1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
In 1 Peter 1:10-12, as we saw last week, Peter writes about the glorious grace of God that brought about the fruit-producing salvation of God described in 1:3-9. It is a grace so amazing that the prophets, apostles, and angels searched for and inquire of it, proclaim it at the cost of their lives, and long to see it respectively.
Peter invites his readers to consider that marvelous grace. You can almost feel him pleading with them to recognize that God’s saving grace is far, far greater than they have ever imagined—no matter how great they’ve imagined it to be. 1 Peter 1:3-12 is meant to inform the minds and stir the affections of those in the Church as they seek to suffer faithfully.
The grace of God is truly a remarkable idea to ponder. And so godly men and women will spend a good deal of time doing just that: working hard to think rightly about, and consequently be appropriately awed by, God’s glorious, saving grace.
However, as is the case with all of the great doctrines, we’re never meant to merely think about them. Rather, all good doctrine is meant to lead to good practice. Orthodoxy (right thinking) must always lead to orthopraxy (right living). Indeed, the more remarkable the truth about God and his work, the more remarkable our resulting action must be.
For instance, imagine the husband who loved considering the idea of taking his wife out on a date on their anniversary. The thought of getting dressed up and going to a nice restaurant to eat before walking and talking and praying together late into the evening was one of his favorite past times. He knew he was married to a godly, beautiful, strong, intelligent woman. He knew that she was worthy of his love. And he knew that he should desire spending time to her—particularly on their anniversary. He even told his wife and kids and friends about all his thoughts and plans.
But imagine then, that every year when their anniversary came he’s simply slip out into the garage and tinker on his cars or plop down in his favorite chair and read a book or watch TV. Clearly, there’s something wrong with this picture. There’s something very wrong with his understanding of things. In fact, in light of his actions (or inactions) we’d be right to question whether or not he really did know anything about his wife or the nature of God-honoring marriage. If he really believed the things he claimed he would certainly do the things he planned to do.
Again, this silly example is meant to highlight the simple fact that certain knowledge requires certain action—especially when it comes to knowledge of God and his gospel.
Peter, understanding this, follows the glorious doctrines of saving grace in 1:3-12 with glorious application in 1:13-16. He makes this transition clear in v.13 where he writes, “Therefore…”. In light of everything I’ve said concerning the grace of God which led to your salvation, there are certain things that you must do. In other words, Peter writes, because of the reality of God and his gospel, you must act. If you really love God and believe his promises, you will live differently than if you didn’t. Specifically, because of these things, Church, you must do the good works of hoping fully in grace and being holy.
Let’s pray that God would grant us a right understanding of, and appreciation for, his grace in Jesus Christ and a right response to it in our actions.
HOPE FULLY IN GRACE
Again, in light of the nature of the gospel, all who truly believe and love it will act in certain ways. Two of those ways are specifically mentioned in 1 Peter 1:13-16. The first of which is that God’s people will set their hope fully on God’s grace (1:13).
For whatever reason I remember fairly well the cult-group known as “Heaven’s Gate”. This group was led by a man named Marshall Applewhite. They believed that the earth was about to be destroyed and that the only way to escape and survive was to be picked up by extra terrestrials who were following behind a comet (Hale-Bopp) in a space ship. Further, they believed that the only way to get on that ship was to take their lives as it passed by—which 39 of them did in March of 1997.
It’s hard to imagine a clearer example of a group of people placing their hope fully in something. They believed what they believed so fully that they willingly and eagerly ended their lives according to their convictions.
In 1 Peter 1:13 Peter instructs those in the Church to “set your hope fully” not on extraterrestrial life, but “on the grace [of God].” To hope in something is to live in the present based on belief in a future promise. We have hope in a coming reality when it shapes the way we live now.
And to hope fully is to hope completely or perfectly or without reservation. To hope in this way is to have no doubt, to have every decision shaped by belief in a future reality, to be chose a course of action in the present entirely based on a certain belief in what’s to come.
It’s fairly easy in my experience to allow some hope in some promises of God to effect some areas of my life. A popular Christian satire website recently published a spoof article highlighting this exact thing. The title of the article was, “[Woman] Finally Ready To Completely And Totally Surrender A Small Fraction Of [her] Life To God”.
But that’s not the kind of hope Peter is calling his readers to. Instead, once again, he calls them to set their hope fully on God’s promise of future grace, to act in every way now because of the certain grace of God that awaits his people in the future.
