I’m not sure whether I said this before, but verses 3 to 12 of 1 Peter 1 are one long sentence in the Greek. The NIV and other English translations break it up in shorter sentences, but in verse 3 Peter begins one long sentence which continues right up to the end of verse 12. And, of course, that one long sentence is dominated by what he said at the beginning about praising the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ for his great mercy towards us, because he’s given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of our Saviour from the dead. And though we have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials right now in this life, nevertheless we’re able to praise God for the eternal life which has promised to give to us as an inheritance and which is kept safe for us in heaven. So, we’re able to praise God. And Peter went on to speak about rejoicing; rejoicing with an inexpressible and glorious joy. And we’re able to rejoice like that, because of Jesus Christ, whom we have never seen, but we believe in him and we love him because of what he’s done for us. And we’re able to rejoice as well in our salvation which will be given to us in all its fullness whenever the Lord Jesus comes again, because when he comes again, we’ll be made perfect in every way and we’ll be brought in body and soul into the presence of the Lord to be with him for ever. And so, we’re able to rejoice; and we’re able to praise God.
So, it’s all one sentence. Well, verse 13 begins with the word ‘therefore’. And that tells us that we’re moving into a different section of Peter’s letter; but it also tells us that what follows arises from and is based on what we’ve just been reading about. So, we’re been reading about how we’re able to praise God for his mercy towards us and for the great hope he’s given us. Therefore, since that’s true, since this is the case, what are we to do now? And in the verses which follow, Peters sets before us three main things we’re to do. So, there are three main things we’re to do, but I’ve got four points today; there’s a bonus point at the end. And the four points are these: Be hopeful (v. 13) be holy (vv. 14–16) live in reverent fear (v. 17); and redeemed (vv. 18–21). So, three things we’re to do; with a bonus point at the end.
And so, according to verse 13, we’re to be hopeful. Or, as Peter puts it, we’re to set our hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Peter is referring to the day when the Lord returns to earth from heaven and every eye will see him. That’s what he’s referring to when he writes about Jesus Christ being revealed. And on that day, we’ll receive grace. And Peter is using the word ‘grace’ here to refer to the fullness of our salvation which will be given to us on that day; so, when the Lord comes again, believers will be made perfect and we’ll be brought in body and soul into the presence of God to be with him for ever. Well, in view of that, we’re to be hopeful.
Now, remember who Peter is writing to. He’s writing to Christians who have been suffering for their faith in Christ. They’ve had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. They’ve faced trials and persecution and loss for their sake of their faith in Christ. Some people may have looked at them and thought that — in human terms — the future for them was bleak: the whole Roman Empire was against them; their neighbours had turned against them; things looked bad for them; their property was liable to be stolen or confiscated; their jobs were on the line; they risked being beaten or imprisoned or even killed because of their commitment to Christ. It was looking bad for them. But they could still be hopeful; and they could still be hopeful about the future, because they knew that, one day, their Lord and Saviour was going to return to gather together all of his faithful people, and raise them up to new, resurrection life and to bring them into their eternal home and to that everlasting inheritance which Peter has already referred to in verse 4, an inheritance from God which cannot perish, spoil, or fade. Our earthly possessions can perish, spoil or fade. Our gold and silver perishes even though it is refined by fire. But our eternal life — which God has promised to give us as our inheritance — is kept safe for us; and when Christ returns, he’ll give it to us. Christians can be hopeful about that; they can look forward to that.
Now ‘hope’ in the Bible — and I’ve mentioned this before — is more than what we often mean by hope. We say: ‘I hope it won’t rain on Saturday’ or ‘I hope Northern Ireland will do well in the football.’ We’re hoping something might happen, but we’re not sure about it; it might happen and it might not. But in the Bible ‘hope’ means being sure; it means being certain about something; it means being sure and certain and assured about something. So, you can be assured about this, Peter is saying. When Jesus Christ returns, you’re going to be given God’s gracious gift of eternal life. You can be sure of that.
Does that mean we’re just to sit still and do nothing and just wait for the Lord to come again? Well no. Look what Peter writes in verse 13: as well as saying we’re to set our hope fully on God’s gracious gift of eternal life, we’re also to prepare our minds for action and we’re to be self-controlled.
A more literal translation is that we’re to gird up, or bind up, the loins of our mind. It’s an interesting expression. In biblical times, when men wore long robes, they had to lift up the ends of their robe and tuck them into their belt whenever they had work to do; otherwise, the ends of their long robe would trip them up. That’s what girding up your loins means. And it’s therefore a picture of getting ready for action. And so, since we’re hopeful about the future, when Jesus Christ returns, we’re to get ready for action now.
