What does 1 Peter 1:16 mean?
ESV: since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."
NIV: for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
NASB: because it is written: 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.'
CSB: for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
NLT: For the Scriptures say, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'
KJV: Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
NKJV: because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Verse Commentary:
Verse 16 finishes the thought begun in verse 15. Peter quotes a well-known command of God to His people Israel (Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7). He does this to drive home a point, particularly to his Jewish readers, that God has always commanded His children to "be holy." It's not a new idea.

Verse 15 and 16 can seem daunting, at first. The command to be as holy as God seems like an impossible task. But God isn't giving us a hopeless requirement. It's helpful to look at the passages Peter is quoting from to better understand what the word "holy" means to God. For Israel, it was very much about living differently from the other nations around them. To be "holy"—literally, "set apart"—meant to refuse to eat certain foods or wear certain clothes. To be holy meant respecting your parents. To be holy meant to keep God's commands. God's desire for His people was to be like Him, and He is holy. That's still His desire. The difference between the holiness commanded in the Old Testament and what's here is found in what Peter has already written in this letter. That is, God has already made us holy in Christ. He has already set us apart and saved us. Now he calls us to make choices that reflect who we already are.

In other words, Christians are called to change our conduct to fit our identity. As holy people, we shouldn't be "okay" with our sin. We shouldn't accept falling into the old patterns. We are to act as holy people act. Will we make perfectly sinless choices in this life from here forward? No. We still rely on God's grace and forgiveness. Is God's standard for us now that we would live in perfect holiness? Yes, and it should become our standard for ourselves, as well, even if we won't achieve it until we are with our Father in eternity.
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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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