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1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Nothingness of Life Without Love

10/26 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Nothingness of Life Without Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141026_1cor13_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

12:31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

13:1 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον. 2 καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι. 3 καὶ ἐὰν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου, καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου, ἵνα καυθήσομαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. If you haven’t read it in your bible, you’ve probably seen it on the back of a wedding program or in a valentines day card or heard it read in a marriage ceremony. It is a soaring piece of poetry, beautiful and moving. It is one of the most widely know and best loved pieces of scripture that has been ripped from its context and plastered all over lover’s lane. I want to tell you something maybe you didn’t already know. 1 Corinthians 13 comes between chapters 12 and 14! It comes between those chapters much the same way as chapter 9 comes between 8 and 10. 1 Corinthians 13 has a context, and that context helps us to understand what its author intended it to mean. We can pull out some verses and post them on our facebook page with some little hearts and balloons and roses that sound all sweet and sentimental, but I submit to you that 1 Corinthians 13 is a wrecking ball that will level you and I if we are really listening. I am being wrecked as I study it, and I intend to share the experience with you, dearly loved ones. Understand, it is a necessary wrecking and leveling. It is a constructive and healthy leveling, the way a deserted lot with dangerously crumbling buildings all overgrown with weeds and crawling with varmints needs to be bulldozed and burned and excavated to prepare it for a useful structure.

The Corinthians, much like us, were self-focused. They were proud, they were self-seeking, They loved status, they wanted priority and position. They had asked Paul a question that he is responding to in these three chapters. Their question, as we reconstruct it from Paul’s answer to them went something like this: ‘What is the mark of true spirituality? What are the evidences of a truly spiritual person? Are there specific manifestations of the Spirit that mark one out as advanced above others?’ And behind these questions was the desire to be thought well of, to be known and acknowledged as spiritual, to have a reputation for advanced spirituality. Paul begins his answer in chapter 12 by telling us that the truly spiritual people are those who confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit is at work in every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ, so every believer is ‘spiritual’. He highlights the diversity of the workings of the Spirit, and the interconnected interdependence of every part of the body with every other part. He reverses their status seeking, ranking the most despised gifts as most essential to the building up of the body, and lists the more sensational gifts that they were focused on last. He exhorts us to earnestly desire the higher gifts. And then he says ‘I will show you a still more excellent way.’ Chapter 13 is the superabundantly excellent way, more essential than any of the gifts. Chapter 14 continues his exhortation to pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

Tongues

In every list of gifts in this section, in 12:8-10, in 12:28, and in 12:29-30, tongues is listed last. In chapter 14 he illustrates the greater value of prophecy over tongues and carefully regulates the use of the gift of tongues in the meetings of the church. But here in chapter 13, this order is reversed and tongues comes first.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul is pointing to the utter worthlessness of all the gifts of the Spirit if the person exercising them lacks love. He lists several ‘if’ statements, possessing spiritual gifts taken to the extreme, each conditioned by the repeated phrase ‘but have not love’ and draws the conclusion of utter valuelessness. He starts with their favorite, tongues. The gift of tongues is the God given ability to speak praises to God in a language not known by the speaker and usually needing interpretation to be understood by the hearers. That is sensational and attention grabbing, and we see something like this attracting huge crowds in Acts 2. Speaking in the tongues of men could be more simply translated speaking in human languages. Speaking in tongues of angels, then, refers to angelic languages. In the context of this passage, it may be that Paul is referring to actual angelic languages, or it may be that he is simply using hyperbole, going beyond what any of the Corinthians would claim. You speak in all kinds of human languages, what if I spoke in exalted angelic languages (if there even is such a thing)? The point is that even the most amazing gift of languages imaginable is nothing without love. If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Imagine your toddler has gotten into the pots and pans in the kitchen and has discovered that by banging the lid down on the pan, he can make noise. Repeated noise. Continual noise. Ceaseless noise. Incessant noise. No rhythm, just loud banging over and over and over and over and over again. It was cute. At first. But then you are sitting at your computer trying to concentrate, and your little angel comes up right next to your ear and begins to bang and clang the pot lids together. Or imagine your sweet little 8 year old in the back seat at the beginning of a very long car ride asks you this question: ‘Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the universe?’ Even if you answer ‘No’, she still feels compelled to bless you with this sound. It is not the sound itself, but the duration. If you think that’s bad, imagine when you ask her to please stop, suddenly all her siblings join in making the same noise!

