1 PETER-SERIES : NR 2
Theme: Called to holiness
Scripture : 1 Peter 1: 13-25
In ancient times one had to tuck up your clothes to be able to move fast. Men too. The kind of robes that Middle Eastern people wore, would trip you and then you would find yourself on the ground with a couple of bruises or perhaps a broken something. You had to FIRST pull yourself up!
That is the image that the Apostle uses. But he applies it to a Christian’s MIND.
Pull up the loose ends of your mind, says the Holy Spirit through the apostolic pen. “Pull it up by throwing away everything that hinders – all worldly things that can make you stumble – and concentrate your focus upon the enormously great and wonderful future that God has prepared for you in Jesus Christ! Therefore be self-controlled and mentally sober.”
Spiritual sobriety includes things such as steadfastness, self-control, clarity of mind, moral determination. The sober Christian is someone who is not so easily lead astray by all the world’s lures. It is someone who is controlled by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. It is someone who does not live for the here and now, but who is keeping his eyes on the future – God’s glorious future for everyone who are born-again Christians. Particularly Christians who are suffering and are going through trials – indeed as Peter’s first readers suffered – should absolutely unreservedly keep their eyes on God’s future. Peter puts it plainly: The second coming of Christ SHALL happen. And it shall bring GRACE to all the people of God. That is something to look forward to for someone who knows the Lord.
That’s as far as verse 13 is concerned.
The problem is that Christians will struggle greatly to apply in practice that which is written in verse 13 if there is not a passion to be obedient. A willingness and desire to actively FOLLOW Christ AS LORD. The great attribute of a true Christian is obedience. And it is such a radical change to what you were before, because the unsaved person obeys by nature only himself and the suction power of the world. But where JESUS walks into a life, things change rather drastically.
The Apostle Peter says in verses 14-16 that a true believer is in principle already obedient and holy. Of course HOLY does not mean sinless-perfect, but it means to be set aside for the Lord. HOLY means literally to belong to the Lord 100%. Set apart for Him. The life long process of sanctification is nothing else but to BECOME what you in principle already ARE. That may sound strange, but listen again: You BECOME what you already ARE.
Put differently: You LIVE every day out of the wealth that has already been deposited into your account. A Christian does not work to BECOME rich. You became rich in an instant and now you LIVE out of the riches. You draw from it. You do not live TOWARDS something, you live OUT OF something you already own, what you already are. A totally different and new identity.
Before the Apostle Peter’s first readers became Christians, they were unsaved and lived according to godless desires – as all people do by nature. But now – because they are included in Jesus’s holiness, they must and should no longer conform their lives according to those old patterns. Because they have been called by the Lord himself. They do not belong to themselves. They have been sanctified by faith-trust in Christ. And it completely concerns and affects their entire lifestyle. And therefore they must BECOME more and more like that. And it can, because they already are made new and saved from the old life – by the power of God.
Such a changed life desires only to honour and revere the Lord God, says the Apostle. We sometimes hear people say – if you are a Christian-believer – then God is your best friend, your pal, or you daddy in whose lap you can rest. But it is significant that the Bible does not talk like that.
Yes, through Christ the child of God IS reconciled and there IS a relationship that was absent before – but it is always reverent, because God is God, and man is man. See how the Holy Spirit puts it in this verse 17. LIVE YOUR LIVES AS STRANGERS HERE IN REVERENT FEAR. Yes, He is the Father of everyone who is saved in Christ. We do indeed call upon Him as Father. And the fact that we may KNOW Him, and in Christ may know Him as Father, makes that we are complete strangers in the world. We are in the world, but long since no longer of the world. That is true. And yet the Lord is also the One who judges our practical life. Therefore the reverence. We should always remember that reverent fear is part of the faith-trust. Not meaning that the Christian is AFRAID of God, but to honour him. Reverence for God means holy respect.
Two truths strike us in this verse:
1 > As already mentioned, the Christian can and must never be a part of the world system. The identity of a Christian is always one of stranger. And that will SHOW in our lifestyle!
