctified by the Holy Spirit to obey Him and love with Him. Later in his letter Peter alluded to how God’s putting us into Christ (baptizing us into Him) is the basis of our appeal for a cleansed soul. In explaining God’s salvation of Noah and his family through the flood he wrote, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). This encourages me to confess my sins and repent of those things that have defiled me.
When our consciences are purified by applying the great gospel truth that the resurrection of Jesus Christ confirms that God has accepted Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for our sins, we now have a basis for living to love with Jesus—all out. Next month we will continue mining the wealth out of 1 Peter 1:22-23. God didn’t just die for me. He died for all who are in His family and who were given to Jesus. We have brothers and sisters to love.
This year, Elijah Ministries will be involved in two international ministries where we have told my hosts that they may contribute to the ministry as the Lord enables them to do so, We invite you to assist in providing for our travel expenses so we can plant the seeds of living to love with Jesus in the hearts of future ministers in Colombia, South America and in South Africa. I will be teaching a week long course on Living the Gospel at Nueva Providencia outside of Medellin. Steve Woods, a friend from high school years (yes, you read that right) who has been a career missionary to Argentina, is going to translate for me. That is Feb. 5-10. Many doors of ministry have opened in South Africa from Feb. 14-March 11 where I’ll be speaking/teaching in churches and ministries all over the country. We invite both your prayer and financial support for these ministries. If you would like to give to either of these ministries, you can do so by check or by donation on line. Please put the country name in the notation box. Thank you so much for partnering with us as we take the live to love with Jesus message into these nations.
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