Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
1 Peter 1:22-2:3 NIV
Purified By Obedience
Peter starts off with an acknowledgment of something his readers had done. They had purified themselves. The word purify here refers to ceremonial cleansing. This is very reminiscent of the purification that the Old Testament priests did in order to be able to serve at the temple. But in a broader context, it was something that every observant Jew would do when they became ceremonially unclean. They would remove any impurity, wash, and potentially offer a sacrifice.
Peter’s hearers though took a different approach to becoming clean; through obedience to the truth. Truth is what corresponds to reality; it is how things actually are. In order to obey the truth, you need to first of all know it; to see through the veil that this world uses to cover the truth. Jesus, in John 14:6, claims to be the truth. He is the ultimate truth that this world refuses to acknowledge.
So living in obedience to the truth would mean aligning yourself with Jesus, to live in obedience to him. In Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul tells us much the same thing, but in a different way. He tells us to put off the old man that is corrupted by its evil desires. And to put on the new man, created to be like God in true holiness. We are purified by putting off the old man and putting on the new one.
Purification Results in Love
How can we love each other within the body of Christ? Peter says that the natural outcome of purification through obedience is love. Cleansing out the old man and his selfish habits and desires makes it possible to have a sincere love for each other. The word for love used here is philadelphia, brotherly love or mutual affection. It means that we care about each other and that we are truly friends, not just acquaintances.
‘Sincere’ means genuine, without hypocrisy. The love that we will have for each other should not be forced or faked. That is often the way the old man would demonstrate love; putting on a friendly face when with someone, but talking about them when they are not around. We should be purified of that kind of garbage, and have a sincere mutual affection for one another within the body.
If we do not, Peter’s words here would imply that we have not yet been purified in obedience to the truth. Of course, this is usually not something that happens overnight. But the lack of this mutual concern for each other should be a warning to us that we still have some cleanup work to do.
Love One Another Deeply
Now that we have purified ourselves so that we have love (philadelphia), we need to move to the next step and love (agapaō) one another deeply. This passage looks kind of strange in English because both of these Greek words are translated into love. But they are really two different things. While philadelphia is mutual affection, agapaō is an active love. I understand it to be an act of the will to do what is best for another person with no thought for personal gain. It is the love that God has for the world and its people (John 3:16).
While God’s love extends to the whole world, and I believe ours should as well, Peter is narrowing the scope here. He is calling on believers to have agapaō for each other. He wants us to love each other deeply, from the heart. That expresses an intensity that is all too often lacking. It means that, within the body, I am actively looking for ways to care for and nurture other believers. Love is not accidental, it is intentional.
As believers, we have been born again. This specific Greek word is only used one other time in the Scriptures, and it is earlier in this chapter, 1 Peter 1:3. Jesus also uses a similar expression in John 3:3 when he tells Nicodemus that he must be born from above. The idea here is a spiritual birth, in contrast to the physical birth that we all have experienced. This is regeneration; giving spiritual life to those who were dead.
We are able to selflessly love because we are no longer what we were. We have been given new birth from an imperishable seed. ‘Seed’ is an agricultural term that refers to the sowing of seed. This looks back to Matthew 13:1-9 and the parable of the seed. There, the seed is sown into different kinds of soil. Seed sown on fertile soil germinates, grows, and produces a healthy crop. Peter here is talking to believers who demonstrate that they are like the seed sown on good soil. They are being fruitful. And here he encourages them to be even more so.
Peter defines this seed as being imperishable rather than perishable. We are all the product of a perishable seed. And that results in a perishable product. This fleshly tent that I live in will eventually wear out (2 Cor. 5:1-5), and I will die. But now that we have been reborn of imperishable seed, we have a life that will not end. A life lived in union with Christ for the remainder of eternity.
The Flowers of the Field
Talking about flowers in the midst of this passage might seem kind of strange. But Peter is comparing the result of perishable and imperishable seeds. As humans, we are like grass or the flowers of the field. They are only temporary; here today and gone tomorrow. People generally last longer than a day, or even a season. But we too are only here for a short time. Few of us surpass 100 years of life on earth before we are gone.
