Chapter Nine


Finding another fellow member of the church in a foreign country commonly results in instant bonding. As you are visiting this strange place with a strange culture and unfamiliar language, when you find another American Christian you find someone with whom you share an instant identity. You may both hold many differences, but if you are members of the church, nothing else matters. All that matters is that both of you as baptized believers are devoted to the Lord and His word.

What you feel and experience goes far deeper, far beyond making a new good friend. The willingness to help each other, to meet needs, to assist in distress, and to do things together is phenomenal. It is truly like unexpectedly finding a member of your family in a strange place where you did not belong and felt lonely. Immediately you feel like you know each other. Immediately your begin discovering and sharing all the things you have in common. Immediately you begin identifying mutual friends. And in all this commonality there is a refreshing joy, openness, and acceptance.

When you experience this, there is absolutely no doubt in your mind that is possible and that it is occurring for one reason alone--the bond that the two of you share in Christ.

We have been examining what it means to love God. First, we found that if we are to love God, we must have a personal vertical relationship with God. We must reach up to establish a close, personal, real relationship with God and maintain that relationship. Second, we must reach out to create a horizontal relationship of love with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

In examining the importance of loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have examined what John said about the urgency of loving our fellow Christians, and what Paul said about the necessity of loving our fellow Christians. This morning we want to look at what Peter said about Christians loving each other.

