Sermon Text: 1 Peter 1:22–2:3
Preacher: Pastor Brian Sauvé

Come & Welcome to Jesus Christ

So far in Peter’s letter, the Apostle has labored to expand our awe and our hope in the glory of God in the gospel. The gospel he’s unfolded for us in just a few paragraphs is a massively glorious gospel. An imperishable-inheritance-bestowing gospel. A future-glory-guaranteeing gospel. A freed-from-our-father’s-futility gospel. It is a gospel around which the entirety of the Scriptures orbits.

And now we’ll see that this gospel doesn’t just make declarations about what God has done for us, but it makes demands of us as well. God is going to tell us, through his servant Peter, what to do. And so my question here for you, right up front, is simple: Are you ok with that? Will you be commanded by God? Will you be told what to do?

Because the gospel Peter preaches here is a gospel that calls us somewhere. It urges us with earnestness and vigor towards a certain vision for this new humanity, the new people of God forged in the supernova heat of the cross and the empty tomb. And I hope that you will see that this is not contrary to God’s grace, but a living and growing extension of it, that the Lord’s demands of his people are not onerous and crushing, but life and peace and joy. That he is not like wicked Pharaoh, who commanded the Israelites to make bricks without straw, but that he extravagantly provides all that his people need to obey him and glorify him glory in him as his new creational new humanity.

We’ll handle this section in two basic parts.

1. In verses 22 to 25, we’ll see what grows up when you plant the imperishable seed of the gospel into a people. Namely, a new humanity marked by earnest love.

2. In 1 Peter 2:1–3, we’ll find that the earnest love of God’s new humanity chokes out the weeds that grew up out of the soil of the old humanity—and we’ll find that this sin-killing work of the gospel in God’s people is not an optional or negligible feature of God’s people.

Peter writes,

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

-1 Peter 1:22–2:3

Imperishable Seed, New Humanity

Now, before we get into the main conclusion of that first section, from verse 22 to 25, there’s a point that we need to clarify. In verse 22, Peter says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart…” 

The question we ought to ask is how obedience purifies us? Peter says, very plainly, that you have “purified your souls by your obedience.” What does that mean? There is a ditch we could fall into here that’s a really bad ditch.

How Does Obedience Purify Us?

Ok, so one possible meaning: Does Peter mean that our souls are purified by law-keeping? Because the whole law really can be summed up in the love of neighbor. Paul, in Galatians 5:14, tells us that “…the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

So is Peter saying, “Your souls are purified by your keeping of the Law, namely, your earnest love of one another?” And my answer to that is a resounding No! That’s not what Peter means. Let’s carefully follow the grammar of Peter’s words, ok? And this is a little technical, but it’s important, so hang in there.

If you carefully follow the grammar of Peter’s argument, you’ll notice that he actually excludes this sincere brotherly love from whatever it is that he means by “obedience to the truth.” The grammar works like this:

1. Having purified your souls… love one another from pure hearts. So purified souls overflow with sincere love from purified hearts.

2. How did we purify our souls? By obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love. Meaning, your obedience to this truth Peter is talking about results in sincere brotherly love. It is obedience to the truth unto brotherly love. The love follows the obedience, it doesn’t lead it. 

3. That rules out that first option, that he’s talking about law-obedience, summed up in love, as the thing we are obeying that purifies our souls. 

So what is he actually talking about? What is the truth that we’re obeying that purifies our souls and gives birth to sincere brotherly love? I’d argue that he’s talking about the gospel. That the obedience he’s referring to is the obedience of faith, or believing the gospel.

This rings in harmony with the rest of the section through verse 25. Verse 22 ends with the command, “…love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” And then verse 23 and on continues, 

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

You’ve been born again from the imperishable seed of the gospel, the word of the Lord, which is the good news that was preached to you. And in that new birth, your heart rose up in the obedience of faith, which then gave birth to sincere, earnest brotherly love. This is what Paul calls “…faith working through love” in Galatians 5:6.

The obedience that purifies our souls isn’t law-obedience, but the obedience of faith, which is an obedience unto love.

So let’s circle back to what I said up front is the main point of these first four verses: Peter is telling us that the work of the gospel, the effective word of the Lord, is like a seed—when you plant it, something grows up from it. What grows up from it?

A new humanity does. A redeemed, born again, living people grow up from this imperishable seed. This seed grows a new humanity marked by earnest love.

Now here’s where we get to the first part of that whole God-telling-you-what-to-do thing: Church, love one another earnestly. Love one another with a sincere, brotherly love. The fruit that marks us as the people of God is earnest love for one another. Isn’t that just what Jesus said to the disciples in John 13:35? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The word that Peter uses for “earnest” is the same word used to describe the earnestness of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion—prayer that was so intense that Jesus sweat blood as he prayed.