Paul says that if I have been given the most spectacular manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues, but I do not have love, I am, literally I have become; I have turned into a chunk of clanging brass. I am reduced to nothing more than a painfully repetitive loud noise. This is a scathing indictment on the status seeking tongues speaking Corinthians. They want to impress their friends with their giftedness. Instead, Paul says, you have turned into clanging banging irritating chunks of noisy metal.

Prophecy, Knowledge, Faith

Next, he takes the gift that he is encouraging them to pursue, a gift that is useful in building up the church.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all the knowledge. Again, Paul is using hyperbole. He is imagining the greatest possible manifestation of the gift of prophecy. Paul has said in chapter 4 that the apostles have been entrusted with the mysteries of God. Mysteries in this context are things that were hidden in ages past and have now been revealed. The primary mystery, as he talked about in chapter 2, is the gospel, the good news that through the crucifixion of Jesus, God is extending his love to sinners.

He invites them to imagine that his prophetic gift is such that he understands all mysteries and possesses all knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. They prided themselves in their knowledge. Paul addressed their knowledge back in chapter 8.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Already in chapter 8, he has held up love as superior to knowledge. Knowledge tends to puff self up. Love builds others up. He warns that by your so called knowledge, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

For the Corinthians, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge would make for a very impressive spiritual resume. He adds to this the gift of faith. The spiritual gift of faith is an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. Here he draws on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 17:20

Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus’ point is that it does not depend on the size of your faith. Even the tiniest grain of faith placed in the proper object can remove the biggest obstacles. Paul speaks larger than life and imagines that he has all faith. Again hyperbole; faith so as to relocate mountains.

If he has the gift of prophecy and understands all mysteries and all knowledge and if he has the gift of faith to the maximum imaginable extent, but he does not have love, he says ‘I am nothing’.

Mercy, Generosity, Helps

Now he takes up the mercy gifts, gifts like helps or relief, and generosity.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I give away all that I have; the idea is turning every possession into morsels of food to nourish the hungry. This takes generosity to the extreme. Not stopping with every possession, but even surrendering up my very body takes it to the next level. There is a textual issue here, and you may have a footnote in your bible, whether the word is burned or boast. The difference is just two letters in the original. Either way it is a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, surrendering ones own body up for the good of others. Paul says, even if I have the gift of mercy, bringing relief to the poor and if I do that to the absolute maximum imaginable extent, laying down my own life for others, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a progression here. If I have not love, I become empty noise. If I have not love, I am nothing. If I have not love, I gain nothing. I become nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.

What Is Love?

This raises a question. How can one give all that they have and even surrender their own body without love? Isn’t that the definition of love? Isn’t biblical love self sacrifice for the good of the other? Jesus said in John 15

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

If we look around, we find examples of people sacrificing themselves for others. Movies are made in praise of these selfless acts. On the battlefield, in the hospital, in the streets, we see examples of people laying down their lives for others. And not all of these people claim to be followers of Jesus. What can we say about this? Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Does this mean that when we see self sacrificial love for others in someone who rejects Jesus as King and rescuer, we must conclude, in spite of their unbelief, that they must be OK? To a lesser degree, there are many selfless acts of generosity, mercy, care for the poor and needy carried out by good people all around us.

What Paul describes seems to be the greatest possible expression of love according to Jesus; laying down your life for others. But he indicates that it is possible to do these things and not have love. And he indicates the outcome; that it profits me nothing. How is it possible to do what we would consider loving acts and not have love?

