Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk our readers through 1 Peter in order to help them understand what it teaches and how to apply it to our lives. This series is part of our larger commitment to help Christians learn to read, interpret, reflect, and apply the Bible to their own lives.
- David Dunham opened our series by looking at 1 Peter 1:1-2.
- Dave looked at 1 Peter 1:3-9.
- Dave looked at 1 Peter 1:10-12.
- Today Dave looks at 1 Peter 1:13-21.
1 Peter 1:13-21, “13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 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.”
In 1588, the Spanish Armada, with 130 ships, sailed toward England, Benton depositing over fifty thousand Spanish soldiers on English soil and deposing Queen Elizabeth. But before the troops could go ashore, Spanish troops had to get past the English navy. The Spanish warships were larger and had bigger guns, but the English ships had superior commanders and greater speed and maneuverability. The Spaniards knew all this when they set sail. How, then, could they hope to succeed in battle if their guns could not attain a firing position? The Spaniards believed that God was on their side. Therefore, they hoped the English would expose themselves to their heavy guns. They hoped the English would foolishly engage them ship to ship in hand-fighting so that they many soldiers aboard them would win the day. But as we say, “hope is not a plan.” The British kept their distance and shot the Spanish ships to pieces. The Spanish paid dearly for a vain hope.
Misplaced hope is worthless, but well-founded hope is potent. 1 Peter 1:13-21 begins and ends with such hope. Peter first commands his readers to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). As he closes, he tells his people that Christ, the Lamb of god, ransomed them from a futile life. “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.” “(1 Peter 1:21).
Hope Leads To Holiness
Between verses 13 and 21, Peter describes what happens when we hope in the grace of Jesus. We no longer conform to evil desires (1 Peter 1:14). We exercise self-control rather than indulging every urge. Further, because “he who called you is holy,” we are holy (1 Peter 1:15). That leads to God’s central command, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; quoting Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2).
Over the next few verses, Peter explains why believers should be holy. First, God “judges every man’s work impartially” (1 Peter 1:17), so that we will have to render an account for everything we say (Matthew 12:37), everything we do (2 Cor. 5:10), and our use of every gift (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 12:13-21). Second, the Father redeemed us from our empty life at great cost—by Christ’s precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). If He ransomed us from a vain life, how can we return to it?
In this call to gospel-driven holiness, Peter harvests his prior themes to enhance his point. For example, Peter addressed his epistle to “God’s elect, stranger in the world” (1 Peter 1:1). Now he says that we should live “as strangers” (1 Peter 1:17), since our holiness will set us apart from the practices of this age. Peter also said that we have a sure and “living hope” that we will gain an imperishable inheritance, guaranteed by Jesus’ resurrection and “kept in heaven” (1 Peter 1:3-4). We await “praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Because we have salvation by grace (1 Peter 1:9-10), we can and should put our hope in Christ (1 Peter 1:13).
Now Peter recapitulates his first themes. In 1 Peter 1:13-21, he exhorts his people to live out their hope of redemption. In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter says that we have been born again to a living hope; in 1 Peter 1:21, he says that “your faith and hope are in God.” But in 1 Peter 1:13 he commands, “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” We see the indicative-imperative pattern once more. Because we have a hope that relies on God, we should set our hope on him.
This section of 1 Peter has two parts. A series of imperatives state the ethical implications of the life of hope in 1 Peter 1:13-17. Then in 1 Peter 1:18-21, Peter returns to his celebration of the work of God that gives us hope.
Peter commands us to “set your hope fully on the grace ot be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). Peter surrounds his central message with subordinate commands that develop the meaning of hope. Translated literally, 1 Peter 1:13 reads, “Girding the lions of your mind, being completely self-controlled, hope on Jesus Christ.” For the whole of biblical history, most people wore loose robes that worked well for ordinary activities, but inhibited strenuous labor, fighting, and running. To gird the loins is to wrap up the glowing garments to gain freedom to work hard or run. Today we might say this is, “Rolling up your sleeves.”
