Last week, we ended our study in the preceding verses by expounding the text found in vs 16, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” This is God’s command to the church, as it was His command to the Israelites. God first said it in Leviticus 11:44. Then Peter updates it under the new covenant to the church, so that it becomes the commandment for our sanctification. We are made holy and righteous positionally due to our justification. But then we are becoming holy practically through the process of sanctification. Sanctification is the practice of becoming who you are created to be. It is the process of becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ as we walk in His footsteps, according to the pattern which he laid for us.
Peter speaks about this pattern of sanctification in chapter 2:21 saying, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” The word in the Greek for example is “hypogrammos”, which means a writing copy, including all the letters of the alphabet, which was given to beginners as an aid in learning to draw them. We still give school children such things today, letting them trace over the letters so that they may learn to write. In the same manner, we are to live in such a way that we follow the example laid down by Jesus, so that we might be conformed to His image. In this way, as we are obedient to His word, so we become like Him. That is the process of sanctification that Peter is referring to here; that we may become holy in all our behavior, even as He is holy.
So in preparation for the rest of the epistle’s emphasis on holy living, he gives us a staccato-like list of reasons in which we should find motivation to become sanctified.
Now his whole epistle is really that, teaching us and instructing us how we are to live, how we are to become like Christ. And in these last verses of the first chapter, he is particularly going to present some reasons to us in order to motivate us to be sanctified. Because the process of sanctification is not all a bed of roses. Peter has already alluded in vs 6 to the fact that suffering trials is often part and parcel of the process of sanctification.
It’s kind of like working out. We all know the benefits of working out. We know that it’s the means of staying healthy and fit and being energetic and having a productive life. But we also know it’s something that takes discipline, it’s hard work. It’s not always fun. But the end goal makes it worth it. That same mindset is applicable to our sanctification as well, when we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As Paul said in Phil. 2:12-13 “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for [His] good pleasure.”
I don’t know about you, but I find that I need motivation in order to stick with my work out regime. I sometimes find that motivation in reading certain books, or watching videos or something on you tube in order to motivate myself to keep going. And I suppose that Peter adds this list for the same effect; hoping to motivate us in this process of sanctification, and remind us of the benefit in store, that we might not fall short of our calling.
The first motivation for our sanctification he gives is because God is our Father. He says in vs 17, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” Our motivation to become holy should be because we are sons and daughters of God. God is holy, and as His children our desire should be to please our Father and be like our Father. And as our earthly fathers are wont to do, our Heavenly Father will bring discipline to bear in order to correct us when our behavior does not meet His expectations.
There is a lot of push in evangelical circles today to make the fear of God into something less onerous, something more in the way of awe or respect. And awe and respect certainly are a part of the fear of God. But when you look at the way the word fear is used in the vast majority of cases in the New Testament, it means more than that. The Greek word is phobos, which is the word we get phobia from. And it means terror, dread, reverence. For instance, when the disciples were on the sea in the storm and the waves terrified them, it is phobos. So there is a real fear that should come from realizing the holiness of God, and that He is our Father who will discipline us for our good, according to Hebrews 12:10, that we might share in His holiness.
Listen, when I was a kid, nothing struck fear into my heart and kept me in line than my mother saying, “Wait until your father gets home. I’m going to tell him what you’ve been doing.” I knew that my Dad would discipline me. But contrary to all the psycho babble that you hear from parenting gurus today, that discipline did not make me love my Dad less. Nor did I ever believe after I had been on the receiving end of discipline that my Dad did not love me. Proper discipline is an expression of love. In fact, Hebrews tells us that whom God loves He disciplines, and if you are without discipline, you are not really His child. So a healthy fear of God produces sanctification in His children.
There is another type of fear though that should be mentioned. And that is a fear of bringing shame upon Him. If you have a holy reverence for your Father, you would be careful not to ever do anything by which you might bring shame upon the family name. I remember my Dad telling me when I was a young boy, that the Harrell’s may not have much, but they did have a good name, and I should never do anything to bring shame upon that name. That kind of attitude is the attitude we should have towards our Lord. So our first motivation for sanctification should be because God is our Father.
Second reason for motivation Peter says is because our citizenship is in heaven. He says, “conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” What he’s saying, in reality, is that we don’t live here, we are just resident aliens. Some of the other translations may say it better than the NASB, such as the KJV which says “the time of your sojourning.” NIV says, “as foreigners.” The RSV says the “time of your exile.”
I remember a movie I saw 30 years ago or more, in which the main character was referred to by someone as a “prince in exile.” That phrase always stuck with me for some reason. That’s what we are to live like. Paul said in Phil. 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven.” He expands on that idea in Col. 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Because heaven is our home. We’re just passing through here. We belong to a different kingdom, we live by a superior constitution, a better heritage.
The third reason for our motivation for sanctification Peter gives is because of the price of our redemption. The priceless cost of our ransom should motivate us to be sanctified. If you have ever purchased something extremely valuable, or been given something extremely valuable, then you should understand that because of how much it cost you are very careful in the way that you handle it. I used to sometimes have that experience in the antiques realm in which I used to work. I was notorious for damaging things soon after I got them. Something could have survived in perfect condition for a hundred years, but an hour after I got it I broke it.
But if I bought something that was extremely valuable, that had taken all my money and then some, I handled it very carefully. I would put it where it would not be touched, where it would be safe, because I understood it’s immense value.
