Monday, November 17, 2008

1 Peter 1:13-16

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)

I was particularly drawn to this verse today as I thought about what it meant to be “obedient children” and to “not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” and of course, how to be “holy in all you do.” So I started going through different commentaries to see what they had to say. Most of them were based on the wording of this text in the KJV, so as I look at this verse by verse, I’ll note both versions.

First, let’s look at the first bit – verse 13:
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary outlines it, saying, “Be sober, be watchful against all spiritual dangers and enemies, and be temperate in all behaviour. Be sober-minded in opinion, as well as in practice, and humble in your judgment of yourselves. A strong and perfect trust in the grace of God, is agreeable with best endeavours in our duty.”
And into the phrase “obedient children” – John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible defines “obedient children” as “Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” who “ought to be followers of him, and imitate him in holiness and righteousness, and show themselves to be obedient ones to his Gospel and ordinances, as children ought to honour, and obey, and imitate their parents.
An interesting way to think of it is also to look at what Barton W. Johnson says, when he explains that “the divisions between God's children and the children of this world turns on obedience to God.”
Continuing, the verse says that as obedient children, we are not to “conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance” (NIV) – or as the KJV puts it – “not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.”
John Darby’s Synopsis of the Bible puts it simply, saying that we are “…to walk as obedient children, no longer following the lusts that had led them in the days of their ignorance.” The Geneva Study Bible explains this command as consisting of two things, which are mainly the ‘putting off’ of, or renouncing, our lusts, and ‘putting on’ of godly living. John Gill points out the connection between this phrase, and that in Romans 12:2: “be not conformed to this world.” And here it gets detailed! He says, “to be conformed, or fashioned to the world, is to be fashioned to the lusts of it; and to be fashioned to the lusts of it is to indulge them, to make provision for them, to obey them, to live and walk in them; which should not be done by the children of God, and who profess themselves to be obedient ones to the Gospel, which teaches otherwise; and that because they are lusts, foolish, hurtful, and deceitful ones, ungodly ones; the lusts of the devil, as well as of the world, and of the flesh, and which war against the soul; and because they are "former" ones, which they served in a time of unregeneracy, and were now convinced and ashamed of, and therefore should no longer live to them.”
That they were “lusts in ignorance” means that they were “those which they had indulged in a state of ignorance… when they knew not God, especially in Christ, and were ignorant of his righteousness, and of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, as committed against a law that was holy and spiritual; nor did they know Christ, and the way of salvation by him. But now they were made light in the Lord, and had knowledge of all these things; and therefore, as their light increased, and the grace of God, bringing salvation, appeared unto them, and shone out on then, it became them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and not to walk as they had done before.”
To sum up this particular section, Barton W. Johnson brings it all together simply as he says, “The spirit of obedience would cause [believers] to turn away from their former sinful life when in ignorance of the gospel,” and Matthew Henry notes that these words “may be taken as an argument to press [believers] to holiness from the consideration of what they now are, children of obedience, and what they were when they lived in lust and ignorance.”

Then we move on to the last command: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy” – or – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation...”

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary introduces this wonderfully as he notes:
Holiness is the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, in every condition, and towards all people. We must especially watch and pray against the sins to which we are inclined. The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian's life, and by this rule we are commanded to be holy every way. God makes those holy whom he saves.”
John Gill digs into this command and states that to be holy is to be like God the Father, “who had called them, not merely in an external way, by the outward ministry of the word; but internally, powerfully, and efficaciously, by his Spirit and grace; and who had called them to holiness of life and conversation, as well as in calling had implanted principles of holiness in them, and therefore is said to call them with an holy calling; and who himself is holy, naturally, perfectly, and originally, and in such sense as no creature is, angels or men; and is glorious in holiness, and is the source and fountain of holiness in others.”
He explains this type of holiness as this: “To be holy in this sense is an imitating of God, a copying after him, though he is far from being equalled by a sinful creature, or even by an angel in heaven; however, the arguments to it, taken from the nature of God, and of his effectual calling to grace and holiness, are very strong and powerful; for it is walking worthy of him, who has called us to his kingdom and glory; and walking worthy of that calling wherein we are called; and a following of God, as dear and obedient children; and what is according to his will, and what he directs unto, and requires, as appears from what follows.”
Barton W. Johnson says this in a straightforward manner, stating, “We must not only submit to God's commands but seek to imitate his holiness.” And Jamieson, Faussett and Brown point out the fact that “God is our grand model” and that as “Christians are already holy unto God by consecration; they must be so also in their outward walk and behaviour in all respects. The outward must correspond to the inward man.”

Matthew Henry then brought out the exact thing that I had been mulling over… How can we be holy? Or as Henry puts it, “Who is sufficient for this? And yet it is required in strong terms.”
John Gill points out that internal holiness is “God’s work, and not the creature’s act; it is the sanctification of the Spirit, of which he is the author.”
Jamieson, Faussett and Brown further point out that “God, in giving the command, is willing to give also the power to obey it, namely, through the sanctifying of the Spirit.”

In conclusion of mulling over this all, I want to point out several things that the Matthew Henry Bible Commentary discussed as areas of which to learn and apply:
  1. The children of God ought to prove themselves to be such by their obedience to God, by their present, constant, universal obedience.
  2. The best of God's children have had their times of lust and ignorance, but when converted, differ exceedingly from what they were formerly. They are people of another fashion and manner from what they were before; their inward frame, behaviour, speech, and conversation, are much altered from what they were in times past.
  3. The grace of God in calling a sinner is a powerful engagement to holiness. It is a great favour to be called effectually by divine grace out of a state of sin and misery into the possession of all the blessings of the new covenant; and great favours are strong obligations; they enable as well as oblige to be holy.
  4. Complete holiness is the desire and duty of every Christian. We must be holy, as God is holy: we must imitate him, though we can never equal him. He is perfectly, unchangeably, and eternally holy; and we should aspire after such a state. The consideration of the holiness of God should oblige as to the highest degree of holiness we can attain unto.
  5. The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian's life, and by this rule we are commanded to be holy every way.

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