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Author:Rev. Arthur Van Delden
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mundijong
 Mundijong, Western Australia
 
 
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Rockingham
 Rockingham, Australia
  www.users.bigpond.net.au/avdelden/Sermons.htm
 
Title:Brotherly love will never perish in the hearts of the reborn
Text:1 Peter 1:23-25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2004-03-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Text: 1 Peter 1:23-25

Reading: Isaiah 39-40:11 / 1 John 3:4-15

AM
Ps. 93:1,2,3
Ps. 93:4
Ps. 1:1,2
Ps. 133:1,2
Hy. 38:1,2

PM
Ps. 95:1,2
Ps. 95:3
Ps. 1:1
Ps. 133:1,2
Hy. 38:1,2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

The text that we have before us this morning is actually the second half of a sentence that began in v. 22. In the original, as well as in our English translations, vv. 22 and 23 form one sentence. I want to stress that there is one main phrase that governs both vv 22 and 23, which is the command, "Love one another." We have to take this main phrase into account as we explain v. 23, otherwise we will lose the concrete message that Peter makes.

Peter knew that traumas in life can have quite an effect upon relationships. Trying times either bring people together, or they drive people apart. And the Christians in Asia were going through very trying times. They were being sorely persecuted for their faith. How important it was for the church to rally together and support each other in love. The church would serve as the bastion behind which the children of God could find protection from their enemies who surrounded them. And if the individual members of the church were firmly bound together in love, how strong the church would stand.

Now Satan would love nothing more than to be able to weaken the church by means of internal strife. Each member of the church is like a brick in a church building. If Satan could destroy the bond between the individual members, then the church would be very weak and easily destroyed. Just imagine a brick wall where all the bricks are just placed one on top of the other, with no mortar between them. It wouldn't take much to push that wall down. So it is with the church of Christ. If the individual members are not bonded together in sincere love, the church is weak and prone to destruction. That is why Satan would love nothing more than to destroy the bond between the members. Satan would love nothing more than to sow seeds of malice and jealousy, or selfishness.

Now in v. 22, Peter wrote that this brotherly love was possible because the Christians had purified their hearts. Their hearts and mind had been cleansed of all evil thoughts and desires. Therefore they could love one another. Now in v. 23 Peter assures the Christians in Asia that they can and will continue to love the brotherhood constantly, through thick and thin, through good and bad times. For this love is the fruit of an imperishable life which proceeds from an imperishable seed planted in them through God's imperishable Word. Yes, this love for the brotherhood is imperishable.

This morning I preach to you the Word of God with this theme:

BROTHERLY LOVE WILL NEVER PERISH IN THE HEARTS OF THE REBORN

We will consider:
1) The imperishable seed from which they are reborn
2) The imperishable word through which they are reborn

THE IMPERISHABLE SEED FROM WHICH THEY ARE REBORN

Peter mentioned already in the first part of this sentence that the souls of these Christians in Asia had been purified. By nature, man's heart is filled with malice, envy, hatred and selfishness, so that by nature man hates God and his neighbour. But their hearts and minds were cleansed from all evil thoughts and desires. And this purification made it possible for them to love one another.

Now we said that the main phrase in this long sentence is the command "Love one another." But Peter added one word to this command. He said, "Love one another fervently." This word fervently literally means to stretch something out full, to extend. It is possible to translate this word as "constantly." And this makes good sense in the context. Peter encourages the saints in Asia to love one another, not just sometimes, but always, constantly.

Sometimes it happens in the church that a relationship between brothers or sisters is broken because of some hurtful word spoken, or some unkind deed done. They can't forget, and they can't forgive. Their friendship is broken, and they nurse a grudge. The love that existed seems to have died.

But in our text, Peter says that brotherly love between Christians cannot die. Why not? Because they have been born again of an incorruptible seed. I would prefer the word "imperishable." Brotherly love between Christians cannot die because Christians have been born again of an imperishable seed.

There is a text that provides a good commentary on our text. You will find it in 1 John 3:9. There we read: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." In the context, John is speaking about the command to love the brethren. And he makes it very clear that if we stop loving our brother, we sin. So we could apply this text as follows: "Whoever has been born of God does not stop loving his brother, for God's seed remains in him; and he cannot stop loving his brother."

Both Peter and John make it clear that we cannot stop loving the brethren because we have been born of God. God has implanted His seed in us. When we speak about "seed" we think about plant reproduction. But the word in the Greek language can also refer to human reproduction. The word that John uses is literally “sperm.” This is the seed that the human body produces, and from which new life is created.

Now from what John writes, we know that this "seed" or this “sperm” is of God. For John said that we have been born of God. And he speaks about "His seed," referring to God. What Peter says, then, is that we who are children of God have been born again from God's sperm. Now God's sperm is not literal biological sperm like men produce. When Peter talks about God's sperm or God's seed, he is referring to the principle of new life that the Holy Spirit imparts to God's chosen.

Indeed, this divine seed is linked inseparably to the Holy Spirit, for He is the Author and Giver of life. As Job professed, "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job 33:4). The Spirit of God inseminates all of God's elect with this seed of new life. As a result, they are reborn, recreated. They possess a new life, divinely conceived.

