Bible Commentary on the First Letter of Peter: Section 2.3, 1:14-21

Be Holy, Know Why

Section 2.3 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:14-21)

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

After sub-sections one and two of the second section of the First Letter of Peter, we see the author move into something of a period of instruction. The two previous sub-sections had a dominate focus on the salvation with which we are to have our hope. Regardless of what happens to us in this world, so long as our faith and hope are in God, this salvation is guaranteed to us. So, one could only imagine hearing someone say, “Well, yeah, that is great and all, but what are we to do in the mean time? I mean….people are trying to kill us over here, teacher!” This, again, really follows closely with the logical steps that are followed in attempting to console a loved one during a time of great strife and difficulty. Once you establish the bigger picture, and try to draw the individual out of the little picture that they have themselves all wrapped up in, you begin to tell them what they should do because of it.

This sub-section starts out with the use of “obedient children” as the analogy that brings across Peter’s point. As with all letters of the time, ever line of ink counts, and you only want to include those things which are of the greatest importance. So it is clear that there was careful consideration of what needed to be said. As Christians, we accept the reality that the apostles were most certainly guided by the Holy Spirit in all they did. From their miracle working to their proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit’s presence was clearly with them, and was the driving force behind the early growth of the church. So, it would be quite unreasonable to conclude that their writings were not also done at the hand of the Holy Spirit as well through the author. With that said, why go to the analogy of an obedient child?

Lets take a look at the Greek words for a moment here. Obedient is the translation of the Greek word that is transliterated as “Hupakoe” (hoop-ak-o-ay’). It implies the obedience to another’s counsel or guidance and direction. Children is translating the Greek “Teknon” (tek’-non). This term for children is one of endearment. It implies “my child” as one might imagine a loving and compassionate mother saying to little boy who has done something great and full of love for her (NTGL-NAS). In these two words we come to understand this not in the rather sad “modern” sense of the term (as so many regard raising an ‘obedient’ child as a negative now-a-days, as though it were abuse!) but in the way that draws a sense of honor and dignity. For a child to be obedient to his or her parent (in this biblical sense), they must heed the guidance and direction for life that the parent provides to them. From the Hebrew standpoint, as well as the Greek, the idea suggests a child that is truly becoming a Son or Daughter, as opposed to just offspring. They are taking on the beliefs and way of life of the family, truly living up to their position and abilities. While many may attempt to utilize this verse as a means to demean Christian teaching as tyrannical to children, forcing indoctrination and the like, the reality is quite the opposite.

Verse fifteen and sixteen follow up this call to obedience as children striving to be like their father with a universal principle of behavior for all Christians. Repentance implies a refusal to continue old ways in order to seek only something new. Here, Peter is telling these new Christians to not allow themselves to fall back to their old habits. An important term is used here, and that is “ignorance.” As Peter tells them to not be “conformed” (helps to understand his use of that term here in light of the previous paragraphs here, doesn’t it?) to their “former lusts,” he is stating that their behavior came from ignorance. Ignorance from what, you might ask? There appears to be no explicit explanation of what their ignorance was in, but within the fuller context of the historical, cultural, and biblical realities, it is clear he means ignorance of the Gospel.

He continues with the needs for them to “holy” in their behavior. Just as the ancient Israelites were told “You Shall Be Holy, for I am Holy,” so to is Peter making the same point. They are Christians now, claiming faith in the one true God and the salvation brought by Jesus. This should result in their decision to recognize themselves as something separate and apart form the world around them. After all, that is the meaning of Holy, to be set apart, most specifically, set apart for God. Just as God is set apart from the world, so to must we behave as those who are set apart from the world.

In verse seventeen he begins to drive home the points made in the previous section. Continuing with the Father-child relationship model, he moves on to explain an if-then situation. If you “address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work…” then it only makes sense that you would “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” Just as a child who loves and respects his or her father, they should conduct themselves in such a manner as to think twice before doing any particular thing. This is true of anyone that wishes to live a life with higher purpose or changing from a life-style that brought pain to others to one that does not. You have to become more aware of what you are doing and what it means or may do to others. He is telling them, just as I had to tell myself during my process, that their old habits were done out of ignorance, a lack of care or concern for others, and done just out of lust. Peter’s guidance here is to live as one who considers their father to be one who does not judge impartially, or in other words, who won’t let them get away with things. This is certainly sound counseling, and is used frequently in many environments where the patient requires a drastic change in life-style to heal and grow.

