Assured hope and personal holiness work together to strengthen one another. The more assurance you have, the more holy you will strive to be. The call to holiness in these verses is based on the character of God Himself. God is essentially holy in His being and He is altogether holy and righteous in His actions (c.f., Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). God is so holy that everything associated with Him is holy, too—His Name (Psalm 103:1), His Word (2 Timothy 3:15), His Law (Romans 7:12), His promise (Psalm 105:42), His works (Psalm 145:17), His ways (Psalm 77:13), His wrath (Psalm 2:4-6), His people (1 Peter 2:9).
The call for us to be holy involves both separation and dedication—separation from sin and dedication to God’s honor and righteousness. Holiness is to characterize “all [our] behavior.” It is to be a full and pervading holiness in all aspects of life (not just “religious” ones!). It is a call to avoid outward sin and maintain real delight in God. It is further defined in this passage by three actions:
Obeying Your Father (verse 14a)
Christians are in God’s family and have lives that are characterized by obedience to their heavenly Father. The holiness of the true Israel—God’s people, the church—is to be seen in the fruits of their obedient lives. Many speak about God as if He were the Father of everyone, but this is not the case. He is the Father only to those who have come to Him through Christ. However, though God is not the Father of all, none are fatherless. There is no such thing as a spiritual orphan—either God is your Father as a result of you coming to Him through Christ, or the devil is your father (c.f. John 8:41). Only those who look to Jesus as Mediator and sin-bearer and go to God through Him have any right to call God “Father.”
Non-Conforming to Your Former Ignorance (verse 14b)
Peter calls us to be non-conformists, to live lives that are radically different from our former way of life. The things that dominated our life prior to coming to Christ—our sinful desires and lusts—must no longer rule or characterize us. The tendency may still be there, but the ruling force in our life is altered because of the Lord’s mercy in changing us. Rather than being conformed to our former way of life, we must be re-conformed, or transformed, by the renewing of our mind (c.f. Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22ff; 5:6-8). Because Christ has shown the light of His glory into our darkened and ignorant souls, and because we have met Christ in whom there is no darkness at all, there is really no question now about how we ought to be. It is complete lunacy to go back to our ignorant, darkened way of life, when we have come to know the light of Christ. Such foolishness could be compared to a blind person being healed, only to then begin wearing a blindfold.
Imitating God (verses 15-16)
There is a corresponding holiness between the One who called and the one called. Peter is speaking only to people who were called to Christ following His death and resurrection. However, he cites from a command from the Levitical Law regarding holiness and applies it to the Christian today. The command to “be holy” carries the same original force in the life of the New Testament believer as in the Old Testament Law, because there is agreement between the Law and the gospel. God does not change and God is holy, and therefore, Christians in all ages are to pattern their holiness after His own. Our progress in living holy lives is directly related to our understanding and application of the biblical description of the holy God (c.f. Ephesians 5:1).
- Adoration produces imitation (Isaiah 6:1ff). Seeing God as holy, holy, holy, with the whole earth full of His glory, leads to us saying, “Here I am, send me.” The essence of true religion consists in the imitation of Him whom we worship. In our short-cut, fast-track society (i.e., “I want it now!”) we are prone to skip the only thing that will actually produce real holiness—worship! What does this teach us about the need for regeneration and true conversion in order for there to be true holiness of life? What is the connection between the holiness called for in these verses and the gospel truths of verses 1-12? Is your life characterized by worship of God for who He is and what He does for us in Christ? In what ways is such worship evidenced in your life? What can you worship Him for now, and in what ways can your life be more conformed to His holiness?