Be Holy, for I am Holy

Why Peter Grounds Our Holiness in the Holiness of God

Time and time again the apostles write with a “gospel grammar.” They write first about what God has done or has promised to do for us, and then about what God is doing in us and through us as we respond to him in faith and love. In the first twelve verses of 1 Peter 1, the apostle writes in the indicative mood; that is, he speaks about us with statements of fact: we are God’s elect, we have been born again, we have a living hope, we have an eternal inheritance, we are being kept by God’s power, and we will be completely saved when Jesus returns.

 

If my experience was anything like yours, you didn’t like learning grammar as a child. There were so many rules that seemed so irrelevant as to what was going on at the playground or down the street with friends. We were completely oblivious to the fact that without these grammatical rules we couldn’t communicate with our friends on the playground or down the street, nor could we make sense of their words to us.

In 1 Peter 1, we have a basic grammar lesson. Peter has described Christians throughout the Roman province of Asia Minor as “elect pilgrims of the Diaspora” (v. 1; ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς). He’s proclaimed to them that they’ve already been blessed with the new life of salvation (v. 3) while they await its full consummation in eternity (vv. 5, 7, 9). To put it into various grammatical tenses, pilgrims have been saved and will be saved. Then notice how in verse 13 Peter transitions to a new section of his epistle with “therefore” (Διὸ). While he’s already described the past and future tenses of the pilgrims’ salvation, now he writes about its present tense.

Time and time again the apostles write with a “gospel grammar.” They write first about what God has done or has promised to do for us, and then about what God is doing in us and through us as we respond to him in faith and love. In the first twelve verses of 1 Peter 1, the apostle writes in the indicative mood; that is, he speaks about us with statements of fact: we are God’s elect, we have been born again, we have a living hope, we have an eternal inheritance, we are being kept by God’s power, and we will be completely saved when Jesus returns. In verse 13 Peter changes course, speaking in the imperative mood; that is, he speaks in statements of command. The purpose of all this grammar is that we know Jesus better and seek to live for him more fully. As one old writer said, “The consideration of our spiritual privileges by Jesus Christ should stir us up to the study of holiness.”[1]

In 1 Peter 1:13–16, the apostle writes of the pilgrim’s present preparation in journeying through this life towards the life to come. He does so with two main imperative verbs: “set your hope” and “be holy.”

Looking in Hope

In this life, pilgrims are to be preparing themselves by looking forward in hope to the life of the world to come. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13). The main action verb is the imperative “set your (pl.) hope” (ἐλπίσατε). This verb has two subordinate verbs that explain how we are to set our hope on the grace of God at Jesus’ revelation.[2]

By preparing your minds for action

First, set your hope on the grace of Jesus’ coming again by “preparing your minds for action.” The image is girding up the loins of your mind. Imagine those images you’ve seen of clothes in the ancient world, or, that are still worn in the Middle East. The basic garment of the first century was a long, sleeveless shirt that reached down to the knees. But during activity, such as work, war, and exercise, it was tucked up into the belt, at the waist, to make what was basically a pair of shorts. The idea that this image of girding up the loins of our minds is conveying is that we are to “get our minds ready” for the coming of the Lord.

Read More