Be Holy! – 1 Peter 1:15-21

In his first chapter, Peter has described the salvation his readers experienced as unimaginably great. If the readers have such a great salvation as this, they ought to be holy (1:15-16). Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44: “You shall be holy because I am holy.” This section alludes to many texts and ideas drawn from the Old Testament. In fact, the more one is aware of the overall plot of the Old Testament, the clearer this passage is. Peter is assuming the “salvation history” of the Jewish people in these verses. He is not just quoting the Hebrew Bible; he is alluding to the whole plot of sin and redemption from Genesis through the Prophets.

Passover Lamb

The first reason Peter gives for this is that the believers have been “ransomed from their futile ways” (v.18). For a Jewish or Gentile reader, the “ransom” language Peter used would evoke the practice setting a slave free. The verb (λυτρόω) refers to paying a price to set a slave free. A price would be deposited at a temple, and the slave was then considered to be purchased by the god. For the Jewish reader, the idea of “ransom” is far more theologically rich. The Jewish people as a whole were redeemed out of their slavery in Egypt and therefore became the people of God in the Exodus.

Since Israel they broke the covenant and went into exile. The prophet (Isaiah especially) described the return from exile as a New Exodus. When Israel is called out of the nations they will once again be “redeemed” by their God. It is for this reason that the coming messianic age could be called the “redemption of Israel” (Luke 2:25 Simeon).

Peter makes a connection between the Passover Lamb and Jesus, who is the ultimate price to pay. The price paid was not with perishable things, gold or silver, but with a life. The sacrificial system from the Hebrew Bible required a life as a substitute for sin. When the first Passover happened, the blood of the lamb was placed on the doorposts so that the family in the home would be saved from the final plague and redeemed out of Egypt. The people did not give gold or silver to a temple, but they gave up a precious life.

Isaiah 55:1 may be a parallel here since the people are called out of the exile to eat and drink with the Lord, food provided without money. That section ends with a reference to the Word of God “not returning void” as the new eschatological age dawns. The blood of Christ’s sacrifice is even more “precious” (τίμιος) than the Passover Lamb. This word is often used for precious stones, jewels, etc. Something that is precious is held in highest honor. Since the contrast is with gold and silver, the value of the blood of the sacrifice of the Messiah is as high as imaginable.

A “lamb without blemish or spot” is an allusion to the Passover Lamb. Any sacrificed animal is to be pure and spotless (the same idea appears in Heb 9:14). But the word (ἄμωμος) is often used for moral purity as well. Since the lamb of a sacrifice was offered to God, it was to be as perfect as possible. In fact, Peter’s description of the death of Jesus as a ransom may be drawn from the teaching of Jesus himself. In Mark 10:45 Jesus describes the giving up of his life as a “ransom for many.”

Peter therefore connects the salvation experience of the believer to the Passover (the salvation experience of the Hebrew Bible) and draws the same ethical implications that the Torah did. Since believers in Christ has been “bought with a price” they ought to live a holy life. Based on 1 Peter 1-2, what does this holiness “look like”?

10 thoughts on “Be Holy! – 1 Peter 1:15-21

  1. It seems as if Peter emphasizes that the life a follower of Christ should live is in contrast to the life of those who don’t. He encourages: “…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17), “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (2:1), and “submit yourselves…to every human authority” (2:13). Furthermore, he wants them to “abstain from sinful desires” (2:11), “Love one another deeply” (1:22), and grow up spiritually (see 2:2). Conclusively, living the life Peter advocates will not only gain pagan attention, but will also make believers out to be a kind of foreigner to this world. Believers’ worldview is so different than that of this world that they seem to belong elsewhere.

  2. Karen Jobes states in the book that Peter made the connection between the Lamb and Jesus (Jobes, 317). Comparing two is quite interesting needless to say, The Lamb and Jesus represent holiness that we need to strive to live by. If you live the life that Peter describes in 1 Peter 1 & 2 then you show the people around you as an example to be holy and live a holy life. Jobes also discusses in Chapter 9 about 1 Peter 2:21 is an example and foundation of Christian living. “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21). The discussion continues with Mark 8:34 about Jesus stating people would need to reject themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. By rejecting yourself, you can mainly focus on Christ rather than on yourself (Jobes, 277).

  3. The book of 1 Peter is full of so many ways that a Christian’s life should look like and how Christians are to act and treat others. It was important for Peter to point out that the children of God are holy to encourage them in how they are supposed to be set apart from the rest of the world and non-believers. This is what he meant by Christians being holy, Peter suggests that Christians should look and act different to non-believers because they are holy and set apart from the rest of society. This is not intended to be a bad different, but more of a “I see that you are different, and I want to be like you”. 1 Peter 1: 22 writes about how Christians are to obey the truth and love others sincerely because they have purified themselves. In today’s society, being different can be hard and it can be so easy to conform to the patterns of the world, even when Romans 12 commands us to be careful of the conforming. Karen Jobes in the book “Letters to the Church” speaks about the life of the apostle Simon Peter, and how he lived a life of being different. Anyone who has read the gospels and the book of Acts knows Peter is known for being different and called out for being that way. In Acts 2, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, people even thought that he was drunk because he was being so crazy and different. The Christian community should be as bold and different as Peter was, Peter was not scared of acting differently that the majority of society because he believed so passionately about the good news of Jesus Christ and he wanted everyone he came in contact with to know that good news. Shouldn’t Christians today to that bold about sharing the good news? We are made holy to stand out and be bold about the love of Jesus, so what is holding Christians back?

