1 Peter 1:22-2:2 “Born Again Through the Word”
22 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, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 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,
25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Introduction: Does the good news of Christ Jesus make a difference in your life? Someone once said, “Could they find enough evidence in your life to convict you of being a follower of Jesus Christ?” But, you folks are here in the worship service this morning, so, yes, you could all be found guilty of being Christians.
But then, that could be said of the Pharisees and Sadducees during the life of Christ Jesus. They were very religious people, but, when the Son of God came to them, they rejected him. As religious as they were, their religion was not based upon the truth of God. If we trust in Christ Jesus, it should have an effect on our lives.
In verse 22, he says, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth”. It would be easy to misinterpret this, as if St. Peter were saying that we are saved through obedience. He makes it clear that this is not so as he continues the sentence in verse 23, where he says that we have been “born again,” indicating that God gave spiritual birth to us, and we do not give birth to ourselves.
What he does mean here is that God the Holy Spirit has made himself known, and we have been saved, by the instrument of the truth, that is, God’s words. The way that he puts it is “obeying the truth.” Too many people have fallen into the trap of basing their beliefs and actions on their own feeling and ideas. While this may give a person a feeling of satisfaction, since it is not based on the truth, it has no power to save us.
Instead, he says that you have “purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” God has revealed himself in and through his word, and now we have been transformed the work of the Holy Spirit who has applied his word to our lives.
But again, it is not just a matter of knowing truths. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew truths, but their knowledge did not bring them to God, or change their lives. He says that we should not be so. Instead, we “love one another fervently with a pure heart.” That is, if our souls have been purified in obeying the truth, it is not just a matter of having been changed in our own hearts, but this has an effect on our thoughts and actions.
And notice that he says that we are to “love one another fervently with a pure heart.” Do you love others fervently? Could others say about you, “he really loves people fervently”? And yet, this is the goal that he sets before us. And he says, “from a pure heart.” There are so many people who love others, in the hope that they will receive something in return. This is true even in families, where parents love their children, and expect love in return. And yet, this is not always so, as some of you parents know. But the Lord tells us to love from a pure heart, which is to say, loving others without expecting anything, not even their love, in return.
And this is a result of what has actually happened. As he says in verse 23, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible.” That is, we are not born of that which is corruptible. This is entirely contrary to idolatry, which tries to make things the means of our salvation. The most obvious of these are the objects to which people ascribe power, such as statues and pictures of gods and goddesses. But, people even ascribe such power to incense, flags, foods, water, beads, symbols, and so forth. And even such godly things such as the elements of the Lord’s Supper or the water of baptism can be misused in this way, so that people think that the water of baptism or the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper somehow have the power to change us, even if there is no faith when we celebrate these sacraments. But all things are corruptible, and do not have the power to save, and so we were not redeemed with that which is corruptible. Even the elements of the Lord’s Supper, and the water of baptism, have no power in themselves to says, as he says in 1 Peter 3:21 “baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
But contrary to such idolatry, he declares that we were not redeemed with corruptible seed, but with incorruptible. That is, God uses his Word to transform us, as he says at the end of verse 23, “through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” Unlike the corruptible things worshipped and used by idolaters, the word of God lives and abides forever.
Notice he says that the Word of God lives. Somehow it seems strange to speak of words on a page as living, but they are, for they come from a living God. All other books that were written have authors that died, or will die some day (unless Jesus comes first). But God’s word is living, because God is living, and will fulfill the promises that he has made in his Word.
And I love the word “forever” because it is so rare. People say to the king, “O king, live forever!” [Daniel 2:4], but, a few years later, he’s dead. Men say to beautiful women, “I’ll love you forever”, and the average marriage in the United States lasts seven year, not a very long forever. But God’s words, just like God himself, are forever, for just as God cannot die, his words cannot die.
He declares in verse 24, “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.’” Everything that we think is so permanent is like the grass. We who live in California know how that is. Don’t water your grass in the summer and a few days later what do you have? Brown grass. And so it is with everything in this world.
And so he makes the contrast in verse 25, “But the word of the LORD endures forever.” While all earthly things pass away, God’s word stands without fail. And it is this same word of God that has the power to transform our lives, as he concludes verse 25, “Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” There are many popular preachers, religions, teachers and ideas that talk about all kinds of things. Even within the Christian church, there are many that talk about science, and economics, and philosophy, psychology, and self-help ideas. Some of these things may be useful and true, and others not. But in the end, the only truth that stands forever is the word of God, and that is the message that we preach. And, this message that we preach has the power to transform people´s lives.
Something else that needs to be said here is that some people want to reduce the gospel, the good news, to just a few verses. They quote John 3:16, and think that only that verse is the good news. But the apostle makes it clear that the word of the Lord is good news, and that means all of it. It´s true that some parts of the word are background—for example, knowing that Jesus the Lord was born in Bethlehem does not, in itself, transform us. But, when you understand that he was born of a virgin in that city, and that angels announced his birth in that town, and that wise men and shepherds came to worship him in that town, and that all of this had been prophesied from old times, then we understand that Bethlehem is a part of the good news.