  1. First, I would like for you to turn with me to the epistle of I Peter.
    1. In 1 Peter chapter one.
      1. After the introduction, Peter begins by stressing the incredible blessings God has given the Christian through the resurrection of Jesus.
        1. A living hope.
        2. An incorruptible, undefiled inheritance.
        3. An inheritance that cannot fade away.
        4. A reserved personal inheritance for the Christian.
        5. The power of God is guarding the Christian through his faith to keep his salvation secure.
      2. Peter declares that the existence of their severe trials does not disprove the reality of these blessings.
        1. The trials are only refining their faith and making their future praise, glory, and honor that much more certain.
      3. He assures them that the Old Testament prophets yearned to have the relationship with God the Christian possesses.
      4. He then declares that they need to be very serious about their salvation.
        1. They must be obedient children of God who refuse to live their old lives of sin.
        2. They must dedicate themselves to living holy lives because their heavenly father is holy.
        3. They accept their salvation in all soberness because they understand that they were bought from their slavery with the precious blood of Jesus.
        4. It is Jesus who made it possible for them to place their faith and their hope in God.
      5. Now listen carefully to his statement in verses 22 and 23; Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently; having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth.
        1. First, I want to call your attention to a fact that is easily overlooked.
        2. Many of us have heard verse 22 read in sermons and lessons many, many times.
        3. If the lesson was about obedience, we heard the fact that our souls are purified by obeying the truth stressed.
        4. If the lesson was on Christian love, we have heard the fact stressed that we must love our brother with sincere love, not pretended love.
        5. Many of us have heard verse 23 read in sermons and lessons many, many times.
          1. If the lesson was about conversion, we heard the facts stressed that we are begotten by an incorruptible seed.
          2. If the sermon was about the power of sufficiency of Scripture, we heard the facts stressed that God's word is incorruptible and that it lives and endures.
        6. All of those facts are true, and they are all found in the two verses.
          1. However if those facts are not coupled together, as they certainly are in the passage, one will not see the point Peter was making.
          2. The point Peter was making is extremely important: we must see the relationship between obeying the truth, loving each other, and having been begotten by the word which is incorruptible, living, and abiding.
          3. The interesting thing about these two verses is found in the fact that each is often taught, but they are rarely taught together.
      6. Let's take a moment to analyze the passage.
        1. First, let's say what Peter said in a simple statement: Because you have purified your souls by obeying the truth resulting in sincere love for other Christians, fervently love each other from the heart. It is possible for you to love each other in that manner because you have been born again through the power of God's eternal, living, and enduring word.
        2. In the context of the passage, there is an undeniable, direct relationship between purifying the soul and loving your fellow Christian, and between having been born again and loving your fellow Christian.
          1. Purification of the soul will produce love for your fellow Christian.
          2. Being born again will produce love for your fellow Christian.
          3. Loving fellow Christians is the natural end result of purification and being born again.
      7. Let's approach the point Peter is making from another direction.
        1. Consider two men or women who are not related to each other, hardly know each other, have not been friends, and have very little in common.
        2. What will keep these two persons from loving each other as though they were truly family and belonged to each other?
        3. I think most of us would immediately answer that question with what seems to be the obvious--they don't know each other, they` have no family tie, and they can't relate to each other.
        4. Peter says the problem runs much deeper than that.
        5. Let me illustrate the problem runs much deeper than that.
          1. There are Christians who are assembled here this morning who could not call each other's name.
            1. You have never visited each other.
            2. You have no physical family ties.
            3. And your lives have almost nothing in common.
            4. You might not even recognize each other outside this assembly.
          2. One of you could have a tragic accident and be in grave condition in the hospital.
          3. I could call a member who did not know the accident victim, tell you something terrible had happened, tell you that I really needed your help for a little while, and ask you to go with me to the hospital to be with the family.
          4. Would you go? The vast majority of you would if at all possible.
          5. Let me tell you how you would act when we got to the hospital.
            1. Most of you would tell a frightened, grieving family member who you were and that you worshiped here.
            2. Most of you would hug, hold, put an arm around, or hold a hand of that person.
            3. Most of you would listen, seek to comfort, reassure, understand.
            4. Most of you would stay for a good while, and you would stay indefinitely if you sensed you were really needed.
            5. If the family needed you to go check on the kids, you would go--you well might even ask if you could take the kids for a little while.
            6. If they were hungry, you would get them something to eat.
            7. If something needed to be taken care of in their home, you would do what you could to attend to it.
            8. When you did leave, you would keep in touch, you would stay informed.
          6. My point is that two Christians who do not know each other, do not have family ties, and have nothing in common in their earthly lives can and often do show an uncommon love and concern for one another.
          7. So I ask the question again: what keeps two strangers from loving each other as brothers and sisters?
            1. If I understand Peter correctly, the barrier is the sinful natures of the persons--the ungodliness within.
              1. It is the selfish, skeptical, "lookout for number one" nature of thesinner.
              2. It is the "I love those who loveme" philosophy of the godless.
              3. It is the evil heart within that looks at this stranger.
          8. What enables two strangers to love each otherlike brothers or sisters?
            1. If I understand Peter, pure hearts enable people to love like that.
            2. What does that mean?
            3. A person who has experienced divine forgiveness, who is profoundly grateful for that forgiveness, and who feels clean because of that forgiveness, looks at and sees other forgiven people differently.
            4. He has been touched on the deepest level of existence by his new role model, Jesus, and he begins to see people like Jesus saw people.
        6. Peter is saying that my capacity to love another Christian sincerely, unpretentiously is dependent on the purity of my own heart.
          1. If I have been cleansed by responding in obedience to the truth, that cleansing creates the capacity to love my fellow Christians.
          2. Let me illustrate it in another way: What kind of Christian has the ability to lie to and deceive another Christian, to exploit him, to abuse him, to use him, to take unjust advantage of him, to deliberately do evil to him, and to speak hatefully about him?
          3. A Christian with an evil heart.
          4. Can a Christian with a pure heart do any of those things to another Christian? Certainly not.
        7. It is the purity of my heart that dictates the quality of my love for other Christians.
      8. As a Christian, I am capable of loving another Christian in this manner because I have been born again.
