“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
For the past four months, we’ve been considering the riches of what is revealed in 1 Peter 1:22-23. If you have missed the previous blog posts, I hope you’ll visit the blog. My prayer is that you’ve been encouraged and inspired by Peter’s insight into the Christian life. There was a great truth that had captured Peter’s heart. It was the profound reality of holiness. Holiness was an all-consuming, over-arching aspect of worship for Jews. God is holy. He is to be treated as holy, and therefore, they were to practice holiness to God in their worship. The seed of their holiness was what God revealed to Abraham and then later to Moses through the Law. They were sons of Abraham and sons of the Law. Their identity was derived from their oneness with God through their oneness with the sacrifices they made in order to pray and worship before Him according to the Law.
However, Peter’s understanding of holiness changed from what it was before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Holiness still was all-consuming, but now the oneness of which He wrote focused on Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, and the ultimate sacrifice provided by God for the forgiveness of sins. Whereas before, holiness was associated with service in the temple in Jerusalem. Now, he, himself, his own body was the temple, and his union with Jesus’ death and resurrection made holiness the over-arching principle governing all of his behavior. In his lead-up to verses 22-23 Peter wrote in 1:14-16,
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Did you notice that holiness wasn’t just a temple exercise? Holiness is to impact all of our behavior. Just as Jesus was one with His Father, believers are one with Jesus, the living Word of God. That means we have a new identity—Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the living Word. His life is our identity!
Before Jesus, as I mentioned above, the Jews found their identity in Abraham. They were of his seed. The following verses help us understand the source of Peter’s and the Jews’ identity. They were of the seed of Abraham and Jacob/Israel to whom God gave the promises of blessing.
O seed of Abraham, His servant, O sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
1 Chronicles 16:13
O seed of Israel His servant, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
At the time of Peter’s writing of 1 Peter, his identity had changed. He was of the seed of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the source of His identity. He wrote his letter to advance the good news of the gospel—union with Jesus is union with God. 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 Pet. 1:2). What has Jesus commanded? That we are to be holy like He is holy. For Peter, the call to holiness was the source of all-out love. That’s why he wrote what he did in verse 22. “Since you have in obedience to the truth (you are one with Jesus and that is to govern all your behavior), purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.”
Now we are ready to tackle the last phrase of these verses. Why do we obey Jesus Christ? Why do we purify our souls so we can love sincerely? Why do we live to love with Jesus with an all-out love of the brethren? It’s because we have been born again by a different seed—the seed of God. We were first born by the flesh but born again by the Spirit. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” said Jesus to Nicodemus (John 3:3, 6). The seed by which we are born into this world is the seed, spore, or sperm of a man of flesh. However, the seed by which we are born into the family of God is the spiritual seed of The Man of God, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In Luke 8:11, Jesus commented on the parable of the soils, “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.” James, Jesus’ brother communicated this same message. He wrote, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:20-21). What is the new seed? The seed is the imperishable word of God—the word which promises salvation and a restored relationship with God to all who believe in Jesus Christ, the seed to whom the promises of God were made.
The apostle Paul also understood this amazing truth. Galatians 3:16 “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.”
Peter wrote in summary, “You love with an all-out love, ‘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 new seed of their identity and thus their lives, was the word of God. So it is with everyone who lives to love with Jesus. You live to love with Jesus because you have been born again by the imperishable word of God. You are holy to God having been united with Jesus through faith in God’s word of promise in Jesus Christ, the true and Living Word.
There is an old lie recirculating today that says that the Bible isn’t authoritative. You will hear prominent modern-day theologians and pastors of the “progressive” persuasion suggest that they no longer view the word of God as any more authoritative or inspired than a book by C.S. Lewis or Karl Marx. They usually cite verses taken out of context to show why they can’t believe in a God who would say or do what they find in each particular “sound bite.” They suggest that mankind has progressed in its understanding of God and Jesus far beyond the authors of the Old Testament Scriptures (which contain the promises to Jesus, the seed, of Abraham) and the apostles and authors of the New Testament Scriptures (which testify that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and the true and living Word of God). This attack on the authority of Scripture isn’t new. This lie is born of the same old seed of the flesh. Their ideas were born of flesh and can only produce flesh. The seed is perishable, and everyone who believes the lie abides in death. They hate Paul’s words to the Romans (which is why they discredit them). “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:5-8).
Paul explained to the Romans the reason people have false ideas about God and approve of sinful behavior. He described those upon whom God’s wrath is revealed. They exchange the truth about God for a lie about Him. They create their own idea of God that has no resemblance to the God of the Bible. This is also true of modern-day theological progressives.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:21-25
Anyone who says that the word or truth of God is perishable or changeable is not born of God. They have not been born again by the imperishable and eternal word of God. They need to be born again by the Spirit of God through the eternal word and promises of God to Jesus Christ, who lives today in the hearts of all who believe. God’s word which they reject, but in which they must come to believe and trust is this: “Whoever believes in Him [the true, historic, Jesus Christ and not a new fabricated one which conforms to their desires and thinking] will not be disappointed” (Rom. 10:11). Every person needs a new birth!
We all are at first, born by flesh. But Peter indicated that his readers were born again by the Spirit. Surely he was referring to what his friend, companion, and fellow disciple, the apostle John, wrote in John 1:12-14 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In John’s first epistle, he also described believers like Peter did, namely, born of the seed of God which produces the fruit of agape love. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). And, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).
The Scriptures are clear about where all-out love comes from: God’s seed is planted and received in the soul of a person who believes in Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, the Savior and Lord of the world. They possess a fervent love for others because Jesus, the eternal Word and Lord of Life dwells within them. Jesus continues His mission of loving with His Father by loving through us.
Do these verses describe your life? I hope so, but if not, if you find them convicting, then I invite you to repent of trying to live for yourself. Receive the eternal and imperishable word of God: Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will not be disappointed. Surrender your life to God and trust entirely in this great truth preached by Peter, Paul, John, James, and all of Jesus’ true followers: United with Jesus, you have forgiveness of all your sins and eternal Life dwelling within. The reality of your union with Jesus is objective: You purify your soul so you can love with Jesus for the glory of God— You live to love with Jesus.
As I bring this series to a close, I invite you to get serious and intentional about the life of Jesus dwelling in you. He lives for the purpose of loving with His Father for His glory. Have you considered that if Jesus is your life, your purpose should be the same as His? If you have been truly born again by the imperishable and eternal word of God, then doesn’t it make sense that you would pursue learning how to love like Jesus loves for the glory of God? That’s why I wrote, Live to Love: Experience Freedom and Joy in Relationships: to encourage, inspire, and lead you into a more intimate relationship with Jesus so you can experience and express His love and make disciples who live to love with Jesus. God saved us for His purpose.
Please visit www.livetolovewithjesus.com and take advantage of the resources there. They are free for the asking! You’ll find a print book, audiobook, e-book, streaming video series, and testimonies of those who have joined the Live to Love Adventure. I hope you’ll also spread the word about this ministry of calling God’s people to live to love with Jesus. May God fill you with the reality of what you have read from 1 Peter 1 these past months. He longs to fill you with His Spirit so you can live to love with Jesus for the glory of His name.
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For over 25 years, we have trusted in God to open doors for men’s retreats through word-of-mouth promotions. Do you know of a church that would be interested in having a men’s retreat? Would you consider recommending me as a guest speaker? Here are some of the men’s retreat themes.