"14As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."KJV (1 Pet 1:14-16)
The Apostles' doctrine is more than a creed, or set of guidelines. It is Divine reasoning, spoken through holy men, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. While this may appear obvious, it is worthy of consideration. If this is the case, then doctrine is more than a mere response to unique circumstances. It is more of a Divine initiative than the "answer to our problems." By that I mean it is God's appointed way of preparing us for the inheritance that is reserved for us, which is everything. A basis postulate of Scripture is the temporary nature of life in this world, and the danger of being drawn into a view of that life that excludes the fundamental nature of life in Christ Jesus. Should we choose to live as though this world were the primary world, we will not be able to avoid being ensnared by the devil, for he is the "god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4). Because we are subject to his "wiles," we must continually be reminded and exhorted concerning the difference between our present and former lives. There is a wide and irreconcilable chasm between them!
OBEDIENCE CONTRASTED WITH IGNORANCE
"As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance." In regeneration, we are "born of God" (John 1:13; 1 John 3:9; 4:7). He is the One who put us into Christ (1 Cor 1:30), and raised us from death in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). This was a definitive point in time when we became a new creation in Christ Jesus. Of that juncture in time it is written, "the old has gone, the new has come!"NIV (2 Cor 5:17). We were, in truth, "delivered . . . from the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col 1:13). But that was not the end of the matter. Rather, it was the beginning of a new life-a life which is to be maintained and nourished.
All of this may seem obvious, particularly to the uncluttered heart. In spite of that, however, Satan, working through his demonic host, has perpetrated a view of the Christian life that presupposes a lack of continued involvement on our part. It is commonly known as "Once saved always saved," "Once in grace always in grace," etc. But do not suppose for one moment that these crystallized doctrines exhaust the presentation of this view. There is a frame of mind promoted in the religious world that has this spirit. Myriads of professed believers live as though the doctrine were true, even though they formally deny it. It is staggering to ponder how pervasive this way of thinking has become. Infrequency of sacred gatherings, novel preaching, brevity in all things spiritual, and the attempt to accommodate the things of God to those in love with the world are all evidence of this mind-set.
But the Spirit will not allow us to think in such a loose way. He refers to the manner of our demeanor as "obedient children." He is not referring to our initial obedience, when we received Christ, but to our present manner of life. Our new life was given to us as a stewardship, and we are to do something with it. Children we are, but it had better be "obedient children," else we will be put out of the house. If we imagine that obedience is too difficult, we must remember that the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is in order to our obedience (1 Pet 1:2). Because of the criticality of our obedience, God has provided Divine help for its accomplishment. Jesus is said to be "the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him"NKJV (Heb 5:9). God's people can become renown for their obedience (Rom 16:19), which is a thought most pleasant to contemplate.
The Spirit now uses most vivid language. Lifting us above Mount Sinai, and an approach to obedience that smacks of Law. He refers to us "fashioning," or "conforming," ourselves. Herein is a marvelous thing-that new life is given to us, and that we are charged with shaping it and forming it into something acceptable to God!
The word "fashioning," or "conforming," comes from suschmatizo,menoi, which means to shape oneself according to an existing pattern-not one that is self-conceived. Even if we did not have such a definition, the Scriptures bring us to that inescapable conclusion. God's predestined purpose is that we be "conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29), and that Christ be "formed" in us (Gal 4:19). But here is the arresting thing: WE are playing a significant role in that formation. Just as Moses was to "fashion" the tabernacle according to the revealed pattern (Ex 26:30; Heb 8:5), so we are to fashion our lives according to the Pattern, who is Christ. Also, just as God endued Bezaleel with the ability to fashion the intricate articles of the tabernacle (Ex 31:2-5), so God has given us "all things pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Pet 1:3), and "the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16) to enable us to fulfill this word. An acceptable life cannot be shaped without these.
Notice the manner in which this exhortation is stated: "NOT according to the former lusts in your ignorance." There is an appropriate description of our lives outside of Christ "IGNORANCE." This is not academic ignorance, but a basic ignorance or unfamiliarity with the Living God. It is, in fact, the condition that "alienated" us from the "life of God" (Eph 4:18). The condition is appropriately described as "having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). With zeal, we are to avoid shaping our lives according to the way we thought at that time. The point is this: if we do not labor to evade such a life, the devil, will snare us through his craftiness. We are to be deliberate and spiritual life-builders.
HOLINESS IN EVERYTHING
"But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation." Here "obedience" is wrapped up in a single word: "holy." He now appeals to our hearts. The One who has called us "is holy." The heart is able to reason on a higher level than the mind. It is able to see associations and arrive at conclusions that can compel certain conduct. The reasoning is this: If you are God's children, and God is holy, is it not reasonable to conduct ourselves in harmony with His holiness? There is a very vital truth seen here. First, we do not belong to ourselves. By nature we are slaves to either sin or God (Rom 6:17-18; 20-22). If we choose to seek our own fleshly interests, we unavoidably gravitate to sin. However, God, who is holy, has made us His children. He has also given us grace, which "teaches" us "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts," and live "soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Tit 2:11-12).His call and work has made us what we are in Christ Jesus. What possible reason can be adduced for continuing in a state of unholiness? If He is holy, it is totally unreasonable for His children to be unholy in anything or at any time. A lack of holiness contradicts the nature of our Father, and voids a profession of faith. Without it, no one will see the Lord (Heb 13:12).
