What does 1 Peter 1:15 mean?
ESV: but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
NIV: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
NASB: but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;
CSB: But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct;
NLT: But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
KJV: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
It can be tempting to walk away from verses 15 and 16 in discouragement. A shallow reading may lead us to believe that God requires absolute perfection from His children right now and forever. And yet, we can't seem to find any of God's children who are leading perfect lives. So what do these verses mean?
It is helpful to see them as being about our identity in Christ, as well as about our conduct. In his letter thus far, Peter has already described believers in Jesus as people who are saved, are being saved, and who will be saved. He has told us to change the direction of our minds and actions while already giving us the title of "children of obedience." Now in verse 15, he reinforces what we know. We know our God is "holy," set apart, "other" from the rest of fallen creation. What we may not realize is that we, too, are made to be holy, set apart, "other" from the rest of humankind. The emphasis seems to be that we must live up to what we already are.
We will not achieve perfectly sinless conduct on this side of eternity. However, we are made to be completely set apart from the world in our conduct right now. In Christ, we are holy. In Christ, we must live as holy people live. Our right choices will not save us. Peter's letter has made clear that salvation has already taken place and only by God's grace through faith in Christ. We are saved people. We are God's people. Now we must live like God's people. That is God's standard for us, and it should be our standard for ourselves—even with the understanding that we will fail along the way.
1 Peter 1:13–25 describes how Christians—those God has caused to be born again—should live now. We must mentally engage in setting all of our hope in God’s future grace for us. We must choose to act as those who are God’s own people, rejecting the evil desires that drove our actions before we knew better. Our choices matter. Our God placed a high value on our lives, paying for them with the blood of Christ. Since God has made us able, we must now strive to earnestly give love to each other.
Peter, the apostle of Jesus, writes a letter to Christians facing persecution to comfort them with the truth of who they are in Christ—children of God with every reason to rejoice in their salvation and future glory in eternity. Next, he urges them to live like the holy ones of God they already are by obeying God now, loving each other earnestly, and placing all of their hope in the endless life to come.
This beautiful, profound, and challenging first chapter of 1 Peter lays the foundation for the rest of Peter’s letter. In spite of whatever suffering we may face, God Himself has already shown us great mercy in Christ by including us in His family! Jesus is our living hope. Our future is secure and endless and perfect. As the children of God we have every reason to rejoice, even in this present darkness. Peter then calls us to prepare ourselves to live as the holy people God has made us to be.
Some 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are facing greater persecution for their faith. How should they respond? How should we respond to suffering today? The apostle Peter writes this letter both to comfort believers and to encourage them to stay strong. He urges them to put all their hope in their perfect future with Christ, and to obey and trust Him in the present, even in their suffering. Christ suffered greatly; now the Christ-followers have the opportunity to follow Him even in this, showing His grace and power in their hopefulness, obedience, and faith.
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