Gold told the Israelites to eat the Passover with loins girded and sandals on their feet, so that they would be ready to flee Egypt at any moment (Exodus 12:11). Jesus alludes to this in Luke 12:35, when he tells his disciples, “Stay dressed for action.” When Peter states that our minds must be ready, he doesn’t mean the intellect tin the narrow sense. The word translated “mind” (dianoia) means the understanding with its dispositions and plans. When Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, he means that we should love God with the whole person, with all our faculties (Matthew 22:37).
The next command “be self-controlled” (1 Peter 1:13), develops the concept of preparation. The word (nepho) usually means to be sober, balanced, or self-controlled. Peter wants us to be realistic and clear-minded. The opposition of sobriety is drunkenness, folly, and lack of self-discipline, whether due to wine, anger, fear, or greed. Peter wants us to focus our full attention on Jesus, through whom God gives His grace.
Peter’s emphasis falls not on the subjective feeling of hope, nor on the intensity of our hope, but on the objection and direction of our hope. Christians should hope in the grace of Christ to be revealed. Hope is the principal verb in 1 Peter 1:13, and the programmatic command for the passage.[i] The subsequent commands, to be holy and to conduct ourselves with fear of God, follow form it.
Specifically, we rest our hope on the grace that God will give” when Jesus Christ is revealed,” that is, on the day He returns. Traditionally, we focus on the grace revealed in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and rightly so, since Jesus’ completion of the plan of redemption bring us peace with God. Peter here says that the grace to come decisively affects the present. Our hope in the grace to be revealed prepares us for self-discipline and action today.
Most of Peter’s spiritual children began life as pagans who bowed to gods who possessed greater power, but not greater virtue, than humans. The popular religions of the day, especially polytheism and emperor worship, demanded loyalty and little more. The leading philosophical or ethical systems, Stoicism and Epicureanism, aimed to minimize pain and to realize sustainable pleasures. Therefore, Peter asserts, “As obedience children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). This almost sounds insulting, but it’s an honest description of their former life. They were ignorant of God and His standards. According to their myths, their “gods” followed their passions, so people did the same.
Peter’s audience is “obedience children” and so it is with their nature, and ours as Christians today to obey God. It is normal for God’s family to obey the Father and to walk in the way marked by His character and law. Therefore, Peter exhorts, “do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). The command “do not be conformed” is a present passive imperative. The present tense suggests that Peter continually and permanently forbids indulgence of ignorant passions. Peter chose the passive voice for the command because he knows that we are, to some extent, passive in the presence of forces that press us to conform to them. Whatever is customary seems normal, and whatever is normal seems right. But we must resists the pressure to conform to the age. We resist evil desires that we once indulged. Christians have turned from sinful acts that are so common in the culture and in the lifestyle of the unsaved.
In some ways, all evil desires are similar. All seek to deify man and all violate God’s law. Yet the specific forms of evil vary from one time and place to another. Today, Americans typically live together for a reason before marriage. We wear clothing that flaunts our wealth or sexuality, and we indulge the material desires that our income allows us to purchase. Since we behave essentially the way others in our social group behave (and since there is always someone who is worse), we are nearly blind to our errors. It is easy to yield to our desires.
Peter recognizes that a convert will still feel passions, but he knows that disciples also resist them for two reasons. First, he states, “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15). Second, we must resist because “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18).
Obstacles to Holiness
Peter describes two obstacles to holiness. His people conformed themselves to their passions, and they followed the futile way of life inherited from their ancestors (1 Peter 1:14). As a counter, they must set their hope on Christ and remember their identity as obedience children of the holy God.
Peter teaches that God’s children should take on His traits. Jesus teaches that we should be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Paul declares, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Eph. 5:1; 1 Thess. 1:6). We should “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2). The Bible sometimes exhorts believers to imitate other believers (1 Thess. 2:14), but imitation of even the finest people is fraught with the danger that we will adopt their flaws as well as their virtues. Yet we can always imitate God, for He is holy. 1 Peter 1:15-16, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”. The holiness of God is a fundamental tenet of Scripture. The Pentateuch often repeats, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 20:7, 26; Isa. 6:3; 1 Thess. 4:7).