And we’re to be self-controlled. Again, a more literal translation is that we’re to be sober-minded. The person who is drunk is unready for action. If he stands up, he’s likely to fall over again. If he tries to walk, he’ll stagger from side to side. The person who is drunk isn’t ready for action. But the believer, who is looking forward to the coming of Christ, is to be ready for action.
And, of course, this all makes sense. The person who is feeling hopeless, just wants to turn their face to the wall and cry. He thinks, she thinks: What’s the point? But the person who is hopeful, well, he’s up, she’s up and is active and ready for action.
Well, believers can be up and active and ready for action, because we’re hopeful; we’re full of hope. We may have nothing now; we might have lost our earthly inheritance; everyone may be against us; but we know that Christ our Saviour is coming again; we know that when he comes we’ll be with him for ever and ever in glory; we know that no one can take God’s gracious gift of eternal life away from us. We know all that. And we know as well that, in the meantime, while we wait for it, he’s shielding us by his mighty power. So, we can be hopeful; and we can be ready for action.
So, what are we do? If we’re to be ready for action, what are we to do? Well, we’re to be holy. We’re looking now at verses 14 to 16:
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.’
So, what does it mean to be holy? Well, it basically means being separate; it means being set apart. Now, think of the Lord and his holiness for a moment. He’s holy in two main senses. First of all, he’s holy in the sense that he’s set apart and separate from all that he’s made. He alone is the Creator; and everything else is his creation. So, there’s the creation on the one hand — you, me and everything else — and there’s God on the other hand. He’s therefore set apart from everything else.
But he’s also set apart and separate from all that is evil. He’s infinitely, eternally and unchangeably good. There’s not a hint of wickedness or sin or anything bad in him. He’s therefore set apart from sin.
So, God is holy in these two senses. In what sense are we to be holy? Well, we’re holy in two senses as well. We’re holy in the sense that we’ve been set apart from the unbelieving world to belong to God. Before we believed, we were like everyone else who didn’t believe; but then God graciously called us out of the unbelieving world to belong to him and to his family. So, we’re holy in that sense.
But we’re to be holy in the sense that we’re to be set apart from all that is sinful. Whereas unbelievers don’t care whether or not they obey God’s laws or whether or not they break his commandments, or whether or not they do what’s right in his sight, believers are to be careful to obey God’s laws and to keep his commandments and to do what’s right in his sight.
So, we’re holy in two senses: firstly, in terms of our relationship to God and the world; and secondly, in terms of what we do and how we live. And Peter has both of these ideas in mind when he refers to holiness in these verses. First of all, he refers to his readers’ relationship to God and the world. He says, for instance, that they’re God’s children. So, God has set them apart from the unbelieving world to belong to him and to his family. Once we were separated from him; and he was a stranger to us; and we didn’t know him or his ways. And if you look again to verse 14, you’ll see Peter refers to our former existence; he refers to the time before we believed, when we lived in ignorance; and we lived in ignorance because we didn’t know God or his ways. But then he called us through the gospel and he set us apart from the unbelieving world to belong to him and his family.
But then Peter refers to what we’re to do and how we’re to live. He says we’re to be God’s obedient children. And instead of being conformed to our former existence, when we didn’t know God and when we followed our own evil desires, instead of doing that, we’re to live holy lives, which means we’re to be set apart from sin. We’re to have nothing to do with it; and instead of following our evil desires, we’re to seek to do God’s will.
And how are we to be holy like this? How can we live obedient lives? Well, Peter doesn’t tell us here, but the rest of the New Testament tells us that we can do it, because whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, has the Holy Spirit living in them. And the Holy Spirit works in our lives to enable us to resist the temptation to sin and he enables us more and more to do God’s will and to live holy lives which are pleasing to our Heavenly Father.
God doesn’t leave us on our own. He gives us his Spirit who renews us from the inside to make us more and more holy and more and more willing and able to do God’s will. —
So, we’re to be hopeful. And we’re to be holy. We’re also to live in reverent fear. And I’m looking now at verse 17:
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live you lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
Now, let me comment on the word ‘strangers’ first. We’ve thought about this before whenever we were studying verse 1 where Peter refers to his readers — and to us — as strangers, or exiles, in the world. And the point he was making by using this word is to remind us that believers are living away from our true home. Our true home, the place we really belong, is in heaven with the Lord Jesus. Once we belonged to this present evil age, which is destined to perish; but then we were raised with Christ to the heavenly realms. That’s where we now belong by faith, so that our citizenship is now in heaven, where Christ is, and from where he’s coming again one day in order to bring us to our heavenly home. So, that’s where we belong. And as long as we go on living on the earth, we’re living as strangers, because we know we really belong in heaven with our Saviour.
