Sermon preached on 1 Peter 1:13-22 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 2/27/2011 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Peter 1:13-21
“Redeemed… From Your Aimless Conduct”
Sanctification. That’s our topic for today. Sanctification is term we generally use to talk about that process in our lives where we grow to be more and more holy in our living. We grow more and more in thought, word, and deed, to obey God. It’s that process where we put off our old manner of living in sin and replace it with righteousness. It’s living out faith and repentance by actively striving to follow and obey Christ. This is our sanctification, and it’s what this passage commands us to be doing with both our minds and our actions.
Up to this point, this chapter has assumed a lot of things, but it hasn’t commanded a lot of things. Up to this point, Peter has been focusing on our new identity in Christ. He’s reminded us of our wonderful place in Christ. He’s encouraged us. Now, he turns and begin to exhort us. Two direct commands appear in this passage. Now, you’ll probably see plenty of things in the various English translations that look like commands here; more than just two. That’s because Peter is attaching participles onto the two main verbs of command in this passage. That makes those participles function like commands too. But, grammatically speaking, there are two imperative verbs in this passage. Those become the structuring device for Peter’s other related commands that he attaches to these main verbs.
So, the first main command is in verse 13. It’s says, “Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Rest your hope fully” is the main command there, grammatically speaking. The second main command here is in verse 15, “You also be holy in all your conduct.” Those are the two main commands on which Peter hangs all the other related ideas here about our sanctification. I will use these two commands as our two main points to consider today. But before we dig into those two main commands, notice that this passage starts out with the word “therefore.” These two commands concerning our sanctification are set within the larger context of chapter 1. As we typically see in the Scriptures, our imperatives for sanctified living flow out of our new relationship with Christ. That’s what Peter does here. And so we’ll actually consider that as our first point today, before digging into the two commands. We’ll consider first this word “therefore.” Let’s dig in.
It’s easy to make this single word “therefore” our first point today, because Peter is not only referring back to all the rich teaching of verses 1-12, but he again draws us to the same ideas even within this passage. Peter can’t disconnect our call for sanctified living from the new reality of who we are in Christ. He spent 12 verses talking about it, before giving us commands. And now as he gives us two commands, he still keeps bringing up about how our lives, now and into the future, have been changed in Christ. Let’s walk through some of the key things he mentioned in the first 12 verses of this chapter, and show how he’s still has those in mind here. This is the context he’s referring to when he says “therefore” in verse 13. This is the context he wants you to keep in mind as he gives us two commands here concerning our sanctification. This will be a quick review of what we learned the last three weeks, and see how Paul draws our attention to it again.
Recall then first that Peter has told us that we are pilgrims. We are sojourners. In verse 1, Peter had said we were chosen pilgrims, living scattered right now in this world. In other words, our real home is not in this world, now as Christians. Our real home is in heaven with our Lord. Peter reminds us again of this in verse 17 of our passage. He states again that we are in a time of sojourning right now.
Next, recall that Peter told us we have a living hope. That was the point of verses 3-5. He said we have a living hope of a wonderful inheritance, reserved in heaven for us. Verse 7 said that hope will be realized at the return of Christ. Verse 9 put that hope in terms of the salvation of our souls; something our faith is looking forward to receiving in its fullness in glory. Well, that is what Peter again draws our attention to at the end of verse 13. He talks about that grace that will be coming to us when Christ returns. That’s the same living hope that he has been talking about.
Next, remember that Peter said we are born again as children of God. Verse 3 said that it was God who has begotten us again. We see that developed even further here. Verse 14 calls us children. Verse 17 makes it clear that we are called children now in relationship to God. There in verse 17 it talks about how we now call upon God as “Father.” That’s what we call God. We call him now Father, because he has made us born again. Born from him. Born now as his holy children.