In contrast to that is the word of God. The word that had been preached to those Peter is writing to. This word endures forever. The gospel message will never change. As long as this world endures, God’s word will be that imperishable seed that brings imperishable life to those who respond to the gospel.
Do Some House Cleaning
Because we have been born again, of imperishable seed, we should be doing something. Peter tells us to rid ourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. There are a number of ‘sin’ lists in the New Testament; lists of things we should not be doing. But this is not just a general list of sins. The five items on this list are all closely related. They are all things that harm personal relationships. They divide us and keep us from being the healthy body we are called to be.
We are called to love. But love cannot flourish where there is backbiting and dissension. But as we purify ourselves of these cancerous actions (1 Pet. 1:22), love is able to grow within us. All five of these attributes come because I place more value on myself than on others. I am jealous or envious of something they have, and that I want. And so I act to tear them down, and in the process elevate myself.
Peter would say to us, “Stop it.” Rather than looking out for yourself, look out for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). It is only when each of us looks to the interests of the body, acting in agapaō, that the body will be healthy. And that will be Peter’s next topic, the body of Christ and who we are.
Like Newborn Babies
Like newborn babies, we are to crave pure spiritual milk. I don’t think Peter is calling on us to be babies or even children. I think the word ‘crave’ is at the heart of this. We are to crave pure spiritual milk, just like a baby has a craving for milk. Crave means to long for, to desire. This spiritual milk is something that we should have a real desire for.
But what is this pure spiritual milk? In Hebrews 5:13 and 1 Corinthians 3:2 milk is used for the elementary teachings of the faith. Something that is appropriate for new believers. But Peter seems not to be using milk in that sense here. Instead, it is simply nourishment; spiritual nourishment. It is what we need to grow and develop in our faith.
And milk, in this sense, is essential to us. Through it, we are able to grow up in our salvation. Spiritual maturity does not come by accident. It requires that we follow the instructions Peter has given in this passage. Ditch the junk in our lives. Draw together with the body in love. And crave the word of God. Peter tells them they have gotten off to a good start, now keep it up; continue to grow and mature.
A Call To Action
You have been born again, of imperishable seed. So don’t be satisfied with a mutual affection type of love. While that is a good start, it is only a starting place. Grow into a self-giving love, a conscious choice to build others up. Rid yourself of any attitudes that would cause disharmony within the body of Christ. Instead, seek to grow in God’s word, and work to build up the body. Live as one who has been born again, not in the old way of life we have left behind.
- What are the two different loves Peter refers to in this passage?
- What does it mean to be born again?
- Why should we rid ourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander?
- How do you grow up in your salvation?
- 1 Peter: An Introduction
- 1 Peter: Because of His Great Mercy (1:3-5)
- 1 Peter: Glorious Joy, In All Kinds of Trials (1:6-9)
- 1 Peter: The Mystery of Salvation (1:10-12)
- 1 Peter: Be Holy In All You Do (1:13-16)
- 1 Peter: Living as an Alien, a Foreigner in this World (1:17-21)
- 1 Peter: Love One Another Deeply, From the Heart (1:22-2:3)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen People, A Royal Priesthood (2:4-5; 9-10)
- 1 Peter: A Chosen and Precious Cornerstone (2:6-8)
- 1 Peter: Living As Foreigners and Exiles (2:11-17)
- 1 Peter: Responding To Suffering (2:18-25)
- 1 Peter: Instruction for Wives and Husbands (3:1-7)
- 1 Peter: Christian Ethical Behavior (3:8-12)
- 1 Peter: Revere Christ in Your Suffering (3:13-18)
- 1 Peter: Imprisoned Spirits and Baptism (3:19-22)
- 1 Peter: Don’t Surrender to the World’s Influence (4:1-6)
- 1 Peter: Life in the Church: to Love and to Serve (4:7-11)
- 1 Peter: Being a Shepherd, a Rewarding Task (5:1-4)
- 1 Peter: Humble Yourself Under the Hand of God (5:5-11)