Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gospel of Fervent Love

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, because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1Peter 1:22-25)
“Obeying the truth” is believing the truth about Jesus the Messiah and living according to it. It has a purifying, or consecrating, effect on the soul. James said, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). This leads to “pure and undefiled religion before God … to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). In other words, believing and doing the truth about Jesus prepares us to love.

This is real, true love Peter is talking about. The Greek word for “sincere” is anypokritos, which is made up a two parts: a or an, which means “not,” and hypocritos, which means “actor” and is where we get our word “hypocrite.” It is not pretending to love, wearing it as a mask or disguise, or reading lines as actors. As the apostle John tells us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1John 3:18).

Our love must be authentic but it must also be fervent. The Greek word for “fervent” is ektenos, from two words: ek, “out,” and teino, “to stretch.” It is “a constant concern to be of service, exacting and untiring zeal, urgent affection, and even lavish gift-giving” (Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament). It is fervent because it comes from the heart. It is not a mere outward conformity but reveals an inward transformation.

As these believers were living in exile, it became all the more important for them to love each other with an intense devotion that reveals the new birth we have together in Jesus. Indeed, this new birth, and the inward transformation it brings, enables such love. That is because the new birth does not come from the seed of fallen humanity, which is subject to death and corruption, but by the seed of the Word of God, the Word of Life that endures forever.

At this point, Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-8, also written to exiles, about the brevity of human life in contrast to the eternality of the divine word. It is a messianic passage about God setting things right in the world and it is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. Indeed, Peter takes the good news of Jesus the Messiah to be the enduring word Isaiah described: “Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”

There are two different Greek words for “word” used in this passage. The first is logos, which is the Word of God in general principle. The second is rhema, which is the Word of God acutely articulated, for example, through preaching. What was foretold by Isaiah in prophecy now finds acute fulfillment in the message of the gospel.

The gospel is what Peter has been talking about all along in chapter 1: The abundant mercy of God revealed in Jesus the Messiah, through the new birth, a living hope, and an incorruptible inheritance because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and faith in Him. It is the gospel of fervent love — God’s love for us resulting in our love for each other.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get ToughKeeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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