Recall how this is all possible. This wonderful salvation is possible because of what God has done through his Christ. Through Jesus. Peter had told us this especially in verses 10-12. He said that all the Old Testament Scriptures spoke about the Christ who would come. He said this Christ would suffer first and then receive glory. Well, Peter again brings this out in verses 18-21. There, Peter talks about first the suffering of Christ. We were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ who was sacrificed for us. Peter calls Jesus a lamb without blemish or spot. Peter uses the imagery of so many Old Testament sacrifices; sacrifices that in the Old Testament redeemed God’s people; sacrifices that atoned for the sin of God’s people. He said that’s what Jesus did. That’s what the cross was about. His suffering meant that we could be forgiven and taken out of a life of sin. So Peter again points to Jesus’ suffering. But he also points again to Jesus’ subsequent glories. In verse 21, Peter tells us that God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory! So Jesus’ death on the cross was his predicted sufferings. But his resurrection from the dead was the beginning of those subsequent glories that would come to Jesus. Peter reminds us again of how central the work of Christ is in our salvation. He says Christ’s blood in verse 18 is more precious that silver or gold. That’s because it’s through his shed blood we too can taste of glory. Through Christ our souls can be saved eternally!
Next, recall that Peter showed us how we receive all this. We receive it through faith. In verse 5 he told us about this faith. We are kept by God’s power, through faith. In verse 7, he had told us how our faith is being grown and refined through life’s trials; this because our faith is so precious. In verse 9, Peter told us the outcome of our faith – the salvation of our souls. Faith is how we instrumentally receive this salvation. We don’t earn this salvation that comes from Christ. No, we receive it freely through faith. Well, Peter again has that in view here, as we see in verse 21. He says in all of this we are believers of God; that we put our faith and hope in God who saves us through Jesus Christ.
The last thing to point out is that Peter had talked about how all this meant we were set apart for obedience. Verse 2 specifically said this; that God’s plan for us included the Holy Spirit sanctifying us for obedience. That then becomes the focus of this passage for today. See how he connects the entire context here. Verse 14 talks about our obedience as well. It says as obedient children we are not to be conforming ourselves any more to our former lusts; those things we did ignorantly before. Or again in verse 18, that we’ve been redeemed from our aimless conducted received from our forefathers. Peter had said before that we had been set apart for obedience. Do you see what both verses 14 and 18 say? It says that we’ve had a change take place in our life. This change means that we no longer live like we use to do. We no longer live like how our old earthly fathers taught us. We live like Christ. We live according to the ways of our new Father. In other words, we look to grow in sanctification because of our changed status as Christians.
This passage drives this home. It flushes out our sanctification in light of the previous 12 verses. So, do you see what the “therefore” in verse 13 has done? Our new status in Christ calls us to live a changed life. As pilgrims, we no longer live like the rest of the world. As those with a living hope, we set our minds on that hope, thus sanctifying our minds. As those saved by the suffering of Christ, we look to live godly amidst our own suffering, knowing that glory will follow. Our faith is firmly holding on to these things as we now actively pursue obedience to God. In faith, we walk forward, looking to be holy in all that we do.
So, with that context, let’s consider then the first direct command we mentioned. The call to rest your hope fully, found in verse 13. Let’s read the whole verse now and see the fullness of this command brought out. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In thinking about our sanctification, this verse is about sanctifying our minds. Before talking about sanctifying our actions, Peter calls us to have right thinking. Right thinking, will flow into right actions. We can’t expect to act righteously in this life, if our minds aren’t in the right place.
There are three parts to this command in verse 13. Peter gets us to consider three aspects of how are minds are to be sanctified. He wants our minds to be ready. He wants our minds to be controlled. He wants our minds to have a heavenly, eternal, perspective. These three aspects are interrelated and dependent on each other. Let’s think through them.
First he says to “Gird up the loins of your mind.” Back then people wore long robes. If you were to do any serious activity, say like running, or work, you would have to prepare yourself first. You’d prepare yourself by taking up your robe and tucking it into the belt at your loins. Then it wouldn’t be hanging down and getting in the way. That was known as girding up your loins. It was an act of preparation. And so the phrase, “Gird up your loins,” then started to get used with the idea of getting ready. Getting ready for action. When we say today, “Let’s roll up our sleeves,” it’s a similar same idea. It’s, “Let’s get ready for some work.” But, Peter applies this idea to our minds. Gird up the loins of your mind. Roll up the sleeves of your mind. Get your mind ready and prepared for action. Peter wants us to be mentally prepared for living godly in world that’s no longer our home.