So, we’re strangers here. And often we feel like strangers, don’t we? We feel we don’t quite fit in, because we don’t believe what the rest of the world believes; and we don’t do what the rest of the world does; and we don’t long for what the rest of the world longs for. We feel out of place here; and it’s because we belong somewhere else.
And, of course, the way we live in the world should reflect the fact that we belong somewhere else. When we were living in Naas, we had friends who came from Nigeria and from Poland and from Brazil and from South Africa. And when you went to their homes for dinner, you could tell they weren’t from around here, because the food they ate was different. And people should be able to tell that we’re not from around here, because we’re different. The way we live in the world should reflect the fact that we belong somewhere else. The way we live our lives in the world should reflect the fact that we really belong in heaven with Jesus Christ.
Now here’s the thing; and this is really Peter’s point here: We have to remember that our loving Heavenly Father is watching us And we need to ensure that we live in such a way that will please him.
I’ve been going through our church’s Confession of Faith with our elders-elect. And it’s interesting to see how the Confession is so balanced. It speaks so clearly of God’s grace and his willingness to pardon us and to give us eternal life for the sake of Christ who died for us. This is all part of God’s plan for our salvation, which Christ has purchased for us. And our salvation is kept safe and secure so that whoever believes in the Saviour need never fear everlasting punishment, because Christ suffered the punished we deserve and has promised us eternal life.
However, the Confession also reminds us that God may discipline or chastise his believing people in this life. We’ll never lose our eternal salvation which Christ has purchased for us. But when we sin against our Heavenly Father, without confessing it and without repenting of it, but continuing in it, our Heavenly Father may very well have to discipline us in this life.
And, of course, what the Confession teaches is completely biblical. And so, here’s Peter teaching us that we need to live our lives in reverent fear. In other words, as you live your life, remember that your Heavenly Father is watching you; and even though he’s your Heavenly Father who loves you and who has assured you of everlasting salvation, he’s also an impartial judge; and if he sees you, sinning against him, without confessing it, without repenting of it, but continuing in it, watch out or he may have to discipline you, the way any father will discipline his wayward children.
And since that’s the case, live your lives with reverent fear, knowing that our loving Heavenly Father may have to discipline us if we continue to sin instead of living lives which reflect the fact that we belong by faith in heaven.
So, we’re to be hopeful; and we’re to be holy; and we’re to live in reverent fear. The bonus point is that we’re redeemed. And I’m looking now at verses 18 to 21 where Peter reminds his readers that we weren’t redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold. But we were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ.
Well, the word ‘redeemed’ means being set free by paying a price. In the ancient world, prisoners of war could be set free by paying a price; the price was paid and the prison was set free. Slaves could be set free by paying a price; money was paid to the slave’s owner and the slave was set free. Well, says Peter, we’ve been set free like that.
What were we set free from? Well, look at verse 18: ‘from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.’ He’s again referring to their former life, before they believed. And so, he’s referring to life without Christ; he’s referring to the life of unbelievers. They might have lots of good things in this world; and people may look on them and think they have everything they need to have a happy and successful life. But, according to Peter, their life is empty. It’s empty. It’s futile. It’s meaningless and it’s going nowhere. This life is all they have. We were reading about this earlier — weren’t we? — in Psalm 49. But the believer has been set free from that empty way of life; and the believer has been given a new life: a life of purpose and meaning. It’s a life of purpose and meaning because we know that while we go on living on the earth we’re to serve our Father in heaven in reverent fear. That’s what we’re to aim for everyday. And, of course, it’s a life full of hope because we know that after this life, there’s the life to come, a life of perfect peace and rest in the presence of God.
And how were we set free from this empty life? Not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, who gave up his life as a ransom to pay for our sins and to set us free forever. Peter says the Lord was chosen before the creation of the world; he was chosen from all eternity to be our Redeemer. And Peter says that in these last times he was revealed on the earth; he was revealed as the only Redeemer, the only Saviour of God’s people. And look at verse 21: God the Father raised him from the dead and glorified him. And so, we’re to have faith in this God, who sent his Son to die for us; and we’re to have hope, because just as Christ died and was raised and glorified, so we too, who believe, will be raised and gloried in the presence of God.
So, we’re to be hopeful; and we’re to be holy; and we’re to live in reverent fear; and we’re to rejoice, and to give thanks to God, because we’ve been redeemed and set free with the blood of Christ from an empty life without purpose and without hope to live a full, purposeful, hopeful life while we wait for our Saviour to come again.