2 > The Lord evaluates the practice of the lives of His people. That does not mean that the Christian-believer must be uncertain of his/her salvation. Someone who is in Christ is free from all condemnation (Rom 8:1). That also does not mean that a person is saved by good works. It does however mean that we are all the time accountable and answerable to the Lord. He is not on our level. He is the Lord of lords and King of kings.
If we think about the fact that the Lord has redeemed us with His own life from the eternal deadly consequences of our sins and from the judgment of God, we realise all the more what authority He has over us.
In the same way the slavery of those days was senseless, so the life of the unsaved person is senseless and ALL people are in that state since birth.
Sometimes slaves tried to ransom themselves with their savings. Ransom means to pay an amount of money to the slave’s owner to free such a person from slavery. The ransom that is paid, sets the slave free. This ransom was naturally in the form of money.
Seen from a spiritual point of view, every human being is a slave by nature. A slave bound to sin and shame and flesh and world and devil. It is something dreadful. And it causes your life to be senseless and meaningless. Should you remain in this state you will be lost for eternity. But NOTHING can pay the ransom to redeem you. What person can pay the ransom price to redeem your life out of the power of sin and blame? Nobody. UNLESS…
Unless God HIMSELF pays the ransom He demands. Yes! Many centuries before the coming of Jesus to the earth, God gave lambs and other animals that had to be sacrificed upon the altar in the temple to show Israel WHAT the ransom is that God requires – the ONLY price that can redeem a sinner. The innocent life and blood of an offer that dies vicariously – as substitute – in the place of – the spiritual sin-slave. And in the end Jesus was the Lamb. His life and blood paid the only ransom with which God would be satisfied. It redeemed us from a senseless and useless existence and gives hope and security and an assured future. That is the main truth of the instruction of verses 18-19.
One can hear how the Holy Spirit is speaking through the pen of the Apostle, not so. THAT is where we hear His voice – in the pages of the Scriptures and not by delving into our hearts to hear it there.
WHAT is the Holy Spirit now saying in verse 20? Well, it is all about Jesus! Verse 1 said that God had elected everyone who would ever come to faith in Christ, and before the creation already ordained them to become children of God, but in the same way God the Father also ordained JESUS to redeem His people with His blood! God ordained the people to be redeemed and He ordained Jesus before the creation already to pay the ransom. In the heart of God Jesus had already paid the ransom before the creation.
Just think: Before there was the Fall, even before there were human beings, everything was already recorded in God’s Divine Plan. He ordained us for salvation and He ordained Jesus to perfectly accomplish that salvation. His death was not an attempt. It was an accomplishment. In the end times, says Peter in verse 20. The end time is the entire period between Jesus’s first coming and His second coming (Heb 1:2). The end time is already 2000 years in duration. But to God one day is like a 1000 years and 1000 years like one day (2 Pet 3:8).
It is to our advantage and salvation that Jesus came to the earth, says the Spirit. FOR YOUR SAKE He is saying. How we should seize this great wonder with all our might and live accordingly.
If it is true that Jesus – and He alone – paid the ransom, then there is no other way to believe in the true God and to be His child than by Jesus only. Billions of people confess that they believe in “God” – not only in Christendom, but also numerous other religions. The problem is that there is only one truth. All other claims of the truth are lies and deception. Truth is always exclusive – it excludes all other options. If it is the truth that one must stop at a red robot, then you cannot also stop at the green light.
The TRUTH is that one can and must believe in God only through Christ. That is what verse 21 says. People who deny Christ or see Him different to how the Scriptures reveal Him, do not believe in God. An idol, yes, but not the only true living God. Nobody who denies Jesus, has the Father (1 John 2:23).
And God the Father placed the exclamation mark behind it all by raising Jesus from the grave AND by glorifying Him. The glorification of course refers to the ascension and Jesus’s present position of honour and glory.
Point is: By resurrecting and glorifying Him, God the Father said something. He confirmed that Jesus is the truth, and that only those who place their hope upon the true Christ of the Scriptures, truly believe in the true God. Look at the end of verse 21: “and so your faith and hope are in GOD”. In other words: Because you are hoping upon Christ 100% – He who rose from the grave – THEREFORE your faith is placed upon the true God. You can know that with assurance!