  4. The word holy is used numerous times throughout the Old and New Testament, but are we really aware of what it means in our day to day life? Is it attainable for us? When I think of living a life of holiness, I always think of the W.W.J.D. bracelets that were very popular for a while. In Leviticus we see that the Israelites were commanded to be holy because God was holy, but I think anyone after the time of Jesus had a little bit more of an advantage here because we could see what true holiness lived out looked like. We can see in the Old Testament many men and women who lived lives of holiness, Daniel, Elijah, Esther, Job, among others, but our greatest example will always be Jesus Christ. What does it really look like to be holy in our own lives? We are given two commandments in the New Testament, love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbors as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). There is no greater commandment than these! We see how to be holy all throughout scripture. James, though we know works does not save us, gives us commands to live out our faith. We are commanded to help the poor, the sick, the widows, and the orphans. We are even commanded to love our enemy and in that same passage are commanded to be perfect (Matt. 5:43-48). Is holiness equal to perfection? Though we are not able to attain true perfection, living a life mirroring Jesus is what we are called to strive for.

  5. I think the idea of being Holy as Christians is extremely important but often missed. When we become Christians/are saved we are born again, and, as mentioned in one of your prior posts, this is a huge deal. We are actually spiritually made completely new. This is not to be taken lightly. Therefore, our old ways of living without God should and must be replaced according to and consistent with our new lives. If we are to follow Christ, that means we are to follow His example of living. This is where I believe the verse “Be holy, because I am holy” comes into play. We need to do all that we can to be like Christ. This connects also to John 14:15 where Jesus says if we love Him, we will obey Him. To me, this says that because of our salvation our lives necessarily need to be changed. It should be impossible for us to live the same way we did before our salvation. Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins so that we may be saved; therefore, the least we can do is live in a way pleasing to Him and consistent with our salvation. Christ was the perfect sacrifice therefore we ought to strive to live the most perfect life we can according to and consistent with Christ.

  6. Throughout the New Testament, the authors refer to the holy Lamb of God. As Professor Long points out, the holy Lamb of God is Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross and paying for all the sins of mankind. I appreciate Professor Long’s explanation of how Peter connects Jesus to the Passover that the Jews celebrated every year upon being delivered from the Egyptians and becoming God’s people. Throughout the Old Testament, the Jews were redeemed whenever God saved them from exile. God used lambs as a way for the Israelites to become right with Him. In the same way, the blood of Jesus is what cleanses Christians’ sins and makes them right with God. The blood of Jesus is so worth so much more than the lambs sacrificed at Passover. In this passage, Peter is admonishing believers to remain holy because God is holy. Peter is encouraging believers to live like God to show those around them that they are following God. It is important as believers to not keep dwelling in sin as it shows others that they are not truly following God.

  7. Comparing Jesus to the lamb was actually very eye opening to a lot of people. The fact that Jesus had to be perfect in order to be that sacrifice. Just like the lamb had to be the best that you had because God is perfect. Also this gives us an example to live as Jesus lived. To strive for that holiness. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Jesus also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his footsteps” (ESV). Also Peter first talks about the joy we have with this new life and that we should want to strive for this holiness that Jesus had. We can never reach it because we have sinned but we should strive for that. Today there are times where we suffer like Jesus did. not nearly as bad where we are getting killed over it. But we do need to “die” to things in order to bring glory to him. We may need to die to watching tv every night in order to help others in need, or spend time with God, or even to let God use us how he wants to. Not just do our own desires.

  8. Holiness looks like a person who finds themselves in sync with Christ Jesus characteristics. While society goes against all righteousness and holiness, the believer can trust and depend on the Word of God for guidance and discernment of the spiritual and physical realms. Jobes states that the Spirt’ transforming power works in concert with the human will (344), this is a free will of the individual to decide whether to follow Jesus completely or not and to be in process of complete change. This takes relationship and dedication and obedience. Holiness is someone who says no to evil, who constantly delights in the word of God day and night, constant relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This person can say no to evil, does not act like the world does, does not defile themselves internal and external. Who can do what is right even when it’s hard. Daily living in holiness, is hard work, there is much suffering in the process of transformation. To be a Christian in a society who rejects Christ Jesus, is to stand with truth and righteousness and not be afraid to be challenge knowing Jesus is always with us. It is interesting on the blog, the value of Jesus blood, spotless and priceless, able to make one pure and perfect, is access to anyone who comes to him.

  9. Peter’s call to holiness is much deeper than I ever thought it was. It is much more than simply a call to be holy, but references all that God had done for them in the past by making Jewish readers recollect their history of sacrifices and redemption.
    Israel had literally been brought out of slavery, so the understand well the idea of redemption of slaves. They also had been brought back from the exile, where they had been under someone else’s rule, much like a slave. And now they had been freed from sin if they believed in the work of Jesus and what he did.
    Peter also gives some action steps for his readers to follow to get them started on walking the path towards holiness. The first step is to love one another purely, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22). This true love for one another affects almost every aspect of life, so it is an important first step towards holiness. Another action step is ridding oneself of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander because these things are not found within love for one another (1 Peter 2:1). A final step is to crave “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). This step is necessary for readers to actually develop as Christians and grow in their faith.

  10. 1 Peter 2:21 says, “For to this you have been called, because Jesus also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his footsteps” (ESV). As a Christian every day I strive to be perfect as we all ought to be following through the footsteps of Christ. Him being compared to lamb helps many people to know that He is the perfect sacrifice. Lambs were the acceptable sacrifices in the old testament which meant they are perfect. So, Jesus being compared to lamb helps open people’s eyes.
    Peter talks about the joy we find in the new life we are given once we believe in Jesus as our personal savior and strive to be holly as He is holy. So, in the world today even when we face trials, we are called to suffering because Jesus faced it to show us that we can come out of it all and still strive to be holy and be holy as He is holy. We should always strive to bring Him glory and do things according to His desires not our own.

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