I Peter 1:22-25, The Christian’s New Way of Life: Purity, Truth and Love

All through life


By Spencer D Gear

A. Introduction

Would you please suggest to me three major characteristics of a Christian’s new way of  life after becoming a Christian.  What should a Christian lifestyle be like?  If you had never ever seen a Christian, what major character traits would you see?  Just three of them please!  [I’ll wait.]

You may not remember the name, Tertullian, but he was one of the great defenders of the faith in the early church.  He was an apologist.  He was born about A.D. 160 to a Roman centurion in Carthage (Northern Africa).  He wrote these words:

It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for [they] themselves are animated by mutual hatred; [of us they say,] how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death. And they are wrath with us, too, because we call each other brethren.[2]

We have come to the last 3 verses in I Peter 1, and we have some teaching here on three aspects of biblical Christianity that are under as much threat in Australia today as they were in Asia Minor (Turkey) in the first century.

Based on I Peter 1:22-25, the message from this passage is: The Christian’s New Way of Life: Purity, Truth & Love.

Note what is happening in Australia today with this new way of life.

Purity: We want our waterways to be clear and to provide pure & clean water.  But as for the moral slide of our country, we are heading towards God’s judgment with loose living.  We might call it sex, love and rock ‘n roll, but God calls it sexual immorality.

“In Melbourne [in July 2003] . . . the Uniting Church of Australia voted to allow homosexual ministers. They are the first (but probably not the last) Australian church to do so.”[3]

As for truth, I was in a public meeting in Bundaberg a few years ago when the speaker said, “There are no such things as absolutes.” I challenged him and a person in the audience challenged me: “There are no absolutes.”  And you know what?  He was absolutely sure about that.  When we proclaim, “There are no absolutes,” it means that there is no such thing as truth, no right, no wrong.  And that’s an absolute in itself.

The current culture has experienced a paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism. Postmodern thought is a rejection of absolute, objective truth. One author described the changes this way: “Permanence and solidity in social structures are now bygone commodities, not to mention abiding values and the concept of truth. . .”[4]

Don Matzat puts it so well:

The concept of error or wrong has been removed from the postmodern vocabulary with one exception – it is wrong to say that someone’s world view, religion, culture, philosophy or experience is wrong. The only absolute truth that exists in the postmodern mentality is that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and as far as the postmodern scholar is concerned, that is absolutely true.[5]

Matzat continues:

Our culture is saying truth is no longer that which corresponds with reality. Truth emerges out of a specific community or culture. Christians have their truth. Muslims have their truth. The New Age advocates have their truth.

Individually, truth is that which will produce a better reality for me or give me an excuse for having messed up my present reality. It is my truth if it works for me.[6]

What about love today in Australia?  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics

The [year] 2002 crude marriage rate of 5.4 marriages per 1,000 population represented the second lowest marriage rate on record, following 5.3 per 1,000 in 2001. The highest crude marriage rate ever recorded was 12.0 per 1,000 in 1942. The crude marriage rate has been declining since 1970. This decline in the marriage rate can be mainly attributed to changes in attitudes to marriage and living arrangements that have occurred since then.[7]

Note what the Australian Bureau of Statistics says about de facto relationships: “Between 1996 and 2001 the census count of people aged 15 years and over in de facto marriages rose by 28% from 744,100 to 951,500.”[8]  They are not marriages at all.  They are de facto relationships.  About one million of them in the year 2001.

You talk to a 16-17 year old down the street and ask them about love and the most likely response you’ll get will be something about sex.  A 16-year-old young man told me a few weeks ago that he was “sexually active” with his 15-year-old girlfriend.  The Scriptures call it sexual immorality.

Let’s unpack I Peter 1:22-25, The Christian’s New Way of Life: Purity, Truth & Love, to see how our society measures up.  What would God say to Australia today from this passage of Scripture?

B.  This salvation brings a new way of life: purity, truth and love (v. 22)

Please observe three things that Peter says about this new way of life through Christ’s salvation.