Next, he says, “Be sober.” This is literally the word about not being intoxicated. Don’t be intoxicated. Be sober. And yet it’s a word in the original language that can be used symbolically to refer to self-control and alertness. That’s how it appears to be used here. In context, particularly, it seems it’s about having mental self-control and mental alertness. Be sober-minded. Peter uses this same word in 4:7 and 5:8. In both of those occasions he seems to be using it in the same way, of sober-mindedness. Clear and controlled thinking. Alert. In 4:7 the use there is that we should be sober-minded in our prayers in light of the fact that the end is coming soon. In 5:8 the use there is that we should be sober-minded about the fact that the devil is out to get us. Both of those uses suggest alertness in our thinking, and careful control of our minds in light of our vigilance.
Third, he tells us that our minds are to be fully fixed on the hope of Christ’s return. That’s the final clause of verse 13. As I mentioned, it’s really the primary command in verse 13. Rest your hope fully on this. On this grace that’s coming at Christ’s return. Fully. I remember in seminary once I preached a sermon about growing through trials. One fellow student challenged me afterward that he thought all I was offering to people was that we can endure trials because “tomorrow” will be a better day; referring to eternity. Now, for sure, the gospel does make a difference here and now. But I can’t promise that this life will be easy. So, I told that fellow student that he had pretty much understood my sermon correctly. At the end of the day, Christian suffering is overcome by glory. At Christ’s return. We’re told that right here, when it says to fully rest our hope on Christ’s return. Not partially; fully. How are we to think about being pilgrims in this world, pilgrims who suffer? What’s our mental perspective and response to be? Fully set our hope on Christ’s return. That’s when suffering will be done away with. Until then we can expect suffering in different ways.
So this first command in verse 13 is about our mental sanctification. Our minds are to be sanctified. Our minds are to be ready for action and alert, with the perspective that Christ is coming again soon. Our minds are to be prepared to live godly here and now. We are to be mentally on guard that we may suffer now. We are to be mentally on the watch that we may face affliction here and now. But our minds should tell us that this is okay. We have a hope that can’t be shaken by these sufferings and afflictions. If we are in Christ, our hope can’t be shaken by these things; only strengthened by these things. God will grow us through these things. Set your mind on this. Be alert and ready for the trials that will come. In them, live for Christ. Look to grow in obedience. Look to live holy. If our minds are being made holy, then that will flow into our actions.
That brings us to the other main commandment in this passage. Verse 15, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Here, the focus turns to our behavior. Our conduct should be holy. It should be set apart; set apart from the rest of the world that lives in sin; in pagan, futile, ways. We instead should be obedient it says in verse 14. Our behavior should reflect a change from our old way of living. We see this again in verse 16. It reiterates verse 15 with a quote from the Old Testament. Be holy, for I am holy. That’s from Leviticus 19:2. Leviticus gives almost the same command in a few different places in that book too.
Interestingly, Leviticus is very much a book about holiness, and yet a lot of it had to do with ceremonial holiness and cleanness. Leviticus does have some moral imperatives in it. But a lot of its holiness is dealing with external cleanness. Leviticus has the kosher food laws, for example; which foods were clean and which were unclean for the Jewish people to eat. Leviticus has all the laws on dealing with leprosy. It has laws on how to deal with mildew in house. It has many such laws that we would consider ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. Peter quotes this command from Leviticus to be holy. And yet what’s interesting is that there’s nothing in this letter that would suggest he has in mind any of those ceremonial laws. In fact, we know from the book of Acts, that this is something God through Peter addressed. In the book of Acts, God helped Peter see that the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament showed the need for people to be cleansed by God. God showed Peter that he was even cleansing Gentiles, and that cleansing would happen through Jesus. God showed Peter that the ceremonial laws in Leviticus looked forward to the work of Jesus Christ. The cleansing that would happen through the precious blood of Jesus. That would make us clean and holy. You might refer to Acts 10, 11, and 15 for further reflection on your own on that.
And yet despite this revelation God gave Peter about these ceremonial laws, Peter can still see the applicability of this verse from Leviticus. Yes, the ceremonial laws found their fulfillment in the cleansing of Christ. But, the principle of holiness remains. The principle, “Be holy, for I am holy,” still applies. God wants his children to be holy. In the old covenant, that could be seen through various outward ceremonial laws. The nations around would look at all those ceremonial laws, and notice a people set apart for God. But, in the new covenant, our holiness should still be seen outwardly, by our actions. As we see in Peter, and elsewhere in the New Testament, this means obedience. Righteousness. Growing in living out God’s moral laws. Looking to follow the Ten Commandments. Casting off idolatry and serve the one true God. Putting off sinful coveting and replacing those lusts with desires for righteousness and God’s kingdom. As obedient children, we look to mimic the holiness of God in our behavior. When the rest of the world is living as they see fit, God’s people should look to live as God sees fit. As we grow in this, people should notice a difference in our conduct from that of the rest of the world.