What specifically was to be the object of hope for Peter’s readers? “The grace that will be brought to [them] at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” There are two things to note here. First, the grace that they are to fully hope in will be brought to them. God’s grace can never be earned or won or received on our own. If we are to get God’s grace it is because God brings it to us. Grace, be humbled by this. Allow this reality to open your eyes once again to your total and complete dependence on God for everything. God’s grace comes to God’s people because he has determined to give it to us.
Second, notice the fact that God will bring this complete-hope-worthy grace to us at Jesus’ second coming. The final measure of God’s saving grace to his people will come at Christ’s return. Then our purified souls are united with our new, glorified bodies.
This phrase (“at the revelation of Jesus Christ”) is the same phrase found in v.7, and the significance of this, once again, is that when Jesus returns it will marks the completion of God’s saving work. As Christians we are to set our hope completely in the fact that God will finish the good work he began in us.
Peter teaches us how we can come to have this kind of complete or full or perfect or unreserved hope in God’s grace. Specifically, Peter gives two more commands to us concerning how we are to obey the command to hope fully in God’s grace.
Prepare your minds for action.
First, in order to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, Christians must prepare our minds for action. The English translation (at least in the ESV) doesn’t capture the vividness of the command. The actual wording, which your bible’s probably have in a footnote, is “Gird up the loins of your mind.”
As you know, the men of Peter’s day wore longer robes rather than pants. If they were to run or be active, then, they needed to hike up the bottom of their robes (gird up their loins) so that they wouldn’t trip. To gird up your loins meant to prepare for action. The modern equivalent might be to lace up your shoes.
Peter took this expression and applied it to the minds of believers. He commanded his readers to prepare their minds for serious action. That is, he commanded them to think carefully about the grace of God in order to place their hope fully in it.
At times we might wrongly lean toward making mature Christian faith into intellectualism. It isn’t that. It is, however, always tied to right thinking. But because God is greater than we can imagine, right thinking about God takes hard work. We must gird up the loins of our minds, then, if we are going to do so.
I want to expand on this idea just a bit…Acting in ways that are truly honoring to God always comes after feeling in ways that are truly honoring to God, and feeling in ways that are truly honoring to God always comes after thinking in ways that are truly honoring to God. This order is important.
Right feelings always flow from right thinking. If we are rightly scared, it will be because something truly threatening is in our midst. Similarly, if we are to be rightly happy, it will be because something truly good has happened to us. It’s a problem if someone finds themselves scared or happy with no apparent cause. Under ordinary circumstances our feelings flow from our beliefs—even if we’re not conscious of the beliefs in the moment. Therefore, for our feelings to be appropriate they must flow from belief in something that is true.
As an example, we’re commanded to delight ourselves in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). We must understand that for our delight in the Lord to delight the Lord, it must be based on right thinking about the Lord. There are many around us today who delight in a god that is nothing like the God of the bible. We cannot please God in our delight in him if it’s not actually him we’re delighting in. Again, then, feeling in ways that are truly honoring to God always comes after thinking in ways that are truly honoring to God.
And second, we can never act in ways that are truly honoring to God if we do not first feel rightly about God. It is not enough to dutifully check off a list of God’s commands.
Again as an example, in Amos 5:21-23 God says, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.”
God commanded the Israelites to offer burnt and grain and peace offerings. He had commanded them to sing songs and make music to him. Obeying God in these ways was essential to the worship God required of Israel. They were doing the right things, but God did not delight in them because they were not the delight of Israel and, more importantly, God was not the delight of Israel. They were doing the right things but apart from right feelings toward God and the things they were doing, and so their actions were not acceptable to God. Right actions always flow from right feelings.
Again, then, order matters. Right thinking leads to right feeling leads to right actions.
This is what it means, then, to prepare your minds for action: it means thinking hard about who God is and what he’s done and what he promises to do. Only once God’s people have given themselves to thinking in this way do we have any chance of feeling rightly about God and his commands, and only once we’ve given ourselves to feeling rightly about God and his commands do we have any chance of doing the good work of placing our hope fully in the grace of God.
Christianity simply isn’t a religion of sentimentality or wishful thinking. It is a religion of Truth and reason and facts. Consequently, once again, this means Christians need to learn to think hard; to gird up the loins of our minds; to prepare our minds for action.
Be sober minded.
The second way in which Peter commands God’s people to learn to set our hope fully on the grace of God is by becoming sober minded. The opposite of being sober is being drunk. When someone is drunk they are unclear and unreasonable in their thinking. Their thoughts are fuzzy and incoherent. To be sober minded, then, is to be clear and reasonable and sharp and coherent in our thinking.