And so now, he returns to his theme, which is the effect that our rebirth in Christ Jesus should have in our life. In chapter 2 verse 1, he says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” If you have been born again in Christ Jesus, your life will change. Notice the particular things he mentions.
First, he begins with “malice.” Malice is not a word we use very often, but it refers to our intention to do evil. Sometimes we say or do something, without the intention of hurting someone, but we do. Other times, we plan it in our minds, and that’s malice. As those born again into the Lord Jesus, we need not only to act correctly, but to think correctly, and to leave behind any evil intentions.
Deceit is much the same. I love the ads and commercials that say “free.” They say “free”, but actually, it’s not free, but simply part of the purchase of something, so why do they say free? It’s a form of deceit, in that they say free, but it’s not. We as believers in Jesus Christ need always to speak the truth. That doesn’t mean we always have to tell everything to everybody, but when we speak, we must speak the truth. If your wife says, “Do I look fat in this dress?” You can say, “I love you dear”, or, “How could you look fat?” But, as much as you love your wife, the Lord doesn’t want us to deceive one another. I know that many people do this to save the feelings of their loved ones, but, the Lord wants us to speak the truth in love. And again, this is a sin of intention, in that you need to examine your motives in what you say and do.
Which is closely related to the next thing he mentions, which is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending to be one thing, and doing another. Many religious people are hypocrites, because they talk about being good, and then fail to live up to the standards that they set for other. You know, people like pastors [like me].
Again, envy is a sin of the heart, because you can hide it, at least for a while, from others. It really is strange for one who has eternal life in Christ to be envious of others. We have our sins forgive, we have been loved by the Father, and Christ Jesus has died to us, and we now have eternal life in him. How could we be envious? And yet, sometimes others have gifts or possessions that we envy, and the Lord is telling us to lay these desires aside, and don’t let them have a place in our lives.
Finally, he says we should lay aside all evil speaking, which comes from all of the above things, which is to say, those who have malice, deceit, hypocrisy, and envy, show it forth by speaking evil of others. It interests me that in the ten commandments, it does not say “do not lie” but rather, “do not bear false witness against your neighbor.” It really adds up to the same thing, but it indicates that the true effect of lying is to lie against the person that you are telling the lie to. Add to this the evil motives of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, and envy, and the effect is speaking evil against your neighbor.
But having said this, again, there are many who object that it’s easy to say, and much more difficult to do. And surely this is true, but, the Lord tells us how to go about it. He says in verse 2, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” You all know how a baby desires milk. If a baby doesn’t get nourishment, it can’t grow, and most babies will cry and cry until that need is met. When I discuss abortion with supporters of that form of legalized murder, they say to me that a baby that is still in its mother’s womb cannot survive on its own. But you know, that’s just as true of a newborn babe. If it doesn’t eat, if its mother or someone doesn’t feed it, it will die. So it is with us as newborn babes in Christ. If we wish to grow, we need to feed upon his Word. How many of you ate physical food today? I know very few people that go for a few days without eating physical food, or without at least thinking about it a lot. But we need the spiritual food of the Word of God to grow spiritually, and without, we die.
But notice as well that he says the “pure milk of the word.” It’s not enough just to have any kind of spiritual food, but we need the pure, unadulterated milk of God’s word. In Africa, they have had a problem that powder milk is sold to the mothers. Of course, there are instructions that tell the mothers how much powder to add to water, but many mothers don’t, or can’t, read the instructions, and so many of the children are fed what amounts to milk-flavored water, and suffer from severe malnutrition, and even die. So it is with people who don’t feed upon God’s word. They suffer from spiritual malnutrition, and may even die spiritually.
For example, some people only believe what their pastor, or their friends, or their church says, and never really read the Bible for themselves. Others read Bibles with notes or commentaries, and pay more attention to the notes than to what God says. I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to your pastor, or friends, or your church, or consult notes or commentaries, but you need to read the word of God, and listen to what he says to you. And just like physical food, you need to read it on a regular basis, with your family, and by yourself, as well as in church.
And we do this because this is the way that God has given us to grow, as he says in verse 3, “if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” That is, when we first come to the Lord, it’s like we get a taste of his grace. Again, returning to the analogy of food, coming to the Lord is like tasting a new a wonderful food. Think about the first time you tasted a new food that tasted so good. I mean, who doesn’t like rainbow drink? [Che Ba Mau] But that same sort of anticipation should be in our hearts when we come to the word of God. After all, the taste of a food, as good as it is, fades away, but the Word of the Lord lasts forever. And the nourishment which food offers, as good as it is, is only temporary, while the nourishment which the Word of God provides causes us to grow in Christ.
I asked at the beginning if you could be convicted by others of being a believer in Jesus Christ. But in the end, it’s not what others think, but the reality. Are you a child of God? He asks in this verse “if indeed.” But if indeed, you have tasted that he is gracious, you will be changed. You will love to read, and understand, and apply his Word to your life, and leave behind the ways of the world, grow in Christ day after day, until you go to be with him. Amen.