Biblical holiness entails a person’s righteousness, justice, and separation from sin. If a man is holy, he is set apart from this world, for god. Later, Peter will insist that holiness manifest itself in positive actions by masters, servants, husbands, and wives (1 Peter 2:18-3:17). That can lead to social disruption and trouble for the person who is holy (1 Peter 4:1-6). We are strongest when we know how to separate from worldliness while staying engage with the world.
The Accountability of the Redeemed
Peter states three reasons why believers should be holy. First, we should be holy because the God who called us is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). God will remake us in His image, in the likeness of the Son (Romans 8:28; Phil 3:21; 1 Peter 3:2). We should be holy because it is both our obligation and our future to conform to God’s character. As we see His glory, we become like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Second Peter notes that His people should be holy for this reason: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17). Peter here combines two concepts that we needless separate: God is both Father and Judge. It is a great privilege to call God Father (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2; Romans 8:15). But this intimate relation hardly exempts us from obedience. On the contrary, Peter declares, you must “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17). That is, while we live as strangers in this world, we both think of God with familial love, as Father, and retain an awe of the mighty and holy Lord. C.E.B. Cranfield observes, “
It is of God’s infinite condescension that you are allowed to call him ‘Father.” You are not to presume on his goodness, but rather let it make you reverent and humble. He has not ceased to be the impartial Judge of all men. The more truly, the more intimately, we know him, the more of awe and reverence we shall feel.”
The fear of the Lord, including fear of His justice, is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Matt. 10:28; Heb. 4:1). Since human fathers also judge their children, this joining of intimacy and justice should not surprise us. Indeed, just as human children both respect and obey the parents who love them, so those who call God Father should love and obey Him. If we seek His benefits, if we invoke him as Father, we should. Paul agrees act like his children and meet his stands for the family.
This leads to a third reason for holiness. God the Father also “judges each man’s work impartially” (1 Peter 1:17). He neither looks at appearances nor plays favorites. He judges our deeds, and nothing is hidden from him. Jesus states that “he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27). 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” This in no way nullifies justification by faith. But God will judge and Jesus will be proved right when he says, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16, 20). This is not salvation by works. It reflects the great principle that our works follow our heart commitments so that genuine faith will show itself in words and deeds. In Psalm 62, David says that the Lord is his rock and salvation and that he “will reward each person according to what he has done” (Psalm 62:12). Because David trusts the Lord, he knows his works will reflect that. God will see them and be pleased.
For this reason, Peter says, “conduct yourselves”—creates a way of life marked by reverent fear of God “throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17). The term exile is paroikia. It means “to settle temporarily.” Since we are sojourners, resident aliens, in this world, we never fully settle or perfectly fit here. We should neither expect nor attempt to do so.
Genesis calls Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “aliens” (Genesis 17:8; 19:9; 28:4). Abraham and his family “admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13). They “lived in tents” with no land of their own (Hebrews 11:9). The Israelites were also strangers in Egypt. They lived there for centuries, but never fully belonged (Ex. 22:21; 23:9). Indeed, despite his power and wealth, even King David proclaims, “We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow” (1 Chron. 29:15). If even David, the king of Israel, could call himself an alien, every believer must be an outsider in his or her age. Instead of trying to fit our times, we should look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).
We should see our life the same way, especially if we fit rather well into our culture. It seems that there is always a crisis in morals, politics, or the economy that can remind us, if we are perceptive, that this world, in its present form, cannot be our final home. Americans and others from the dominant West must recognize this. If we believe we are mighty, let history teach us that mighty nations fall away. Alexander the Great led his Greek and Macedonian armies to world domination. Today, Greece and Macedonia are feeble Mediterranean states. The Mongols, once the terror of Asia and Europe, now inhabit a poor and barren land. Every empire falters and falls. If we admire our democracy and dynamism, our energy and invention, let us remember that we are strangers in this fallen world.
