1 Peter 1:14-16

Last week, we studied verse 13 and the imperative “fix your hope” on the “grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”.  We also learned of the two “supports of hope”, a level head and a prepared mind.  Peter told us to get ready properly so that we may rightly hope for the return of Christ.    This week: how do prepared, level headed, hopeful people properly interact with a world that has no such hope in the unveiling of Christ?

Peter opens verse 14 by giving us the model we must follow and urges us to do what he says “as obedient children”; and it is the attitude that governs the instructions in verse 14-16.  Jesus used children to illustrate many of His teachings throughout the Gospels.  In Matthew 18, Jesus told the disciples (including Peter) that in order to become great in the kingdom, one must become “as a child”.  Jesus didn’t mean to be childish, but rather lowly, powerless, unassuming, humble, and modest.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” {Mat 18:1-4 NASB}

Jesus continues in Matthew 18, offering a “blessing vs. curse” statement about “receiving” a child in His name or causing them to stumble.  Jesus is continuing His comparison about the proper way to follow Him; instructing other believers how to treat believers who are, in the right way, childlike.

“”And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” {Mat 18:5-6 NASB}

This model Peter has in mind as he opens his instructions.  We are to be obedient children.  Lowly, unassuming, humble, not concerned with our own status, and trusting our Father entirely.  It is certainly interesting that in instructing us on how to deal with the world, Peter begins with attitude.  Humans have a tendency to make the entire ordeal about what steps one must accomplish instead of the way one accomplishes them or the reasons for taking those steps to begin with.  We want results instead of principles.  The Bible calls us to the exact opposite.  Our attitude must not be one of checking off a to-do list, but rather of assuming a posture of humility in the first place; BEFORE we act.

What should we do?  Verses 14 -16 form a dialogue which succinctly covers all aspects of the question.

  • What NOT to do (v14)
  • What to do (v15)
  • Why (v16)

What NOT to Do

The command in verse 14 is “do not be conformed”.  The word for conformed has strong connotations of taking on a form, or fashioning in the shape of something.  It implies a pattern of behavior or a lifestyle.  Peter’s instruction is to not form ourselves in the fashion of our “former lusts”.  In other words, don’t act like we used to act when we did not have Christ.  Paul calls us a “new creation” when we are in Christ.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” {2Co 5:17 NASB}

It is exactly this idea Peter is conveying here.  We have become new, and so we should not conform ourselves to what we used to be.  We were “ignorant”.  Now we are no longer in the dark, so don’t act like darkness.  New creations should act in new ways.  “Newness” is holistic and means new thought patterns, new habits, new priorities.  The one thing we level headed, mentally prepared, hopeful believers should not do is act like nothing has changed or demonstrate no difference between us and the God-hating world.

What to do

Rather, act like the Master who bought us.  Twice Peter calls us to holiness.  First, he implores us to be like “the Holy One who called you”, and second to “be holy yourselves in all your behavior”.  The first command is a model for which we should strive.  Peter sets the bar far higher than we can ever hope to achieve.  There are two reasons for this.  First, it gives us something for which we can always strive .  No matter how much the Lord may sanctify us, we’ll never attain His level of holiness.  We can always do better.  In that way, each Christian is struggling equally, even if every struggle is not shared among all or if every hindrance to holiness is not of equal gravity.  Second, Peter extols the high holiness and awe-inspiring wonder that is our Most High God.  There is truly a reason He is the Name above every other name!  No one can match His worth, no one can touch His beauty, and no can even approach His holiness.  Our God is truly great!

The word “holiness” means to be “set apart”.  A good way to look at it is to be holy means to be different in a a special way.  In the Bible, all sorts of things are holy.  There are holy items in the temple, holy clothes for the Old Testament priests, holy people, a holy city, etc.  We must not make the mistake of injecting modern misunderstandings into Peter’s words.  To be “holy” doesn’t me that the item/city/person is invested with some sort of inherent spiritual power.  Rather, it simply means that person/item/etc. is different.  To understand this verse, we should see it as a call to be different and special in the way we behave, and to continue that effort so (as much as possible) we can be like God.

The Christian life is one of striving.  Not to save or justify oneself, but instead to make war with sin and to cultivate Christ-likeness.  While we must always be careful not to rely on our works to justify us before the Father, we must also realize that once we are justified before the Father we are then to be radically changed in a lifelong process that causes us to be more and more like Him.  As it is popularly said “We are saved by faith alone, but saving faith is NEVER alone.”  So much for easy-believism!  So much for sloppy grace!  We are saved apart from ourselves, called to leave ourselves behind, and implored to take up our cross and follow Him.

Why?

Finally in verse 16 we find out why these are God’s commands.  The answer is simple, and yet in some ways not satisfactory to our human minds.  The answer is because “it is written.”  Peter is likely making a general statement, but we could trace the quotation to Leviticus 11 and 19.

“‘For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth.” {Lev 11:44 NASB}

“”Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” {Lev 19:2 NASB}

It may not be popular to say that we should do something “because God said so”, but that seems to be the case we have here.  More accurately, it is because He is holy and He desires it for us.  Quite simply, God wants us to be like Him.   While holiness certainly has real practical benefits, those benefits are secondary side effects.  While holiness will make us stand out, “standing out” is not the point.  Holiness is God’s desire, and part of His nature.  He is redeeming a people FOR HIMSELF, and those people are to be like Him: holy.  It fulfills the command He has written, validates His word which does not return empty, and mimics Him who is entirely true, entirely good, and entirely worthy of our praise.  Be holy; for no other reason than Holy God desires it and commanded it.  What other reason could there be?

Next week: the impartial Judge and the blood of the Lamb.

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