By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR
We begin this week’s passage, 1 Peter 1:20-25, by again looking back. “He” in verse 20 refers to Christ, as he is mentioned in verse 19. Peter is now telling us that Jesus Christ, whose precious blood ransomed us from our futile ways, was foreknown—fore-loved, fore-ordained, pre-destined (the same word used for us in verse 2) —to be our substitutionary sacrifice before the foundation of the world. There was no “plan B” with God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God didn’t need to re-think what he had ordained for mankind. Before creation, God knew man would sin and need a savior. Christ was appointed to be our atoning sacrifice in the eternal counsel of the Trinity.
“But he was made manifest in these last times.” When the time was right for the gospel plan to swing into action, Jesus was ready. In the perfect time that God had ordained, Jesus was born of a woman and took on our flesh. Why was he made manifest in these last times? “For the sake of you (that’s us too!) who through him are believers in God.” The flow of Peter’s thought goes from what Christ did to what difference it makes in our lives.
Through Jesus we are believers in God, “who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” Friends, if we say we believe in God, but don’t embrace Jesus Christ, we don’t believe in the God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. If we don’t come to God through the atoning sacrifice of his Son, we aren’t coming to the God of the bible. To believe in the God of the bible is to believe in the One who sent his Son to be our substitute, who then raised him from the dead and exalted him to his right hand in heaven to receive glory, honor, and praise. The Trinity won’t be parsed: they are inseparable.
Peter now turns to our sanctification and its necessary result, since we are believers in God through Christ. He doesn’t lead us through a long explanation beginning with the work of the Holy Spirit transforming our hearts so that now we are able to obey; Peter jumps straight to our responsibility to obey. Back in verse 14 he called us “obedient children,” now he commends our obedience as soul-purifying work resulting in love for one another. “Having purified your souls by your obedience… love one another earnestly (not just a little) from a pure heart.” Note that purified souls and purified hearts go together: they’re a package deal.
And just in case we think that Peter is encouraging us to earn our salvation by purifying our souls and loving one another, he lays that to rest in verse 23: “since you have been born again.” He has not presented these ideas in the sequence in which they occur in our lives. His sentence in verse 22 begins with the result, and follows in verse 23 with the reason. To turn it around and say, “Since you have been born again, purify your souls by obedience and love one another” sounds better in our ears. Reading the entire idea gives us needed context, so, be patient if it doesn’t sound right at first, and keep reading.
And we are born again, “not of imperishable seed, but of imperishable, the living and abiding word of God.” Peter returns to his theme of things perishable compared to the worth and enduring quality of things imperishable. The word of God is “living and abiding” which argues for its imperishability. Peter draws an illustration from Isaiah (40:6-8) to underscore the point he is making about the eternal durability of the word of God, which is the seed by which we have been born again. Doesn’t this encourage you to trust this God for your eternal well-being? Our new birth is caused by the germination of eternal truths in our hearts—truths which will never decay, wither, fade, or fall. “This word is the good news that was preached to you!”
And circling back to the result of this new birth in our lives now, we can unreservedly love one another from our purified hearts, because God is at work in all his children. Christ died for every member of his church, every one of whom are being sanctified in the Spirit for obedience to him. Loving and encouraging one another to grow up into this salvation, won for us by our great Savior, sent to us by our merciful God, has been “Plan A” all along.
And now, some hooks to capture our memory and hold onto these verses in our minds.
Verse 20 has two ideas set apart with “but.” These ideas are:
20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the
world but was made manifest in the last times for
the sake of you
He, Christ, was foreknown way back in eternity, but was made manifest recently, in these last times. Why? “For the sake of you—roll straight into the next verse—who…are believers in God. And what did God do? He raised and gave. What is the result of God raising Christ and giving him glory? So that our faith and hope would be in God.
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.
Verse 21 brings an end to a thought, and verse 22 begins a new, related, but not quite in-the-flow of the former, thought. We are moving from contemplating God and the glory he gave Jesus, to our response. I need to do some mental gymnastics to leap this gulf. So, I hold onto the idea that we are believers and connect that to the necessary result that we obey—which comes only from having a purified heart. (It’s a stretch, but it’s all I’ve got.)
We also see two purified things at each end of the verse which have a result sitting between them. Both the purified souls and pure hearts are to show forth a sincere and earnest love. I also love how obedience to the truth leads to love.
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the
truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another
earnestly from a pure heart,
In verse 23, we have another perishable/imperishable contrast and a couple of ways of describing the word of God: living and abiding, and, seed.
23 since you have been born again, not of perishable
seed but of imperishable, through the living and
abiding word of God;
Taking our cue from “seed” in verse 23, and rolling the next two verses together, we now compare perishable and imperishable things in agricultural terms. Grass and flowers grow from seeds, but the seed of the word of the Lord remains forever, and this word is the news that was preached.
24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the
flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this
word is the good news that was preached to you.
I hope that you are finding ever deeper wells of blessing as you hide God’s word in your heart. Thank you for joining us on this journey. This Sunday, find someone else in church who is also memorizing and share with one another how the Lord is blessing you!