I love fellowship – I love hearing people share their testimonies, I love worshipping and praying together with others, I love sharing my own experiences of God. I love my own quiet times with the Lord, and there are things He says which are not for sharing. However, there are many revelations of God or experiences which give me overflowing joy and a sense of wanting to tell others. My God is so amazing, how can I help but tell others about His beauty? I want to share every good thing with others, to proclaim the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living [Galatians 6:6, Psalm 27:13]. There are times when I feel an indescribable joy – a great overflow of love that causes me to proclaim the goodness of God, and to feel His love for everyone. It is a wonderful feeling, but there are also times when we must learn to love.
Jesus’ first commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. His second commandment is to love one another. 1 Peter speaks about what happens when the church is united in love, the fulfillment of its purpose in Christ.
1. LOVING ONE ANOTHER IS PART OF THE GOSPEL
[1 Peter 1:22-25] – “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.”
The first and the second commandments are well known and commonly preached – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and will all your mind… and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37] Here is 1 Peter is another gospel proclamation of these commandments, some answers to some questions:
1. Why should we love one another?
This passage gives us reason for love:
- It is worship to God and we have been made new in His way
- Love is one of God’s words/commandments to us
- God’s word endures forever, so obedience to His word has eternal consequence
1 Peter 1:22 says – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…” To obey the truth (of God’s word) is a decision we make because of the indwelling Spirit who gives us the desires of God. In having God’s desires through the leading of the Holy Spirit, we purify our souls as we become more like Him. A natural consequence of this is to worship Him in obedience, following His way, and this means loving one another (as 1 Peter goes on to explain). Furthermore, God’s commandments are enduring, and they do not change. We are mortal, and the world as it is, is temporary. However, the eternal God has put in place eternal things, one of which is love. Many things we do on this earth will have impact only on the earth. However, the way we live before God, and our obedience to His commands yields eternal fruit as it builds our intimacy and relationship with. God is love, and love is eternal. When we love one another, we invest in eternity. Moreover, we taste a part of eternity as, in that day, we will all be one with God in love. Why not start now?
2. How should we love one another?
Again, this passage gives us instruction about the love that God desires. It should be:
- The Greek is anupokritos which literally means “sincere, unfeigned, free from hidden agendas” We do not love for selfish gain, or love only those who are good to us. Our motive is greater than that. We love sincerely, and this can only occur because of the love of God within us.
- Here, the Grrek is ektenos meaning “earnestly, strentously”. Love cannot be a half-hearted job. It take effort and can be strenuous at times. However, we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, and it is all worth it. Love cannot be sincere, unless it is at the same time, fervent.
- With a pure heart
- Love must be done with pure intention. Again, a selfless, humble love that considers each one better than himself, looks out for each other’s interests, and looks to God [Philippians 2:1-4]
2. LOVING ONE ANOTHER AS EVIDENCE OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY
[1 Peter 2:1-3] – “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking, as newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
Spiritual maturity and spiritual purity go together. Just as newborn babies gain all their nutrients for growth through milk, so we are instructed to desire the pure milk of the word – to meditate up and take in the word of God which will grow us in spiritual maturity. The more we taste, the more we will desire Him, because of God’s wonder and beauty. In tasting and knowing God’s graciousness toward us, we are empowered to pursue His holiness, to lay aside “all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy and all evil speaking”. So often, these things come out of insecurity, selfish desire, or believing we know better than God. Instead, when we focus on His foundational truths and recognise His grace, we can have self-control to love and to build, instead of tearing down.
- [2 Corinthians 13:7-10] – “Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. And this also we pray that you may be made complete. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction.