This passage gives us a way in which we can see this holiness reflected in our lives. It can be reflected through our adoption as God’s children, in the way in which we fear God as our Father. Look at verse 17. We’ve already said that this passage and this chapter brought out the fact that we have been made God’s children. We see that applied to our sanctification in this verse 17. There it talks about how we call upon God as father. The original language is prayer language: if you call upon the Father; if you invoke the father, that sort of thing. It’s saying that if you do that, then recognize that this is the father that judges impartially, therefore we are to fear him. Now, given the fact that Scripture tells us that we no longer need to fear the judicial judgment of God, I think we have to understand this to be referring to fatherly discipline. Christians no longer fear God’s judgment and punishment as a legal judge of his law. 1 John 4:18 and Romans 8:1 would tell us that. So, the clue to understanding this is the father/child language here. As adopted children, we should know that the Father we pray to, is also the Father who is disciplining us. He’s not partial in his discipline. No, he impartially judges our conduct. As a father, he will discipline us. That should cause us to have a biblical fear of God. Not fear of judicial punishment. No, there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But fear of fatherly discipline.
In today’s age, some of us might not like to think about that concept. That we as God’s children should fear him in any sense. But both the Old and New Testaments tell us there is a right way in which we fear God. And that fear is even put here in terms of our relationship between a father and his children. Be careful not to import improper meaning here. Don’t think about an abusive parent you had and attribute that to God as father. No, were talking about a father who judges impartially; in other words he judges your conduct fairly and righteously. He will discipline you if needed to grow you in your sanctification. That should instill a healthy fear in us. Discipline is never fun, even if it’s good for us. But the reality of God’s discipline in our lives should affect our actions. God’s discipline is part of how he sanctifies us. And even the fear of this discipline is part of how he sanctifies us.
Trinity Presbyterian Church, God wants to sanctify us. He wants us to be holy. He wants our minds to be sanctified. He wants our actions to be sanctified. In fact, as we’ve discussed today, these are interrelated. But, this passage doesn’t just say God wants this. It actually commands us to be holy. To strive for holiness. To live obediently. As saved Christians, this is what God wants us to strive for.
But let me add a further encouragement to us. This is not just want God wants for us. It’s not just what he commands of us. It’s also what he is doing in us. Look one final time with me at verse 18. It talks of God redeeming us. God has redeemed us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We normally think about this redemption in terms of our forgiveness of sins. In terms of our justification. But that’s not the focus on verse 18. Verse 18 actually talks about our redemption in terms of our sanctification. It says he redeemed us from our old selves; from our aimless conduct; from our futile ways. God’s redemption in Christ not only results in our justification; but it’s also related to our sanctification. My point then is that God had the precious blood of Jesus spilt so that you and I would be sanctified. So that we would live holy. So God is not just passively wanting us to be holy. He’s not just sitting back commanding us to be holy. He’s actively working in the lives of his children to grow us in holiness.
May that perspective fill our minds as we live here on earth. God is in fact working holiness in our lives. Right now during our sojourning on earth, he is sanctifying us. As we labor to set our mind and our actions on holiness, he is growing us. As we learn to fear him as our heavenly father who disciplines us out of love, he is growing us. Through trials, he grows us. Even through discipline, he grows us. This is where we are, brothers and sisters, with regards to our salvation. When we sit back and look at where we are in our salvation, we realize that we have already been justified. We’ve already been adopted. Those parts of the order of salvation have already been realized in our lives. In the future, there is glorification; that’s not yet happened. So we sit in that in between stage called sanctification. This is what he’s actively doing in our lives right now. This is part of his salvation. God saves us from our sins in two ways: he forgives us of our sins, but he also is progressively rooting them out of our lives. And so our salvation includes God progressively growing us in holiness. He will perfect that when he comes. As it says in verse 13, that day of his return is a day of grace; grace when he completes the salvation in us; salvation that includes us being perfected in holiness. Until then, as you strive to think and act in godliness, take heart knowing that he’s at work. And rest your hope fully on that day when he will perfect us. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.
Copyright (c) 2011 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.