1. First, this is the “state” of Christians: “You have purified yourselves” (v. 22)

¨ This is not a ceremonial, ritual cleansing like the Hebrew sacrificial system.  It is not physical cleansing of their bodies.  These believers knew that “to purify” meant “moral purity.”

+ This is what James meant in 4:8: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

+ Or a John wrote in 1 John 3:3, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

¨ “You have purified” is difficult to translate into English because we don’t have an exact representation of this Greek perfect tense in English.  But it means that this purifying began in the past [at salvation] and is continuing now for the believer.

¨ A believer who is not morally pure is a contradiction in terms.  These Gentile believers had come from a very loose lifestyle in Asia Minor, but they had been redeemed.  This meant that their moral way of life was radically different from the mainstream of society.

¨ If you call yourself Christian, your lifestyle of purity is different than for normal Aussies.  This is the lifestyle of difference – moral purity.  This does not mean that your moral failures in the past cannot be changed.  In fact, the Christian life is one of moral purity that stands out from the way of the world.

How do believers who may have lived a previously immoral lifestyle attain moral purity?

Second, It starts at salvation, but v. 22 tells us the means for it to continue. . .

2. By obeying the truth

¨ What is truth?  Here, it is obedience to the truth of God’s word.  When believers  live a life of obedience to God’s Word, they will live a life of purity.

¨ In Acts 15:9, Peter spoke on behalf of Gentile Christians and said: “[God] made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”

¨ When we read and study the Bible, we discover that

+ God’s view of sexuality is: no sex until marriage and faithfulness in marriage.

+De facto relationships are not God’s way to purity.  All de facto relationships are outside of God’s rules for moral purity.

+Please understand that moral purity means more than just sexuality.  What are the morals about right and wrong in working for your boss?  What about obeying government?  If you go to I Peter 2:1, you’ll see some more examples of moral impurity that must be gone from the Christian life.  We cannot be malicious towards others; we must get rid of all deceit in our lives.  Hypocrisy (saying one thing and doing another) must have no part in the Christian life.  Moral purity means that we are not envious of anything or anyone.  Slander of every kind must be gone from the Christian’s life.

Brothers and sisters, this Christian life is one of challenge and change.  If we act morally like the world, our Christian life must be questioned.

How do we purify ourselves?  “By obeying the truth.”  I have a grave concern for the current generation of evangelical Christians.  Forget about the liberals.  They don’t preach the Gospel or support the authoritative Word of God, so we can’t deal with them as Christians.

However, if  we have been born again and the Word of God is not faithfully preached from our pulpits, what chance do God’s people have of “obeying the truth” from what is preached from the pulpit?  Desley and I have visited way too many supposedly evangelical churches who do not obey what Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:1-2): “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

This is an awesome charge for anyone who dares to teach any of God’s people: Preach the Word.  Not preach your own opinion.  Preach what the text says.

I was leading a church service recently and asked the preacher to share with me his sermon topic so that I could build the service around his theme.  This is what he emailed me: “I will be preaching, talking, arguing, speaking or even some would say waffling from [and he mentioned the passage] roughly within the limits.”[9]

If Christians are “to purify themselves,” it must be through “obeying the truth” of God’s Word.  You can’t obey what you don’t know.  Therefore preaching the Word of God and not my human opinion is critical in churches today.  Just as important is getting a daily dose of God’s Word in your own lives.  How many of you have a consistent, daily, systematic reading of God’s Word?  Honest now?  How many of you meditate on God’s Word and its application to your lives daily.  I do not know how we can maintain a life of purity in a wicked world without getting God’s view from his word – daily!

If you use the KJV, you will note that it reads: “obeying the truth through the Spirit.”  The words, “through the Spirit” were in some of the MSS at the time the KJV was translated in 1611, but older MSS, closer to the time of the apostles, have been found and they do not include the words, “through the Spirit.”  However, we can understand why a scribe might have added “through the Spirit” and it is “correct enough but it is not a part of the text”[10] according to the best and oldest MSS evidence.

