Obedience that Purifies?

pureIt has been a while since I have posted anything. The reasons are too many to list here, and would end up sounding like excuses anyway. So I will sum them up with a single word: “busyness.” For that same reason, I will try to keep the next few posts brief. My goal for this series is to look at passages of scripture and discover how they inform our understanding of God’s amazing grace. Let’s start with this one from 1st Peter.

1Pe 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth (through the Spirit) [i] for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

In this verse Peter states that our obedience purifies our souls. I must confess, when I read through this passage this week, my first reaction was confusion. “Peter, what do you mean our obedience purifies us? Isn’t it the grace of God that purifies us for obedience; initially when we are justified, and continuously in sanctification? ” But as I reread the text and the context, I realized that this was another case of my heart’s bent toward legalism, revealing itself again. I had prematurely concluded that obedience that purifies the soul was an outward obedience to some standard of behavior, or rule; the law. Peter, however, is not saying that at all.

What he does say is that, it is our obedience ‘to the truth’ that purifies. Then he goes on to explain what that truth is. In vs. 24 and 25, Peter points out that the flesh and the glory of man (our performance) will always wither, but the word of the Lord endures forever. He then clearly states, in vs. 25, that the word he is speaking of is the gospel. Peter then is saying that we are purified by our obedience to the truth, which is our ongoing trust in the gospel instead of our own effort, because our effort will always wither and fade. It will always come up short. Obedience to the truth here is an understanding that our best efforts result in a love that’s insincere and hearts full of impurity. But the gospel says that Jesus is my sincerity and purity. Therefore I am free to love the brethren passionately, without fear of failing, because Jesus loved perfectly in my place. The more I believe that, the more sincerely love will flow from me.

In addition to the verses that follow vs. 22, the immediate preceding context beginning in vs. 18, supports the same line of thinking. Here Peter declares that we have been ransomed from our old religious ways by the blood of Jesus, and that truth is the origination and foundation of our faith and hope. In spite of my heart’s bent toward being a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to godliness, the more closely I study the scripture, the truer Hebrews 12:2 becomes to me. Jesus is the “author and finisher (founder and perfecter) of our faith.” And it is faith in what He has done for me that is obedience to the truth, and that obedience purifies my soul for love and good works.

[i] I added in parentheses what the ESV omits – which is a clear truth, our reliance on the Holy Spirit. Maybe we will discuss that in a future post.

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