He moves on in verse eighteen with something that reinforces the previous sub-section’s focus and uses it to give them a greater appreciation for his point here. If you regard God as your Father, if you truly do have faith in God, then you should behave as one set apart from the rest of the world. They must know that they “…were not redeemed with perishable things silver or gold…but with precious blood.” How could they possibly squander the sacrifice of so great a man as Jesus, God’s own son, God on earth? Knowing that someone has given their life for you, so that you may live should drastically change your perspective and appreciation of your life. Being alive after multiple combat tours where my brothers in arms have died, I can tell you, this reality had better change your life, or you may be in a deeper hole than you might think.

Peter then continues to bring this great and mighty thing home. He makes it personal. He points out that this great deed, this imperishable salvation, this man who “…was foreknown before the foundation of the world…” this incredible hero (something that would strike a chord with any Greek or Roman of those days) “…has appeared…for the sake of you!” How much do we understand or appreciate of that point today? This man’s sacrifice was for all of us, so that we could all be free from the wrongs we have done against God and against others. If you are claiming to have faith in that sacrifice, to trust in God, then why would you not live knowing in your heart that it is true? Even in all of our hardship, in all of our trials and difficulties, in all of the sickness and suffering, we are alive in our souls because we have faith in the one who created all things and who loves us and desires only for us to live with Him for eternity.

The closing verse wraps this sub-section up with a point that is the most misunderstood doctrine of all Christendom, yet it is written so clearly and simply here: “who through him are believer in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” God raised Jesus from the dead. Though we say Jesus was “God in the flesh,” it is important to understand, as it is made known here, that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. In his presence on earth he was indeed a man, but God’s presence was with him, just as it had been at the beginning. Do not be confused thinking this is some “God has multiple personalities,” thing or “God is everywhere,” thing. God exists in three persons, one person of which is a presence within each of us who believes, the other the presence of God on earth in interactions with man, and the other the head the form of which is only symbolized across the biblical texts.

It is through our faith and hope in God that we are able to carry through our hardships. There are those out there who have very strong wills, and they have the ability to handle a great amount of tragic experiences and carry forward. These are but few. While there are those who appear strong externally, we know no more than ever that many of those we see as physically strong and brave suffer from internal breakdowns that show how weak our physical strengths really are. It is this internal, spiritual strength that we get from God. Without Him, those trying and tragic times can tear us apart internally, and can send us to very dark places. I know, I have been there. I have seen many of my brothers in arms take their lives over the years because of that darkness. I know of many who are still struggling with it today. Sure, there are some who say they are doing fine without God…but here we are many years later.

The sub-section of Peter is something that should be a wake up call for Christians. Why on earth would we go back to the old ways of our youth? The old ways that we inherited from this heinous and self-destructive culture that we live in here in the U.S. When we have now come (or claim to) know that the grace is there for the taking. That through our faith we are redeemed from the death that sin brings (spiritually and physically) and are strengthened by the grace He gives to us for that faith in Him. We should live a life that is starkly different from the sick and sad culture that surrounds us. We should stand out for it. And if we are persecuted for it, in ways both small and large, hurtful and deadly, we should know that at the end of it all is a salvation that cannot be taken from us. So, let that joy be ever present in your hearts. Know that God is with you and that your outcome is already guaranteed. Always remember that Christianity is not about a reward or achieving heaven. Heaven is just the inevitable conclusion. The objective is to live in a right relationship with God so he can mold you into what He created you to be, and through that changed self, live in right relationship with your fellow man.

New Testament Greek Lexicon – New American Standard (NTGL-NAS). Retrieved from July 31, 2017. (Be sure to follow the links to the lexicon by selecting the terms individually to bring up the reference.)


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