Study 3 AN URGENT APPEAL FOR HOLY LIVING
THE FIRST LETTER OF PETER
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)
The appeal found in 1 Peter 1:15-16 was very necessary in the first century, but also it needs to be emphasised today. As believers we need to live a holy life because God commands it. His demand is very exacting and His standard is a very high one, for the appeal to live a holy life runs right through the Bible. Here in this letter Peter was re-stating God’s command in Leviticus 11:44; this was repeated in the Psalms and in the prophecies of the Old Testament and it was carried over into the New Testament. Practically all the New Testament letters contain doctrinal teaching which is meant to lead to holy living, and truth which is meant to be translated into behaviour.
1. THE CONSTRAINT OF A HOLY LIFE
There is a three-fold constraint to live a holy life:-
- God the Father commands it. This means that we are dealing with something that is absolutely imperative; it is not optional. God commands a life of holiness, for it is written, ’Be holy, because I am holy …’ William Law says in his Serious Call, ’We may choose a married life or a single life, but it is not left to us to choose whether or not we live a holy life.’ In 1 Peter 1:17 there is a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it is in the light of this that God says to us, “Be holy …”.
- The Lord Jesus died and rose again for it. Notice verse 18. Why did Jesus die? One reason is that He died to redeem us from the old life of sin and failure. The hymn beautifully expresses it, ‘He died that we might be forgiven …’ – but that is not all. ‘He died to make us good’ - not only that we might receive pardon, but purity; and when we see Him upon the cross bearing our sin and dying for this very purpose, surely we find in our heart a tremendous longing, a constraint, that ”after the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” – look up Isaiah 53:11.
- God the Holy Spirit has been given, and He indwells us to make this possible. We see this in verse 22. It is impossible for anyone to live a holy life apart from the Holy Spirit, but because the Holy Spirit dwells in us to give to us the holy life of our risen Lord Jesus Christ, we are enabled to fulfil the Father’s command and be holy, but it is all through His Holy Spirit.
2. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A HOLY LIFE
Notice in verse 15 the words “be holy in all that you do”. Peter is speaking here of practical holiness. A holy person will have:-
- A prepared mind. In verse 13 Peter tells us to prepare our minds. Our minds need to be disciplined and focused that we might live holy lives.
- A self-controlled life. This is also mentioned in verse 13. We are living in a casual age with little restraint. We are to live under the gracious control of the Lord Himself and under the gentle control of the Holy Spirit, so that our personality is poised and balanced and so that there are no extremes. The most perfect illustration of this is to be found in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- A quiet hope. This is also mentioned in verse 13. We are to be filled with holy optimism in a world where there is absolutely no hope. A holy man looks out on the world and sees the events which are leading up to the great consummation of all things; but he also looks up and beyond all that is happening in the world, and the peace of God which passes all understanding fills and floods his soul - look up Philippians 4:7.
- A tender conscience. In verse 17 we see that we are to live ’in reverent fear” – not the “fear (which) has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18), but a fear which may be described as being afraid to grieve our Heavenly Father. A new disposition, a new attitude, has come into our heart, and whereas we sinned with impunity now we cannot do that; we are literally gripped by fear that we should grieve our loving Heavenly Father - look up Psalm 34:9 and 11.
- A loving disposition. In verse 22 the word ‘sincere’ means ‘real’. We are not to love in word only - look up James 1:22; Ephesians 4:32.
- A pure motive. This is spoken of in 1 Peter 2:1. ‘Malice’ means ‘wickedness’; ‘deceit’ means ‘craftiness’; ‘hypocrisy’ means ‘pretence’ - making out that you are something different from what you really are. A holy person lays aside these false dispositions and attitudes and is marked by sincerity.
- A cleansed mouth. This is also mentioned in 1 Peter 2:1, where we read of ”slander of every kind”. This refers more to gossip, careless talk and the spreading of evil rumours.
3. THE CONDITIONS OF A HOLY LIFE
What must we do if we would be holy? How can we live this life that God commands, that the Lord Jesus died to make possible, and the Holy Spirit lives within us to make actual?
- We must be born again. This is indicated in 1 Peter 1:23. When we are born again we become partakers of the divine nature, and this is holiness begun. The new birth is the commencement of the life of God in the soul.
- We must be obedient to the truth. Compare 1 Peter 1:22 with verse 14 and Exodus 19:5-6. As we read and study God’s Word we discover His will for us and we seek day by day to conform to this. If we are born again we shall want to do this, and as we do this God will transform us into holy people - see 2 Corinthians 3:18.
- We must be utterly abandoned to the Holy Spirit. Why? Because a holy life is not the product of our own efforts or struggling; it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us. Therefore, Peter is careful to remind us in 1 Peter 1:22 (KJV) that the secret of this life is ”through the Spirit”.