If you . . .

  •  First, purify yourselves by
  •  Second, obeying the truth of God’s word, what will happen?  There will be a result.

3. Third, you will “have sincere love for your brothers” (v. 22)

The Greek word for “brothers” means brothers and sisters in Christ.

The first Christians shared their goods and helped one another. Their common love for Jesus led them to love one another as Jesus commanded, thus allowing them to live in harmony and peace with one another. Seeing this, non-believers remarked, ‘See how they loved one another.'”[11]

Remember Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels (Matt. 22:35-39):

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

When we love God, purify ourselves by obeying the truth, there will be worldview difference in the way we love.  This is actually a command to love one another that doesn’t show up in the NIV.

Yes, we are commanded to love our non-Christian neighbours.  Peter says one of the defining differences among the Christian community is not only that we are commanded to “love our brothers and sisters, ” but also that “you [must] have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

“Sincere love” here means “unhypocritical (unfeigned, sincere, honest) brotherly affection.” It means “not wearing a mask such as ancient actors wore on the stage to represent some fictitious character.  There is always the danger that we pretend like an actor instead of having actual affection.” [12]  This is not agape love, but philia love.

Here, Peter is teaching what John taught in 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

1 John 4:19-21:

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

What does loving one another without a hypocritical mask look like in this group of Christians?

  •  Sometimes our love towards another is not appreciated and is met with coldness, and maybe is rebuffed.  That’s no reason to stop loving.
  •  I know that some people seem to be more lovable than others.  But this verse does not say: “Love your brother and sister if they are lovable.”
  •  Peter wants us to love one another without half-heartedness.
  •  Remove all evil thoughts and feelings from your hearts towards other brothers and sisters.
  •  Love needs to have a free reign to demonstrate its genuineness.
  •  All impurity conflicts with God’s gospel of truth.
  •  There must be absolute truth in our relationships.  We mean what we say and say what we mean.
  •  Are there factions and divisions among you.  You can’t truly love your brothers and sisters in Christ if strife continues between you.  Make it right today, in the name of Jesus, if such exists in this fellowship.

Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  This is the litmus test of discipleship.  Do you know the Lord?  Are you a disciple of Christ?  Do you love one another in this church?  Or are there tension, factions and strife?  If we do not love one another, we are not demonstrating biblical discipleship to other Christians and to a watching world.

This salvation brings a new way of life: purity, truth and love (v. 22)

C.  Why should we have purity, truth and love in our new way of life?

v. 23: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

¨ You have been born again – we are familiar with this language, but what does it mean?  We have been born into God’s family.  That’s why we are brothers and sisters.

Not perishable, but imperishable seed.  What does that mean?  When I plant a cane stalk, the cane disintegrates, it perishes, in the ground in order to produce another plant, which is also perishable.  However, when the seed of God’s word, the gospel, is planted in your life and you accept it, it becomes imperishable seed, i.e. the imperishable seed of eternal life.  How come?

‘Through the living & enduring word of God.’

A normal seed that is planted perishes as it gives birth to a new plant, which produces seeds which also will perish.  But when the see of the word of God, germinates in your life, you have new life that is eternal, imperishable.

For us living in an agricultural society, this is a wonderful illustration of the power of the Word of God to change people.  I’m reminded of Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In vv 24-25, we have a splendid reminder of just how fragile human life is from a worldly perspective:

For,”All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

This is a quote from Isaiah 40:6-8.  Isaiah seems to be Peter’s favourite OT book, quoting from it on 6 occasions.[13]

What are these two verses telling us?

D. This salvation majors on the PERMANENT and not on the TEMPORAL [v. 24]

1. This is a shocker for us human beings to acknowledge.

ALL people; nobody is exempt, and all the human glory that we profess (like talents, achievements, wealth), are like grass and flowers – they wither & fall off.  We are temporal human beings.  There is nothing permanent about our human existence and the things we accumulate will with and fall.  The Psalmist reminds us: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field” (103:15).  Jesus said: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:30).

