1 Peter 1:14-16, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
Since God, in his great mercy, has done such astounding things for his people in Christ, Peter urges us to fix our hope on what he has done (1:3-9) and on what he will do on that great day when his grace and glory are revealed (1:13). He knows that we have many things about which we must think in this life, but he wants us to fix our minds on the things of God and allow them to put all other things into proper perspective.
Therefore, it is neither incidental nor insignificant that Peter refers to us as “obedient children.” On the one hand, he is addressing those who believe in Jesus as the very children of God, the one with whom they were formerly enemies and from whom they were hopelessly alienated (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:12). It is an inconceivable grace that people such as these have become children of God, and inheritors of a hope so great that it ought to guide and govern everything else in their lives. On the other hand, Peter refers to us as obedient children, because obedience is the proper response of a grateful heart toward a gracious God. As those who have been rescued by the grace of God in Christ from the eternal consequences of disobedience, our desire ought to be to surrender ourselves to him in every moment and all situations.
It only makes sense, then, that Peter would urge us not to “be conformed to the passion of [our] former ignorance” (1:14), for how can we continue to live in the very way that alienated us from God and made us objects of his wrath? The grace of God breeds passion for God, and passion for God breeds the desire for the will and ways of God. To be conformed to our former way of life, then, displays the fact that our hearts have yet to receive the grace of God in Christ or to fully embrace what we have received.
In the family of God, the culture is simple and profound: we seek to imitate our Father rather than the world. As Peter puts it, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1:15-16). I came to faith in Jesus when I was almost twenty years old. I had been a drug addict since the age of eleven, and so becoming a Christian was shocking at a variety of levels. But I was profoundly grateful for what Jesus had done for me, and I wanted nothing more than to know him and follow him. However, when I first read this verse, my initial reaction was discouragement, and perhaps even depression. I remember saying to the Lord, “Jesus, I can do that. I can hardly keep my own rules, much less my parents’ rules, so how can I live up to your level of holiness?”
In short order, the Lord graciously helped me to understand that his call to holiness was not an impossible standard, but rather an invitation and even a promise. In other words, in his grace, he is inviting us to become like him, and in Jesus, he will indeed make us holy as he is holy. This call, invitation, and promise are about behavior, but more so, it’s about an overwhelming love for God that not only characterizes the lives of true believers but transforms their very nature.
Indeed, holiness is a passion for God expressed through action. Holiness is respect for God displayed through surrender. Holiness is trust for God expressed through obedience. Holiness is faith because it is the fruit of one who believes that God only commands his people what is best for his people. And holiness is the destiny of all who believe in Jesus, for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I [the Lord] am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Friends, meditate on the previous verses of this chapter, and you will see that, ultimately, this is something the Lord will do in us, not something we must accomplish for him.
Whereas the Lord is holy by nature, we will become holy by grace, and in this way, we will learn the deep joy of obedience.
So, friends, since this is the Lord’s vision for us and promise to us, let us hear and heed the words of Peter by the grace and power of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’