Do we love one another like that? What would a love so earnest that it would sweat blood look like? It is a cruciform love, a love that is shaped like the cross. A love that bears its own cross and that bears its brother’s burden. 

Listen friends, it is so massively easy to go to a church and wait a few weeks and then go out and say, “Yeah, the community is really weak there. I don’t have any friends.” That’s easy. Unbelievers do that sort of thing with restaurants.

Do you know what’s hard? Earnest, sincere brotherly love. Bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ. Crucifying our own pride and selfishness and demands to be served and serving one another. What I’m saying is that if we want this here, we must give it here.

And what would it look like if we did? What would a love so earnest that it would sweat blood look like? Jesus. This is his love for us. He is the great blood-sweating, blood-shedding savior who bears our impossible burdens so we might bear his light burdens. 

“Love one another earnestly!” Peter commands. Why? How? “Because Christ has loved you earnestly and purified your souls for this love!” The love he is calling us to is Christ-imitating love.

This is the fruit that God brings forth in his new-creational people, from the imperishable gospel seed. And this fruit, Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:1–3, is the end of the fruit that marked the old, dead humanity.

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Love is the End of Sin

The growing fruit of earnest love is the end of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. Gospel love displaces fallen hate in God’s new people. See again that the Lord Jesus is telling us what to do. See that this is not an optional pursuit for Christians. Peter doesn’t phrase this as an optional pursuit. No, he says, “If you’ve tasted the good grace of this good God, then put away the poison!”  

Let’s take a look at each of these things that we are to put off and try to understand how the earnest love that grows from the imperishable seed of the gospel subverts, destroys, and displaces each of them. There are 5 of them.

1. Malice

Malice is a mean-spiritedness that glories in seeing people hurt. Malice is that sick feeling of joy that you get when someone you hate fails. Our world is marked by malice. In Titus 3, Paul says that you and I, before we were saved, “…pass[ed] our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

I’ll give you the easy illustration and then the one that hurts, ok? Easy illustration: Turn on the news. You’ll see maleficent giddiness at someone’s failure. A Democrat just quivering with suppressed giddiness over the failure or downfall of some Republican. A Republican just trying hard not to smile with glee at the misery of Venezuelan socialism. Malice.

Harder illustration: Hoping deep in your heart that your brother or sister in Christ will fail because they’ve wronged you, bothered you, frustrated you. And what the gospel does is it destroys malice. The gospel says, “You gave God the middle finger, and he responded by dying for you. What are you mad about again?” How about deceit?

2. Deceit

Put way all deceit. Stop lying, basically. You might say, “Ok, cool, stop lying. Got it.” Hold on though. Do you really get it? Do we really see how far this goes? Question 145 in the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, 

“What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?” (The 9th Commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”)

Ok, here’s the answer that the catechism gives, and each of these has supporting Scripture proofs that I’m not going to include, but that you can go read through if you’d like. Here are all they things forbidden when you forbid deceit:

“The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbours, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vain-glorious boasting; thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.”

(And if you hear that list and think, “Aha! They didn’t mention my thing!” Stop. You’re wicked.)

Why do we lie? We lie to hide our sin. We lie to portray ourselves as greater than we are. We lie to get our way. We lie to our spouse, our kids, our friends. We lie to God and we lie to ourselves. Apart from the renovating work of Christ, we speak fluently in the language of our father, Satan, who is the father of lies.

And the glorious gospel destroys deceit, how? Think about it: If Jesus died for all your sin, nailed your entire record of debt to the cross, paid for it, and left it in the grave, what do you have to hide? Who are you trying to impress? 

And if God accepts you in Christ, who sees all, knows all, and searches your heart to the bottom—then why on earth would you lie to impress one of us? The gospel severs the root of deceit by tethering our reputations, hope, and future to Jesus.

3. Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is a species under the genus of deceit. It’s an expression of deceit. Deceit says, “For some reason, my heart doesn’t want you to know true things.” And hypocrisy says, “My heart doesn’t want you to know true things *about me.*” 

The Greek word for hypocrisy originated from the word for a stage actor. Someone who plays a character. Why do we do this? And we all do. We all pretend, put on masks, hide, exaggerate our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. We all pretend. Why?

Part of why is that from Adam on down, we have a god-complex. The serpent said, “You could be like God!” and we said, “Yes, please!” And so when our weakness or sin or faults are in danger of going public, we say, “Wait, gods don’t have faults. Gods don’t sin. Gods aren’t weak. If I want people to worship me as god, then I can’t let this out.”

In other words, I’m not God, but I do sometimes try to play him on TV. Hypocrisy!

