Personal Holiness – 1 Peter 1:13-25

Read the Passage: 1 Peter 1:13-25

Call to Holiness (1:13–16)

In beginning this verse with the word “therefore” Peter is in effect saying, “In light of the nature of salvation . . . .” He then goes on to list three duties required of his believing readers. First, they were to “gird up the loins of [their] minds” (1 Pet. 1:13). This is a reference to the ancient practice of gathering up one’s robe when needing to move in a hurry. Peter is saying, then, prepare your mind by putting away the loose ends of your thinking. Second, Peter admonishes his readers to “be sober.” Here the apostle is encouraging his readers to develop self-control and clarity of mind without being intoxicated by worldly thoughts. Third, Peter urges his readers to focus solely on the “grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He is, in effect, saying that believers need to rest solely upon God’s grace and not upon personal effort.

In 1 Pet. 1:14–16 Peter describes what the believer who fulfills the three duties he prescribed will look like—that is, “obedient children” (1 Pet. 1:14). Peter writes that in our pre-conversion state we all conformed ourselves to our own lusts, and this out of ignorance. We were not ignorant that our ways were sinful, but ignorance of the gospel. Whereas in our pre-conversion state we couldn’t not sin, now we know better and have the ability not to sin—although we know from experience that we will continue to sin (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Pet. 1:3). In one word the way that we are to now act is “holy.” In quoting Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7, a verse with which his Jewish readers would have been familiar, Peter reminds them that we are to be holy for God is holy. This process occurs as believers conform to God’s image as we obey His commandments.

Reason for Holiness (1:17–21)

In 1 Pet. 1:17–21 Peter gives several reasons why believers must be holy. One reason is because believers call upon the Father, who is by nature holy. Here Peter urges his readers to “conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear” (1 Pet. 1:17). The term “fear” in this verse is not a reference to trembling, dread, or anxiety, but to reverence. Numerous times in the Old Testament God’s people were reminded, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (cf. Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Mic. 6:9). What this means is that when one reveres God, one will obey his commands, thereby living a holy life. Since wisdom is the practical application of God’s Word to daily living, the connection is clear: fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which is practical holiness. This is the motivation for proper Christian living.

Another reason why believers must embrace holiness is because Christ has redeemed us to be holy. Peter explains this idea in 1 Pet. 1:18–21. As the apostle writes, believers were not redeemed with a corruptible thing like gold or silver, but with the precious blood of the spotless Lamb of God, the sinless Son of God. Paul described the transaction, which we call forensic justification, when he wrote to the Corinthians, “For He [i.e., the Father] made Him [i.e., the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This process of substitutionary Atonement was, as Peter writes, “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9; Rev. 13:8). In light of God’s grace and believers’ new nature, then, holiness in conduct is a foregone conclusion, for the cost of our salvation ought to motivate holiness.

Expression of Holiness (1:22–25)

After calling his readers to holiness, and giving them the rationale for such a call, here in 1 Pet. 1:22–25 the apostle notes that one of the primary manifestations of holiness is that believers “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Pet. 1:22). Indeed, in the words of Jesus, this is the second greatest commandment (cf. Matt. 22:39; Lev. 19:18), and as the apostle John wrote, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21). In a sense, then, what Peter is saying is that if one is in a right relationship with God, one will not be able to help but to love others. To make this point clear Peter reminds his readers that they were redeemed “through the word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). Of course, Jesus is the Word of God (cf. John 1:1). In quoting Isa. 40:6–8 Peter reminds his readers that since the word abides forever, believers have the power to love one another.

Application Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be holy? Are most professing Christians holy? How important is holiness to the Christian life (cf. Heb. 12:14)?
  2. What does it mean to have the mind of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:16; Phil. 2:5; 1 Pet. 4:1)? It is the same as having a renewed or transformed mind (cf. Rom. 12:2)?
  3. How can believers practically become holy? What is the relationship between obedience and holiness? Why do we still sin as believers (cf. Eph. 2:1–3)?
  4. Do most professing believers manifest a life that evidences the fear of God? Whom or what do you fear?
  5. Do you love others as God does? Do you love others with the same love that God has shown you? What keeps you from loving others?