By Christopher VanDusen
God has promised to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ a glorious future, which is assured by the glorious salvation that they’ve experienced, and are currently experiencing. Further, He has said that all trials in this life are testing and proving the faith of His children, and will result in full vindication on judgement day. More than that, believers await the experience of living in perfect, sinless, bodies, and seeing the Lord Jesus Christ as He truly is. If believers know all these things, then what is to be their response? In other words, how are they to live in light of those truths? The apostle Peter explains how in 1 Peter 1:13-21.
In 1 Peter, Peter wrote to multiple churches in a large area of what is now Turkey. He was writing because they needed further teaching from the Lord, and because they were facing mistreatment because of their Christian behavior. To begin the letter, he introduces himself as a “sent one” of Jesus Christ, and them as God’s chosen aliens, or exiles, in the Dispersion of Jews from the land of Israel. Then, he describes in great detail the salvation that God has given them, focusing specifically on their hope in the coming of the Lord, and the completion of their salvation in the redemption of their bodies. After this, he points out the fact that across thousands of years, the Old Testament prophets had prophesied about their salvation, and had been unable to understand it. But now that the gospel had been preached to the aliens, they were experiencing exactly what the prophets had prophesied.
After this description of the aliens’ glorious salvation, Peter writes the first section of practical instruction in verses 13-21 of chapter 1, in which he says,
“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.” (ESV)
In this passage, Peter gives the aliens three main instructions about how to live in response to the knowledge that God has saved them, is saving them, and will save them completely when the Lord comes back:
- Fix Your Hope on the Grace of the Revelation (v. 13)
- Follow Your Holy God as He Requires (vss. 14-16)
- Fear Your Heavenly Father Because You’ve Been Redeemed (vss. 17-21)
Fix Your Hope on the Grace of the Revelation
In verse 13, Peter begins by saying this:
“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.”
First, he bases his command on most of what he’s just said by using the word “therefore”, or “because of this”. What has he just said? That the aliens have been saved by God, are being saved and proven in the midst of suffering, and have a glorious and sure hope of living forever with Jesus in a state of perfection, pleasure, and joy. Based on these truths, Peter now gives them their first duty.
However, before he gets to this command, he reminds them of things that they should already be doing. First, they ought to be “preparing [their] minds for action”. This is just another way of saying “get ready to think”. Second, they should be “being sober-minded”. The word “sober-minded” means to be alert and clear-headed, in contrast to being unable or unwilling to think clearly and rightly.
Having said that they need to be ready to think and to be alert, Peter then commands them to “set [their] hope fully on the grace that will be brought to [them] at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. First, they are to set, or fix, their hope on “the grace”. When Peter uses the word “hope”, he doesn’t mean a “wish” or “desire”, but a certainty that God has promised to happen. And this hope is a certain “grace”. The word “grace” comes from the Greek word, charis, which literally means “favor” or “benefit”. In this case, the Peter is talking about God’s favor toward them, which will be “brought to” them “at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. The grace he’s speaking about is the completion of their salvation, since it will be given them at this time.
But what exactly does Peter mean by “the revelation of Jesus Christ”. Obviously, this is another way of saying “when Jesus Christ is revealed”. And when will He be revealed? When He leaves heaven, and comes to earth, to show Himself to the whole world. According to 1 John 3:2b, believers “know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (ESV). By “like him”, John means that believers will become like Jesus when He “appears”, or is “revealed”. This means that, at that time, they will be given new, perfect, and sinless bodies, and will only be able to please God. At that time, they will enter into the Lord’s presence, and be physically with Him, and with each other, forever. This is the grace that Peter says will be “brought to” the aliens, and on which they ought to fix their hope.
Follow Your Holy God as He Requires
In verses 14-16, Peter gives his second command for the aliens in this way:
“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.'”
First, he bases his command on the fact that the aliens are “obedient children”. By saying this, he’s implying that they’re obedient children of God. So, as they seek to obey the following command, they should do so because they are God’s obedient children.