The gospel brings sanity into the madness, right? Jesus steps in with grace and says, “You’re not God; you’re a fallen, sinful, weak, human. But I am God, and I forgive you. You don’t have to pretend—I will make you more glorious than you can possibly imagine. Your glory isn’t divine glory, it’s the glory of a human being created in the divine image. Be satisfied.”

And a local church culture built around the good news of the gospel comes along and presses into that same hypocrisy-dissolving grace. When we forgive each other quickly when we’re sinned against, our brothers and sisters can put away their make-believe perfection. When we confess our own sin, our brothers and sisters see that they can burn their papier-mâché masks and step off the stage. 

See, once you realize that all of us in this church called Refuge are idiots and sinners and failures to some degree or another—let’s face it, to a cosmically absurd degree—you can simply stop pretending. The gospel gets us all off stage and into reality.

4. Envy

Envy is wanting the good things that have happened to you to be mine rather than yours. Envy says, “I deserve what she has. I deserve her godly husband, her metabolism, her obedient kids, her house.” Envy says, “I deserve the position they gave to him. I deserve his raise. I deserve his car. I deserve his skinny wife. I deserve to be praised.”

Envy trades on an inflated sense of earning and self-worth. And the gospel cuts the legs out from underneath envy, right? How?

Here’s how; here’s where they gospel starts: Once upon a time, there you were—a rotting, disgusting, sinful, fallen, malevolent corpse of a man. Your daddy was the devil and you deserved Hell.

The gospel starts by graciously condemning all of us under a mountain of well-deserved shame. The gospel displaces envy by tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that, no, you don’t deserve his skinnier wife or her better-behaved kids or his intellect or her fame… you deserved eternal judgment. 

5. Slander

Slander is a fungal outgrowth off of the rotting corpse of envy. If I envy you, I want to take you down. You have gifts I don’t, platform I don’t, the husband or wife I don’t, the good looks I don’t, the money I don’t, the success I don’t—and now I’m angry and bitter and frustrated and jealous and so I want to cut you down.

So I will slander you. Gossip about you. Lie about you. I will believe the worst about everything you say, twist it into error or falsehood if I have to. I will read the worst possible motives into what I see of your life, and if you don’t give me anything to work with, I’ll just make something up out of whole cloth.

How does the gospel break the power of slander? When you taste the goodness of the Lord in his living word, slander tastes bitter in your mouth. The gospel shows us that we don’t make ourselves more glorious by lowering everyone around us—but that God is a God who exalts the lowly and lowers the lofty. If slander is a fungus, the gospel is a fungicide.

New Tastes

Do you see it? The imperishable seed, planted in this new humanity, bears fruit 10, 20, 30, a hundredfold. And as it grows, it displaces and chokes out the weeds of the old humanity.

Or as Peter puts it in verses 1–3, the powerful word, living and abiding, brings new birth. And that same word that brought you forth is like spiritual milk that brings growth and development.

Slander used to taste good. Envy, malice, deceit, hypocrisy—they used to taste good. And the gospel makes it all into bitterness in our mouths. Rottenness. Like bad meat or chunky milk. You taste it in your mouth, and the Spirit of God rises up in your new heart and makes it taste like death. 

But now you pick up the word of God and taste the goodness of the Lord in it! So listen, Refuge: How are you doing? Are you growing? Are you “…growing up into salvation?” If not, are you in the Scriptures? Are you cultivating an earnest longing for the Word of God? Are you tasting the goodness of God in his Word?

That same Word that brought the resurrecting voice of the Lord into your soul is meant to be your nourishment, to grow you up into salvation.

Come & Welcome to Jesus Christ!

So before we close our Bibles this morning and leave here, I want us to have clear sight of something in this text. Yes, these are commands. Yes, the Lord Jesus is telling us what to do, here. But listen, the commands are an invitation to a feast, not prison walls to keep you from joy.

Like the great Presbyterian minister Samuel Davies said, “Thy law commands me to be blessed; my duty is my interest.” 

This text is an invitation to drink deep draughts of the New Covenant wine. It’s an invitation to renewed sanity in renewed humanity. It’s an invitation to be free of the vicious, maleficent patterns and practices of fallen humanity and glory in the joy of earnest love from Christ-purified hearts.

So taste the goodness of the Lord. Feast on his body and blood. Come to his table ravenous for grace, hungry for the nourishment of Jesus Christ. Make him your feast, and he will put flesh and fat on your bones. Make him our feast, Refuge, and he will put flesh and fat on the bones of our community.

Here’s the heart of this text: “Come and welcome to Jesus Christ! True bread. True wine. True festal lamb. True adoption. Come and welcome to Jesus Christ!”