Born Again Love, Part 2

The call to love does not depend on our feelings—it depends on our salvation.

Chris Hutchison on November 26, 2023
Born Again Love, Part 2
November 26, 2023

Born Again Love, Part 2

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We’re talking about love today. That sounds like the title to a song, doesn’t it? The word “Love” is so clichéd in our culture. It means so many different things to so many different people. We love people, we love pizza, and love is all you need until it isn’t.

But that’s not a reason to avoid this discussion on love. This is all the more reason why we need God to define for us what love is and what it looks like.

Let’s remember that today is part two of what’s really one big message that we started last week. This passage, starting in 1 Peter 1:22 and going into 2:3, is built around one main command: “love one another.” And that main command is sandwiched in between two big reasons for that command, which we looked at last week.

If you weren’t here last week, you can listen to that message on our website or podcast to get a better sense of what’s going on here today. But let me quickly sum up Peter’s two reasons for why we can and must love, which are both connected to salvation. First, in verse 22, he talked about the responsive role we played in salvation—that we purified our souls by our obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love.

When we repented of our sin and began to follow Jesus, we began a journey behind Jesus’ bloody footprints down the Calvary road of sacrificial love. Being a Christian and loving others are inseparable.
The second reason is that we’ve been born again, not of perishable seed like the first time we were born, but of the imperishable seed of the living and abiding word of God. Which means that the people of God are your forever family, connected with eternal bonds that will outlast any human bond or connection.

This is a fairly major point that I’ve come back to throughout this week. Like we saw, this so challenges our tendency to think of physical realities here on earth as more real than the spiritual realities. But all along Peter has been pushing us in the opposite direction. Our heavenly inheritance is more real than any earthly inheritance, because it’s imperishable. The death of Jesus is more valuable than silver or gold, because it’s imperishable. And our spiritual family is more real and permanent than our physical family, because we were born again into it by imperishable seed.

And it hit me at some point this week that Peter is doing for family what Paul does for marriage in Ephesians 5. Paul shows us that human marriage, as wonderful and beautiful as it is, is just a picture of the eternal reality of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). When we think of Christ and the church, we shouldn’t think, “Oh, that’s kind of like a marriage,” as if human marriage is the real thing. Rather, we should see a good human marriage and think, “Oh, that’s kind of like Christ and the church,” because that’s the real thing, the permanent reality that will outlast all human marriage (Matthew 22:30).

Similarly, when Peter contrasts the perishable seed of our first birth with the imperishable seed of our second birth, he’s showing us that human reproduction and human family are a temporary pictures of the eternal reality of the family of God. We shouldn’t think of our brothers and sisters in Christ and think, “That’s kind of like a real family.” Rather, we should look at a human family and think, “Oh wow, that’s a picture of the real thing—the eternal family of God.”

And that’s Peter’s point—that we should love our brothers and sisters in Christ because that family is no less real than our earthly family, and in fact is going to outlast it by a factor of infinity.

Think of the comfort this would bring to people who were being rejected by their families for their faithfulness to Jesus (Matthew 10:34-37). Think of the challenge this would bring to people who might feel tempted to turn their backs on Jesus for the sake of keeping their families happy. Think of the encouragement this is to all of us to love each other well because we’re going to share eternity together.

That’s where this truth points us. And just in case it needs to be said, Peter is not telling us that now that we have a forever family, we don’t need to love our physical family any more. In fact, Peter’s argument makes sense because we love our physical families. If you love these people with whom you’re bound together by blood for several decades here on earth, then should you not love these people with whom you’re bound together by the eternal word of God for trillions and billions of years without end?

So I hope we don’t hear Peter saying things he’s not actually saying. I hope we know that there is a very important space in between worshipping our families as if they were everything, and ignoring our families as if they were nothing. We’re going to hear more about that space in chapter 3, where Peter shows husbands and wives how the gospel actually levels up their responsibilities to one another.

Now one final point, before we get into today’s text: let’s remember that all of these commands and instructions we’re going to hear today are written to people who have responded to Jesus because they’ve been born again.

If you are listening today and you have not responded to Jesus with repentance and faith, if you have not been born again, then this sermon is going to be nothing but a heavy burden to you. It’s going to feel crushing.

And if that’s what you experience today, perhaps that’s God showing you that you need to be born again. You need to repent of your sins and look to Christ who lived the life we should have lived but never could, and died the gruesome death we deserved in our place in order to buy us and forgive us and make us righteous in His sight.

And when we call on the name of the Lord, and are saved, we find that “his commandments are not burdensome” like 1 John 5:3 says—because we’ve been born of God. We might be challenged and warned and instructed but we shouldn’t be crushed, and we’ll find inside of us a joyful readiness to obey God, not because we’ve got anything to prove, not because we’re trying to earn anything, but because He’s our Father, He’s saved us by His grace, and now we want to please Him.