If this world in its present form is not our home, let us keep a loose grip on its benefits and a gimlet eye on its ideologies. Let us live to please our Father and stay ready to engage the times, maintaining a certain distance from our culture.
We have said there are three reasons for a believer to be holy. First, the God who called us is holy. Second, God the Father is still God the Judge. Third, because we never fully belong in this world, we should live by God’s standards. Finally, we should be holy because Jesus came to redeem us from an empty life inherited from our forefathers:
1 Peter 1:18-19, “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
Today, redeem is an essentially religious term, but in Peter’s day it was a commercial term for liberation of a slave or a war-captive by the payment of a price for purchase or ransom. This implies, first, that our sin has reduced us to the status of slaves or captives. Second, we cannot extricate or liberate ourselves from this predicament. We need someone- Jesus to intervene in order to secure our release from the power and consequences of sin. The consequences are guilt, condemnation, and physical and eternal death.
With any ransom, a price is paid. This payment is not monetary, “not with silver or gold” (1 Peter 1:18). Rather, Jesus, God’s spotless Lamb, gave His “precious blood” as He suffered the death that our sins deserve (1 Peter 1:19). As a result, whatever our circumstances, believers are never spiritual slaves.
According to 1 Peter 1:18-19, Jesus ransomed us (Greek, lutroo). Using a slightly different image, Paul says that Jesus obtained or acquired us (Acts 20:28, Greek peripoieo). Paul also teaches that Jesus bought us at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; agorazo). We are free and must live accordingly. 1 Corinthians 7:23, “you were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” Therefore, a disciple must essentially shun sins that have the capacity to enslave or addict, whether drugs, alcohol, nicotine, pornography, or even anger. Of course that is easier said than done. For that reason we should be watchful, and seek aid when we feel trapped. Yet as the metaphor suggests, the believer is absolutely free. We belong to the Lord, who liberated us from a malign master and place us in His household, where we offer Him our service.
The Call To Hope in Christ
Peter assures his people that their status as redeemed children is neither an accident nor a afterthought. Human rebellion did not surprise God. The prophets foretold Jesus’ life, betrayal, and sacrifice. Jesus also predicted it, but even more, he said that it happened according to the plan that predates all history. Jesus said that he had to be “delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again… and then enter his glory” (Luke 24:7; 26). John calls Jesus “the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Paul explains that this was God’s will, plan, and good pleasure, put into effect at the right time (Eph. 1:9-11). Joining that train of biblical theology, Peter states that God foresaw and predestined the redemptive work of Jesus, for Jesus “was chosen by God before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20a). Then God accomplished his eternal plan, so it “was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20b). These are the last times, the times of Christ, when we await one last element of God’s plan, the return of Christ. All of this, Peter says, if “for your sake.”
We must apply “the precious blood of Christ” to ourselves, which we do when we put our “faith and hope” in god (1 Peter 1:19, 21). Hebrews 9:27-28, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Judas present the clearest case of the man who rejects the One through whom we can face judgment without fear. Because Judas rejected Jesus, he comes to judgment naked and alone, holding his terrible sin in his hands. All who reject Christ will find themselves in Judas’s position when they stand before the Judge. But Christians do not come alone, in our sin, for Jesus has redeemed us and ushers us into God’s presence with our sins covered by His blood. When we believe in Him, we live with Him. 1 Peter 1:21, “through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” Thus, day by day, the Spirit convicts people of sin and illumines them so that they see the beauty of Jesus’ redemption and trust and hope in Him.
This returns us to our first item of discussion. Holiness governs 1 Peter 1:14-16, but our passage begins and ends with hope. Through Jesus, Peter says, we believe and have confidence in God. This hope is well founded, not in vain, because it rests on Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God (1 Peter 1:20). He as redeemed us from an empty life (1 Peter 1:18), covered our sins (1 Peter 1:19), summoned us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16), and given us reason to hope, even if we feel like strangers in our own land.
[i] J. Ramnsey Michael, 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary 49 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.