1 Peter 1 v13 – 2 v3
“Therefore” (v.13) ties this passage with the previous one. All the wonderful truths of vv.1-12 give reasons to rejoice, certainly, but they call for a bigger response from us than simply that: both our thinking and our living are to be shaped by them. In terms of our minds, our hope is to be set fully, not on what this world might offer us, but on the grace to be given us when Jesus Christ is revealed (you could refer back to 1:1-12 to unpack what that grace is). In terms of our lives, the burden of this passage is that we should be holy. This hope should lead to holiness, and Peter goes on to give a number of reasons why.
We are now children (v.14) of God. We once lived in ignorance of Him, but now we know Him as our Father and know what He is like, and our desire should be to be like Him. Verse 17 more literally reads “since it is as Father that you call on the one who judges each man’s work impartially”, ie the emphasis is on the fact that we know this God now as Father. We should fear displeasing the God who is our judge, but much more so when we know Him as our Father who loves us and whom we love. Our home is now not here but in heaven – we are strangers here and so should be ready to live “strange-ly”, ie differently.
We have been redeemed form slavery to an empty way of life (v.18), and brought into relationship with God (v.21) – set free at enormous cost (v.19). The enormity of this rescue, planned from eternity past, and of our privilege in being the recipients of it (v.20), all implies that to go on living the old (empty) way of life is therefore batty: it suggests profound ingratitude, and that we’re not thinking straight (v.13). Our old way of life that we have been rescued from was “empty” – in lots of ways it may have been full in terms of its busy-ness, its accomplishments – but it is ultimately empty in that our hopes were set on this world, which is passing away. It was empty too in that it was marked by ignorance (v.14) of God and of his character and purposes.
This section not only gives a further reason to be holy, but also fleshes out what holiness should look like in a particular area of life – our life together in the church. When we are born again, through the Word of the Gospel, we are brought into a new family, and a mark of our new life is a new love for our brothers and sisters (as well as love for Christ, 1:8). This family is not a temporary thing, for the life engendered by the Word is imperishable – we are stuck with each other for eternity! That should be a reason to work at loving each other more and more. “Deeply” (v.22) has the sense of “at full stretch” – it speaks of strenuous effort rather than depth of feeling. It implies a love that goes beyond smile-y friendliness, but that puts oneself out for others, serves practically and makes an effort.
How can we grow in this love for each other? Well we are to get rid of all that would kill love (2:1). And just as it was the Word that first created this love for our brothers, so it is the milk of God’s Word that will nurture and nourish this love in us (2:2). The wrong attitudes to others in the church in verse 1 will spoil our spiritual appetite, whereas proper spiritual food will engender genuine love for others. And notice too that as we feed on Scripture, so also we feed on Christ (2:3) and taste his goodness.
This passage follows on from what has gone before. Looking back to 1:1-12, how could you unpack what “the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed” is?
In the previous passage the overarching response to this hope that Peter was encouraging was joy. What in general terms is the response he is aiming for in this passage?
Then, like last time, I think I would be tempted to have essentially one question in my mind to steer people through the rest of the passage –
What reasons does Peter give for us to be holy? (and in 1:22-2:3, what should it look like in the context of church life?)
Used with the permission of St Ebbe’s, Oxford