1. What Love Looks Like

So without losing sight of any of that, look with me now at verse 22 where we discover what love looks like.
We’ll pick up at the end of that first phrase, which is connected to that first reason for love we saw last week. Peter told us that we purified our souls by our obedience to the truth “for a sincere brotherly love.”


The first element there we learn about love and what it looks like is that it’s sincere. The word “sincere” is the opposite of “hypocritical.” In the original language that’s essentially what it means—without hypocrisy.
What this means is that love must be un-faked. It’s not something we pretend to do. As one author said, sincere love “comes from an open and genuine heart without ulterior motives. It does not deliberately put on a show.”1Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 564.

In other words, it’s the real deal. Anybody can fake love. Anybody can fake a smile. Anybody can pretend to be nice to other people in order to look good to other people. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve done that.

But the love that flows from a born-again heart is sincere. It loves even when nobody is watching and even when nobody is paying attention and even when there’s nothing in it for you. Christian love is sincere.

Brotherly Love

Second, this is a brotherly love. “Sincere brotherly love” says 1 Peter 1:22. In the original language, “brotherly love” comes from a single word which describes the kind of love that siblings in a family have for one another. And he’s reminding us that, because we’ve been born again by one father, that makes us family, and we’re to love one another with a sibling-to-sibling love.

I have a friend who moved to the states and began attending a Southern Baptist church. And before too long he began calling me “brother.” It kind of made me smile at first because it’s not something we do here culturally. But after thinking about it some more, I don’t think the address “brother” or “sister” is cute or funny. I think it’s wonderful and, most importantly, true.

What goes on on your heart when you look at another Christian? Do you see just another person at your church? Or do you see a brother or a sister? And do you love them that way? Even when it’s hard?
Isn’t it true that with our physical family, “brotherly love” often doesn’t mean “warm fuzzies”? People love their human family even when it’s hard, even when they’re driving you nuts, because it’s your family. You don’t just walk away.

Why don’t we love each other in the body of Christ that way? Why do people leave churches way easier than they leave families? What if brotherly love was less about how we felt and more about how we chose to be faithful to each other and care for each other because we’re family and that’s what we do?

The love we were saved to show is a brotherly love, flowing from the truth that being born again together makes us siblings in a forever family.

For One Another

The next phrase here in verse 22 is just the main command: “Love one another.”  There’s not much to add here except to show again the priority of Christians loving one another.

Peter’s focus here is not on our love for the world and those outside of the church. Not that we’re not supposed to love in that way. But, like we saw last week, in this passage Peter focuses on the relationship of exiles to each other.


The next word Peter uses is “earnestly.” We are not to love each other half-heartedly or casually but earnestly.

This word “earnestly” is used a few other times in the New Testament. The first time is in Luke 22. Jesus is in Gethsemane, staring down the cross, begging His Father for another way, if possible. And verse 44 says, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

The second time is Acts 12, where Peter himself had been arrested. And verse 5 says that “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5).

And this is the word Peter uses to describe our love for one another. The kind of word you use for Jesus’ praying before the cross. The kind of word you use for a church staying up late to beg God to free one of their beloved leaders. This word can describe eagerness and effort. It can also describe perseverance. It’s not something you give up on quickly.

And we’re to love one another that way.

Do you think it’s fair to say this should be a priority? This should be something we’re deliberate about? Something we don’t just fit in to our schedules, but something we build our schedules around? Something that makes us tired sometimes? Something that affects our budgets and our spending?
This is how we are to love one another: earnestly.

From a Pure Heart

Finally, we’re told that love must come from a pure heart. This is a similar idea to love being sincere. It suggests our motives our pure. We’re not out to get something. We’re not in it for ourselves. We’re not wanting people to notice us and praise us.

We’re loving our brothers and sisters because they are our brothers and sisters, because we’ve been born again by the same Father into the same family and this is what our Lord is calling us, empowering us, and making us want to do.

So this is what Christian love looks like. It’s sincere, brotherly, earnest, pure.

2. What Love Doesn’t Look Like

Now we’re going to look down at chapter 2 and notice the word “so” at the beginning. This is a connecting word, helping us see that this is not a new thought but one that’s connected to what’s come before.
And one way to explain this connection is that verse 1 is showing us what love does not look like. If we’re going to love our brothers and sisters well, these are the things we must get rid of. These are the weeds we need to pull out so that the garden can grow.

“So put away,” begins verse 1. This is what we need to “lay aside” or “take off” as this word can also be translated. Like taking off dirty clothes, these are the things we need to get rid of for the sake of love.