Last week, we saw a fearsome example of how frail human beings are.  Talk about grass withering and flowers falling off, what could be more devastating to the hopes of human beings than the force of hurricane Katrina and the damage it did in the USA.

BUT . . . BUT. . .

  • “the word of the Lord stands forever.”[quote from Isaiah 40:6-8]  And this is the word that was preached to you.

Even if you forget everything I have said today, please make this a permanent dwelling in your thinking: “the word of the Lord stands forever.”  Kingdoms will rise and fall.  Your lives may experience considerable disappointment.  But on one thing you can absolutely sure: “the word of the Lord stands forever.”

Please understand that when the critics, whether inside or outside of the church, want to attack the core of Christianity, they zero in on attacking the Word of God.  Here are a couple of examples:

  •  USA Episcopalian (that’s Anglican), John Shelby Spong, wrote:  To believe the traditional understanding of “the inspiration of scripture as the literal, revealed word of God” is “not just naïve, but eminently rejectable. . .  Scripture is filled with cultural attitudes that we have long ago abandoned and with behavior that is today regarded as immoral.”[14]
  • Marcus Borg: “The gospels are neither divine documents nor straightforward historical records.  They are not divine products inspired directly by God.”[15]
  • Back in the 1960s, Anglican Bishop John A. T. Robinson wrote his devastating little book, Honest to God, in which he stated this about the Bible:

In order to express the ‘trans-historical’ character of the historical event of Jesus of Nazareth, the New Testament writers used the ‘mythological’ language of pre-existence, incarnation, ascent and descent, miraculous intervention, cosmic catastrophe, and so on, which according to Bultmann, make sense only on a now antiquated world-view.[16]

What’s “the word of the Lord”?  Peter has just quoted it for us from Isaiah.  It is very deliberate that Peter calls this “the word of the Lord” and not “the word of God.”  Why?  In the OT,

the word LORD signifies “the self-disclosed name of the covenant-God of Israel, Yahweh, ‘Jehovah.”  In the New Testament it is a standard designation for Jesus Christ.  With the term Lord Peter highlights Jesus’ divinity; he shows that the word of God is identical with the word of the Lord Jesus.  For that reason, Peter concludes this section in these words:

25b.  And this is the word that was preached to you.  The word the apostles preached was the gospel of Jesus.[17]

Notice the emphasis of this passage: Keep your eyes on the temporal things of this world and you will not experience real, genuine hope.  Hope comes from your relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  That’s what will last forever.  If you want lasting hope, don’t rely on:

¨ How much money you have, or other temporal things;

¨ Lay up treasure in heaven through your relationship with Jesus Christ.

E.        Conclusion

Let’s draw some applications:

1. Based on this passage, we know that Christians are those who have been born again by God’s imperishable seed, the Word of the Lord.  Rebirth is something that happens in the heart of a person.  The effects of this rebirth will affect your intellect, your emotions and your moral character.

Based on this passage, there are three telltale signs that you are born-again:

a. First, you have morally purified yourself and that is a continuing process;

b. Second, you are striving to obey God’s truth; and

c. Third, you have committed your life to loving God and loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Love in action.

2. This passage demonstrates the unity of both the Old and New Testaments.  The believers in Asia Minor, to whom Peter wrote, accepted the Old Testament as the Word of the Lord, but they also accepted Christ’s gospel, preached by the apostles, as the Word of the Lord.  Christ’s gospel of the NT, was on equal par with the OT.

I have a concern that we as NT believers do not read and meditate

on the OT as much as we read the NT.  We cannot do without regular exposure to the OT:

  •  The teaching of evolution in the public schools overwhelms many of our young people.  How can you possibly refute it without an understanding of the Book of Genesis, especially the early chapters?
  •  How is it possible to understand the wickedness in our world without the teaching of the fall into sin, Genesis 3?  From when did you become a sinner?  Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
  •  What is God’s design for marriage?  Genesis 2:24: “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
  •  What happens to a people who promote homosexuality?  Read of the judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19.
  •  What happens to a nation that turns from God?  Read the book of Jeremiah.  What about Obadiah v. 15: “The day of the LORD is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”

We must understand the critical importance of regarding the whole Bible as the Word of the Lord.

