- 1 Corinthians 13
- 1Peter 1:17-2:3
Brothers and sister in the Lord,
Our society is made up of different general collections: there is the Baby Boomers, Gen X, Y and Z. These divisions of course are artificial and ostensibly used to excuses certain age groups for acting decent and civilised. The mindset of our time is post-modernistic. We moved through the scientific age, where science was the norm for truth, into the post scientific age, the age of modernism, into post modernism. What is the norm for truth in our age is not the Scripture which gives us a Biblical worldview, based on absolute truth centred in the immutable (unchanging) God as expressed in his Word; the norm for truth is now squarely centred in us—and more so in the individual “me”. Every individual is now the norm: it does not only have an immeasurable impact on how we determine absolutes; the individual has now become the centre of his or her universe, and rights and wrongs are based on personal preferences, and not on objective truths.
This has rubbed off on church people and how they look at the church: church should meet individual expectations, individual truth, and individual lifestyles.
Every Christian will understand that this means dangerous waters for any church to be found in.
Our study of 1 Peter up to this point taught us:
- We are brought into the family of God by an act of God: new birth. This new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit, which also gave us the Scriptures—and all of Scripture is focussed on the redemptive work of Christ. This new birth means that we have now become foreigners to the world we live in; the way we live is determined from heaven and not from this word.
- Being redeemed by grace through Christ Jesus, every individual member of the church of Christ is called to live according to the holy standards of Holy God: because God is holy, so should his church be. Our lives are Christ-focussed, we are ready to serve as God’s people, having crucified the principles of our former hollow and meaningless lives.
But this us not where we may stop. See, it is not about “me” and “I”. This idea is not in agreement with the Scriptures. Our text this morning helps us to understand.
The holy family of God
Verse 17 introduces us to the reality that believers who are living lives which are determined from above, by the Father thought the Holy Spirit, based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, are members of a bigger family.
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17, NKJV)
The “you” and “your” in this verse is not the singular, or individual “you”; it is the plural—and this refers to the fact that “I” and “you” are not part of a group of individuals who happened to be in church; no, we are part of the covenant family. This takes us to verse 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. (1 Peter 1:22, NKJV)
The culture of the Roman Empire in which Peter lived did not understand Christian love, which is sacrificial dedication to one another. The culture of the time considered putting others before yourself as weak and undesirable: one had to fight a hard fight to get into the higher echelons of society, and giving too much time and effort to those who struggled stood in the way of getting to the top.
That’s why, even in our society, so infiltrated by individualism, Christianity almost does not have any place anymore. It’s everyone for him or herself. Life’s too short to waste time on strugglers. “They had their opportunity, just like me, and they missed the boat; too bad!”
This was not how our Lord looked at the world which He came to serve: it was precisely the outcast, the struggler, the sinner, the ones who missed the boat, whom He poured his love out on. Who cares about the hungry in our society with all its opportunities? Who cares about the thirsty? Who cares about the stranger to invite them in? Who cares about those in need of clothes when everything is so cheap at the opp shops? And what about the prisoners—they got what they deserved and they live in upper-star hotels these days.
And yet, our Lord was quite clear in his parable of Matthew 25:
I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36, 40, NKJV)
Peter writes to the elect of God:
love one another fervently with a pure heart. (1 Peter 1:22, NKJV)
Three attitudes must qualify our brotherly love:
- It must be from the heart: the heart is the fountain of all we are, think and act. We even use an icon of the heart to indicate love. May of these are carved out on tree trunks and painted on concrete bridges.
- Genuine: this is the opposite of being hypocritical. Another expression here is holier-than-thou, insincere or dishonest. Saying one thing and doing the other. That’s not genuine. Such an attitude is contrary to Christian love.
- Pure: this attitude describes a love which is unfailing and undiminishing, irrespective of how circumstances may change. One commentator puts it this way: in view of the approaching end Christians should see to it that their love for one another endures against self-seeking. The Apostle Peter, in chapter 4:8 come back to this:
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, NKJV)
It takes us to the reading from 1 Corinthians 13 this morning:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, NKJV)
How does love look like in practice: Lets listen to how Peter understood it:
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:9–11, NKJV)
Paul, in Romans 12 spells it out:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another… distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:9–19, NKJV)
O, we need this on the church today. As it is, we don’t always need an enemy to destroy us, we are just doing a fine job ourselves: we can so easily gossip, spread stories, sow doubt, slander—sometime just to keep a “delightful” story going. Christians must always speak the truth, and if they don’t have the facts, they should find where a story comes from and verify the facts from the source; if they can’t, they should withhold themselves from destructive gossip, and also intervene to stop gossip.
Love founded on the Scripture itself
Peter continues his line of love towards other Christians by giving us two very good reasons why we should love one another:
We have become members of the family of God based on the same grace
Verse 23 also uses the plural “you”:
“You have been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, (1 Peter 1:23, NKJV)
All Christians have exactly the same standing in birth and in grace before God. It is by the Word, through the Holy Spirit, based on the redemption of Jesus Christ and by his righteousness, that we all are saved. There was no merit on which we could boast; no one was better or worse than the other; no one deserved more or less than the other; no one had a better chance based on a better heritage, and no one can actually boast in being worse than other and therefore should receive more grace than the other. We are all just children of God; saved sinners, saved by grace!
We have become members of the family of God based on the same standard
All Christians have only one basis on which they can grow, and to which standard they should grow: the Word of God. Therefore, to all applies this command:
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, (1 Peter 2:1–2, NKJV)
The expression “spiritual milk”, or “milk of the Word” is insightful. If we have to paraphrase it, it could read like this: “Like newborn babies desire what comes naturally for people who know that the Lord is good.” Paul uses the same word in Romans 12:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1, NKJV)
We have the work logical from this word: it describes a consequence of something rational: the point being a new birth, by the Sprit through the Word, based on the righteousness of Christ, by the grace of God.
If that is what you say happened to you, the logical consequence should be that your love towards other Christians should be based on the same Word which gave you life.
I find it amazing that new born babies have no regards for place, time or surroundings to make known its craving for milk. When hungry, it demands a drink, irrespective fo who they might upset. So should our hunger for the Word also be: nothing should stop us for our next time of nourishment to grow in Christ and to serve one another.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 6 May 2018