The Fellowship of Love (Chapter 1 Verses 22-25)
The vertical consequence has been dealt with (vv13-21), now comes the horizontal (v22). Our responsibilities to the Christian community as a result of God’s plan and Jesus’ sacrifice. We are a community. And we must begin to realise the importance of this aspect of New Testament teaching. The Church has focused far too much upon the individual, our hymns and songs reflect this, instead of a community of people (v1), in whom are the Holy Spirit dwells. Church history has tended to glorify the individual, the loner, the single hero or heroine figure placed upon a pedestal, whom we are all to seek to emulate. No! That cuts across the truth of the Bible, this concept of Peter’s here (v1; 2.9), regarding the people of God. The pattern of Jesus and his disciples, the picture of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. Not to mention Jesus’ own teaching along with the Apostles, of a gathered community (Matthew 18.20). Genuine Christian life is lived in community. This also is part of God’s plan. But for that to be a reality, there must be obedience to Peter’s injunction here (v22), ‘sincere love for one another, deeply from the heart’. There will never be proper, wholesome, healthy growth, except we are part of that community. Your understanding of certain truth will never be a reality unless you are part of that community. There are standards of holiness (v16) you will never attain outside of that community.
How does the Holy Spirit minister to us? Through each other, through the love he has given to us (Romans 5.5), through the gifts he has imparted to us, yes including the supernatural ones. That is how we grow up (Ephesians 4.15-16), as a community, as a body, serving, ministering to one another in deep love commitment to God’s people. The priority of loving relationships cannot be over-stated. We only become effective Christians and Churches as we experience the empowering community life of the Church. And the community is only empowered as it, through the Spirit and use of spiritual gifts sovereignly bestowed, becomes the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The fellowship of love. Those gifts, therefore, are not spiritual peripheries, but completely central to the life, experience, and working of the Christian community (1Peter 4.10; 1Corinthians 12.4). We are being instructed here that the consequence of Jesus’ love is that we ought to open the floodgates and let the full stream of that love flow into and through the Church.
(© James R Hamilton, written May, 1998)