It may be helpful to understand that in the Greek there are multiple words for love. In English our one word ‘love’ covers them all. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child and a child for their parents; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love, what we might call ‘being in love’; and there is agape, something almost unique to the New Testament writers, and used to describe God’s love. We can easily see how the affection of a parent for a child or for another needy or helpless individual could express itself in the ultimate self-sacrifice. We can see how a robust friendship love could lead one to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend, and we could see how impassioned lovers might make the ultimate expression of love to one another.

These generous self-sacrificial deeds of love are noble and admirable. They are a reflection of the image of God in his creation. But they are not saving acts. They profit nothing. They earn nothing.

Agape Love

What is it that distinguishes this God kind of love from other loves, without which we gain nothing? What is it that the unbeliever who takes a bullet for a friend does not have? I think we find help in the simple statement of 1 John 4:19.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

The love Paul and Jesus and John are talking about is a response that flows from divine love. We love because we have been loved by God.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

The love we are talking about is from God. It has its source in God who is love. It comes from the new birth. It is founded on a testimony that Jesus is the Son of God who came and paid the price for our sins. It is a love produced in us by the Holy Spirit. We see in Galatians 5 that this kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit.

If we look at the context of Jesus’ statement that the greatest love is laying down one’s life for a friend, we see where this kind of love comes from.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

…8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

…11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This fruit of love comes from abiding in Jesus. Abiding in his love for us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We are loved by God, not because there is something loveable in us, something in us that attracts his affection, but out of the overflow of his own satisfaction in loving and being perfectly loved. God is love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Father, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. This complete and perfect trinitarian love, this perfect joy and delight in the beloved, spills over and finds joy in extending this love to others. This is a love that comes not out of need but out of overflowing fullness. God is love, and we love because he first loved us.

We love because

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…

We love because

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We love because

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

We love because

1 John 4:10 …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We love because

Galatians 2:20 …the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We love because

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….

We love because

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

When our love is a work of the Spirit in us, rooted in God’s grace to us in the cross, when our love is the overflow of satisfaction in being perfectly loved by God, when our joy and delight in God spills over and finds joy in extending this love with which we have been loved to others, this is the love that is the superabundant more excellent way. Without this love I have become nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing. This kind of love is evidence of true spirituality.

If you want to become more loving, the solution is not to make an effort to do more loving things, the solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Allow him to love you with his unquenchable love. Invite him to fill you to overflowing with his all-sufficient love. That love will inevitably spill over to those around you.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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October 26, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:22-25

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20081102_1peter1_22-25.mp3

11/2 1 Peter 1:22-25 love one another

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 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.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

1:22 tav qucav umwn hgnikotev en th upakoh thv alhyeiav eiv filadelfian anupokriton ek kardiav allhlouv agaphsate ektenwv 23 anagegennhmenoi ouk ek sporav fyarthv alla afyartou dia logou zwntov yeou kai menontov 24 dioti pasa sarx wv cortov kai pasa doxa authv wv anyov cortou exhranyh o cortov kai to anyov exepesen 25 to de rhma kuriou menei eiv ton aiwna touto de estin to rhma to euaggelisyen eiv umav

Peter has spent the first 12 verses celebrating what God has done to make us his forever. In verses 1-3, he chose us and caused us to be born again through the resurrection of Jesus. In verse 4 he is keeping our inheritance safe for us. In verse 5, he is guarding us by his power for our salvation through our faith. In verses 6-7, he is testing our faith by the fire of trials so that it is proved genuine. In verses 8-9 he points to our joy in Jesus as evidence of our genuine belief that will result in our salvation in the end. In verses 10-12 he encourages us that prophets and angels and evangelists, through the Holy Spirit were all working together to bring us salvation. Then in verse 13 he inserts a critical ‘therefore’ to give us commands; the commands hinge on and flow from an understanding of the doctrinal truth he has presented. Because of what God has done to make you his forever, this is how you should respond. So far, he has given us three commands. In verse 13, set your hope fully on future grace, in verses 14-16, be holy – highlight the priority of God in you actions and attitudes, and in verses 17-21, live in fear – fear of treating the infinitely precious sacrifice of Jesus as something impotent and insignificant. These three imperatives are primarily Godward – they define our relationship with and attitude toward God – we are to hope in him, to be holy like him, and to live in fear of displeasing him.