- [2 Timothy 2:1,4] – “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus … No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”
3. LIVING STONES FOR A SPIRITUAL HOUSE
[1 Peter 2:5] – “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
There is a purpose for and in our unity of love. Our purpose for loving one another in found in our love for Christ Jesus. He is the living stone, the foundation qualified for such by God the Father. Because of Jesus, we also have been made as living ones. However, our purpose in love is to be built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. Christ Jesus and His Spirit in us, show us what things are acceptable to God. How do we become built up as a spiritual house? If we remember the Old Testament tabernacle and the Jerusalemite priests (Leviticus, for example, has a detailed description), we can see some essential requirements:
- The tabernacle was built according to God’s specifications
- The size, material and designs were all ordained by God himself.
- The tabernacle was located in the center of Israel’s camp.
- This place of worship was the center of their daily routine and held a special place of every festival and celebration. God always takes the first place, and a people who seek His face, will experience His goodness and provision.
- Priestly duties
- The priest offered up a sin offering first for himself, then for the people
- Priest were responsible for maintaining the tabernacle and administering the sacrifices
- They could not enter or perform duties unless they were first cleansed themselves to be holy
- The five offerings described are:
- The sin offering – most notable is the sin offering of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) where the blood of the sacrifice is sprinkled on the mercy seat for the sins of the High Priest and for the people. The sin offering reminds us of God’s mercy.
- The trespass offering – similar to the sin offering but the purpose for the sacrifice was to atone for sin committed in ignorance, often connected to repaying an amount owed. The trespass offering reminds us about the value of integrity.
- The burnt offering – this sacrifice was completely consumed by fire. None of it was eaten. There are many rituals that were performed as part of the burnt offering and its purpose was to atone for the sins of the people. The burnt offering reminds us of a life completely given over to God.
- The grain offering – this was an offering of produce. Some was burnt on the altar, and the rest was given as a portion to the priests for their meals. The grain offering reminds us of generosity.
- The peace offering – as a voluntary act of worship, the peace offering was shared between people and could be eaten for two days. The peace offering reminds us that true worship is voluntary.
The above descriptions of the tabernacle and the offerings are very brief. There is so much about the character of God and His plan for salvation hidden in the description of the tabernacle but that is for another time. Even from this brief description of the tabernacle, what can learn about our function as a spiritual house and holy priesthood?
- God takes the first place in our lives
- We live in obedience to His ways, our ears attentive to His voice
- Our function as God’s church is to (1) worship (2) bring others to worship (this includes our striving to live lives holy and pleasing to the Lord)
- Acceptable spiritual sacrifices are (1) in line with God’s desires (acknowledge who He is) (2) made with a pure heart (2) given generously (3) shared with others
If I were to give some practical examples of acceptable spiritual sacrifices:
- PERSONAL – devoting personal time to fast, pray and read the word of God
- FELLOWSHIP – spend time with other believers, sharing together in the word of God and encouraging one another in our relationship and journeys with God
- MISSIONS – serving the poor, sharing in genuine friendship with the outcasts
None of these spiritual sacrifices can be offered without love, and none can be offered without knowing Jesus as the cornerstone. To do these things without love and without Jesus is just humanism, and this is not the same as worship. In worship, the focus is on God.
[1 Peter 2:6-8] – “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.”
4. A PEOPLE TO PROCLAIM GOD’S GLORY
[1 Peter 2:9-10] – “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
Something incredible happens when the church is united together in one pure and sincere love for God and for each other – the light of God’s glory is amplified! In these two verses we again a sense of oneness for the identity of God’s people – we are described as:
- A chosen generation – we are chosen for this time
- A royal priesthood – we have been appointment to be ministers of God’s grace
- A holy nation – God has set us apart in holiness, to live lives in accordance with His commands
- His own special people – we are called by God’s Name and we belong to Him. He considers us special and had an undying love toward us.
The Jews will always be God’s chosen people, but their promises are shared with all nations as God said “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Together, Jew and Gentile, as we proclaim God’s praises in our lives and remember the testimony of God’s salvation in our lives, we proclaim identity as people of God. We proclaim the mercy and generosity of a God who loves all, and we proclaim the call of a loving God who cries, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…”
[Galatians 3:28-29] – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”