The following segment in the Tidbits From the Text category of articles actually started out as a lesson I had prepared to teach at a family reunion/church service back in early August but didn’t get a chance to because my grandmother was taken to the hospital.1 I thought about and prayed about what to do with the material and why the Lord had halted my giving this talk on what I thought to be a very important topic. Then I came to the conclusion that it may be helpful if I adapted that talk into an article in the hope that it may help more people because the focus of the material is so important. I pray you find it helpful, encouraging, as well as challenging (which are all the things I obtained from studying the material), and if it is I pray you will share it with others. The format is somewhat different because I am adapting a prepared speech into an article. I will start off with the full key text I use, followed by a verse by verse commentary on the material pulling from other biblical passages, my own thoughts, etc. I pray it helps motivate us all to take action on the seriousness of living a holy life if we profess to trust in Jesus as Lord.
Holiness and Discipleship
The key text: (1 Peter 1:13-19)
13 Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance
15 but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct;
16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
17 And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during this time of temporary residence.
18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
Commentary and Thoughts
(13) Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“Being self-disciplined,” this literally from the Greek means to be clear/level headed. This echoes Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 14:20 when he instructs believers in Corinth to “Be adults in your thinking, in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”
“set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” We need to set our hope completely on the final goal, the final goal being that of resurrection (at Christ’s return/revelation) and finally being rid of sin for good (Revelation 22:3) and the achieving of complete holiness. It takes much discipline and practice (just like anything else) to grow and do well in living a holy life, but such is the way of Christianity and foundational in its practicality. N.T. Wright observes,
“The main thing to notice is that none of these things “comes naturally.” Even for the Christian this is not going to be so, certainly to begin with. The point of virtue, as we have seen, is that eventually, as a person’s character becomes more fully formed , such things may indeed begin to “come naturally.” But the steps it takes to get to that point involve hard decisions and hard actions, choices that run counter to the expectations, aspirations, desires, and instincts with which every human being comes equipped.”2
So it takes time and discipline to work towards building and shaping our character and as Christians we need to make sure we are active in working towards that important goal.
(14-16) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
The former life, lived in habitual sin according to what we DESIRED is called “ignorance.” Ignorance is remedied by knowledge. Once ignorance is remedied it doesn’t immediately lead to holiness however, as that requires action. Remember the 11th chapter of Hebrews, as well as the 2nd chapter of James: genuine faith is proven/made evident through good works/obedience. The writer of Hebrews uses a pattern, “by faith…” then lists a name of someone who we know trusted in God, then lists an action taken by them that was an outworking of that trust. So we need a trust in God that motivates to action, not one that is in word only, as it is then a pseudo-faith/trust.
“as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct…” Here Peter reiterates the command to live a holy life apart from sin. It seems in our culture, and unfortunately in my life when acting as an immature Christian, the conduct of those who profess to be Christians is indistinguishable from that of the non-Christian. Why is this so if this is the command we are supposed be striving to be obedient to? Jesus not only commanded His disciples to keep his commandments out of love, but He called them friends. Notice however that His being friends with them was conditional upon their obedience to His commands:
“You are My friends if you do what I command you.” (John15:14)
So it is vital to strive for obedience and work at holiness!
(17) And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during this time of temporary residence.
Christians (in other words, those who address God as Father) are in a place of temporary residence and we should therefore be on our best behavior, which is related to our previous passage about being holy in all our conduct. I don’t know about you, but I immediately think of school field trips. You were to be on your best behavior because you were travelling and representing your school, and your behavior could in turn reflect poorly on the school. How much more important is it that our conduct as Christians be top notch, and we should discipline ourselves to exhibit “good behavior,” not out of fear, but out of love, because our behavior/conduct can and will reflect poorly on our Heavenly Father? I am reminded of Jesus’ Words in John 14:15, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
Our obedience should be borne out of love. Let me give a simple illustration that may serve to help you see what I mean. Let us say we have a job. Let’s also say that it is a pretty good place to work. For whatever reason the worst part about the job is taking out the trash. No one else at work wants to do it either, so everyone grumbles and complains about it, but we do it anyway because we don’t want fired even though we can’t stand it. So that evening we go home and our spouse asks us to take out the trash. We know it will be a big deal, and will even take a lot of time even as we have to gather the trash from other rooms, etc. yet we do it gladly! The task didn’t change, we are still taking out the trash, only our attitude toward the one who asked. So it is with God’s commands. We shouldn’t keep them because we are afraid of losing a reward, getting disciplined, etc. We need to keep God’s commands out of love for the one who commanded it.
(18-19) For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
How many of us have watched television shows or movies where someone is kidnapped? What is the money called that the kidnappers want to be paid? Ransom money, right? Ransom is a price paid to free one who is taken captive. Once the price is paid the former captive has now been set free or is said to be redeemed. This brings us to the heart of the good news or Gospel. First the bad news: we, all of humanity I mean, have rebelled from God’s commands and well wishes for our lives and ignore His requirement of perfect holiness. We, as noted above, are in disobedience by obeying, not God, but our own desires and lusts in opposition to His.
This actually brings divine justice to light, as God cannot just forgive our sins. If God is to be just He must punish our sin. However, if He is to be merciful He must forgive. This is called the divine dilemma. God, as a maximally great being cannot be one or the other, but as a maximally great being must exhibit all great making properties and lack none of them. Please see my article on this called Controversial or Uncontroversial? and how only a Trinitarian understanding of God can solve the divine dilemma. This shows that only God as revealed by Jesus of Nazareth can escape the divine dilemma and is our only option if we value truth and coherence.
I want to leave you now with some closing comments as well as some challenges in the form of questions I want you take with you, and really make the time to study, pray and reflect on:
Given those of us who profess Jesus as Lord and God as Father, are we daily growing in holiness? Is our conduct befitting the kingdom of God, whether it be our conversation, our entertainment, how much time/practice we put into being disciplined for holiness? All of this matters because not only are we taken captive to sin, but Christ ransomed us from that! “You shall call his name Jesus, for He will save/deliver His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Given that He ransomed us from our sin, how should that affect our daily lives as far as identifying and eliminating sin from it? One last thing, remember that we were ransomed not with “perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.”