"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love..."
1 Peter 1:22a
This verse strikes me. It catches me off-guard, and tells me something I do not expect.
I am a Calvinist. About as Calvinist as they come, subscribing to all five points of the classic TULIP acrostic:
Perseverance of the Saints
Which basically is a more complex way of saying that I believe salvation to be a work of God, not man, lest anyone boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, when it comes to thinking about purification, my mind typically thinks of the objective purifying we experience by being identified with Christ, our sin-bearer and righteousness-giver (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore my sins in His body, therefore in the eyes of God they no longer are borne by me.
Now, let's glance back at our opening verse. How does Peter say his readers have purified their souls? By obedience to the truth. That's interesting. I want to briefly consider two things that I think Peter is saying to us here.
1) There is a very true sense in which trusting Christ as Savior and Lord is itself an act of obedience to the truth. Jesus is the truth ( John 14:6) and He himself demands that sinners repent (Mark 1:15). We see in John's gospel the intimate connection between belief and obedience (compare John 3:16 and 3:36). This could well be Peter's primary meaning in this passage, in fact I tend to believe it is, since he refers to their obedience in the past-tense. So we need to see that obedience to Christ, first of all displayed in trusting Him for salvation, purifies our souls.
2) There is however a secomd part of this, the part that struck me afresh today. That is, obedience is something I am continually called to, and thus obedience to the truth will have a continual purifying effect on my soul. This is perfectly in keeping the command but a few verses earlier to "be holy, for I am holy." There is the promise of holiness for all who believe in Christ, but there is also a command to pursue it. Likewise here, for all who trust in Christ there is the guarantee of a purification of the soul, but there is also a command to purify our souls. By our own power? Of course not. Paul reminds the Philippian believers to, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12a-13)
Finally I want to consider what purpose God has in this. He purifies our souls objectively in Christ, and calls us to pursue it practically in our lives. But to what end? "For a sincere brotherly love." The purifying of my soul, while having profound impact on me, is not ultimately about me. It is for a brotherly love, a serving of others, particularly of other Christians. Believing in Christ isn't just about you being saved from Hell. It's about God creating a people, a family, for Himself. His purifying you by the work of His Son and the power of His Spirit is to make you fit to join this family, not merely relish in your personal rescue.