In a similar respect, when we come to know the supreme cost which Jesus paid to effect our redemption, the price that He paid to pay our ransom, then how careful should we be to handle our salvation. We certainly would not want it stained and soiled by the world. Paul said in 1Cor. 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [who is] in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
Notice how Peter describes our redemption as from the futile way of life inherited from our forefathers. What he is saying there is that our lives before our redemption was empty, it was meaningless. Like Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, our lives were vanity, chasing after the wind. Our lives were purposeless. There is nothing more empty than chasing after the lusts of the world. They never satisfy you. You never get enough. Whether it’s money, or sex or alcohol or houses or cars or whatever this world has to offer, it’s never enough. Only God satisfies. Only God is able to fill the hole in your soul.
Notice also the price of our redemption. You cannot put a price on a life, can you? When someone is killed in an accident, and it’s someone else’s fault, they may find themselves in front of a court that will determine the monetary compensation for the loss of life. And usually it is in the millions of dollars when someone has lost a life.
But the price of our redemption is even harder to fathom. Peter says it was “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” The word precious there was commonly used in reference to precious stones, things of great value. The price of our redemption required first of all that the substitute would be holy, blameless and spotless. The price required a human life. But also it required a Deity. If there can scarcely be a value determined for a man, how can you put a value on the very God Himself who took on flesh? How can you put a value on the supreme innocence of a Holy God?
Think of it! The only Son of God died for sinners. The innocent suffered for the guilty. The King of Kings offered His life for peasants. The perfect for the imperfect. The spotless for the stained. How can we consider such a cost paid for our penalty and not be motivated to live for Him?
The next motivation for our sanctification is because it is the eternal plan of God. Vs 20, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.” At some unknown time long before the creation of the universe, the Godhead agreed together as to the plan of salvation. God did not convene a meeting several hundred years after Noah and say “hey, we need to think of some way to fix this mess.” But in the omnipotence and sovereignty of God the Trinity designed a plan long before the world was formed. The word world there is kosmos, which indicates all the stars and planets.
The idea of foreknowledge there in relation to Christ may be better understood as predestined. It was determined beforehand which of the Deity would become flesh and offer themselves as a substitional sacrifice for man’s sin. Jesus Christ volunteered to leave His glory in heaven, and forever become human.
Notice that Peter says this was done for us. For you. For your sakes, he says. God made this grand plan to bring about your salvation, foreknowing and predestining those who would be saved. And knowing that we are a part and the purpose of this grand design should motivate us to be all that God has designed us to be.
Another reason Peter gives for our sanctification is that we might love one another. Vs 22, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.” Jesus said that a new commandment He gave to us, which was to love one another. But our sanctification enables us to love one another as we ought, and that is because sanctification purifies your heart.
Some of the other versions include the word pure in the last phrase, so that it would read; “love one another fervently with a pure heart.” See, love that does not come from a pure heart is hypocritical love. It’s love for show. It’s love for an ulterior motive. But love from a pure heart is one in which there is no guile. It’s love in which there is no jealousy. No anger, strife.
Paul said this is pure love of the brethren; “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor. 13:4)
Only by sanctification can we love like that. That’s why Peter says in vs 22, that we must in obedience to the truth purify our souls so that we might have a sincere love of the brethren. Sanctification is the sacrifice of self for the sake of Christ. And only in that way can we be sincere in our love for one another, with a pure heart, without selfish motives.
There is another reason Peter gives that should motivate us in our sanctification, and that is because you have been born again. Vs 23, “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” Born again means that we are a new creation, old things are passed away, and all things have become new. Born again means we have a new nature, a new spirit, a new hope, a new perspective, a new reason to live, a new life in Christ.
This present body was born of perishable seed. My father died, as his father died, and his father before him. This body of mine will die. But when I became born again, I received eternal life and the promise of a new, glorified body some day when Jesus returns. I received this eternal life by promise. It is written in the Bible, God’s word. It was proclaimed by Jesus, that whosoever believes in Me will never die.
What Peter indicates here is that the word of God is the imperishable seed by which man is born again. Paul said in 1Cor. 1:21 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
I’m sure you all are familiar with the parable of the soils that Jesus gave. He spoke of man sowing seed, and some fell on rocky ground, some fell beside the road and were eaten by the birds, some sprouted up but were choked out by weeds, some fell on good soil. And when the disciples asked Him to explain the parable He said that the seed was the word of God. Peter must have been thinking of that parable when he wrote this verse. The imperishable seed is the word of God which endures forever.
There is another reason for our sanctification that bears mentioning, and that is because this life is soon past. Peter quoting from Isaiah 40 says, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF. James said something similar in James 4:14 “whereas you do not know what [will happen] tomorrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
There was a saying that I heard my mother repeat many times growing up. I don’t know who the original author was, but she used to say, “Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Why would we waste this life, purchased at such a great cost, chasing after the things of this world which will soon be over. I’m just amazed at how quickly life is passing by. Each year goes more swiftly than the last. Yesterday it seems I just got married. Now last week I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.
Only one life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. I want to use what time I have left to serve the Lord, to do those things which are pleasing to Him. I’m going to see Him one day soon. I hope that I will be found faithful when that day comes. On that day, my time of sanctification will be complete, and God will complete that which He began in me. 1John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
There is one final motivation for our sanctification, and that is because the word of the Lord endures forever. The word of God is given to be our rule and guide for this life. But it will also be the rule and guide for eternity. How much then should we even now be living in obedience to the word of God? Remember what Peter said back in vs 22? In obedience to the truth purify your souls. Sanctification comes through obedience to the word of God. It’s not through some sort of ecstatic experience. It’s not through ritual, or ceremony or keeping the Sabbath or some other religious holiday. But it’s through obedience to the truth. Because the truth is the word of God, and it endures forever. It is the imperishable seed by which we live by faith. It’s the means by which we walk by faith.
Listen, sanctification is simply living by faith in the word of God. Day by day, moment by moment. We are saved by faith, and so we live by faith. We trust and obey every day, relying on the truth of God’s word for every word and deed. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. His word will not fail you.