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“Being holy” (1 Peter 1:13-2:1)

If you were here last week, you will know that we’ve just begun a new sermon series in the apostle Peter’s first letter: 

  • A letter written around 63 AD, probably whilst Peter was resident in Rome. 
  • A letter addressed to new Christians living in the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia – what we would today call the Black Sea coastal regions of northern Turkey.
  • A letter seeking to help these young Christians persevere in their faith, in the face of strong local opposition and persecution.

As we saw last week, Peter reminded these new Christians that they have the privilege of being “elect exiles” in this world: 

  • They are people who have been chosen by God to hear and believe the gospel message. 
  • They are people who’ve become citizens of heaven with a living hope. 
  • They are new converts to Christianity with a sure and certain hope of life everlasting with the risen Lord Jesus. They now belong to him – not to the world.

As people who belong to the Lord, Peter proceeds in today’s passage to urge them to do two things: 

  • Firstly to be holy as the Lord himself is holy
  • and secondly to love one another as fellow members of the Lord’s family.

Be holy, as the Lord himself is holy (v.13-21)

For a start then, in verses 13 to 21 of our passage today Peter urges these young Christians in northern Turkey to be holy as the Lord is holy.

In verse 16 Peter begins by quoting that famous verse from Leviticus chapter 19 where the Lord addresses his Old Testament people and urges them to “Be holy as I am holy”. Because they belonged to him, God told the Israelites that they should be morally upright and ethically distinct, just as he himself is. 

And the same principle, Peter says, applies to Christians today: “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do”, he writes. Christians are God’s chosen people today, his elect exiles on earth. So we too, says Peter, are to be morally upright and ethically distinct – to be salt and light in this world. We are not to conform to the ethical norms of our surrounding culture but instead follow the moral standards set by our holy God.

Peter goes on to offer two powerful reasons why the Christians he’s writing to should aspire to personal holiness: 

  • firstly, in verse 14, Peter adopts a parenting metaphor. He says Christians should be “obedient children” to our heavenly Father. Having been adopted as children of God by faith, they should now live as obedient sons and daughters of their new father. Rather than giving in to “evil desires” and temptations, they should do what their Father teaches them is right.
  • And secondly, in verses 18 and19, Peter reminds his readers how costly their salvation was to achieve. These new Christians have been forgiven all the sins of their former life because of the costly death of the Lord Jesus – the Son of God who shed his “precious blood” for them. It would be hugely ungrateful of any Christian (then or now)  to actively return to a life of sin when it cost Christ so much to secure our forgiveness in the first place. We are not to throw Christ’s costly sacrifice back in his face by brazenly indulging in sin.

So what does a holy lifestyle look like in practice? How can we live in a way that is obedient to our heavenly Father – and in a way which shows our gratitude to Christ for his costly sacrifice? 

Well, to give three examples, it means that we should pursue holiness in the way we handle our treasure, our time and our tongues:

  • When it comes to our treasure – our money – we should be committed to generous giving to those in greater need than ourselves. For example, we have Christian Aid Week coming up, Church mission agencies always need our support, and our own Church’s Gift Day is scheduled for September. Or perhaps you could consider leaving a legacy to a charity, our church or another good cause in your will?
  • When it comes to our time, can we use more of it to serve our fellow Christians or the wider community, or to spend more quality time with God in prayer and personal Bible reading? We may want to honestly ask ourselves whether we invest too much of our time in activities simply designed to please ourselves.
  • And when it comes to our tongue are we using our mouths to speak words that encourage and edify one another rather than to indulge in unholy gossip or even slander? And when we speak to our non-Christian family, friends and neighbours are we taking opportunities to speak of Jesus to them – to share the good news of the Gospel with those who need to hear it?

We all face different desires, trials and temptations in this world. But as citizens of Heaven, Peter urges us today to pursue holiness, as our Lord himself is holy.

Love one another, as fellow members of the Lord’s family (v.22-2:1)

I don’t know what you think of your biological family. For some people it only brings up happy memories and warm feelings, but for others family life is a constant struggle or a source of sadness. 

Whether our feelings for our earthly family are good or bad, in the second-half of today’s passage Peter makes the remarkable claim that every Christians has been “born again” into a new family:

  • A new family based on faith not biology. 
  • A new family that is eternal and everlasting. 
  • A family of the Lord that should be characterised by affection, not animosity. 

In verse 23 today, Peter explains that we become members of God’s family by faith in “the living and enduring word of God”. In other words, people become Christians by receiving and believing the message of the Gospel – the good news about Jesus. 

So as adopted siblings of the same Heavenly Father, Christians are to love one another as fellow members of the Lord’s family. We are to care for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be showing “sincere love” to each other, say Peter in verse 22. He adds that we should be loving one another “deeply”, not just superficially.

Just as the Lord Jesus has showered his love upon us by saving us and giving us a heavenly inheritance, so we should shower love on our brothers and sisters in Christ. And so in verse one of chapter 2 Peter specifically urges his readers to rid themselves of “malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander”. Christians are to avoid doing or saying anything that hurts others or needlessly divides their congregation. 

And so the application for us today is obvious – we too are to love one another as Christians in Ashton Hayes. We ought to look out for one another’s needs. We are to care for each other when we need a kind word or practical support. We are to strive for unity as the forgiven family of God.


So as I finish this morning, we need to heed the apostle Peter’s encouragement to be both holy and loving. But you may feel that this sounds all too difficult. What chance have we got at being holy and loving when ‘the flesh, the world and the devil’ so often try to pull us in the opposite direction?

So let me end by reminding you of a phrase that appear in the opening lines of Peter’s letter. A sentence that should be a source of enormous encouragement to us. Because if you look back to verse 2 of chapter 1 you’ll see that Peter refers there to the “sanctifying work of the Spirit”. 

To be sanctified means to be made holy – to be made into the kind of person and the kind of community God wants us to be. So as we strive for greater personal holiness and mutual love, we are not on our own. We grow in godliness not simply by grim determination and stoic self-control, but by prayerful reliance on the work of the Holy Spirit:

  • So next time you are tempted to do or say something you know to be wrong, pray for the Holy Spirit’s strength to resist. 
  • Or next time you are struggling to love your fellow Christian, shoot up a prayer to the Spirit, and ask him to pour some of his love into your heart.

You see, personal holiness and mutual love are spiritual gifts not our own solo efforts.  They are virtues cultivated by the work of God’s Spirit within us, so we need to pray for his help – and why don’t we start right now…

Phil Weston