Therefore: Can you hear that everything, everything is from/by God? The work of redemption, the purification etc – it is His work. Soli Deo Gloria
But wait: What is happening in Verse 22? Suddenly it is saying: YOU have purified yourselves by obeying the truth. WHAT? Does the Apostle contradict himself within a few sentences?
No, it is not a contradiction. It is different sides of the same diamond.
Scripture clearly says that faith-obedience is a work of the Holy Spirit and a gift of God. But it is not the SPIRIT who obeys God, it is MAN! What God works IN us, we work outwardly – by the same Spirit! The appeal of the Gospel-message is therefore always: BELIEVE the Gospel-message. In other words: BE obedient to God! It is man who does it, not God!
By nature the fallen human obeys only three things: 1 himself, 2 world 3 satan. But when the Holy Spirit works the obedience in you, your obedience changes direction. Now it is the Triune God. And only such a person is able to love. To love people whom you would otherwise not love – fellow-believers of all kinds. Even love to extreme. That is what the Apostle is saying here: sincerely and deeply from the heart meaning to the most extreme. That is an instruction that the Spirit is giving through the apostolic pen. You MUST love. Without pretence.
The child of God therefore has a choice. Love is a matter of will and not of feeling or emotion. Feelings cannot obey. But the will can. That is why it is possible for every Christian to love and even to the needs of others. Not in order TO BECOME born again, but because rebirth has already taken place. The new life that God has created is the source and reason for your obedience and love.
That is precisely what verse 23 is teaching. “For you HAVE been born again…” The FOR is saying that rebirth is the source of the love. Not the result.
And the rebirth/new life is something God does by Himself and He does it through the Word one hears. All plants wither eventually, but not the plant that is planted by God the Father. In Matthew 15:13 Jesus says: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has planted will not be uprooted”. The spiritual life that is planted by the Spirit of Christ and has rebirth as result, is infallible and permanent, because the source of the origin of this new life which the Spirit brings, is the eternal and living Word of God. Because the Truth of the pure Word of God is ETERNAL, the new life of the rebirth is also irrevocable and everlasting. Is that not great?
BEHIND man’s obedience to the Gospel is the implanted new life as a pure work of God. And man’s faith-trust-obedience is the fruit of the implanted new life borne out of the Seed of the Word! Indeed man has to be made alive before faith and repentance are possible, because by nature man is DEAD in sin (Eph 2:1-3).
In Rom 10:17 Paul puts it like this: “Consequently faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ”.
And in James 1:18 we read that God chooses to give us birth THROUGH the Word of Truth. The more you fill yourself with the Scriptures, the more powerful the faith-trust.
It is such a great comfort to know that the eternal Word of God – which is the seed of the rebirth – is the exact word in our Bible: the prophets and the apostles (OT and NT). Peter assures his readers of this. He says in verses 24-25 that the Word of God is THAT which we, the apostles, preached to you. And here in the 21st century we have it in our Bible. NOT in visions, dreams, revelations received by people.
And look carefully: He is saying that this Word of the Lord stands forever. That is important information. We must hold onto that. It is not a Word that will fail or desert us somewhere in the future. It is forever. Forever means that it can and shall never come to an end.
In fact, the Apostle quotes from Isaiah 40:6-8 to make a point. Something momentous such as rebirth, the Divine creation of new life, can sound so small and insignificant if a person thinks that it originates only from the mere rest of the heart upon God’s Word/promises. But Peter quotes Isaiah to show that this fragile entity – God’s Word – shall eventually outlive everything that is in the world. It is eternal. And it is this eternal Word which gives meaning and strength to our trust.
Yes, EVERYTHING that is of man, shall without a doubt wither. The wealthiest person, the most powerful politician, shall wither like the flowers of the fields. The one moment the flowers are in their full glory, and before you know it they are gone. The beauty of a flower does not last. Such is man.
But the mortal man who builds upon the eternal Word, shall never perish!
Translated by Marthie Wilson