And Peter gives us a list. He begins with the word “malice.” This is connected with the word “evil” and points to the idea of an evil or bad intention towards someone. Wanting something bad to happen to them, or intending to do it yourself.

We might think, “I’d never do that. I’d never plan for evil things to happen to someone.” But has there ever been someone you just really don’t like, and you hear that something bad happens to them, and your response is a smug “serves them right”? Or you see someone struggling with something and it gives you a little bit of pleasure? Or you feel jealous of someone and enjoy hearing someone else criticize them?

I think we’ve probably all know the taste of malice. Which is why Peter tells us to put it all away. There should not be a drop of malice contaminating our love for our brothers and sisters.


The next word is deceit. Deceit has to do with treachery or craftiness or dishonesty. It’s the opposite of honesty and genuineness. It’s the opposite of speaking the truth in love. Deceit is when we ask someone how we can pray for them just so that we can find out what’s really going on in their life. Deceit is when we play tricks and games with our words and actions that hurt people. And all deceit—every last bit of it—we must put away.


The next word is hypocrisy. This is the opposite, like we’ve seen, of the word “sincere” up in verse 22. Hypocrisy has to do with pretence. Putting on a show.

Pretending to be all nice with someone when we’re actually gossiping about them behind their backs. Pretending to do good things for people when we’re actually just trying to make ourselves look good.
And God’s people are to put away hypocrisy. We are to love one another, not perform for one another.


Fourthly, we are to put away, put off, all envy. This one might hit a bit closer to home than the others. Maybe we don’t struggle as much with malice and deceit and hypocrisy, but when we see what other people have, it’s easy for us to want it. We look around our church community and see other people’s homes, hobbies, health, kids, cars, careers, brains, bodies, beauty, salaries, spouses, lifestyles, lack of suffering, abilities, opportunities, and we want it.

Envy drives so many other sins in our heart. Envy is fundamentally a lack of faith in God. Like jealous kids at Christmas, we’re checking out what our Father gave His other kids and we’re not so sure he’s been quite as fair to us. And we want what we don’t have.

It’s not hard to see how envy fights against love. It’s hard to be generous to someone whom you’re envious of. It’s hard to pray for them and genuinely care about them when you want what they have. When you’ve envious of someone it’s so easy to secretly rejoice when bad things happen to them or act hypocritically around them.

Envy is poison to brotherly love. And Peter tells us to get rid of it like the dirty rag it is.


Finally, he tells us to get rid of all slander. There’s some discussion about the difference between slander and gossip, but in general this word is pointing to using our words to hurt people. That’s why the King James Version translates this word as “evil speakings.” Whether it’s talking to someone or about someone, this is about using our words in harmful ways.

Slander does so much damage to relationships between Christians, doesn’t it? Slander does so much damage to churches, doesn’t it? We’ve experienced its poison here at our church, but sadly I’m not sure how unique we are in that.

And it shouldn’t be that way. Slander is hostile to brotherly love and Christians are called to put it all away. There should be not a hint of slander among us as we walk in love with one another.

And that concludes Peter’s list. We’ve seen what love looks like—sincere, earnest brotherly love for one another from a pure heart. We’ve now just seen what love does not look like, and what we must put off if we’re going to love—all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, all slander.

And finally, as our last stop in this passage, Peter points to the need for us to cultivate and nourish our spiritual life from which genuine love flows.

3. How Love Grows

“Like newborn infants,” he says in verse 2, “long for the pure spiritual milk.”
Maybe this seems like it comes out of the blue to you. In the original language, this is actually the main command in these first few verses in chapter 2.

“Putting away all malice, etc, like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk.” This is very connected with what’s gone on before.

Let’s just deal with a few important ideas here so that we can understand this. First, Peter tells us to crave milk like newborn infants. In this context, this is not a rebuke. There’s other places in Scripture, like Hebrews 6, where babies drinking milk is a picture of being immature. Like, you should be on to meat by now.

Here, Peter’s point is that we crave something good. And babies craving milk is a great picture of that. Babies want milk, and they want it five minutes ago, and they’ll use all of their powers to let you know that until they get it.

There is a connection between the idea of being born again and being a baby craving milk. But again, Peter is not rebuking his readers for being immature but encouraging them to do something positive.
What they’re supposed to do is “long for” or crave “the pure spiritual milk,” as the ESV text says. What is that talking about? What is the “pure spiritual milk”?

The word Peter uses here for “spiritual” is the same word Paul uses in Romans 12:1 for our “spiritual” worship. It’s a word used by secular Greek writers for something that is logical or which lines up with reality.
And so, without doing a whole Greek word study for you here this morning, the general sense here is that Peter is telling us to crave that which sustains and nourishes our new life in Christ. To grow spiritually you need to crave spiritual milk which are the things that will cause you to mature in Christ.

