“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
In this Scripture the apostle Peter commands children of God to love one another. The love he commands is a love of brothers, a love practiced by those who have purified their souls in obedience to the truth. There is no doubt, according to this same letter, when purification of the soul occurred, for Peter says in 3:21, “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….” At baptism we were saved, our soul was purified, we were given a good conscience. God cleansed us then. We were born again. Having been born again into the family of God, we are to love as brothers. Peter gives three qualities of that love. Let us consider each.
First, Peter says brotherly love must be a ”sincere love” (verse 22). Our love for one another is to be unfeigned, the ASV says, which means genuine. It is to be real and not fake. It is to be un-hypocritical, not pretended. Our love for brother and sister is not for show. It is not for keeping up appearances. It is not for the approval of men. Brotherly love is not saying or doing one thing in the sight of your brother or sister while believing something different about them or telling someone else something different about them. Instead, in the sight of both God and man it is sincere.
Secondly, Peter commands that we love one another “fervently” (verse 22). The word fervently means earnestly or intensely. In his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Word, W.E. Vine says the word is from the idea of “strained” or “stretched”. One commentator has described it as “with all energies strained to the utmost” (Pulpit Commentaries). The verb form of the word with which “fervently” is associated means boiling. The opposite of it then would be cold, or formal. Our love for brother and sister is therefore to be warm, boiling, and intense! The word is used one other place in the New Testament, in Acts 12:5, where the Bible says, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” This tells us of the intensity and passion of their prayers for Peter.
Third, Peter says that we are to love as brothers “with a pure heart” (verse 22). The heart he has in mind is not our blood-pumping organ, but rather the place deep within us where resides our intellect, our will, our conscience, and our emotions. To love with a pure or clean heart then is to love with pure and blameless desires, motives, intentions, and purposes. We have within our hearts goodwill toward our brother and sister. There is an absence of malice – ill will. There is forgiveness, not un-forgiveness. There is kindness, not bitterness. There is sympathy or sorrow for our brother and sister when they suffer in any way. And there is mutual joy when our brother and sister rejoice.
We should measure our own brotherly love against these three qualities. God is well-pleased with His children loving sincerely, fervently, and from a pure heart.
- Larry Jones