Divine Grace Productive of Brotherly Love
William Nicholson, 1862
"Now that you have purified your souls by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." 1 Peter 1:22
One of the most distinguished peculiarities of Christianity is, that it suggests entirely new motives to action. The inducements which reason might offer, would be weak and inefficient. Those identified with Christianity, and those alone, are capable of restraining the passions, and of regulating their conduct.
The love of Christ, for instance, displayed in his sufferings and death, is a powerful motive to holy action and devotedness to promote the good of mankind. The direct influence of the grace of God upon the soul, is love to the Author of spiritual existence, and intense solicitude for the welfare of brethren in the Lord, and for the salvation of those yet afar off by wicked works.
How beautiful is Christianity when experimentally felt, and when practically exhibited by brotherly and philanthropic love!
I. The Operation of Divine Grace, as Here Expressed.The people addressed were Christians, verse 1, 2, 3, etc.
1.They had "obeyed the truth." By the "truth" is meant the Gospel, which is a revelation of divine mercy to sinful man, through the mediation of Jesus Christ. It proposes to the fallen and perishing sinner — reconciliation with God, the removal of guilt and fear, on the condition of repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
By "obeying the truth," we are to understand a compliance with those conditions. Further, it is implied,
(1.) They had become acquainted with "the truth" in its representations of themselves as guilty sinners — and of Jesus Christ as a gracious, willing, and Almighty Savior. They had heard it preached, they studied it, they searched the Scriptures. Their minds were enlightened and convinced of the "truth."
(2.) They deeply felt their need of the provisions of grace announced by the truth. It announced that Jesus "came into the world to save sinners." They felt they were sinners. It announced that he "came to seek and to save that which was lost." They felt they were lost. It announced Christ as a Physician. They felt themselves sick. If Christ was announced as . . .
the Light of the world,
the illuminating Prophet,
the atoning Priest,
the Sovereign Redeemer,
the Fountain of Purification,
or the subjugating King —
they felt their need of him in all his offices of grace, and in all his prerogatives of mercy.
(3.) They had followed or "obeyed" the directions of the truth. It is the glory of the Gospel that it solves the mighty problem, "What must I do to be saved?"
Did it say, "Repent?" They abhorred themselves as in dust and ashes. They regretted the past. They confessed their sins with godly contrition. The wicked forsook his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and returned unto God, etc.
Did it say, "Believe?" Humbly, thankfully, earnestly, they fled to the cross to lay hold on the hope set before them. They lost their self-righteousness there. They looked up to the dying Sufferer, to the vicarious sacrifice; they looked and lived. Their sins were all absolved there, the burden of guilt dropped from their souls there. They were completely justified there, and there, at the altar of the cross, the still, small voice of the Spirit whispered to their souls, "Your sins are forgiven, go in peace."
Thus "the truth "was not merely admired, credited, applauded, recommended, or defended and supported — but it was "obeyed." And this is no less than "believing;" that great principle placed in the soul by the Omnipotent energy of the Holy Spirit, and which principle, as a key, opens the storehouse of grace and Heaven, and which, by connecting with Christ, conquers sin, death, and the grave.
2.The effect of this obedience.
(1.) Purification of soul. And this is important; without it no man can see the Lord. "Now that you have purified your souls by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." It has not been effected by yourselves; you are saved by grace; the Spirit has brought the ministry of truth home to your hearts; it has directed you to the Fountain of purification, and by the blood of Christ you have been cleansed from all sin.
It is not mere outward reformation, a regulation of conduct, a course of action adopted to maintain our reputation and respect in the world; it is not mere form or profession, or charitable deeds designed to commend us to God. No. It is purification of soul. Obeying the truth, or faith in Christ, produces it. Faith cannot exist without producing purity! Acts 15:8, 9; 1 John 3:3. If purity does not characterize a profession of the Gospel, there is no saving faith — but a dead faith, James 2:19, 20; Titus 2:11, 12.
(2.) Sincere love of the brethren. All believers are styled "the family of God;" they are brethren in the Lord. God is their father, Christ their Redeemer and the Head of the family. They are all united to him by faith — they believe the same doctrines, realize the same joys; they are traveling in the same path to the same glorious Heaven, where they hope to live in sweet and holy fellowship forever and ever. It is natural, therefore, that they should love one another. "Faith works by love." Grace in the heart removes prejudice, disaffection, and disinclination to communion with the saints. Love is an undeniable evidence of regeneration. 1 John i:7, 11, 12, 20, 21.
3.The agency by which these effects were produced. The influence of the Spirit is a first cause of participation in Divine grace. To effect this, Christ promised to send the Comforter. See John 16:7, etc. The text says, "through the Spirit." "It is not by might, it is not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord." "It is the Spirit that quickens." All gifts and graces are communicated by the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. Purity is produced by the Spirit, Romans 8:13. And "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Galatians 5:22.
II. The Exhortation of the Apostle in Consequence of Such Gracious Operation."Now that you have purified your souls by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart."
1. Let brotherly love be exercised with sincerity, from the heart; for the Spirit cannot produce that which is otherwise. Brotherly love is not mere respect, mere politeness, courteousness, or civility, though these are essential to Christian character. It is not a mere profession of friendship before the face, etc. It is sincere love; it really exists as a constituent part of Christian brotherhood.
2. It is to be exercised with a "pure heart." How many unite in church fellowship, actuated by impure motives:
to promote their secular interest,
to advance their own honor,
to display their talent,
to spread their fame!
But the sincere soul acts from purity of motive. He is in the Church because it accords with the Divine will; he is there to promote his own happiness, to get good from his brethren, and to do them good. "That I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me," said Paul.
3. Brotherly love is to be deep and fervent. "With a pure heart fervently." An intense and burning love to the brethren. Thus Christian love must be impartial, and it must be universal. James 2:1-6. It must be "in deed and in truth," not professing and promising — but also performing acts of kindness. See 1 John 3:18.
1. Are we the subjects of these gracious operations?
2. If we have no sincere love to brethren — we are not fit for the kingdom of Heaven.