1 Peter 1.21-2.3
How different is belonging to a church from belonging to any other group? The question matters not just for the sake of those who belong to a church, it matters for the sake of the gospel and it matters for the glory of God. Problems in relationships within the church often lead people to take the view that faith is private, their relationship with God is individual and not connected with other believers. Some say they have no need of church. Poor relationships within a church become known in the community and become a barrier to others accepting the validity of Christian teachings because they see a disconnect between what is said and how the church behaves. Christians at times place their own ego and wants above the interests of the gospel and the glory of Christ.
At the same time we are all in need of genuine brotherly or sisterly love. Everyone thrives in a loving environment, however understanding the appropriate way to show love is also crucial. It is easy to take modes of expressing love from one’s surrounding culture and assume that is Christ-like love. Examples of inappropriate behaviour repeatedly occurred in the early church as it does in the modern church. This brings into focus what is distinctive about the ‘sincere brotherly love’ that Peter refers to.
At the heart of this issue is Christ’s perspective. It is through him that Christians, ‘are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.’ 1 Peter 1.21 The object of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection are both God’s glory and our faith and hope in God. At that point then when we have trusted in the saving work of Jesus, God has purified our souls. ‘Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth …’ v22a Purified means cleansing or washing but also in the context of 1 Peter it also has the Old Testament meaning of being set apart or dedicated to God. In verse 1.2 Peter tells the churches they have been, ‘sanctified of the Spirit, (purified) for obedience to Jesus Christ (set apart). Having been set apart for obedience or discipleship they are now aliens in their own country. They belong to a new spiritual kingdom. They have been born again into a new family, the family of God. Belonging to this family through Jesus Christ is the source of their brotherly love. Obedience to Jesus is expressed through obedience to the gospel of word of God. v 1.23
It is the word of God that is the seed of eternal (imperishable) life. This new birth brings forth a new and pure heart, set apart or sanctified to God. Brotherly love then comes from obedience and a sanctified heart. Your old life Peter explains will wither and die but your new life brought about by the word of the Lord remains forever. vv 1.24,25
What is this loving new life like? Peter explains it initially in terms of changes that need to be made in their personal and collective life. Put away he says, ‘all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.’ v2.1 These are challenging principles because they take away many of the protections we create around ourselves and make us vulnerable in our relationships. They mean we do not massage the truth so that it appears personally more favourable. It means that groupings within a church that plot against another group are not acceptable. It means being careful in the way we talk so that we do not claim things that are untrue. It challenges our motivation for what we say and do so that we allow others to prosper even if there is a personal cost. It means being open and honest in a way that shows love rather than self-interest. Our desire instead should be for the word of God so that the whole church matures in its spiritual life. We have already experienced the goodness of God through his love for us and want that to be the way we are. V2.2
I will be my brother’s keeper