Now perhaps you can understand more clearly what Peter means. He says, "Love one another constantly, for you have been born again from God's imperishable sperm." And the key word is the word "imperishable." Peter contrasts the life which God's seed produces to the life that our seed produces. The life which is produced by human seed is perishable. That is, all the children who are born to us will die. But the life which is produced by God's seed is imperishable. That is, all the children who are born of God will live for ever.

The Canons of Dort speak about this imperishable seed of God with which the Holy Spirit inseminates us, through which we are reborn. If you will, turn with me to the Canons of Dort, chapter 5, articles 6 & 7 (p. 566). Here the Canons deal with the comforting doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. In the previous articles, we confess that the saints can and do sometimes fall into serious sins. But in articles 6 & 7 we confess:

For God, who is rich in mercy, according to the unchangeable purpose of his election, does not completely withdraw His Holy Spirit from His own even in their deplorable fall. Neither does He permit them to sink so deep that they fall away from the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin unto death or the sin against the Holy Spirit and, totally deserted by Him, plunge themselves into eternal ruin.

For in the first place, in their fall, He preserves in them His imperishable seed of regeneration, so that it does not perish and is not cast out. Further, through His Word and Spirit He certainly and effectually renews them to repentance (…and so it continues).

Now it is tempting to deal with the doctrine of the perseverance in general, but we mustn't separate v. 23 from the first half of its sentence in v. 22. Peter is not speaking about the perseverance of the saints in general. He's dealing with the perseverance of brotherly love. "Love one another constantly, for you have been born again of imperishable seed."

We said a moment ago that it is possible for a relationship between brothers or sisters to be broken because of some hurtful word spoken, or some unkind deed done. They can't forget, and they can't forgive. The love that existed seems to have died. But beloved, Peter says that this is impossible. For this love is produced by our new life. And since this divinely conceived life will never die, love for the brethren will never die.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates this text quite nicely. In the manse from my previous congregation, we had some fruit trees. One of them was a fig tree. It seemed to attract fruit flies, and we were advised to cut it down, which we did. But this fig tree seemed to have an imperishable seed in the ground. For even though I cut it down to the ground, it started to grow again. I'd mow over it every couple weeks, but it would start growing all over again. And if I left it, it would soon start producing fruit again.

So it is with the communion of saints. If we have God's seed of new life in us, that seed will never die. Through sin, we might cut down a tree of friendship, so that it no longer produces the fruit of love. But that seed doesn't die. And in the course of time, the tree of friendship grows again, and produces the fruit of love.

Beloved, it is impossible for the saints not to love each other. Let me remind you how we have applied the text of 1 John 3:9 "Whoever has been born of God does not [stop loving his brother], for God's seed remains in him; and he cannot [stop loving his brother]."

Having considered the imperishable source of new life, let us consider the imperishable channel, which is our second point.

THE IMPERISHABLE WORD THROUGH WHICH THEY ARE REBORN

The channel through which God inseminates His elect is the Word. In fact, the seed of new life is so inseparably associated with the Word, that sometimes Scripture even describes the Word as the seed itself. Think of the well-known parable of the sower who scatters seed, some of which falls on the path, some on shallow ground, some among the thorns and some in good soil. Christ explained that the seed is the Word of God. In this parable, the seed and the Word of God are identified.

But in our text Peter distinguishes between the seed and the Word of God. They are not identified. The Word of God is the channel through which God implants the seed of new life. This is clear from a careful reading of our text. Peter says that the Christians in Asia have been born of an imperishable seed, through the Word. The preposition "of" points to the source of their new life; the preposition "through" indicates the channel by which this seed of new life is planted in them. They have been born again through the Word.

Now just as Peter emphasised the imperishable character of the seed, so he now emphasises the imperishable character of the Word. He describes the Word as "living and abiding."

Peter used that word "living" before, in v. 3. He said that we have been reborn to a living hope. Back then, we said that "living" means thriving, flourishing, bearing fruit. This could be applied to the Word as well. We must not think of the Word as a dead and impotent word that has no effect upon the hearers. No, the Word is living. You can feel the Word pulsating. The prophecies and promises that are contained in the Word are being fulfilled. The word is living. It is thriving. It bears fruit.

Peter also describes the Word as "abiding." The word could also be translated "enduring." What Peter wants to emphasise is the fact that nothing of what is written in the Word has fallen away. All the prophecies written in Scripture, and all the promises made in God’s Word, still stand. They are still valid. All of these prophecies and promises contained in Holy Scripture have been fulfilled, are being fulfilled, and will be fulfilled. All that God said He would do He does.

Peter backs up his claim that the Word is living and abiding by quoting from the prophecy of Isaiah. Through Isaiah, God told His people much the same, namely, that the Word of the Lord stands forever.

To appreciate Peter's reference to Isaiah, we should look more closely, not just to the words of Isaiah, but also the context in which they were written. For when we study the context, we find that these words of Isaiah are particularly well suited to encourage the Christians in Asia.