Before Peter gets to the main command, he first forbids them from doing something that will prevent them from obeying his command. They are to “not be conformed to the passions of [their] former ignorance”. The word “conformed” means to be “shaped by” or to “take the shape of”. In other words, they are not to live in a way that is consistent with these passions. But what does Peter mean by “the passions of [their] former ignorance”? By “passions”, he means strong, sinful, desires. The reason they’re sinful is because they had them during their “former ignorance”. By “ignorance”, he’s not just referring to the time when they didn’t know the gospel, but when they didn’t know God and Jesus. Because they didn’t know God, all their passions were sinful. Hence, they must no longer conform to them.
Next, Peter begins to state the main command of this section, which is the only alternative to conforming to their former passions. He first tells them how to obey the command by saying “as he who called you is holy”. By “he who called you”, he means God, whether God the Father, or the Lord Jesus. Since the next divine Person that he mentions is the Father, he’s probably referring to the Father, though it makes little difference. By “called”, he means God’s act of calling them to repent and trust in Christ through the gospel, which resulted in them doing so. This is often called “the effectual call”, since it effects, or is effective in causing the person called to trust in Christ.
So, what are they to do “as he who called [them] is holy”? They are to “be holy in all [their] conduct”. Now, what does Peter mean by “holy”? The word “holy” literally means “separate” or “set apart” from the evil world. So, as God is separate from sin and evil, so also the aliens ought to be separate from sin and evil in all their conduct. In other words, they are to seek to imitate God’s righteous character in all they do by imitating Christ.
Finally, Peter gives the most important reason to be holy as God is holy by saying “it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'”. This is a quote from the Old Testament, in which God is commanding the nation of Israel to be holy because He’s holy. However, Peter doesn’t say that the aliens are to obey his command because God commanded this to Israel, but because this is written in God’s Word. Thus, it applies to them as God’s children because it applied to Israel as God’s children. That is, because God has made them His children, they ought to be like Him in practical holiness.
Fear Your Heavenly Father Because You’ve Been Redeemed
In verses 17-21, Peter gives his final command in this section, which is followed by an extensive explanation of why they are to obey:
“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, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
Again, Peter begins this section by giving the basis for the aliens’ obedience to his command. He says “if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds”. The phrase “call on” here refers to worshipful prayer, as it does in the Old Testament. However, by using the word “if”, Peter’s not implying that he doubts that they call on this Judge as Father, but is getting them to think about the fact that they do. So, he’s implying that they should obey this command because they call on the One “who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds” as Father. Put differently, because they speak to the impartial Judge of everyone as their Father, they ought to obey what follows.
Next, Peter commands them to “conduct [themselves] with fear throughout the time of [their] exile”. So, because they worship their Judge as their Father, they are to live “with fear”. By “fear”, Peter doesn’t mean fear of eternal punishment, but fear of their Father who judges them. This implies that they ought to fear displeasing Him, since He’s their Father, and will discipline them if they continue in sin, and reward them at the end of their lives for the things they did that pleased Him. As such, this fear, as it does in the Old Testament concept of “the fear of the Lord”, involves deep, worshipful, reverence of God.
But Peter doesn’t just tell them to live by fearing God, but to do so “throughout the time of [their] exile”. By using the term “exile”, Peter is using their exile from the nation of Israel as a picture of their “exile” from heaven as God’s children. Since they are His children, they belong to the realm of heaven, but during this life, they are living “in exile”, so to speak, on earth. In other words, they are living as “aliens” or “foreigners” in a strange land that’s not their home, since heaven fulfilled in the new earth is their home, as seen in multiple places, like Revelation 21.
Next, Peter gives the aliens another reason that they should fear God. It’s that they know that they were “ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”. First, they were “ransomed” or “delivered from bondage through payment” or “redeemed” from their “futile ways inherited from [their] forefathers”. By “futile”, Peter means “useless”, “worthless”, “pointless”, or “empty”. They inherited these ways of living from their “forefathers”, or ancestors. Since he’s speaking to ethnic Jews, he’s talking about Jewish ancestors. Although the nation of Israel had been nurtured by God to be a nation of worshipers of God, from the beginning of its history, it was mostly an idolatrous nation, and got worse as time went on, so that, although Jews were mostly distinct from other people groups, they had been mostly transformed into people who attempted to worship God in vain, since they didn’t do it as He prescribed. It was from this dead religion, vain traditions of men, and participation in sins that Gentiles practiced, that the aliens were redeemed from.
