As we study the New Testament, it soon becomes clear that love is perhaps the most recognizable fruit of saving faith. We saw this a few months ago when we studied James 2, which exhorts us to demonstrate our faith by works done in obedience to the royal law of Scripture. The explicit teaching of 2:8 showed us that the works James has in mind are works of love.
True faith leads to works of obedience that can also be described as works of love. This is what Peter tells us in today’s passage. In the preceding verses, Peter has spoken of His audience’s salvation as something that they truly possess. His audience has already been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), which hope is only in God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 21).
In verse 22, Peter assumes that this audience will obey his earlier exhortations to be holy (vv. 14–16). Being that they have true faith, there is no other assumption that can be made. True Christians will live lives of holiness. Moreover, one of the ends for which we live holy lives is that we might have a “sincere brotherly love” (v. 22). This love flows from our obedience.
Love not only flows from obedience, it is obedience itself. In the very same verse, Peter commands us to love one another earnestly from a pure heart. The fruit of true faith is holy living that manifests itself in love for other Christians. If we have no love for other believers then we have not met God’s standards of holiness. There is no holiness without love, and there is no love without holiness.
We obey this command to love because of our great salvation. We have been born of the imperishable seed of the Holy Spirit who has regenerated our hearts through the Word of God (vv. 23–24). This Word, we are told, is the Good News that was preached to us (v. 25), and it includes the whole counsel of God. The right preaching of the Gospel must include the substance of all of God’s revelation, otherwise we will not know from what we have been saved. And the hope we have in God, because of His Word, is a sure hope because the promises found therein will never fail (vv. 23–24).
By what standard do you measure your obedience to the Lord’s command to be holy? Do you set up a checklist of those things that God forbids and then make sure to avoid them? While such an evaluation of one’s life is not in and of itself a bad thing, we have missed the point if we think that we have fulfilled the command to be holy and yet do not love our brothers. In prayer, ask the Lord to help you love the “unlovable” and do what you can to love other believers.