1 Peter 1:14-16

1 Peter 1:14‑16  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
“So great salvation” calls for earnest decision and sobriety, brightened as it is by a perfect hope which puts not to shame. But next the apostle insists on a quality of the new life we have in Christ which is as indispensable for the saint, as it is due to God.
“As children of obedience, not conformed to the former lusts in your ignorance, but according to the Holy One that called you, be ye also holy in every [part of] conduct, because it is written, Holy ye shall be, because I [am] holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-1614As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:14‑16)).
The Christian is characterized as a child of obedience. This is far more energetic than the “obedient children” of the A.V. which rightly speaks of men in their unrenewed state as the children (or rather sons) of disobedience (Eph. 2:22Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2), Col. 3:66For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: (Colossians 3:6)). It is the habitual bent of fallen nature to disobey God. Now on the contrary, when sanctified by the Spirit, we are for obedience, childlike obedience, as we see its perfection in our Lord Jesus. As He is our pattern as well as life, it is to His obedience we are livingly set apart, no less than to the sprinkling of His blood. Quickened by the faith of Christ, we are neither left to ourselves like the Gentiles, nor set under the law as the Jews; but are subject to Christ and His word as the perfect law of liberty; even as it was His meat to do the will of Him that sent Him.
Here it was of the more consequence to express this, as the apostle was addressing such of the circumcision who believed. Re-action is a danger. They might have slipped into the delusion that all direction was gone because the law was; a mere negation for those delivered from the bondage of the law. But Christ freed from law only to lead into a constant obedience far deeper and more comprehensive. So in Romans 8 the apostle taught the saints in Rome, Jewish or Gentile, that if the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (which is our law) set free from the law of sin and death (against which Israel and man vainly strove), it is through redemption that the law's righteous requirement (τὸ δικαίωμα) might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit. And this walk is solely one of obedience. We are not our own but bought with a price, and what a price! Glorify God then in your body. We are the Lord's freedmen, had we been slaves; we are Christ's bondmen, had we been freest of the free. The Christian denies his Master and his standing, if he claim independence of His authority and His word. The more he knows his privileges, the greater is his obligation to obey. He was once, Jew or Gentile, a son of disobedience; he is now a child of obedience; let him be consistent as such. “If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” The Apostle John only confirms and completes Paul and Peter.
Such then is the great governing principle; and so it must be, unless God's children are to have an unnatural independence, yea mastery, of God Himself, and thus subvert the highest of all rights. But it is of moment also to beware of old habits, which may not be weighed sufficiently when the Christian relationship is new, and which are apt to re-assert their evil influence when the truth has no longer the fresh power over the soul which the ungrieved Spirit maintains. Hence it is here added, “not conformed to the former lusts in your ignorance.” When the True Light was unseen, the heart's ignorance of God was extreme. Here it is no comparison of Jews with heathen, but their real state pointed out as before Him, when divine love was as unknown as light. How rank was the growth of lusts in that ignorance! They were now the more to beware of being conformed to what dishonored Christ, being themselves begotten of His God and Father unto a living hope. If God's power alone keeps, it is through faith, which implies the heart simple and subject to His word. Those who are still passing through the wilderness need to be on their guard, vigilant, and self-judging.
Another consideration follows and lifts the eyes yet higher. “But according to the Holy One that called you, be ye too holy in every [part of] conduct.” Holy is He that called them out of darkness unto His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:99But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: (1 Peter 2:9)). Holy is He that called them by His grace unto His eternal glory in Christ Jesus (1 Pet. 5:1010But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:10)). He is just the same every step of the dangerous journey they were meanwhile treading. They were even now in the nearest relation to Him as objects of His love, and after a sort which was only shadowed by His people of old. Then it was national and after a fleshly and temporal sort, though individual faith pierced through to the Coming One and to things better and enduring. Now it was distinctly personal in character and everlasting. For the people and the land and the world Jesus was the rejected Christ; higher and larger glories came into view, grace fuller and more intimate. “He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. When He hath put forth His own, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice.” The highest in earthly position might claim or call away; but such are strangers to those that have heard the voice of the rejected Christ. “And a stranger will they not follow; for they know not the voice of strangers.” Can one wonder? He is the door that opens into every blessing. By Me (said He) if any one enter, he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out, and shall find pasture. Who but He can truly say, I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly? It is now in the power of His resurrection (1 Peter 1:33Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)). If He that called them is holy, how essential it is that they should cherish the same character of separateness from evil to Himself, and this without stint or limit? “Be ye too holy in every part of conduct."1
Was this an unheard of requirement on God's part? Far from it. When as Jehovah He governed a people after the flesh, even so it could not be otherwise: “Because it is written, Holy ye shall be, because I am holy.” The Apostle cites Lev. 11:4444For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (Leviticus 11:44): see also Lev. 19:2; 20:7,262Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)
7Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 20:7)
26And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. (Leviticus 20:26)
. Without doubt, as we read in Heb. 9:1010Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. (Hebrews 9:10), the Levitical system consisted only of meats and drinks and divers washings, ordinances of flesh imposed until a time of rectification. Christ brought in His person grace and truth, and redemption enables us to walk accordingly in the Spirit. It is now the children, not of the fathers, but of God the Father, whose standing is not in flesh, but in Christ. The holiness rises according to the place and relationship.
