1 Peter 1:14-17, 2:1-2 – 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. If you appeal to the Father who judges impartially according to each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during your time living as strangers. … Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation…
As Peter writes to the dispersed Israelites throughout the known world who have accepted Messiah Yeshua, he encourages them to live in holiness among the nations where they have been exiled. From the exhortations he relates to them, we can draw some parallels for our own lives.
Firstly, he urges them not to be conformed to the desires of their former ignorance.
1 Peter 1:18 – For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers…
This “empty way of life” was a life of rules and regulations poured on top of the simplicity of the law of God. Their “fathers,” the scribes and Jewish leaders through the preceding centuries, had corrupted the pure word of God into a long list of regulations about every aspect of life that was unachievable. Through their “oral Torah” traditions, they bound heavy loads on them that they could not keep.
Yeshua had railed against this hypocrisy and religious totalitarianism:
Matthew 23:2-4, 28 – “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. “Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. “They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. … “In the same way, on the outside [they] seem righteous to people, but inside [they] are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Peter reminds them how they have been redeemed from this maze of human traditions, and that they were instead to seek “the pure milk of the word” without all of the added burdens.
Additionally, he encourages them to “conduct themselves with reverence during their time living as strangers.” This reverent conduct among the pagan nations they were exiled to should be a testimony to the righteousness of their belief in the one true God.
1 Peter 2:15 – For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.
By doing good in their exilic communities, they should be an example to those around them that their lives were based on something more than just trying to survive in a foreign land.
Also, by living on the pure milk of the word, they would be constantly growing in understanding and wisdom, further setting them apart from their contemporaries in a way that would honor God. In this way, they would be actively demonstrating true holiness or “set-apartness” because of the wisdom of their ways.
From these admonitions, we can draw some analogous wisdom for our lives today. In one sense, believers in Messiah today are exiled from our true inheritance, living among “pagan” nations that don’t understand the spiritual heritage of these early believers that we are continuing to this day. It is up to us to live reverently among them, not joining in with their revelries and corrupt practices.
By doing good according to God’s word, our actions can similarly silence the foolish talk that circulates among those who are ignorant of God’s wisdom. The good that we do should speak for itself of the integrity of our beliefs.
Finally, if we also live on the pure milk of the word, we will continually be growing in our understanding until we are then able to receive the meat of the word, and in all of these things render faithfully God’s will in our lives.
Just as Peter exhorted the exiles to live holy lives, we should also continue that heritage by living holy lives in our generation, and for the generations to come. These actions can positively influence our neighbors who may not yet know God. This is how the kingdom grows over time, just as it has reached us over the millennia since Peter wrote to these congregations.
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