Now in verses 22-25, Peter turns his attention to our horizontal relationships that flow out of our vertical relationship:

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Peter now gives us a fourth command – ‘love one another’. We need to understand what he is commanding us to do, why he demands it, and how he expects us to do it. He is demanding that we love one another. We might initially react against this. How can you command love? Isn’t love an emotion? You can’t command me to feel something that I don’t feel. I’ve often hear the comment: ‘I know I’m commanded to love them, and I do, but I don’t have to like them’ By studying what Peter has to say, we should come away with a better understanding of our obligation to our fellow believers and some practical advice on how to put it into practice.

Peter starts us out by reminding us of our conversion and what it accomplished. In verse 2, Peter told us that we are elect ‘for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.’ He now points us to our obedience to the truth as what has purified our souls. In the New Testament, obedience to the truth and belief in the truth are synonymous concepts. Believing the gospel message is the same thing as placing yourself under the authority of God and his word. Nowhere in the bible is faith a mere mental agreement with the historical facts of the gospel message. Always faith engages the whole person and demands a new affection and and is produced by a new life. Embracing the good news about Jesus means subjecting yourself to the authority of the truth about God and living consistently with it.

Peter points us to the purifying effect of embracing God’s truth. And he points to a decisive past action rather than a continuing process. If you have embraced Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection as the substitute for your sins, then you have been purified. You have been decisively washed by the blood of Jesus.

Remember when the disciples came into the upper room, and they had been arguing about who was the greatest and none of them would stoop to do the menial task of washing the feet of the others? To their shock, their Rabbi laid aside his clothes and wrapped himself in a towel and stooped to wash their feet. When Jesus came to Peter, Peter said ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ (Jn.13:8-10). Jesus replied ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me’. So Peter ambitiously answered ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus replied ‘the one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…’ Peter had been washed from his sins by trusting Jesus.

In Acts 15:9, Peter said that God cleansed the heart of the Gentiles by faith; here he says that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth.

Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

You have purified your soul by obedience to the truth for an intended purpose. That purpose is ‘a sincere brotherly love’. Jesus washed you so that you can love your brothers. This is sibling love – blood relations are strong. I have a brother who is 8 years older than I am and we are good friends today. But this was not always so. I was the little kid that was into his stuff and he loved to torment me. But I remember one glorious day when a bigger kid was bullying me and made the mistake of pursuing me all the way home. He didn’t expect to run into my big brother, and he suddenly found his feet dangling a few inches off the ground as my brother explained in graphic detail what would happen to him if he was ever found bothering me again. Blood relations run deep. Relationships bought with the precious blood of Jesus run even deeper. We are blood brothers and sisters. We have a new family bond because of being born into God’s family.

We were purified for sincere brotherly love. The word is literally ‘un-hypocritical’. Our love toward our brothers and sisters is to be real; genuine; not fake; not the putting on of a mask and pretending to love. That is all too common in the church and we need to repent of that. Peter’s argument here is ‘since you have been purified for un-hypocritical love, then love! He changes the word from ‘philadelphia’ to ‘agape’. This describes unconditional purposeful love – to intentionally bring the highest good to the other, even at the expense of self. This love that has no conditions- ‘I’ll love you as long as you are part of my natural circle of friends’ ‘I’ll love you as long as you respond appropriately and gratefully’ ‘I’ll love you if you are somehow deserving of my love or if I am able to see some growth or effort on your part’; I’ll love you if you are lovable’; ‘I’ll love you if the demand is not too high or the duration is not too long’… Agape love is love with no conditions. Love that puts the needs of others before your own – self-sacrificing love.

