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”?

15 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.

  11. In the first book of Peter, he sets forth three distinctive marks every Christian should follow that first: “Be holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16), second: “Be reverently fearful” (1 Peter 1:17-19), and third: “Be priests” (1 Peter 2:4-5). It is very interesting for me that when we hear the word of holy. What is holiness means to us? What is the biblical holy? What is Peter referring to be holy? We all sinned every day because we know that we are sinners. How can we live a holy life?

    In the Bible, Leviticus 19 explains what it means for Israel to live as a holy nation. Through, Moses, God spoke to the people, saying, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). Both the Old and the New Testament stress personal holiness in the life of every believer. Peter says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all you conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”” (1 Pet 1:15-16).

    The Old Testament talks about “the beauty of holiness.” Obviously, personality is not what we would call the beauty of holiness. A truly holy person has an attractive, beautiful personality. At based on this word, the word holiness means is set apart. A holy person is a person who has been set apart from something, or for something. Holy people are set apart in that their lives are dedicated to God and committed to loving, accepting, and forgiving others. They live lives that are different from the world; lives that are focused on living righteously and joyfully. There is no conflict between their words and their walk. They are well adjusted and content, because their trust is in God.

  12. the whole idea of redemption has been the main idea since Genesis. from Adam and Eve needing new clothes, which was made from animal skins to Jesus dying on the cross which gives everyone a new life. Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing and accepted by God while Cain’s offering was not. Noah and his family gave offerings to God when the Flood ceased. when it was time for the Passover, the people of Israel were told by Moses to “paint” the top and sides of the doorway with blood of a lamb. it was the job of the Levites to give sacrifices to God. the book of Judges was a cycle which had offerings when the Israelites got out of captivity. so many other examples of people giving sacrifices throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament says that we do not need to do those offerings anymore because we are in a New Covenant.

  13. It is a common phrase repeated throughout the Bible to be holy because God is holy. But the question is, what does it mean to be holy and how are we supposed to be holy? God is perfect and we are not, how are we to live up to his standards? Jobes explains that “God expects not divine holiness of his children, but human holiness, and he sent his Son into the human race to exemplify what holiness looks like…Peter holds up Jesus Christ, God’s Son as the one who has left us an example to follow” (331). The blog provides more insight as to what Peter was referring to when he quoted this Old Testament verse. I find it so interesting how New Testament quotations or allusions to Old Testament passages are often meant to invoke the whole passage in the mind of the reader, not just the quoted verse. The same is true here. Peter was trying to draw to mind God’s entire plot of salvation by quoting just one phrase. Peter also uses Old Testament passages to parallel what Jesus did for us and show how he fulfills those passages. As Peter calls to mind the image of the Passover lamb, he wants his readers to connect that sacrifice with Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Furthermore, the Passover lamb was to be without blemish or spot, and Jesus was sinless. The blog explains how the Greek word also can be used to refer to moral purity. Going back to the quote from Jobes, we are not expected to have divine holiness, but human holiness, which is modeled after the example of Christ. The implication of this is that we are to strive for the moral perfection that Christ had.

  14. The holiness that is depicted in 1 Peter 1-2 is quite simple to understand and be an example of. I feel as though most often individuals feel like there is some deep theological answer to these questions, and if it’s simple then it’s not the right answer. When scripture commands us to be holy, it’s commanding us to maintain a devout relationship with Christ in worship. While being holy and living as an example people should be able to tell that we are set apart from the world and it’s tactics as well. Being holy is not only going to church on Sunday to check it off your list and then go party like hell on Monday. A holy lifestyle demands consistency in being present in your relationship with God and building yourself up and others so that they are able to enter the Kingdom.
    Now this in no way is judging those who do fall short of the glory of God, we all do and none of us are perfect; we all make mistakes. The important part to remember is that we are trying our best to live this holy life and be set apart, we are not called to be perfect we are called to be holy. Jesus faced the same feelings and temptations as we did. The only difference is that he didn’t give in to these feelings and temptations; this is exactly what we should try to do. Understandably so it’s going to be hard so the best thing we can do is try, but actually but forth the effort don’t just shrug it off and “say oh well i’m forgiven’ no. When you live a holy life the Spirit of God will start to convict you of the choices you have made in order to help you to stay on the path to achieve a holy life.

  15. Peter discusses how every Christian should be holy and thankful for the great things that Christ has done for us. Professor Long states “The first reason Peter gives for this is that the believers have been ransomed from their futile ways.” (Long, 2018) We must live our lives, as Christians, opposite of those who do not. We must set an example for people to follow as Christ would have been. I know that Jobes talks about Jesus and the Lamb. They both represent the holiness that we should be reaching or seeking from God. The book of Peter has a ton of ways on how to be holy and how to act. We must obey the truth and love others which can be found in 1 Peter 1:22. Peter stresses about how important it is to be different from others. We must set ourselves apart from nonbelievers in hopes they will want to accept Christ as their savior. I know that it is hard for Christians sometimes to understand what it means by being holy. How do we get there? Every part of scripture gives a little ways to be holy. It is important to love our neighbors. We are to help the poor and the sick. We must read our Bible and repent for our sins. So many holy actions that Christians can do to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord even though we will never experience that perfection that Jesus did. We must never resort back to our lives before we accept Christ. As we all know, Christ died to take the burden of all of our sins. It is safe to say the least we can do is devote our lives to Him and to be holy in his name. We will never be as perfect as Jesus but we can sure try.

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