1 Peter Bible Study Notes Week 4
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 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 1:10-16
Things to think about
Why do we need to be mentally alert? What do we need to be alert to?
Peter gives some specific instructions in verses 12-17. Can you list them?
How can we be ready for Jesus’ return?
How do you prepare your mind for action?
Define or describe “holiness” in your own words.
Do you aspire to personal holiness? How important is it that your life is characterised by holiness?
Have you consecrated your heart and life to God?
Prophets and Angels Investigate Salvation – 1 Peter 1:10-12
Peter writes that the Old Testament prophets had foreseen the coming salvation because of the Spirit of Christ within them. His “point seems to be that the Spirit who was the agent of revelation to the prophets of old is the same Spirit of Christ known to the first-century church. . . . Peter thereby shows a continuity of the Spirit with the prophets and with the Christians who receive the gospel of God’s mercy centered in the suffering and glorification of Jesus Christ.” Karen Jobes (2009:101) What the prophets had foretold, the evangelists had now preached.
In the past, the prophets were curious to know at what time, or season (kairos), the Messiah would come; and they searched and inquired about it. In the present, it is the angels who are curious; and they stoop down to keenly observe the gospel at work on earth and within us. Like Peter’s readers, we are privileged to be people living in the age where we can personally witness and experience the gospel of Grace.
Peter’s Instructions – 1 Peter 1:13-16
Verse 13 begins a new section in Peter’s letter. In verses 13-16 Peters prescribes several Christian responses, or actions.
Instruction 1: Be alert and sober. Peter wanted his readers to be fully alert mentally. Using a Semitic expression, he literally wrote, “Gird the loins of your mind”. When people in Bible times wanted to engage in physical labour, they would sometimes tuck up their long clothing into their belts so that the clothes wouldn’t impede physical activity and slow them down. Also, when tucked up, their clothes would not get unnecessarily dirty. A modern idiom “ to roll up your sleeves” is very similar in meaning.
Paul used the same expression, “gird your loins” in Luke 12:35:
Be dressed ready for service [lit: gird your loins] and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Luke 12:35b-38
God wants us to be alert, ready and prepared. Ready and prepared for what? How can we be ready for the Grace which the revelation of Jesus Christ will bring?
Mental alertness was important to Peter. He told his readers three times to be sober (1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7; 5:8). As in English, the Greek word for “sober” can mean not to be drunk on alcohol. “Sober” can also refer to a disposition of mental clarity and spiritual acumen that is unimpaired by foggy thinking and spiritual confusion. Peter’s readers were facing difficult times and he wanted them to be alert, sober and ready for action. He did not want them to lose focus and perhaps miss out on the coming Grace.
Instruction 2: Set your hope fully upon the coming grace. One of the main tenets of the Christian Gospel is that our salvation is a gracious gift from God which we receive when we trust in him. We are to fully rely on God’s grace and not rely on our own abilities or in religious rituals. (Cf. Philippians 3:2-9.)
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:6-9
1 Peter 1:13 is about a future instalment of grace and salvation, the fulfilment of grace that we will receive when Jesus returns and is revealed to all. This is our certain hope, and it’s exciting! Let’s keep alert and keep our hope alive concerning the coming grace.
Instruction 3: Do not be conformed to former evil desires. The Bible scholars who maintain that 1 Peter could not have been written for a predominantly Jewish audience use 1 Peter 1:14 to back their stance. They claim that the Jews, who had the revelation of God contained in the Old Testament Scriptures, could not have been living in ignorance. Thus, they also claim that the Jews could not have had evil desires originating from ignorance. Paul, however, alludes to the ignorance or, more precisely, the blindness of the Jews, in 2 Corinthians 3:12-16. Many Jews were blind and ignorant of the grace of God and that their Messiah had come. Moreover, the Israelites had had a long history of former idolatry, sin and evil desires. (Blatant idolatry by Israelites ceased after the Babylonian captivity.)
Many of the Gentile Christians, who had converted from paganism to Christianity, certainly had previously lived their lives in ignorance of the true God and his ways. The Gentile Christians would have had to make huge changes in their behaviour and lifestyle. The change from a lifestyle of evil desires, which included idolatry and sexual immorality, to a life of obedience and holiness would need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Instruction 4: Be holy. A Christian is a person set apart and sanctified, that is, made holy, by God. However, we have an obligation to behave in a way worthy of our calling as Christians (Eph. 4:1; Phil. 1:27 Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12). We are to have holy behaviours and attitudes.
Peter gives the reason for his instruction to be holy in a way Jews would have appreciated; Peter quotes a well-known Old Testament Scripture that is repeated several times in the book of Leviticus (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2).
You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own. Leviticus 20:26
Because we belong to a holy God, as the Jews do, we must be holy also. We are to be holy, distinct and set apart from those who are not following God.
True holiness is gracious. True holiness does not offend people unnecessarily. Although God has set us apart as especially belonging to him, we still have a place here on earth and we need to be wise and compassionate in all our relationships.
Paul and Peter’s view of Perfection and Holiness
One of Paul’s major themes in his letters is “spiritual maturity” and “perfection.” Paul encouraged his audience to be continually maturing in the faith and responsive to the ongoing, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity and perfection should be one of our main goals in life, but Paul made it clear that the process towards spiritual maturity would not be complete until Jesus Christ returned to earth. Peter speaks about essentially the same process in his first letter, but he calls it “holiness”. Paul’s perfection=Peter’s holiness.
Interestingly, one of John Wesley’s major emphases in his teaching ministry was encouraging Christian believers to grow and aim for spiritual perfection. As the Wesleyan movement grew and developed, one of its branches became known as the Holiness Movement. This was due in a large part to the work of Phoebe Palmer. Phoebe Palmer, an influential theologian, took Wesley’s teaching and made them more accessible to the average Christian. So, in the Wesleyan Movement, we also see the similarity between the Christian doctrines of perfection and holiness.
Unfortunately, we don’t see much of an emphasis on either spiritual perfection or holiness in the contemporary church. Why is that?
Holiness: Pleasing or Appeasing God?
It is important to point out that perfection and holiness have little to do with rigid dogma and strict interpretations of Scripture. Too often in the past, holiness was equated with scrupulous law-keeping and perfect (outward) behaviour. Many churches had an almost phobic stranglehold on doctrine and fostered a culture that made it difficult for people to show or share their struggles, doubts, frailties, faults and pain. In the process, the church lost much of its honesty and authenticity; an authenticity it is now trying to reclaim.
True perfection and holiness is largely a work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, holiness is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit. Holiness develops as we are sensitive and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives, and obedient to what the Scriptures teach. Obedience should be motivated by our love for Jesus, and our desire to please (not appease) God. By being obedient we become more like Jesus who was the perfect example of obedience. What does holiness and spiritual perfection look like? It looks like Jesus! How are you going in your journey towards holiness and spiritual perfection?
We need to pursue holiness ourselves without looking down or condemning our brothers and sisters who, in our log-filled eyes, may appear to be lacking in holiness. The New Testament cautions us against judging and condemning our brothers and sisters; however, it also instructs us to be discerning and to warn anyone who is taking a wrong path. Grace and patience is the key here. We need to be discerning without condemning and being judgemental (Matt. 7:1-5; James 4:12).
 Jesus used the Old Testament to explain himself and his ministry to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). I would love to have heard what Jesus said to them.