“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”
As we intimated in a late number, we now offer such views as we have on the above text, in answer to the request of brother George Fettenger, of Iowa. The apostle addressed the saints which were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, and having set forth the grand principles on which their salvation was established, he proceeds to instruct and admonish them in perfect harmony with the foundation of their faith and hope. “Forasmuch,” says he, “as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifested in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth,” etc.
The principal inquiry of our correspondent seems to be as to the meaning of the apostle, in regard to their having purified their souls, when the Scriptures so manifestly teach that the cleansing and purification of the saints is attributable only to the blood of Jesus Christ, which alone can purge us from guilt, and present us holy and unblamable in the sight of God. We must observe that the apostle in the connection had clearly established the doctrine of salvation by the sovereign grace and atoning blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Their standing and acceptance before God was in Christ. Elected, or chosen of God in Christ before the foundation of the world, and that according, not to their works or merits, but according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, and through the sanctification (separation, consecration, or setting apart by regeneration,) of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The saints had not therefore purified their souls by virtue of any meritorious action of their own, nor do we understand this text to speak of expiation for sin, or atonement for guilt, for that is very positively ascribed in the verses immediately preceding, to the precious blood of Christ, as possessing the only power or virtue that can possibly redeem sinners to God. But the purification of their souls, in the sense of this text, is from the defilement of error, which they had received by tradition from their fathers, by which they had formerly been defiled; which had led them to confide in the flesh, and to follow and obey the flesh in its dictations, and that in disobedience to the truth. But now, being sanctified, or set apart by the Spirit, and as the apostle adds, Being born again, not of a corruptible seed, but of an incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever, they have received the truth, and the truth has set up its throne in their hearts, and by the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, they have obeyed the truth, are governed by the power of the truth, and in obedience to the mandates of the truth as it is in Jesus, they have laid aside all malice, and all guile, and all hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as new born babes they desire the sincere milk of the word, that word by and of which they are born again, as being congenial with the new life which God has given them in their new and heavenly birth, they by their obedience to the truth have cast off, or laid aside, their former malice, guile, hypocrisy, etc., and thereby they have purified their souls in obeying the truth. As all error is defiling and filthy, so the truth, which is the opposite of error, is pure, and heavenly in its nature. Truth flows from the word of God by which they are born again, as the sincere milk of the word of God that liveth and abideth forever. Thus while obedience to the flesh, to traditions of the fathers, according to the flesh, corrupts and defiles, the opposite course of obedience to the truth, purifies and cleanses from falsehood, deception and hypocrisy. Under the ceremonial law the Israelite who transgressed the law was pronounced unclean. But a faithful obedience to the precepts was considered clean. God said to Israel, “Wash you, make you clean.” How? The manner is pointed out. “Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless; plead for the widow,” etc. - Isaiah 1:16,17. But it may be asked, How had the saints addressed by Peter purified their souls by obeying the truth? The apostle tells how: through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren. An effort of the flesh to cultivate a love for the people of God, or the things of the Spirit, can at the most, only amount to a neat counterfeit. There is no brotherhood to, or fraternal love for, the saints felt in reality until we are born of the Spirit, for, All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass, which will soon wither, and fall away. Hypocrites may make great professions of love and feign an ardent love, but it is not reliable; it is not the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, but an imitation, a deception; but that love which is the fruit of the Spirit is real, vital and lasting as eternity, for it is the love of God, and is therefore eternal and immutable, and is consequently unfeigned; it flows out freely, spontaneously, sincerely and ardently to the brethren, to their kindred in Christ. Not only in times of prosperity, when religion walks abroad in silver slippers, but when brethren are oppressed, despised, afflicted or persecuted. To know that a dear brother or sister is in distress, and needs consolation and sympathy, then will this love findvent, it will gush forth in the most unmistakable and undisguised tenderness. It will not say to a needy and destitute brother, Be warmed, and be clothed, and at the same time withhold the things which are required; but it will weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn, and if necessary divide with him the last loaf, or the last dollar or dime. That love which is induced and cultivated by theory or tradition from sire to son, and grows only out of the flesh, and exhibits only the fleshly passions which belong to our depraved nature, is just as corrupt and polluted as the nature from which it emanates; but that which we receive in the new birth, is as pure and holy as the fountain from which it proceeds. When through the Spirit therefore the saints obey the truth, they love one another with a pure heart fervently; the heart is made pure, it is sprinkled from an evil conscience, and the law of Christ who is essentially the Truth, as well as the Way and the Life, is written in the pure heart, the new heart which God gives to his people. Then the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things; from such an heart, unfeigned love proceeds; but all pretension to christian love which comes from any other source is feigned, deceptive and unavailing before God.
The very expression of the apostle, Seeing that ye have purified your souls by obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, implies that none but such can be profited by the admonition, See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
We are told that because iniquity should abound, the love of many should wax cold. And is not the same cause at all times productive of similar effects? This was the case, according to the words of our Lord, when the abomination which maketh desolate, stood in the holy place, and the fearful judgments of God were poured out upon the ancient Jerusalem. And at all other times when iniquity has abounded, has it not had the same tendency, that is, with many? Not with all, for some have manifested their love to God, to holiness, and especially to the brethren more abundantly at such times. But prevailing iniquity in the world serves to discriminate between feigned and unfeigned love. Far beyond any other time that any of the present generation have known, the present is a time in which iniquity abounds; the man of sin is permitted to scatter fire-brands, arrows and death, broadcast through the world, and do we not see that many who formerly professed to love the people of God most fervently, are giving the saddest evidences that their love, if not feigned, has grown lamentably cold? Are there not brethren in this day, ready to deliver up brethren to the sword, with whom they have hitherto professed to be in fellowship and love? If we see such in hostile array against each other, and ready to consign each other to death, must we not conclude their love, if they ever had any, has reached the freezing point? But let us, dear brethren, whose hearts are cleansed from dead works to serve the living God, heed well the admonition of our text, and See that we love one another with a pure heart, fervently; that we may know how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.
July 1, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 19 - 23