Ramad was [one of] the most dangerous men in all of India.  His gang attacked, plundered, and terrified the remote villages of the area.  He was wanted dead or alive.

While ransacking a small home in one of the villages, he found a small black book.  At first he started to throw it away, but he noticed that the paper was very thin and just the right size for roll-your-own cigarettes.  Each evening after a meal Ramad would relax with a smoke.

He would take out the little book, tear a page out, and fold it over for the tobacco.  One evening while folding the paper, he noticed the writing was in his own language.  So each evening after eating, he would read a page of the little book and then smoke it.  One evening he knelt down and asked Jesus to forgive his sins and to be his Savior.  The small black book was the Bible.

He turned himself over to the police, much to their surprise, and turned from a bandit to a prisoner for Christ.  The prison became Ramad’s mission field where he led many other prisoners to Jesus.

God’s word made the change in his life.[18]

Obeying the truth of the Word of the Lord, one of the key characteristics of being a Christian.


[2] Tertullian, “The Apology,” ch. 39, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Available from: http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-03/anf03-05.htm#P425_201743 [30 August 2005].

[3] Luke Tattersall 2004, ‘Sending a Clear Message,’ Matthias Media, The Briefing, Available from: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/briefing/webextra/sep03_clearmessage.htm [30 August 2005].

[4] Ted Cabal 2001, “An Introduction to Postmodernity: Where Are We, How Did We Get Here, and Can We Get Home?” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 5:2 (Summer 2001), p. 4, cited in D. Massimo Lorenzini 2002-2004, ‘Postmodern truth versus biblical truth’, Taking Every Thought Captive, Frontline Ministries, Available from: http://www.frontlinemin.org/truth.asp#N_3_ [30 August 2005].

[5] Don Matzat 1997, ‘Apologetics in a Postmodern Age’, Issues, Etc. Journal, Fall 1997, Vol. 2 No. 5, Available from: http://www.stjohnyorkpa.com/ApologeticsinaPostmodernAge.htm  (Accessed 20 March 2013).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2005, ‘Year Book Australia Population: Marriages, divorces and de facto relationships,’ Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/0/992c91e65fb38b66ca256f7200832f7e?OpenDocument [30 August 2005].

[8] Ibid.

[9] This was the content of an email to me by a Baptist deacon (JB), 25 August 2005, with regard to his preaching at a Baptist Church in Qld., Australia, the preaching being on 28 August 2005.  His actual words were: “I will be preaching, talking, arguing, speaking or even some would say waffling from Acts 17:15 to 34 roughly within the limits. I will get back to you more specifically tomorrow. Thanks …”

[10] Lenski, p. 71.

[11]  Al Cariño, “Paralyzed with fear no longer,” May 19, 2002, Lifeissues.net, Available from: http://lifeissues.net/writers/car/car_73fear-nolonger.html [30 August 2005].

[12] R. C. H. Lenski 1966, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MASS, p. 71.

[13] 1:24-25; 2:6; 2:8; 2:9a; 2:9c; 2:22.  He cites the Psalms twice in 2:7 and 3:10-12; Proverbs twice at 4:18 and 5:5; Exodus once in 2:9b, and Leviticus once at 1:16 (from Simon J. Kistemaker 1987, New Testament Commentary: Peter and Jude, Evangelical Press, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, n69, p. 73).

[14] Spong, J. S. 2001, A New Christianity for a New World, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 2.

[15] Borg, M. J. 1994, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, HarperSanFrancisco, San Francisco, p. 9.

[16] Robinson, J. A. T. 1963, Honest to God, SCM Press Ltd., London, p. 24.

[17] Kistemaker, p. 74.

[18] Peter V. Deison, in Roy B. Zuck 1997, The Speaker’s Quote Book, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 34.


Copyright © 207 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 October 2015.