1Pe 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
1Pe 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
1Pe 1:24 for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,
1Pe 1:25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
I find the emphasis on the Word of God and Truth in this passage interesting. Usually when we think of regeneration and sanctification we emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit in both of these concepts and rightly so. But the above passage only mentions the use of the Word or Truth in both being born again, 23, and in continued sanctification, which I believe is being inferred in vs. 22 as well as the whole context. But this got me to thinking about how the Word of God is involved in both of these two things; the new birth and the pursuit of holiness.
When it comes to being born again I have always tended to think of it primarily as the Holy Spirit giving me new life, which it is, but basically relegated the use of the Word to a secondary role. Almost like we are to proclaim the gospel as if it were a magical incantation and then step back and see if the Holy Spirit is going to convert the person. That is a bit of an overstatement but as I have studied this text out I have come to appreciate the use of Truth more than perhaps I have in the past.
To explain further, I believe that the reason the Holy Spirit opens our minds or gives us a new heart is not just an end in itself but that we might understand and believe God’s Truth. The problem fallen man has had from the beginning is that we believe Satan and our sinful hearts and this world rather than the Lord. So when the Holy Spirit regenerates us it is so that we can and will believe the gospel that says there is only One who is righteous so trust in him if you want to be right with God. So the Word is indispensable in the process of the new birth because there would be no reason to have a new heart if we didn’t have Truth and Light to believe rather than the lie and darkness that has controlled us up until conversion.
Just as in the Garden, Adam and Eve decided to buy into what the Serpent was selling and were cast out of the presence of God; so being saved is being brought back into a right relationship with God so that we believe that he alone is the source of all truth and we live in light of that truth. And so the truth of the gospel is what causes our newly regenerated heart to turn from the deception of sin to the truth of the cross of Christ. The Spirit uses the Word to get us to trust in Christ for justification.
While we are passive in regeneration, we are not passive in conversion. Notice vs. 22 and 23 above, 1Pe 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. 1Pe 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. We have purified our souls (active) by obeying the truth but in vs. 23 we have been born again (passive) as the Holy Spirit must give us life before we can do spiritually living acts like repent and believe.
That brings us to the use of the Word in the process of sanctification. I think the best way to get this is the way Peter is using it in light of sanctification. In other words, while the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convert us, in the same way he uses the Word to further clean us or to sanctify us. Remember that the point was started in vs. 22, continue to purify your souls in the same way you have already been purified. Just as the gospel is used to purify our souls with the aid of the Spirit, so the Word continues to purify our lives.
What does the Word of God have that can purify or clean us? In both cases it is truth. It is knowing where the world is headed and that you have been saved by Christ and wanting to hear from your Savior, etc. In other words, it is knowing and believing truth and identifying and rejecting what is false. Why does the world reject the gospel and stay away from churches that proclaim the Truth? Because they believe Satan and not the Word. The Spirit has given us ears to hear and hearts to obey.
Jesus said, “The Truth shall set you free”. He could have said the Holy Spirit, God, Me but we need to see this as well. What sends you to the doctor? It is someone telling you that he can fix your problem. See how the Word is what the Holy Spirit uses to “fix” us. It isn’t mystical; it is knowledge. We clean our lives because we know where this world is headed, we know that sin only will destroy us and so we believe our Savior and we love our Lord and so do what he tells us because we trust him. People who say they love Jesus but don’t care what he says are hypocrites. People who say they can worship God at home or on the lake and don’t have to go to church are deceived because they aren’t learning truth; they are listening to their deceitful hearts. We must actively engage in studying the Word and believing what we read and living in light of it. In this we honor the Lord because we believe that he is telling us the truth. “If you love me, keep my commandments”. That is more than just a command to follow rules; it is a call to center our lives around his words to us.
All this helps us understand what vss. 24-25 above have to do with the context. The lies of Satan and this world are destined to end in destruction. Cultural moral climates and PC correctness will come and go but Truth is Truth and will always be true. We can bank our souls on the Word of God because that is the only reality and by definition can never change or be untrue.