Peter’s letters were written towards the end of his life (he died in Rome in 67 AD at Nero’s command). They reflect the wisdom and maturity Peter had gained as he preached, taught, shepherded, and pioneered in those first decades of the church.
The beginning of Peter’s letter addressed those of the Jewish Diaspora in Asia who had come to faith in Christ. Peter affirmed them as chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit, and obedient to Christ, having been born anew into a living hope of present power and rejoicing love. Their salvation—as is ours today—was a mystery that had held prophets and angels in its thrall.
“Therefore,” Peter continued . . .
This is the first “therefore,” and tomorrow will come the second.
Faith Expressed in Holiness
Each person who turns to the Lord in faith becomes the beloved son or daughter of the King of kings. As Jesus described this process, a person must be born from above, that is to say, born of God, begotten in heaven and in a certain sense brought forth from heaven, created anew so as to be a completely new person. To borrow an analogy, this birth from above alters the spiritual DNA of a person, so that along with the privilege and responsibility of divine parentage comes the Father’s own genetic characteristics, God’s holiness and God’s ability to love, everything a believer needs to fulfill the call of God.
Therefore . . .1 Peter 1:13 (NRSV)
In light of everything Peter has just written (in verses 1 through 12), the incredible things the Lord has done for God’s children, this is what you and I should expect in our new life in Christ:
Prepare your minds for action;
Set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.1 Peter 1:13 (NRSV)
Get ready for action!
The word for prepare in Greek is ἀναζώννυμι—anazonumi—and it means gird up. In Peter’s day, people wore robes that went to their feet. When they had to run, they pulled up their robes and stuffed the ends into their belts. Peter is saying, graphically, grab all those flowing thoughts, all those daydreams and fantasies, worries and concerns, wrong narratives and interpretations about yourself and the world around you, and stuff them into the belt of truth (to borrow from Paul’s metaphor). All those thoughts flowing around us are going to trip us up. You and I cannot afford to get caught up in thinking that is not grounded in the truth.
To be ready for action, we instead think God’s thoughts by saturating our minds with prayer and Scripture.
Peter knew quite well how hard this was going to be, so his very next line acknowledged this takes self-control. It takes mindfulness and care, it means determining to do it, laying out a plan and executing the plan. It means saying no to what will impede the plan, even if those impediments are otherwise good things, or pleasant things.
Ask any athlete!
To be ready for action needs preparation and self-discipline.
But that is -not- where our hope is set. Not on our own readiness, or self-control. Peter circumvented any wrong thinking that if we just do the steps, accomplish the tasks, check off the boxes, we will be good to go. Rather, Peter was indicating, set all your hope on God’s grace that Jesus will bring you when he is “revealed.” That last word has a double meaning:
- Jesus being revealed in every believer who receives and lives by the divine power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, and
- Jesus being revealed on that last Great and Glorious Day of his second coming.
Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”1 Peter 1:14-16 (NRSV)
As Christians, our beauty is our holiness, not just in what you and I do and say, but in who we -are-. Holiness is loving conformity to God’s commands and conformity to God’s Son. Being holy is becoming whole, joined completely to God, relating to God unconditionally. Instead of setting conditions for our obedience to the Lord, we “practice God’s presence.”
This circles back to Peter’s first two instructions—gird up your minds, and discipline yourselves. The pursuit of holiness will be an hourly occupation all the rest of our lives.
- Affirm God’s nearness in our hearts – The Lord will give us comfort and restrain sinful tendencies.
- Visualize God’s presence in our minds – The Lord really is present, always.
- Access God’s nearness through prayer – You and I may not always feel the Lord’s presence in an emotional sense, but by faith you and I enter into God’s presence in vital spiritual sense.
- Reflect God’s presence in our persons – Wherever a Christian stands is holy ground because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
REVERENCE FOR GOD
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.1 Peter 1:17-19 (NRSV)
Reverent fear is having genuine awe for the kind of Being God is. Remember who you and I are dealing with! God knows us more thoroughly than you and I know ourselves, and the Lord is no respecter of persons.
- We cannot buy God’s favor.
- We cannot manipulate or obligate God into treating us differently than God treats anyone else.
- We cannot become God’s favorite above some other group, or person—nor will God favor other groups or persons over you and me.
Instead, we remember in humility that we have been redeemed, not with money, but with something that no one else could have given, the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Life for life, you and I now belong to the Lord.
LIFE OF LOVE
Your souls being purified and sanctified in obedience to the truth, into unfeigned (sincere and genuine, authentic) brotherly mutual love (philadelphia) from the heart, love (agape) one another fervently.1 Peter 1:22 (my own translation)
This is one of those verses that stands alone in its density and high calling.
You and I have been purified, made ceremonially clean, acceptable to God through obedience to the truth of the gospel.
The characteristic feature of this new life is love.
- Sincere means without disguising our true feelings under a feigned appearance.
- Brotherly mutual love is philadelphia, fraternal love.
- Fervently means intensely, zealously, instantly, earnestly, strenuously.
Peter was saying you and I must have a genuinely deep, intense, zealous, instant, earnest fraternal love for each other that is not affected, that is not faked, that is not just being nice when underneath you really do not like this person at all.
How about that for impossible!
Yet, Peter definitely wrote these words this way, to love strenuously.
I remember the first time I read these words and understood with clarity what Peter was actually meaning. I was suddenly deflated and discouraged. I had believed the teaching going around that love was an action word, not a feeling word, that I needed simply to “fake it until I make it,” that God was not asking me to feel something, God was asking me to do something—to speak kindly, act graciously, be forgiving and so on. What I relief! I could grit my teeth on the inside just so long as I was nice on the outside!
Unfortunately, that kind of teaching dismisses Peter’s instruction here.
This is a divine work. It is not a work we can come by simply by making our minds up to do it. It is not a question of self-discipline. The only way to truly love is to be regenerated, and then God’s Spirit gives you and me that divine ability to love, an overflow of genuine, authentic affection that -expresses- itself in concrete actions of self-sacrifice, tender care, long-suffering, graciousness, and forgiveness.
You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.1 Peter 1:23 (NRSV)
This is our spiritual DNA, and as we live in faith, by faith in Jesus, we experience Jesus’ faithfulness in us and to us; we grow and mature into our new being, a being of love.
[DNA | Zephyris, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]