Summary: In lights of the hope we have, we are now called to live the true good life - one that is holy.
Up to this time, Peter has eloquently laid before his readers the glorious blessings of God that have come to them. What truths has Peter already expressed? Who we are – God’s elect and strangers in the world. What has been done for us – given new birth into a living hope of an inheritance that will not perish; we are ourselves protected until we receive it; our trials are only purifying our faith until we receive it; this inheritance is the kingdom of God where we will receive honor ourselves; this will all happen when Jesus returns and makes our salvation complete; the great prophets of the Bible wished they could have known the grace we now experience, and the angels are fascinated by it.
“Therefore,” Peter continues, “This is how you should respond to such knowledge.” In our text, verses 13-17, he gives them three commands: (13) set your hope…on the grace to be given; (15) be holy; (17) live…in fear.
Set Your Hope
It seems in this verse that Peter is giving three distinct commands: prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you… There is actually only one imperative – set your hope. The other verbs are participles. The verse more literally reads, “Preparing your minds for action and being self-controlled, set your hope…” The point is that being prepared and self-controlled are set in the context of our hope. You will understand what I mean as we go along.
Prepare your minds for action. Literally, the phrase is “girding up the loins of your mind.” It is a figure of speech taken from the customs of the ancient world. The men wore long garments, and to run they would have to pull up their garments, stuffing them in their belts (“girding the loins”). Someone in a state of preparedness would go ahead and have his garments “girded up.” Peter is saying, “Be prepared mentally for action. Be alert.” The next phrase fits in with this: Be self-controlled, or be sober (KJV). Be disciplined in your life, so that you are not caught off guard and lulled away from what really matters.
You’ve got to be mentally alert – knowing the Word of God; knowing the difference between truth and subtle false-hood or heresy; being constant in prayer and Christian fellowship. You’ve got to exercise self-control – being disciplined in the practices of Bible reading, prayer, fellowship and evangelism; curbing your impulses to indulge in idle pleasures that distract you and make you lazy in your Christian walk.
The reason for mental alertness and discipline is that the believers may set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. This is the actual command Peter is giving. The preparation and discipline are not just good ways to have a healthy lifestyle; there is a goal in mind – it is the grace of our complete salvation, of an eternal glory. That’s our hope. That’s what Peter has been talking about in the previous twelve verses, and now he is commanding his readers to keep their focus on that hope.
We are to set our hope on the grace coming by being mentally alert and disciplined. The second command we are given is to be holy.
Verse 14 gives insight to what holy living is. As obedient children: it involves obeying God’s commands – following the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, and all the instructions we are taught in God’s Word. It is to love God with all of our hearts and souls and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Peter goes on to say, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Holy living is not conforming to our sinful desires that we in our nonChristian nature thought were fun things to do: getting drunk or getting high, indulging in physical pleasures of extramarital sex or overeating, gossiping and using profanity, and so on. To be holy, therefore, is active – carrying out the commands of God – and passive – refraining from sinful activities.
We are to be this way, because God is this way: for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Peter quotes from Leviticus where this sentence is repeated several times. In the context of Leviticus, God gives commands to the Israelites to follow in all areas of life – religious rituals, business dealings, personal hygiene, etc. The purpose is to distinguish his people from all other peoples. They belonged to him in a way unlike the other nations. They were the nation of God and were to reflect that in their daily life. Because they belonged to the one God who is holy, they were to be holy. Thus, God says, I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy (Leviticus 11:44).