1 Peter 1:14-16 – As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
The audience to whom Peter is writing were the scattered Israelites throughout the Asian region who were the recipients of the missionary efforts of Paul and his coworkers in Messiah. In this passage, Peter is encouraging these believers to continue to evaluate their conduct in the light of the spiritual truths they have received through the good news of the Word of God that had been shared with them.
Due to these scattered congregations living among the foreign nations of the day, they were constantly challenged with the cultural idolatry of the peoples among whom they worked and lived. Many Israelites who were living among the nations had begun to adopt some of the idolatrous ways of the nations. This is why, for example, in many of his epistles the apostle Paul is correcting their views on food sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8) and special days they had begun keeping due the culture in which they were immersed (Galatians 4:8-10). In some cases, these believers had lived so long among their foreign nation that the family lines had grown away from the true God and had begun following the cultural deities instead.
In a similar vein as Paul’s urgings, Peter here is reminding them “not to be conformed to the desires of their former ignorance.” When the culture has a certain special calendar or social agenda, it is easiest to just go along with the flow of the societal norms than it is to refrain from participation. Peter was reminding them that the Spirit who has set them apart as a distinct people, the people of God, is the very Spirit of God himself. As God is set apart as holy and uniquely distinct from all other gods, so should they be holy and set apart in all they do. Their practices should not reflect conformity to the societal norms around them; instead, they should honor the one true God by remaining conformed to his standards, as revealed through the Word of God which they had accepted.
This set-apartness was to be primarily reflected in their love for one another. If they were not caring for one another’s needs deeply and sincerely, their faith may not be bearing the fruit it was designed to.
1 Peter1:22-23 – Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection, love one another from the heart fervently: having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever.
Peter says their souls had been purified through obedience to the truth. This was accomplished through the Spirit which they had received. In obedience to this truth, they were to exemplify a deep and sincere brotherly affection from the heart.
These believers stand as a monument to us and to all believers through the ages. In many ways, our experience is similar to theirs: turning from idolatry and corrupt belief to belief in the one true God, yet living in a culture that remains committed to its own goals and agenda. However, as we purify our souls in obedience to the truth of the Word of God, we then set ourselves apart from the norms of this world.
We become holy and set apart, not because we are better than anyone else, but because the one who calls us to obedience is himself holy and set apart. His Spirit, dwelling within us, challenges us to to reject the careless attitude of our culture which views individuals as expendable statistics, and to truly and sincerely love one another from the heart.
If we have genuinely been born again, the incorruptible (never-dying) Word of God works through us to express its truths and to embrace the individuals of each generation, drawing them to himself through our faithful examples. This is the high calling of the obedient and set apart believer in Messiah. This is who we are, and who we should always strive to be.
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