Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 1:17-21
Motivations for Holiness
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:17–21
Why must we be holy? In 1 Peter 1:15 and 16, Peter calls the believers that are scattered throughout Asia Minor to be holy as God is holy. He then in the following verses gives them motivations to be holy. These motivations would especially be important in the context of suffering for the faith.
Sometimes persecution or hardship can make people throw away their morals; they can often go into survival mode. In survival mode, people have a tendency to not care about holiness. A person who is starving sometimes will resort to stealing in order to live. A person who is about to lose their scholarship because of poor grades sometimes will cheat in order to make it.
I think we often see this in our societies, even without persecution. There is often so much pressure to succeed and be a success that people will do anything, at any cost to attain it, including lowering their integrity or commitment to God. No doubt, with this in mind, Peter exhorts these Christians who have lost homes and jobs for their faith, to be holy as God as holy.
How do you respond when there is pressure?
I love seeing how Christ responded on the cross—as he was mocked and pierced, Scripture began to flow out of him. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” is from Psalm 22, and “Into your hands I commit my spirit” is from Psalm 31. Christ under pressure demonstrated holiness as he maintained communication and focus on his father, even speaking Scripture.
Now in 1 Peter 1:17–21, Peter tells them, “Why they must be holy?” Listen to what he says: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially.” “Since” refers back to verse 16’s call to be holy like God. In this lesson, we will answer the question, “Why should I be holy? Why should I be different?”
Many Christians succumb to the pressures of the world in the areas of drunkenness, sexual immorality, foul language, and the pursuit of the things of the world. The church is in desperate need of some motivation. In this text, Peter gives us five reasons to be holy.
Big Question: What motivations for holiness (cf. 16) does Peter give us in 1 Peter 1:17–21?
Be Holy Because of a Reverent Fear of God’s Impartial Judgment
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
Peter is telling the Christians in Asia Minor that they must be holy because God is their father and judge. Now often when we hear the word “father,” we immediately think about a father’s love and how a father will do anything to bless and protect his child. However, Peter’s focus in this passage is not so much about the Father’s love, but the Father’s discipline, which is also an outworking of his love.
When these Christians were tempted to sin or compromise with the world in order to escape persecution, Peter wanted them to know that their Father was always watching and that he is going to judge each man’s work impartially.
In our society, judgment is often partial. If a rich man goes to a court, he is more likely to be set free than a poor man. The rich are more likely to escape the death penalty than someone who is poor or from a minority group. The judgment in our culture is often partial, but with our God, it is not. It doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, black, white, yellow or purple. Our God does not operate like our justice system; there will be no favor on the basis of your family background or bank account and for that reason we should live our lives in reverent fear of a just God, who will judge all mankind.
Interpretation Question: What are different aspects of the judgment of God that should motivate the believer to fear God, and therefore, become holy?
Now this judgment has two aspects to it.
1. There is the present judgment of the Father on his children that the believer must also be aware of in order to fear God.