In simplest terms this means having our thinking shaped wholly by God’s Holy Spirit and his holy Word. We are not sober minded when our thoughts flow from our emotions or our culture or our circumstances or even our “common sense”. We are sober minded when our thoughts flow from an accurate understanding the bible.
This is one reason why regular time reading and studying the bible is important. This is one reason why reading good books is important. This is one reason why coming to Berea and bringing your kids to Sunday school is important. This is one reason why listening carefully and prayerfully to the sermons each week is important. We need help to think clearly about God’s word and these are some of the main places in which help can be found.
To prepare our minds for action is to think hard. To be sober minded is to think clearly. And both are commanded by Peter and necessary if we are to set our hope fully on the grace of God. We must think hard about the right things.
Again, then, if we are to place our hope wholly in the grace of God as Peter commands, specifically, we are to think hard and clearly about the saving grace of God (1:3-12) that will be fully ours at the return/revelation of Jesus (1:13)—the grace flowing from the death and resurrection of Jesus that causes us to be born again, and guarantees us an eternal inheritance, salvation, and everlasting life.
The first action that the gospel requires according to this passage is full hope in the grace of God. We do so by preparing our minds for action and being sober minded. The second action that flows out of a right understanding of and love for the gospel, as we see in 1:15-16 is holiness. I’m just going to briefly address it this week and then come back to it in detail next week.
God’s people are those who have been given God’s grace. And God’s grace comes through belief in the gospel of God. As we receive this grace we will hope fully in it and we will grow in holiness.
In short, to be holy means obeying God. Non-Christians are called “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2), but here Peter refers to Christians as “obedient children…” (1:14). The main characteristic of a non-Christian is disobedience toward God, while the main characteristic of Christians is joyful, satisfying obedience.
Peter simply assumes the obedience of his readers, and that “as obedient children” they will obey God’s specific charge to be holy. The holiness to which Peter calls the obedient ones of God has two components.
Stop living like you’re not a Christian.
The first aspect of the holiness that flows from a right understanding of and love for the gospel is a ceasing to “be conformed to the passions of [our] former ignorance.”
What we believe always leads to how we feel, and how we feel always leads to how we act. As non-Christians we didn’t think rightly about God or his word. Consequently we were passionate about ungodly things. And our actions, then, conformed to our ungodly passions. To live in light of the gospel—to be holy—is to stop conforming to sinful desires that flow from sinful beliefs.
When we truly grasp the gospel we simply cannot continue to act in ways that contradict it. Being a non-Christian means, in part, acting in ignorance, Peter notes. Being a Christian, however, means, in part, knowing the truth. And knowing the truth about God’s will means ceasing to act against it.
All of this is the essence of repentance. Christians are repenters. That is Christians are defined by a turning from ignorance and sin and ungodly passions. However, we don’t just turn from evil. We also turn toward righteousness, which leads to the final point and the second aspect of Peter’s command to be holy.
Start living like you are a Christian.
Christians stop conforming to the passions of ignorance and rebellion, and start conforming to the nature of God. And God’s nature is most defined by his holiness. That is why Peter writes, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy” (1:15).
Peter immediately grounds this charge in God’s words from Leviticus 11:44, “since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1:16). The reason Christians are to be holy, Peter and Moses teach, is because God is holy. As Christians we are not to conform to our sinful beliefs and passions, but to God’s holy nature. We are to be holy because God is holy.
Do you believe the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you truly believe it? Do you truly love it? Are you genuinely amazed by the grace of God? If so, you will be holy. You will be decreasingly characterized by sinful thoughts, feelings and actions and increasingly characterized by righteous thoughts, feelings, and actions. Indeed, Peter writes, in all their conduct they are to be holy.
These things are the certain effects of the grace of God upon our lives. These things are the certain effects of the cross of Jesus. God is working these things out in the lives of everyone who is truly trusting in Jesus Christ.
Again, we’ll spend all next week expanding on the holiness of God and the holiness of God’s people.
In conclusion, Grace, Peter writes the words of 1:13-16 to inform the people of God how they are to act in light of nature and promises and saving grace of God from 1:3-12. Specifically, God’s people are to hope fully in God’s grace that will be fully brought at Christ’s return, and we are to be holy as God is holy.
Let us consider the gospel carefully. Let us think hard and well about the gospel. Let’s then ask God to grant us love and joy and peace and hope in the gospel. Let’s work to feel rightly about the truths of God’s work and promises. And then, let’s act in accordance with our new passions. Let’s act in hope and holiness. And all of this according to the grace of God. Amen.