While obedience does not cause us to become the children of God (that is the result of faith-Gal 3:26), it does differentiate between the children of God and the children of the wicked one. In Israel, God had a people by decree. He distinguished them by loving and choosing them above all other nations (Deut 14:2). Yet, because their natures were not changed, they proved to be "the degenerate plant of a strange vine" unto Him (Jer 2:21). While Israel was, indeed, responsible for its failure to be holy, it also was confined to a state of nature, which has no power for holiness. They were not only inexcusable, but helpless. If we were left with nothing more than they possessed, we would be "degenerate" as well.
Having said that, there is an astounding number of professing Christians that teach there is no essential difference between those in Christ Jesus and Israel in the wilderness. If there was no difference, however, the Spirit would not have moved Peter to write these strong words. He does not say, "Be holy," but "be holy yourselves also in ALL your behavior."NASB Under the First Covenant, holiness was largely confined to seasons and ceremonies, summarized as "meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances" (Heb 9:10). But this is not the case with those who are "accepted in the Beloved" (Eph 1:6). They have been given live "more abundantly," and it pervades all that they say and do. Life in the Son includes "whatever" we "do in word or deed" (Col 3:17). There is no facet of life where we may step out of our relationship to God, or conduct ourselves as though we were not His children. To us, there is no such thing as "secular and spiritual." Rather, the proper divisions are carnal and spiritual, righteousness and unrighteousness, darkness and light, good and evil (Rom 7:14; 6:18; 2 Cor 6:14; Heb 5:14).
If it is true that God is holy, and that He is our Father, how can any form of unrighteousness be justified? And if it is true that every person will "give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:12), what explanation will be offered for being unholy in anything?
This exhortation assumes the remnants of sin remain in us. They are to us what the heathen nations remaining in Canaan were to the Israelites. If you do not drive out those remnants by being holy in all manner of life, they will be "pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell" (Num 33:55). Unless that situation is corrected, there is no hope of overcoming the world. Further, we overcome the "old man" within us by refusing to give it prominence, and by devoting ourselves to the Lord. Holiness is more what we DO than what we do NOT do. In being holy, or dedicated completely to the Lord in all manner of life, the power of temptation is neutralized. Just as the "seed of the Kingdom" cannot grow and be fruitful in unprepared hearts, so the remnants of our fallen nature cannot flourish in a heart that has been made pure, and is kept pure, by the blood of Christ. That, of course, requires your full time commitment.
A WRITTEN MANDATE
" Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." When God moved holy men to write His Word, it was for our "learning," and "admonition" (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11). This is why "all Scripture is profitable" (2 Tim 3:16). That circumstance is not only applicable to the record of historical events, but to primary affirmations concerning the very nature of God Himself. The text before us is a case in point. Further, the expression "is written" denotes permanence, literally meaning it stands written, unmoveable. It teaches us not to neglect any portion of Scripture as though it had no relevance to us. Just as surely as the finger of God wrote the Ten Commandments on tables of stone, His Spirit has written all words of Scripture. They are to be trusted as coming from God, and are to be the supporting pillars of our reasoning.
Already the Spirit has reasoned with us, appealing to our renewed minds. But He does not let the matter rest with reason alone. He will ground that reasoning on Divine affirmation-a principle of acceptable and profitable exhortation.
Four times in Scripture God affirms His people are to be holy because of His nature: "you shall be holy; for I am holy . . . You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy . . . and be holy, for I am the LORD your God . . . you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy"NKJV (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7,26). Here again we see that salvation demands and produces change in the people, not in God. While God's mind toward us has changed from being our enemy to being our Father, it is not owing to any alternation in His character. It is because we have been changed. Because we remain in an imperfect state, dragging about with us the residue of the Adamic nature, it is necessary to devote ourselves to being holy. Holiness does not result automatically. It is not something to which we attain without effort. It is true we have received everything required for this extensive labor, but without diligence and constancy, the objective of holiness will not be realized.
Our fellowship with God is realized in Christ Jesus. We are accepted in Him and made righteous in Him. Because of God's grace, we have access to Him, and may appropriate mercy and find grace to help in the time of need (Eph 3:12; Heb 4:15-16). However, Divine fellowship is also contingent upon our commitment to being holy. That contingency, it is true, is not required to get into Christ. It is, however, necessary to remain in Him. If we are prone to doubt that this is the case, the Spirit reasons with us. This word is addressed to "the church of God," together "with all saints." "Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty'" (2 Cor 1:1; 6:17-18). The seriousness of this expression is self-evident.
An erroneous view of our relationship to God through Christ might affirm God has so fully received us that here can be no improvement on, or decline in, that circumstance. But such reasoning is from the flesh, not the Spirit. God will NOT receive those who continue to maintain unlawful associations with what He has condemned. "Come out," "be separate," do not touch"-are these not to be taken seriously? Is anyone foolhardy enough to believe God will forget these words? This is nothing less than being holy as God is holy. It involves a conscientious effort to walk within the circumference of Divine fellowship. This is done in the awareness that if God does not receive us and dwell in us, we have no hope of dwelling forever with Him. What is more, God will not dwell with us if we are not "holy." Anyone imagining this is not true has been deceived by the devil.
Be assured God has not required something impossible of us. True holiness not only involves doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong, it also includes appropriating the cleansing that is available in Christ Jesus (1 John 1:9). "IF we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). That Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ, is there to ensure we can maintain the holy state in which we started when we were born again. Being holy as God is holy is only possible because of this circumstance. For this reason, our hearty efforts, though they are not perfect, will not be in vain. Encourage your heart with this truth.