        1. Through forgiveness, redemption, and justification, I have become a different person.
        2. It is not my former sinful instincts that determine how I treat a fellow Christian.
        3. It is my new existence in which I am learning and understanding through God's eternal word how to be that different person.
    2. In chapter 2:11 Peter begins a section of admonitions to Christians.
      1. He begins by charging them not to let the lusts and desires of their former sinful lives rule them.
        1. They are to live the kinds of lives that force the unbelievers to see and appreciate the good they do.
      2. Now listen to Peter in verses 13-17. (Read)
      3. These are specific things that the Christian is going to do because (1) it is God's will for him to do it, and (2) by doing these good things he is going to silence the criticism of ignorant, foolish people.
      4. What are these things which are the will of God for him to do?
        1. He is going to obey the law of the land.
        2. He is going to be respectful of those who are in authority.
        3. He is going to treat everyone with respect.
        4. He is going to love the brotherhood.
        5. He is going to express reverence for God.
        6. He is going to respect the king.
      5. Please note that it is the will of God that Christians love Christians everywhere, and such love is necessary to silence the criticism of unbelievers.
    3. Peter closes this same section of admonitions in verses 8 and 9. (Read)
      1. Listen to the same passage from the NIV: Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do no repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
      2. There are some things that only love empowers us to do.
        1. Without brotherly love, it is impossible for us to live in harmony, to be compassionate, to be tenderhearted, and to be humble.
        2. Without brotherly love, it is impossible for me to keep from doing evil to a brother who has done evil to me, or to refrain from insulting a brother who has insulted me.
        3. Without brotherly love I cannot give a blessing to my brother in repayment for his injury.
        4. With brotherly love, it is possible to do all of that.
        5. With brotherly love, I have powerful reason to do those things--God has promised me a rich inheritance of blessings if I dare to be a blessing to others as his child on earth.
    4. In 2 Peter 1:5-7 Peter gives what we have named the Christian graces.
      1. These attributes are the venue to spiritual maturity and stability.
      2. In verse 8-11 he states that we develop these spiritual attributes:
        1. We will not be idle in God's kingdom.
        2. We will not be spiritually unfruitful.
        3. We will make our calling and election sure.
        4. We will never stumble.
        5. We will enter the eternal kingdom.
      3. If we fail to develop these attributes we will be afflicted with spiritual blindness which limits our sight only to the near things of this world.
        1. We will also forget that we have been cleansed from sins.
      4. What are these eight attributes? Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly kindness--brotherly love-brotherly affection, and love.
  2. As a church, as a community of God's children, it has always been our avowed objective not to become a denomination.
    1. When understood, that is a wonderful, worthy objective truly deserving of serious commitment.
      1. As the years pass, my concern grows deeper and deeper that we do not understand either the objective nor what it means to avoid denominationalism.
      2. In steadfastly rejecting doctrines based on human reasoning which rejects the clear teaching of God's word, we have led ourselves into a false conviction.
      3. Too many of us have come to falsely believe that we guarantee that we are not denominational if we just reject doctrines not based in Scripture.
        1. Too many have thought if they could identify every non- Biblical teaching, that guaranteed they were not denominational.
        2. However, that is not true.
        3. You can be 100% correct in your beliefs and still be very denominational.
        4. When as Christ's body we define our nature and form our self-perception by denominational concepts, we are denominational.
        5. Being denominational has as much to do with how we perceive ourselves as it does with what we believe.
      4. Let me give you some specific examples.
        1. There has long been a trend in a number of denominational churches to reduce the number of religious assemblies.
        2. There has long been a trend to reduce collective and private Bible study.
        3. There has long been a trend for less involvement among the members.
        4. The end result is an enormous reduction in the true sense of family of God which has been replaced by the concept of an organization with social association.
          1. The church becomes a people who politely associate, hold casual acquaintances, who impersonally fulfill a divine responsibility.
          2. There is great emphasis on reverencing God, and polite emphasis on caring about each other.
          3. It ceases to be a commitment to brotherly love, sincere family of God, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice, and tender affection based on respect.
      5. Too many of us would love for us to redefine ourselves in the same manner.
        1. A number of us would be delighted if we discontinued Wednesday evening Bible Study.
        2. A number would rejoice if we discontinued Sunday evening worship.
        3. A number would be very pleased is we found a way to abbreviate Sunday morning assemblies.
        4. There are those who would regard it progress if we discontinued Sunday morning Bible classes.
        5. In truth, a number of us have already done many of those things--for some of us act as if these assemblies did not even occur.
      6. To make such changes would not be denominational because there are other religious groups who have done that .
        1. To make such changes would be denominational because to do such exchanges the Bible concepts of God's loving, interacting family who is deeply involved in each other's lives for a non-Biblical concept of a polite, uninvolved association.
      7. Someone says, "Aw, nobody notices that, and it doesn't affect anything."
        1. One of the most common compliments I hear about this congregation is based on its generosity and level of caring.
        2. You better believe people notice how many bridal showers, how many baby showers, how much aid to the sick, the care extended the dying, how much special support occurs in the congregation.
        3. You better believe that people take note when new families move in and automatically get involved with such activities when they have not even had time to get to know people.
    2. To be a loving, successful family is costly.
      1. Love often brings pain.
      2. Love always brings sacrifice.
      3. Love always generates inconvenience.
      4. Love always involves hard work.
      5. Love constantly demands that you consider those you love.
    3. But love is worth the price--it produces the greatest rewards in this life.
      1. What it adds to your life nothing else can give you.
      2. What it produces in the lives of others represents your greatest and most meaningful accomplishments.
    4. There are four certain ways to guarantee the church ceases to be the family of God.
      1. Ignorance of the Bible.
      2. Misunderstanding of the Bible.
      3. Rejection of the authority of Christ.
      4. Failure to love each other as brothers and sisters.

I do not care how much knowledge of the Bible a person has, if he does not love his Christian brothers and sisters, he is immature and spiritually undeveloped. I do not care how much Scripture a Christian can quote or how many good deeds he does, if he does not love his Christian brothers and sisters, he is immature and spiritually undeveloped.

Peter makes it quite clear: The result of my having a purified heart and being spiritually born again is the genuine, unpretending love of God's other children.

transcribed by Christy Hesslen
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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