A SURVEY OF PETER’S LETTERS, 2

A Call to Be Holy, 1 Peter 1:13—25

In the opening verses of his first letter, Peter had painted a glorious picture of our great salvation.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power…(verses 3—5)

In point of fact, God’s plan for the salvation of human beings was so glorious, that—

Even angels long to look into these things.  (verse 12)

1.  An important command, verses 13—16

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. (verses 13, 14)

Considering how great our salvation is, with its living hope and eternal inheritance, no recipient of it can avoid the obligation to live holy lives.  Nothing should deter the Christian from his pursuit of holiness.

In cautioning his readers to “prepare their minds for action,” Peter hints at what we have all found to be obvious:  living a holy life is hard! It’s a spiritual battle believer fights every day and the battlefield is the mind.   Peter’s advice is sound; we should never allow our minds to dwell on our circumstances or to be swayed by worldly solicitations.

The phrase, “prepare your minds” is translated literally in the KJV as “gird up the loins of your mind.”  The picture is of a man gathering up his long robe and tucking it into his belt so that he can move around unencumbered.  Perhaps a good, modern English paraphrase might be, “Pull yourselves together” or “Get a grip on your minds.”  In getting a grip on our thought-lives, we believers are able to live “soberly” or “clear-headed.”

Instead of dwelling on worldly things, the believer needs to be dwelling on heavenly, spiritual things, and in Peter’s estimation, our thoughts and hope should be grounded in what awaits the Christian at the Second Coming of Christ.  Right now, believers are able to enjoy the barest tip of the iceberg in terms of the great blessings reserved for them.  In the eschatological consummation of our salvation, the fullness of God’s grace will be finally revealed and experienced.

Part of being a committed Christian is living with the expectation that Christ will return, possibly in our lifetime.  With that perspective, we ought to be living as “obedient children.”  God’s children should desire to do the things that please Him; their lives should not resemble those of the unsaved.  J.B. Philips translates Peter’s admonition in verse 14 like this—

Don’t let your character be molded by the desires of your ignorant days.

Christians should never underestimate the seductive power of the world.  The phrase “do not conform” is written in passive form, suggestive of the insidious power of the world.  The Christian must never let his guard down—he must always be in control of his thoughts— for if he does, the world will rush in and take advantage and pour him into its mold.

If the negative side of holiness is stressed in verse 14 (“do not conform”), then verse 15 gives us the positive side—

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

As a side note, verse 15 gives us a glimpse of the theological wonder of God’s “efficacious grace.”  God is the One who does the calling.  All the sinner has to do with His call is to respond.  The God who calls is also holy.  As the word is used of Him, it refers to His complete purity and moral integrity.  God calls the sinner and the sinner must respond.  God gives him the pattern for living and he must adopt it.  God is the final model of holiness and looking like God is the honor and privilege of the elect.

All that is wonderful to consider, but that final phrase can be daunting:  we as God’s children must be holy in all we do!   This call to holiness is not just for Sundays.  The believer is to be holy in his every thought and action regardless of where he is.  Horatius Bonar’s attitude confession should be ours:

So shall no part of day or night,
From sacredness be free.

2.  Holiness provided, verses 17—21

That God is our judge in addition to our Father is a fact that escapes a lot of believers.  Some of us like to think we have escaped all forms of divine judgment, yet that is not the case.   The way verse 17 is written needs to be examined—

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

Peter assumes that Christians will call on God.  As our Father, we should naturally expect Him to judge our prayers and our actions as well.  God treats all believers who call on and serve Him the same and He judges their words and actions by the same standard:  His.   All believers, rich or poor, mature or immature, none escape this scrutiny.

Given this, Peter encourages his readers to, as he had previously in this letter, live as though they are just visiting this planet, to this he adds “in reverent fear.”  The relationship between God and His children should not be marked by dread, but by respect and awe.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  (verses 18, 19)

This group of verses (18—21) sets forth a kind of summary of the Christian faith.   Living a successful Christian life hinges on the attitude of verse 17; we ought to live right out of “reverent fear,” but that fear is based on knowledge of what God has done our behalf.  Where does that knowledge come from if not the Word of God?  Peter makes the assumption that his readers know precisely what God has done and what it cost Him.  In our modern churches, that one-time reasonable assumption might be wishful thinking!

Christians, once sinners owned lock-stock-and-barrel by the sinful world, were purchased (“redeemed”) by nothing less than the blood of God’s own Son.  That is a huge price to pay for a soul; it speaks volumes about the worth of that soul.

He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  (verses 20, 21)

As part of his summary of the Christian faith, Peter makes sure we understand the eternal nature of God’s provision:  it was a plan in His mind from all eternity.  It was not a new idea, trumped up by God because Eve slipped up.  The provision of salvation was not an afterthought.  In fact, the whole system of the Jewish faith pointed to the eternal nature of God’s plan of redemption.  Through types and shadows, prophets and priests, God had been meticulously preparing His people for the coming of His Son.

The notion that God’s plan for sinners and Christ’s role in that plan had been in God’s mind for all eternity is a staggering thought, but to make that thought even more staggering, we add Paul’s perspective—

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  (Ephesians 1:4)

Now that is a truly mind-boggling fact to consider:  not only was God’s plan and Christ’s mission in God’s mind from eternity past, but our place in Christ was known at the same time!  And, again according to Paul, God has wanted His children to holy since then.

It took a long time for God to work out His plan; in fact the way Peter wrote it, the manifestation of Christ and the dawn of the Christian age is the climax and consummation of all that came before.  The Cross is the center of human history; mankind since the dawn of history looked toward it and mankind until the last generation will look back to it.

John Calvin’s thoughts on this passage of Scripture help to put it all into perspective:

For herein shines forth more fully the unspeakable goodness of God, that He anticipated our disease by the remedy of His grace, and provided a restoration to life before the first man had fallen into death.

3.  Holiness experienced, verses 22—25

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

The Word of God is the ultimate cleansing agent!  Oxyclean might be amazing at getting stains out of carpet, but nothing cleanses the human heart like God’s Word.  But the Word of God, as powerful as it is, must be obeyed befor it can do any good.  “Obeying the truth” puts the onus squarely on the believer.  Following our purification through obedience to the truth  of God’s Word, believers are to have “sincere love for” other believers.  This love is supposed to be fervent and real, not phony or ginned up by emotion.   We are supposed to love fellow members of the Body of Christ objectively, not subjectively, as God loves us.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  (verse 24)

We continue with the importance of the Word of God with verse 24.  The objective part of God’s plan happened 2,000 years in the past with the death and resurrection of Christ; we were the objects of His redemption.   There is nothing we can add to what Christ did for us.

However, to become born again requires application of what Peter calls the “enduring word of God.”  The new birth which Christ provided is effected by the Spirit of God through the medium of the Word of God.   There is a subjective component to our salvation; not that we may save ourselves through this component, but drawing on what Christ did for us, we ought to be compelled to build our lives around and according to the Word of God as the Holy Spirit leads us and directs us.

Kistemaker, commenting on this verse, says:

Note that is the process of rebirth, the believers are passive.  That is, God brings them through spiritual birth into this world. Once they are born again, the believers are active in the process of purifying themselves.

Growing in holiness, then, depends on what the believer does.  God, through what Jesus did and what the Holy Spirit does, has provided the atmosphere in which holiness may thrive, but without the serious efforts of individual believers, holiness will never be seen in their lives.

Modern Christians may scoff at the idea of “holiness.”  We would rather be known as the people “God isn’t finished with yet” than “God’s holy people.”  However, Scripture never allows God’s children to use their “work in progress” status as an excuse for sinful behavior.  The admonition from Peter and the other Biblical writers is to simply be holy, not sorry.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd
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