In chapter one, verse thirteen of 1 Peter, we see a transition indicated by the word “therefore”. The word demonstrates a pivot to a conclusion or an action based upon what was previously written. In the next few verses, Peter will give a series of commands and fill out the attitude and theology that drives them. However, the word “therefore” points us back to the foundation on which those commands stand; before methodically laying out the commands one by one. “Therefore” is a transition point, a signal to the reader that Peter is ready to put the lofty theological truths into action.
By beginning v13 with “therefore”, Peter is effectively saying: “because you are aliens (v1), because your election is trinitarian in purpose, action, and empowerment (v2), because you have been caused to be born again (v3), because your inheritance is undefiled and imperishable (v4), because you have are protected by God for salvation (v5), because you will be distressed by various temporary trials (v6) which will prove your faith and result in praise and honor to Jesus Christ (v7), because you have not seen Him and do not see Him but nonetheless believe Him and love Him (v8), because such faith and love leads to salvation (v9), because this salvation is something searched for for centuries (v10), because both Christ’s sufferings and glories were predicted to come to pass (v11), and because the whole of history and all of heaven were not so privileged as Christians (v12)…. THEREFORE, do what I’m about to tell you.”
We must not miss this as students of Scripture. The Christian life is not a series of pointless commands to be mindlessly followed. The Christian life is to spring out of the loftiest and grandest of sound theology, driving us forward to live out that truth and conform to that truth. Truth to the Christian is the catalyst to what transforms us into a new creation that acts on what we know to be true about our Lord and Savior! “Therefore” in this passage is often overlooked; but the connection it makes must not be missed.
One of the common misconceptions about verse 13 is that there are many commands in the verse. However, we must understand that what is plainly three commands in English is probably better understood as one command to be done with particular attitudes and motivations. Peter is not giving his readers a bulleted list, but rather commanding them to “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you” and to do so with prepared minds and a sober, self-disciplined lifestyle.
The call here is for minds prepared for action and lives unencumbered by needless baggage and sin; and for those minds and lives to look forward to the future and “fix their hope”. In the midst of a coming persecution, Peter does not make a battle cry for Christians to get their lives together and sharpen their minds in order to overthrow the persecutors or to influence the culture. Rather, he encourages they put their trust and their hopes in what will come after the persecution, and after their lives. The Christian’s goal is to go home, to go to a place where they will no longer be aliens and strangers but rather sons and daughters; sitting at their Father’s table and sleeping in his home – safe, at rest, and in complete joy. While there is much to be done on the Earth, we must never see it as our ultimate hope. Our efforts here must instead be focused on bringing as many people with us to our Father’s home, and on making our temporary stay as uncompromisingly tolerable as possible.
The word for “prepare” (as in “prepare your minds) is interesting. The word is ἀναζώννυμι which means to “gird up”. That may seem an odd turn of phrase to a modern ear, but it’s important that we understand the phrase in the context of the culture in which it was written. In the days of Peter, men wore clothes more akin to robes. These types of clothes would often flow and get in the way of manual work or in battle. So, in those days, preparation for manual labor or fighting would include wrapping up one’s tunic in one’s belt. Peter invokes that imagery in preparing your mind. Getting your mind ready takes a change in state. We must “tighten up”. Just as a warrior can’t wear his clothes the same when he’s lounging as when he’s fighting so also a Christian must set his mind differently when he’s a thinking believer rather than a selfish worldly person.
Now that we understand preparation, we have to understand what it specifically means to prepare our minds. First, I think it’s fair to say that we are called to have active and engaged minds. Most people aren’t geniuses, and that is also true of Christians as well. The Bible does not call us to be geniuses. In fact, it often reminds us that it is the simple and “lowly” people who can sometimes be better used of God. However, genius or not, everyone has a mind and everyone has the ability to think in some capacity. Make no mistake: Christians are called to be thinkers. Second, and probably more to the point, preparation of one’s mind certainly means putting oneself in the right mindset. MacArthur writes “[Peter] urges believers to pull in all the loose ends of their lives, meaning to discipline their thoughts (cf. Rom. 12:2), live according to biblical priorities (cf. Matt. 6:33), disentangle themselves from the world’s sinful hindrances (cf. 2 Tim. 2:3-5, Heb. 12:1), and conduct life righteously and godly, in view of the future grace that accompanies Christ’s return (cf. Luke 12:35; Col 3:2-4).” Preparing our minds is as much preparing our lives and ordering our thinking according the Biblical standards and priorities as it is educating ourselves and learning to use that education.
Remember the context of this letter. These are ordinary people -average Christians- set in a culture that opposes everything they believe and hold dear, and disliked by a powerful government that has no qualms about forcing terrible injustice upon them. This ought not sound unfamiliar to many of us, and much of history is full of Christians who can not only sympathize but also empathize. Peter, in no uncertain terms, tells them that the way to face such a situation is to”fix their hope… completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (more on that next week); and to do so with prepared minds. The Christian “call to arms” is not a call to “arms” at all, but rather a focus of sharp, well trained minds on what really matters: our glorious Savior.