If the principle in itself is invariable, the character of the holiness is akin and proportionate to the blessing conferred. As there is no bound to the grace and truth received in receiving Christ, so is the holiness suited to the Holy One revealed in the Son of God. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. And Christ is the light, not of Jews only but of the world. Hence he that followeth Him shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The natural man, no matter how intelligent, never rises to this; if he profess Christianity, as he may and often does, it is unreal. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” The believer alone has reality in Christ, whence is the contrast: “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light [and there every true Christian does walk], we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from every sin.”
We all know how often it is argued that this is a condition. Who doubts this of “If we walk,” &c.? But what most who so talk overlook is that it is the condition of being a Christian, not in name only but in deed and truth. The Apostle John in no way means of some real saints compared with others. It is the condition of such as are born of God. It is the unquestionable privilege of all the faithful who follow Christ, unless it be pretended that any faithful souls do not follow Him. It is not a question of walking according to the light which admits of different degrees, but of walking in it, which belongs alike to all who were once darkness but are now light in the Lord. They are therefore exhorted to walk as children of light. But John expresses the necessary condition assumed: if we walk in the light as God is in the light (true of every real follower of the Lord Jesus), then have we these other privileges. For all now go together, as the gift of divine grace: we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from every sin. They are the constant enjoyment of all that walk in the light, as necessarily do all that are Christ's.
So too in this Epistle of Peter the exhortation to be holy is addressed to all. If all were alike sanctified of the Spirit in principle, as we have seen in 1 Pet. 1:22Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:2), all are in 1 Pet. 1:1515But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; (1 Peter 1:15) enjoined to be holy, because the God that called them is holy. Here it is holiness in practice, without which (as Heb. 12:1414Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14) solemnly assures) no one shall see the Lord. If ye live after the flesh, ye are about to die (Rom. 8:1313For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13)). Know ye not that unrighteous men shall not inherit God's kingdom (1 Cor. 6:99Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (1 Corinthians 6:9))? He that soweth to his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:88For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)). We need not surely quote more of these grave warnings.
It is well to guard against the misuse of this text and others, as if God's word gave apparent support to the heterodoxy of perfection in the flesh, otherwise styled sinless sanctification, whether taught by A'Kempis and other Romanists, by Jer. Taylor and W. Law, by J. Wesley and his followers, or by the American school of so-called higher holiness, with its modifications in Great Britain since it got discredited. Nothing can be plainer than that scripture urges God's people, or as we now say His children, to be holy, because He is. It is a call addressed to all. The false deduction is of a state attained by special faith in some. And this has led J. W., if my memory serves aright, to misquote, “holy as God is holy.” What is written is the reason God lays down: He requires practical consistency with Himself in those that are His. Nothing can be more certain, becoming, and necessary. But to be holy as He is holy is in any case mistaken, and liable to most presumptuous thoughts if not blasphemous error.
Possibly what was running in the good man's head was our Lord's injunction in Matt. 5:4848Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48): “Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” But this text has no real connection with the aim for which it is produced. For our Lord simply insists on the grace toward evil men which His disciples are to cultivate, after the pattern. of their heavenly Father, Whose sun is made to rise on evil and good, and Who sends rain on just and unjust. What has this to do with the question of the old man in believers? There is power in the Spirit given to us against every ill; but this assertion is very distinct from the assumption that sin is extinct and gone from any saint on earth. It ought never to be allowed to act.