Isaiah had prophesied the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah's sin was the last straw, so to speak. He had boasted about his own strength and glory to the envoys from Babylon rather than boast about the strength and glory of God. This sin, on top of all the other sins that had been committed over the past, proved to be the breaking point. So in chapter 39 God tells Hezekiah with unmistakable clarity that Judah will be utterly raped and taken captive into Babylon.

Can you imagine how the faithful in Judah would have responded to this prophecy? Would this be the end of the kingdom of Judah? Would the powers of darkness triumph? Would the church of God be completely destroyed? That seems to be message of the prophet.

But no sooner did God announce the destruction of the kingdom of Judah than He came with words of comfort. In chapter 40, Isaiah spoke those famous words that we have put to rhyme, and sing from time to time. "Comfort, yes, comfort My people!" says your God. "Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins."

Then follows the good tidings that Isaiah was called to proclaim from the high mountain. Let me read with you again from Isaiah 40:9-11.

9. O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!" 10. Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. 11. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.

God was going to come in power and glory. He would come with a strong hand, and He would feed his flock like a shepherd. He would gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.

Isaiah spoke about God's flock. He spoke about His lambs. What does this mean, except that God would preserve for Himself a remnant, a little flock whom He would tenderly and lovingly shepherd. A remnant would survive. The powers of darkness would not be able to destroy the church. Though for a little while the church will be brought very low, and even seem to disappear altogether, yet God would preserve for Himself a remnant. Through God's mercy, the church would triumph. That was God's Word of promise. That was the wonderful prophecy.

Now it is in the midst of this prophecy that the words which Peter quoted are found. God said, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever."

Have you ever cut your lawn and not picked up the grass, but left it on top? What happens to the grass after a couple of days. It dries out, doesn't it? And before you know it, the wind picks it up and carries it away.

We've all seen beautiful flowers. They open up and display their glory, but it is for such a short time. Soon the flower loses its colour and vitality, and it falls off the stem and rots away.

Well, says God. Such is man. He shines in glory for a little while, but soon His strength fails him, and he fades away into oblivion. Except for a few, their names are forgotten, and even those whose names are remembered are only a fading memory.

In contrast to this stand the Word of God. "The word of the Lord stands forever." This speaks of permanence, durability. And in the context, God is speaking words of comfort and hope. God is speaking here about the promise that He has made concerning the future of the church. A remnant will survive the exile. And God will lovingly and carefully shepherd them, carrying the lambs in His arms when they are weak, and gently leading the ewes who are with young.

This Word of God spoken through Isaiah did not fail over the seven hundred or more years between Isaiah and Peter. The prophecy of Judah's destruction was fulfilled. But the Lord preserved for Himself a remnant. He led them back to the Promised Land. And though they were dominated for these seven hundred years by other kingdoms, God preserved His church. The Word of God - the comforting promise of His preservation - still stood.

And look how wonderfully the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled. John the Baptist had come, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord. And Peter was allowed to climb the high mountain and bring forth the good tidings to the cities of Judah and many other cities besides. He could point to the Lord Jesus Christ and cry out, "Behold, your God!" He is the Good Shepherd, who lovingly laid down His life for His sheep. He is the risen Lord, who has ascended into heaven and sits at the Father's right hand, who has received all power and authority in heaven and on earth. The Lord has come with a strong hand, and His arm rules for him. And from heaven our Shepherd King feeds His flock, and gathers the lambs with His arm, and carries them in His bosom.

See, says Peter, the Word of the Lord stands. All that God prophesied and promised has come true. The Word of the Lord stands forever! The prophecies and promises of Scripture are just as true for the church of Peter's day as they were for the church in Isaiah's time. That's why Peter says that this was the gospel that he preached to the Christians in Asia. It is a timeless gospel, ever valid, ever being fulfilled.

Isn't this an encouraging word for the Christians in Asia? The forces of darkness were striving to destroy the church. And Satan would love nothing more than to weaken the church from the inside by means of internal strife. He would love nothing more than to remove the mortar of love that bound the bricks of the church together, so that the walls of the church might easily be breached and toppled. How Satan would love to have brother hating brother, and sisters turning cold shoulders to sisters. And so he sows seeds of malice, envy, hatred, and selfishness in the church.

But Peter knows that the Christians will not fail in loving one another constantly. He knows that brotherly love will never die. He knows this, because this brotherly love is the fruit produced by God's imperishable seed of regeneration. And he knows that the forces of darkness will never succeed in destroying the church by sowing seeds of malice and hatred, for the members of the church have been reborn by means of God's living and abiding Word. "Whoever has been born of God does not [stop loving his brother], for God's seed remains in him; and he cannot [stop loving his brother]."

God has promised to defend and preserve the church forever. This is not limited to preservation from destructive forces outside the church, but also preservation from destructive forces inside the church. Those who are reborn from God's imperishable seed through His imperishable Word will constantly love one other. That is God's promise. And God's Word stands for ever. His promise cannot fail. AMEN




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.users.bigpond.com/avdelden/WebSermons/1PT1v23t25.htm

(c) Copyright, Rev. Arthur Van Delden

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