Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 February 26, 2017
“Be Ye Holy…”
Text: 1 Peter 1:13-16
Most interpersonal interactions—such as letters, telephone calls, and face-to-face visits—work a certain way. There are some introductory remarks before the parties come to whatever is the heart of the matter between them on the occasion, and after this come concluding remarks. Peter’s first general letter—in fact, most New Testament letters—work similarly. Peter, led by the Spirit, has written introductory matters to certain Christians in modern-day Turkey and elsewhere (ca. A. D. 65)—introductory matters that we have considered also, for the Spirit intended Peter to write to us as well. We have noted Peter’s introduction proper and blessing of his readers (1:1-2), and we have also noted his praise to God for a living hope (1:3-12). Now we come to the heart of the matter: for sojourners, strangers, exiles, aliens, etc.—to wit, the conduct of Christ’s people in this alien world. Let us hear from God in His Word today.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The passage contains three commands necessary for us to heed—and their effect builds cumulatively to the last, and chief, command in our text today. First, the Lord calls us through Peter to set our hope fully. We do this by first preparing our minds for action and, second, by being sober-minded. Our translation today (the ESV) renders the underlying Greek more dynamically (“preparing your minds for action”), whereas other translations (the KJV, e. g.) render the underlying text more literally—urging us to prepare our minds for action like a soldier preparing his body and clothing for battle. Note that activity, contra passivity, is implicit in the Christian life. Walking with Christ is an active life. We shall see one form of this activity in paragraphs to come. We set our hope fully by preparing our minds for action.
We also set our hope fully by being sober-minded. We cannot set our hope fully with distracted mind, or cavalier attitude, or drunken impairment and dissipation. We prepare to set our hope fully with clear, intentional focus—and that in view of the weight of these matters.
We, having prepared properly, are to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us. We who know the Lord well revel in His grace—His unmerited favor, His unspeakable kindness toward us in Christ. Yet, if we taste of His grace and find it good, then how can Peter speak of a grace that will be brought to us? We will understand this better if we think thus: We enjoy God’s grace—though sufficiently and to spare—only in part just now, but we shall enjoy it to the full in days to come. The same is true when we consider when we receive the fullness of God’s grace—at the revelation of Jesus Christ. What we know and otherwise experience of Jesus by the ministry of the Holy Spirit is, again, enjoyed now in part, but later it shall be enjoyed to the full. Therefore, let us set our hope fully on God’s grace extended toward us.
Second, the Lord, through Peter, calls us not be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance. Even though the word here translated passions (Greek epithumia [epiqumia]) can occur in a positive sense for deep desires (such as when Jesus declares, “I desired with [or by] a deep desire to eat this Passover with y’all [Luke 22:15, my translation]), here the word may just as well be translated lusts. Lust, of course, is inordinate desire—either for an improper object or to excessive degree. We pursued this course of inordinate desire more ardently when living in our former ignorance—that is, when we lived before meeting Jesus savingly. We must not be shaped by these passions. We must be shaped by something else, and then we must pursue it.
Third, the Lord, through Peter, calls us to be holy in all our conduct. If there be a refrain running through the book of Leviticus, it must be this, “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, et al.). This fact, that God is holy, is the rationale for our own Spirit-empowered pursuit of and attainment of holiness. God, being holy, is wholly Other from the created order. More than this, God, being holy, is without sin—and is without the possibility of sin. God, being holy, makes us holy positionally by virtue of our union with Christ. That is, we are separated from every evil thing and purpose unto God’s things and purposes.
As wondrous and necessary as this positional holiness is, this is not the foremost thrust of today’s text. The thrust of today’s text is practical holiness. We must pursue conformity to God’s will for our conduct—to wit, the moral law as amplified and modified by Christ Himself in the Gospel. Do not err by thinking that we conduct ourselves thus in order to earn salvation or, somehow, to repay God for salvation already bestowed. Rather, we conduct ourselves in conformity to God’s moral law to show that salvation has come to bear upon our souls in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Glory be unto His Name.
Alas, the Church (especially the American evangelical church) all too often honors what the world, the flesh, and the devil honor—and all too often it acts like the world, the flesh, and the devil. At the very least, the Church too often draws unacceptably too close to these deeds and outlooks. This is no way for the blood-bought Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to conduct herself—especially at a time like this.
Let us, by the Spirit’s presence and power, seek something better. After all, inasmuch as we grow practically holy, we more nearly conform to Christ’s likeness. In this process we feel even the gracious smile of God, through Christ, upon our souls. Moreover, inasmuch as we grow practically holy, the world will notice the difference between us and them—either gladly or grudgingly, and some well may be drawn irresistibly by the Spirit to saving faith in Jesus. Therefore, beloved ones in Christ Jesus, let us be holy—for our infinitely awesome God is holy.