And this love is descried in two ways. It is an earnest love and it is from the heart. The word ‘earnest’ carries the idea of being stretched to the limit or exerting your full capacity to love. Love in earnest and love from the heart. This is not a superficial kind of love. This is love that originates in the core of your being. We might say ‘love with all your heart and soul’ – love with full intensity with a love that is heartfelt and genuine.

This brings us back to the question – how can Peter command heartfelt un-hypocritical love? I can do the loving thing because I know I ought to, but I can’t manufacture this full-on heartfelt intensity of love that Peter demands. I can act loving even when I don’t feel like it, but how do I eliminate hypocrisy from my love? How do I love sincerely, from the heart, in earnest? How do I become not merely willing, but eager to love my neighbor like I love myself? How do I not quit loving when I get tired and worn out? Peter gives us his answer in the next verse:

23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

Peter grounds his command for agape love in our regeneration. You can love like I am commanding you because you have been born again. In verse 3 he said ‘blessed be…God…’ because…

3…According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again…

Our new birth results in a new family relationship. We love one another because God is now our common spiritual father through new birth. We love one another because the nature of the father – who is love- has been passed on to us. We can keep on loving one another because the new life we have in Jesus is indestructible.

In verse 4, Peter told us that our inheritance is imperishable. In verse 18, he told us that we were not ransomed with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. Now he tells us that the seed or sperm that produced our new life is not perishable but imperishable. We have imperishable DNA through our new birth!

Our new birth came by means of God’s word.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Peter here tells us that God caused us to be born again through or by means of his word. His word is living; so we have life. His word remains; so we will persevere. God’s word will not perish, so we who trust in God’s word will never perish. Peter substantiates his claim with a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8. The context is a proclamation of comfort to Israel, because although they will be carried off in captivity to Babylon, God will restore them from their exile. He will blow on their enemies and they will wither like grass, but his promises will never fail. Peter is writing to the elect exiles in Asia Minor, and he is encouraging them to love because God’s word has created new life in them. No nation, no matter how strong, not Babylon, not Rome, not the people that are now persecuting you, can thwart God’s purposes. God is keeping an inheritance for you, and God is keeping you for your inheritance. God’s word has birthed new life in you, and that life is imperishable. God’s word is powerful and will accomplish its purpose.

Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Jesus said:

Mark 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

And God’s purpose for his regenerating word is to create a community, a family who hope in his grace, who love what he loves and are holy like he is holy; who esteem Jesus so highly that they fear treating with contempt the value of the cross; who love one another sincerely, earnestly, un-hypocritically, from the heart.

And Peter concludes ‘and this word is the good news that was preached to you.’ This indestructible word, this life creating word, is the good news, the gospel message that was preached to you. Prophets prophesied, searched and inquired about the grace that was to be yours; they served not themselves but you; these things have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven (1:10-12).

This is the gospel message:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you––unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

The good news is a message of God’s gracious love:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love is free and unconditional:

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Our love for others is a natural result of God’s love for us and the new birth;

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

So how do we love? The good news that Jesus died for our sins was proclaimed to us, and that indestructible message creates life in its hearers. The life that is created is life from God and will reflect God’s character of love.

So what if this morning an honest glance into my own heart tells me that I don’t find God’s love there? What should I do? Our text this morning tells me to look to God’s love in the gospel message. Look to the life transforming message of God’s grace toward sinners in the cross. Look to the magnitude of your sin against God, for ‘he who is forgiven little, loves little’ (Luke 7:47). Look to the precious blood of Jesus that ransoms us from the futile loveless life inherited from our forefathers. We are set free to love each other. Be immersed in the word of God that creates a life of love in its hearers. The good news is the power of God to save believers. Drench yourself in God’s word and allow God to shape your emotions and attitudes and actions to the image of Jesus.

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment