1 Peter 1:13 “Prepared Minds and Level Heads”

Peter spends a lot of time in the first 12 verses of this letter outlining breathtaking theological truths.  Writing to a church on the increasingly undeniable cusp of severe persecution, Peter tries to comfort them with the truth rather than divert their attention with distraction.  He reminds them -and us- that believers are to find hope in theology and rejoice over the truth.

Now, in verse 13, Peter turns his attention from what is true to what to do.  Since the theology of verses 1-12 is true, what action should we then take?  Verse 13 begins with a single clear command:  fix your hope on the grace to be brought to you.  At first blush, it may seem like three separate commands “prepare your minds”, “keep sober”, and “fix your hope”.  However, a closer examination of the original language shows that the better way to understand it is as if our action of fixing our hope should be done WITH a prepared mind and “soberly”, or with a level-headed attitude.  D. Edmund Hiebert calls this “the supports of hope” saying “Two activities support the life of hope, the first a decisive action, the second a continuing attitude.” 1  Young’s Literal Translation adroitly captures the idea: “Wherefore having girded up the loins of your mind, being sober, hope perfectly upon the grace that is being brought to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ,” {1Pe 1:13 YLT}

This is not a a hope to be saved from sin because this letter is written to believers; those who are already saved.  Rather, the object of the hope is the salvation that is “being brought to you” in the “revelation of Jesus Christ”.  Initially, it can seem that this “revelation” may be the uncovering of the truth of Christ that happens in Scripture.  Some may even take it to be the Scriptures themselves.  However, as John MacArthur makes clear, Peter is referring to the second coming of Christ.  The word for “revelation” is ἀποκάλυψις which means “unveiling”.  MacArthur writes:  “Peter uses the present participle pheromenen, but the translators express it as future, recognizing the Greek grammatical construction as if it were already happening… Peter urged his readers to hope for it as though it were a present reality.” 2

So then, we can see Peter’s instructions are clear.  With a prepared mind, and a level-headed attitude, fix your hope entirely on Christ looking forward to His second coming.  Hope is the definition of the Christian attitude.  We are to be a hopeful people, a people who look forward to Christ’s second coming; and who’s focus is always on that glorious day.  But we are not to be people who press forward to that day with erratic or inaccurate thinking, or panic and disorder in our hearts.

Those two “supports of hope” are vital in the Christian life.  While we recognize that we’re nothing but aliens and strangers here, we also must recognize that our hope is in the future coming of Christ, not the present circumstances.  Yet, it’s easy to allow circumstances to get the better of us.  Too often we can become frightened or startled by the crumbling world around us.  Sometimes we become jaded or listless.  Too many Christians walk and talk as if all is lost, particularly when we see other Christians doing wrong or when a politics doesn’t go our way.  I’m sure that non-westernized Christians struggle with losing their heads just as often as those of us in the West do.  The prospects of finding food and shelter, of being safe from those who wish to hurt you, and of providing for a family are surely more pressing in those areas than ours.  Yet panicked attitudes are not hopeful ones.  While we should be concerned with our safety, providing for ourselves, bad laws in government, or bad actions in the church; we should recognize that these things are only temporary.  Ultimately, all that will ever matter is that Christ will return to sit on His throne.  He’ll make all things right on that day.  So, while we may never truly escape present circumstance, let’s not lose our heads over those circumstances.  Let our heads be leveled by looking hopefully to His revelation.

Level heads com from prepared minds.  The idea in mind in this phrase is a ‘getting ready’ of our minds.  The words used mean to “gird up”, or in modern vernacular to “tighten the belt”.  It evokes an image of a soldier getting ready for battle where he would gather up his loose clothing and transform himself into dress more suited for moving and fighting.  The focus is on preparation.  A mind does not enter the world prepared.  Rather, it is a lifelong process of curating information, disciplining our thinking, learning to reason, and applying the right methods and principles to solve problems or understand concepts.   As Christians we must prepare our minds.

MacArthur highlights that a Christian preparing his mind is one who will “discipline their thoughts, live according to biblical priorities, disentangle themselves from the world’s sinful hindrances, and conduct life righteously and godly…” 3.  Unfortunately, many Christians do not prioritize prepared minds.  Often we’re too busy just getting through the day to spend the time learning to discipline ourselves; particularly our thinking.  We believe that learning is not for us and we’re satisfied by what we can glean from a Sunday sermon and maybe the occasional Sunday School class.  We’re happy to simply not commit the “big sins” anymore.  We kind of like the world’s little amusements and don’t mind the small footholds it has on us.  This ought not be among believers.

While it’s unreasonable to believe we can ever live completely apart from the world, and legalistic to impose strict boundaries on those things that aren’t sin, we ought not be “of the world”.  Rather, we should pursue every chance to learn about God and develop our thinking.  We should hone our skills to use the knowledge we acquire.  We should seek to live more biblically and to order our lives after the commands and wisdom of Scripture each day.  Remember that Peter is talking to a group of believers who are ABOUT to be persecuted.  His instructions here aren’t to stockpile food and head for the hills; rather he tells them to have prepared minds (and level heads) so they can support the hope they have for Christ’s second coming.  A prepared mind and a realistic, reasonable outlook on life as we hope for our Lord’s unveiling is not only the command for Peter’s audience in 1 Peter, it is the model for life for all Christians, everywhere, in every situation.

Next week we’ll examine how that level-headed, disciplined, and hopeful Christian is to relate to the rest of the world.

Notes:

  1. D. Edmund Hiebert, 1 peter (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 90.
  2. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – 1 peter (Chicago: Moody, 2004), 63.
  3. MacArthur, First Peter, 64-65
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