DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 11
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”
1 Peter 1:22–25
In verses 24–25 of today’s reading, Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6–8, a passage that has great significance to me. Before I became a Christian, I thought that Christianity was all about what I did or didn’t do. I wanted to be a “good Christian.” I learned things about the Bible and was even a leader in my youth group. But there was a critical component missing. It was the transformative power of abiding.
Abiding is a word that has a range of meanings, from its verb meaning “to remain stable or fixed in a state” or “dwell,” to its adjective meaning “enduring.” Both senses are at play in this 1 Peter passage, but up until my sophomore year of college, both were not at play in my spirituality. True to my over-achieving tendencies, I was performing as a Christian to purify my soul and hoping that my performance was good enough. There would be times when I felt really good about how I was doing, but then other times of complete and total unrest.
When we approach verses like 1 Peter 1:20–25, we might be tempted to ask questions like, “How do I purify my soul?” I know pre-Christian Sarah would have asked that, and I would have assumed the answer was “obey.” But, as well-intended as my notion was, it was not the correct understanding; it focused on the wrong actions and the wrong person. Underneath it was the assumption that I had to purify myself (as if I could).
The actual answer lies in the “truth” part of the phrase “by your obedience to the truth.” The truth—the Gospel—has purified us, meaning “consecrated” or “set [us] apart” (the Greek root here is haginó, the same root of “holy” in 1 Peter 1:15). This participation with the “truth” is about our identity in and our union with Christ. It is about our residing in, remaining in, and resting in our relationship with Jesus. Or, in a word, abiding.
A closer examination of Peter’s phrase “having purified your souls” gives us further confirmation of this understanding. The original verb is in the perfect tense, which describes a completed action that has an ongoing and present result: “Since your souls are set apart....” The biggest transformation of our entire lives has already happened and is completed—we are righteous before God! We have been declared “holy” before God and have been “consecrated” for his good purposes. And in the God of this truth, we abide.
You see, abiding has both identity and action properties to it. We abide in Christ and he abides in us—this union forever remains; it is our identity. And, abiding is an action. We are to rest in Christ and rely on him in all things. Abiding is characteristic of both our state or new nature, and the actions of obedience that flow from it. We were empowered to obey the “truth,” the Gospel we received through faith, which causes us to continue in obedience. So, the full gist of verse 22 is since we have been transformed, we are to live transformed, loving as Christ loved.
This passage then tells us that the way we show this transformation is by obeying the command “love one another earnestly.” Having our souls purified in Jesus, we are to live in accordance with our new natures and turn toward those around us in love. This communal command means that we are to have communion and fellowship with one another.
So, how do we love in this way? First, by abiding in Jesus. In our deep involvement and dependence on Jesus, we get to know him and trust him. We grow in our ability to love others as we are nourished, sustained, and made alive by Christ. Just in the way that a branch could not grow if disconnected from its vine (John 15:1–17), so we too are utterly dependent on Jesus for our abilities to love and obey. We are to form godly relationships informed by the character and nature of God—truthful, pure-hearted, and earnest.
Similarly, since Jesus is the Word incarnate, we are to abide in the Word. God wants us to know him, and he has demonstrated his character of love and goodness over and over again in the Bible. By abiding in God’s Word, we remain in intimacy with God. And as we remain in God’s Word, his Word remains in us, granting us peace, goodness, comfort—all his blessings—all powered by his Word.
Verse 23 reminds us of the resurrection power that transformed us, giving us new life, and now abides in us so that we may love. We “have been born again, not of perishable seed,” meaning human offspring or generation, but “through the living and abiding word of God.” There is a powerful new source of life in us, a living seed that, rooted in God’s Word, springs forth into new life. Here we are to note the difference between what generates from the human seed—death—and what generates from the divine seed—life. And, this living seed transforms the hardest of soils into fertile ground.
Verses 24–25 further elucidate the everlasting permanence and sustaining power of God’s Word, using an Old Testament truth from Isaiah 40:8, “...but the word of the Lord abides forever.” Peter first used the root of the word “abide” in verse 23 when he says we’ve been born again “through the living and abiding word of God.” By repeating this word here, Peter emphasizes the permanence and incorruptibility of God’s Word. It is a power that has no match, and it is a source of life that has no end.
Consider the spring, when all the buds blossom and the grass becomes its vibrant green after the white blanket of winter melts. According to Scripture, the beauty and vibrancy of all created things are as temporal as the grass and the flower. Isaiah 40:7 asks us to view our lives in this way: in relation to God’s eternality, we are just as temporal as grass. If our saving hope is in this life, we are wishing upon a frail blossom. One gust of wind or one season later, the flower is gone.
Our hope, faith, salvation, and inheritance all need to have their root in something everlasting for them to be everlasting. Our lives abiding in God’s Word yields new life in us, a life that empowers us to love others and fulfill God’s commands. We are enabled to live a new life, a life in which abiding in God and living out his goodness by loving others characterizes us as Christians.
Because God’s Word is imperishable and Jesus’ ransom is imperishable, they extend everlasting goodness to us, making us ultimately imperishable as well. What lavish love could we give away knowing the resources we draw from are everlasting?
You may still be wondering why Isaiah 40:6-8 means so much to me. When I was in college, God was gracious enough to lead me to a campus ministry where the Campus Minister, Dustin, recited verse 8 each week before he preached. When he said it, he didn’t just say it, he proclaimed it, claiming it to be true. He believed that his words were temporary, but the Word of God that he expounded had great and eternal power.
Through his actions, Dustin was not only expounding on the quote from God’s written Word, but he was demonstrating for me what it was to abide in the Incarnate Word. He lived out of his relationship with Jesus, and his example led me to Christ in the true abiding sense. It was no longer about what I had done or had to do but about wholly relying on and abiding in the One who did it for me.
I am forever grateful for this loving and abiding mercy.