Today: [1 Peter 1:] What is Christian Purity? In our chapter, Peter comforts those who are experiencing upheaval in their lives. We are encouraged to remain faithful and pursue purity of heart and life in our walk with God. What is Christian purity or holiness? Is it just an old religious idea? Does God place any demand on our conduct or character and if so how do we measure that in terms of our commitment to Christ?
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[1Pe 1:1-25 KJV] 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see [him] not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, [even] the salvation of [your] souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace [that should come] unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. 13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that ye] love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
The letter of 1 Peter originates its authorship from Jesus’ disciple Peter although scholars hotly dispute this claiming that it references events that took place after Peter’s death and also that its style and formality indicate it was written by someone more educated than the Galilean fisherman. The most practical answer to all of this is that Peter dictated the letter to John Mark, the author of the gospel of Mark who was a known traveling companion of the first apostle. The message is written to Christians dispersed throughout five different Roman provinces after the time that Jerusalem was sacked and the temple destroyed. It is an encouragement to the faithful to remain patient and hopeful while suffering great persecution for their faith in Christ.
In v. 2-5 the believers are comforted by Peter that their faithfulness to Jesus held for them the promise of an incorruptible inheritance that would not fade away reserved in heaven for them. These people having been dispersed forcibly from their homes and livelihoods suffered significant losses, and no doubt struggled with regret and mournfulness over the upheaval in their lives. In our own lives, it underscores for us of the transitory nature of worldly things and serves as a reminder that ultimately our highest treasures are in heaven beyond the span of our natural lives. This is not something you hear very often in Christian teaching. The only subject taught on less than the existence of hell is the reality of heaven. This is very unfortunate because Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:19 that if we only have hope in this life we are of all men most miserable. There needs to be a greater focus on eternity in our teaching and doctrine.
Peter declares (v. 5) that there is a salvation for us ready to be revealed in the last day even though now (v. 6) for the cause of Christ we may face manifold temptations and the trying of our faith. Why does there need to be manifold temptations and suffering? Is Peter saying suffering is necessary to make us better Christians? On the contrary, the point Peter is making is that the alternative would be to reject Christ because the suffering he is referring to is persecution that wouldn’t exist unless they were believers. Nonetheless (v. 7) amid trials we experience a purifying just like gold is purified when subjected to the forge.
Though we do not see Jesus in physical form (v. 8) we love Him nonetheless, and that is a source of unspeakable joy that ultimately (v. 9) brings us the end product of our faith even the salvation of our souls. Remember when you are struggling in life that Paul said (Rom. 14:17) that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy. It doesn’t just bring joy; it is joy.
Never let anything rob you of your joy. Bear in mind that joy is different from happiness. Happiness is based on the “happenings” around you. Joy is a fruit of the spirit that operates and abounded in spite of outward pressures.
This salvation that Peter speaks of is that which the prophets of old looked into from centuries passed prophesying that it would come in the person of Jesus Christ. The prophets searched these things out and prophesied in advance of the sufferings of Jesus and the glory that should follow. The price that Jesus paid on the cross was an inevitable provision that would be made, but notice that it says that the glory from that great sacrifice SHOULD follow but doesn’t necessarily. Have you ever looked back on your Christian experience and wondered why you didn’t enjoy more of what God promised in a particular situation? Just because the provision is made doesn’t mean that you will experience it in any given circumstance.
The determinator is faith, love, and patience that Peter encourages the believer in maintaining. There is a direct line of causality between the victorious life and the character of the person living out that experience. Not a character that originates in who we are in and of ourselves but who Jesus is on the inside of us and the level of our yieldeness moment by moment to His Spirit.
In light of this truth, we are urged (v. 13) to gird up the loins of our mind and be sober in our hope for God’s ultimate end to be manifest in our lives. Who is it that girds or strengthens us in our minds? We do. It is up to us. Many times we exclaim how fearful or worried we are and we cry out to God to help us, but this is a condition that it is up to us to deal with in ourselves. The work of Calvary is a finished work. Our sobriety of mind is our responsibility. Jesus made the following statement in the gospel of Luke:
[Luk 21:34 KJV] 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares.
What Jesus is saying is that the cares of life, worry and fearfulness fall into the same category as drunkenness and gluttony. Overindulgence in wine or food feeds an appetite and leads to addiction. Likewise, fear and worry feeds a fleshly appetite for control and leads to an addictive refusal to trust in the promise of God. This is something we are called upon to deal with by girding or strengthening our minds in the light of the work of Calvary on our behalf to deliver us from all such worries and fears. This is part of walking through life as a disciple and not merely a follower of Christ.
As God has called us (v. 15), we are likewise to be holy. The command of God (v. 16) is be holy for He is holy. If we are practically perfect in every way just as we are (as society teaches us) then what could we possibly need to change? What does it mean to be holy? If you ask yourself are you holy does that question create a disconnect in your mind? What are we to do? We are to (v. 17) call on God our Father who judges every man’s work; thus we are to pass our time here on earth in godly fear. Many believers recoil and insist that they are in Christ and therefore will not face judgment. That is contrary to what Peter says in v. 17. Perhaps you will be found in Christ and thus be accepted of God, but your life and works are still subject to divine scrutiny in terms of reward or loss.
Why must we be holy and why would our works ever be judged? Because (v. 18-19) we are redeemed not by corruptible things but by the incorruptible blood of Christ, the lamb without blemish. If you have appropriated anything of Christ in your life that incorruptibility and spotlessness will be evident in your life hopefully in an increasing manner as you grow to maturity in God. What if you choose not to mature or to grow up? Some take this position – considering the idea of growing in God as a form of hypocrisy that they live above by remaining spiritual children. There is no choice. You either grow up or die. How do you know you are growing? When you look back on what life looked like last year and realize that this year your behavior constitutes sin and disobedience. What was not sin before is now a matter of accountability because you are growing in God. If you can’t say this of yourself, then you have fallen into what one person called the eternal childhood of the believer – to your hurt.
If you accept that God has called you to holiness (v. 22), then the purifying of your souls becomes a process and a part of the ongoing narrative of your life. In that unfolding work, we are to carefully maintain an unpretentious and fervent love of our brothers in Christ. Why do we need to focus on this? Because believers who accept that God is a holy God calling us to holiness ourselves these believers tend to be finger pointers which causes fellowship and relationship to one another to suffer. Thus we are to hold ourselves to account for the least disobedience and to maintain patience and passionate love for one another without accusing one another as a means of venting our own frustrated efforts to live up to the expectations of a righteous God.
We are further reminded (v. 23) that we are born again of the incorruptible seed who is Christ. What are we to conclude from this? Firstly that the new birth is not a mere belief it is a reality. You are in truth born again and become a New Creation in Christ as Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:17. We aren’t children of another that have only been legally adopted. Biblical adoption has nothing to do with adoption as we know it today. Rather we were conceived in God and born in God in reality which transcends religious connotations and constitutes us God carriers in the earth. If we are born by incorruption, then purity is in our nature as believers. Where then do we go to appropriate the impurity that so often manifests in our lives? We have to go to the enemy’s camp, and that is a Judas kiss to the one that bought us. The warning (v. 24) is this – the flesh is as grass. If we give ourselves over to the work of the flesh, the withering death of the flesh will ultimately touch our lives. But the word of God by which we are born again (if we are indeed born again) endures forever and causes us to endure without failure in this world and in the world to come gives us eternal life.
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