So what does that include? A big part of that is going to be the Bible. The word of God is going to sustain and nourish our new life in Christ.

But I also think we know that God’s design for us to be nourished in Christ is not just us sitting in a corner reading the Bible by ourselves. There are other God-given means of nourishing our spiritual life, such as, what we’re doing right now. Such as prayer, on our own and with others. Such as meeting together to stir each other up to love and good works.

These are all things which God has given us to nourish our growth in Christ. And Peter says to crave these things like babies crave milk.

Because we need this nourishment to “grow up into salvation” as the rest of verse 2 says. You’ll remember that Peter uses the word “salvation” not just to talk about when we first “got saved,” but to the ongoing process of salvation that God is working out in us (1 Peter 1:9).

And here we see that salvation is something that we need to grow up into. This phrase points to Christian maturity. Not staying stuck in one spot but growing in holiness and our love for each other.
See how this comes back to love? Verse 22 said that loving one another was one of the goals of our salvation. And so here, we’re told to grow up into salvation so that we can love one another in the ways that have been described here for us.

And the way we grow up into salvation is by craving the God-given nourishment that will make us grow. Everything God has given us in His word or described to us in His word that we need for maturity in Christ.
Verse 3 finishes this thought off in a very interesting place—“if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” This language comes from Psalm 34, where David celebrates the way God saved him when he was living in the land of the Philistines. Like Peter’s readers, like us, David was an exile at that time. And God kept him safe. God rescued him. And David encourages the congregation to “taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8).

Being a Christian isn’t just a box we check off on a survey. Knowing the Lord’s kindness is like tasting good food. It gives us joy. We rave about it to other people. We feel satisfied by it.

And Peter is saying that if we’ve tasted God’s salvation—if, like David, we’ve tasted and seen His goodness to us, and experienced the joy and satisfaction that comes from it—then we’re going to keep on craving the nourishment of the Lord that will cause us to keep on growing up into salvation that spills out into love for others.

The word “if” here is interesting and important. Some translations flatten this out by saying things like “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good,” as the NIV says. But that short-circuits and important process. Peter uses the word “if” here to draw his readers into the logic of his argument. “If I’ve indeed tasted that the Lord is good, shouldn’t I be hungry for more?”

By saying this, he’s not trying to plant doubts in people’s minds. Because if we really do know the Lord, we’ll answer this with a “yes!” And confidently respond to Peter’s invitation to crave the things that will nourish our spiritual growth, so that we can grow up into a salvation full of rich, sincere brotherly love for one another.


So, we’ve walked our way through the passage. And often at this point we as a question like, “what are you and I supposed to do with a passage like this today?” Today, that’s easy, right? We’re supposed to do it. These are commands, given to God’s children, for them to obey, by faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus died and rose again to give us.

And I don’t want to imagine for a moment that I could improve on the Apostle Peter. What he wrote here was enough for us, and we just need to obey it.

But perhaps let me brave enough to give you a few encouragements on the path of love. Three encouragements to put this passage to work.

First, let’s be committed to loving one another this way even when we don’t feel like it. One of the futile ways we’ve inherited from our forefathers here in the west is that your feelings are a reliable guide to reality. If you feel like something is true, it must be true. If you feel like something is too hard, it must be too hard. If you don’t feel like doing something, you’re not supposed to do it.

And if we applied those ideas to love, we’d never do it. Lots of times we won’t feel like loving people this way. And that doesn’t matter. Peter’s words aren’t based on our feelings. They’re based in our salvation. So don’t wait around to feel like this is true. Just obey. Let your actions lead your heart, and not the other way around.

Second, don’t wait for other people to love you first before you love them. That’s a game we often play, like chicken. We wait for other people to speak up, other people to initiate, other people to walk over to us before we’ll talk to them. Let’s ditch that idea. Let’s follow Christ, who took the initiative to love us while we were yet sinners. Be the person you wish other people were for you. Love like this.

Third, don’t expect it to be easy. Where did love land Jesus? On the cross. And as we take up our crosses to follow him down the path of sacrificial love, it’s not going to be easy.

Some of the sacrifice of love will be obvious. Some of it will not be obvious. Maybe you’re introverted, and just coming to church and sticking around to talk to people is a major sacrifice for you. It costs you and you go home exhausted.

Maybe you’re extroverted and staying home by yourself to make a meal for someone is the challenge to you. None of this is bad. Hard does not equal bad. Feel the roughness of the cross on your shoulder and keep asking the Holy Spirit to empower your sacrificial love, knowing that there’s a resurrection on the side of every death.

And so, Emmanuel Baptist Church, “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).

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