But Peter says that they weren’t redeemed with things that perish, like silver or gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”. The payment that was made to redeem them from enslavement to their vain ways of life wasn’t anything normal, but Christ’s “precious blood”. By using the title “Christ”, Peter’s referring to Jesus’s identity as the Messiah, or “anointed one” from the Old Testament. As the Anointed, Christ fulfills all of the pictures and prophecies in the Old Testament of the prophets, priests, and kings who were anointed with oil to show that God had chosen them to serve in those functions. Instead of oil, Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit to serve as God’s ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. In this verse, Peter’s pointing to Christ’s service as Priest, in which He sacrificed Himself on the cross as “a lamb without blemish or spot” to pay God for the debt that the aliens owed Him for their rebellion against Him. How did He pay this ransom? With His “precious blood”, which represents His bloody and agonizing death on the cross.
By calling Christ’s blood “like that of a lamb without blemish or spot”, again Peter is alluding to the Old Testament sacrifices that God required the priests to offer Him as pictures of the true sacrifice of Christ. Since Christ was innocent of any sin, and was thus perfectly pleasing to God in thought, word, and deed, He was like “a lamb without blemish or spot”. He had no defect, and no imperfection.
So, Peter says all this to motivate the aliens to fear God. Not only do they call on Him as their Father, but Christ, His Son, redeemed them from their futile ways by sacrificing Himself to God in His suffering and death on the cross, paying for their deliverance. Since God and Christ did this, they ought to revere and worship them.
Finally, Peter ends this passage by giving the ultimate reason they ought to fear God. First, he says that Christ “was foreknown before the foundation of the world”. By this, he means that God the Father “foreknew”, or knew beforehand, Christ, before He even founded the world. This doesn’t mean that the Father simply knew God the Son, before the world’s foundation, although Christ is God the Son. Rather, it means that God knew, or had an intimate relationship with, Christ as a man. That is, He determined before He created the world that He would send Christ into the world.
In contrast to this foreknowledge, or pre-determination of God, Christ “was made manifest in the last times for the sake of” the aliens. This refers to when Christ actually was sent into the world. God made Him “manifest” in these “last times” for the benefit of the aliens.
Further, Peter says that Christ is the Person “through” whom they are “believers in God”. That is, they only trust God the Father because they trust and know Christ as their Lord and Savior. Why? Peter says it’s because God “raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that [their] faith and hope are in God”. When He raised Christ from the dead, He also gave Him “glory” by giving a new, perfect, body, and also by giving Him “all authority in heaven and on earth” as the King and Lord of the whole universe, including everything in it. Because the aliens heard this, believed it, and put their trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord, their “faith and hope” are ultimately in God the Father, since He was the One who foreknew Christ, sent Him into the world, punished Him instead of them, raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory.
Be Hopeful, Holy, and Reverent
So, if you’re a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, how does this passage apply to you?
First, have you prepared your mind to act, and are you sober-minded? If not, then you can’t be hopeful.
Second, are you fixing your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ?
Third, are you being conformed to the passions of your former ignorance? If so, then you aren’t acting like an obedient child of God, and might not be a child of God.
Fourth, are you set apart from sin and evil in all you do as Christ is?
Finally, are you worshipfully revering your Judge, since you pray to Him as your Father, and you know that you were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ?
If you aren’t obedient to God, but are enslaved to sinful desires, so that you live in direct rebellion against God, then you’re still His enemy, and are at war with Him. The good news is that God made His eternal and divine Son manifest in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, who lived the perfect life, suffered and died on a Roman cross to take the punishment we deserve from God, rose from the dead, and went into heaven as our King. God now commands everyone to change their minds about Him and Jesus, and to trust in Jesus as their Savior from sin and hell and King to receive His forgiveness, since He’s going to impartially judge everyone perfectly through Jesus, and punish His enemies forever in a place of torment. Please make sure you’re only trusting in Jesus as your Savior and King to have God’s forgiveness, mercy, and peace.