1 Peter 1:13-16
Living Before God Our Father
13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
What exactly does God mean by saying “Be holy, for I am holy”? As a starting point to answer this question, let us use James 1:18 as a basis.
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
This verse really explains in a very simple way the meaning of the new birth through salvation.
In order to enter into the presence of God and have a relationship with Him, man must be holy and set apart from sin unto righteousness. However, it is obvious that men are not holy and righteous, but sinful. Sadly, they do not rightly perceive God’s truth, revelation, law or will or themselves. Men do not willingly agree with scripture that they are sinful while they need to be holy. And in most instances, IF they recognize their sins, they’ll blame it onto others, or even God.
Certainly, we cannot blame God by saying, well, He created us or that God made laws that are impossible to keep. In the quoted verse, James says to us that God cannot have any part in our sinfulness either directly or indirectly.
In James 1 verse 14, he says that man is his own problem and is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Lust when it conceives brings forth sin and sin when it finally comes forth produces nothing but death. The problem is in the nature of man and in the nature of man his passion for that which is wrong.
Then in verse 17, he says, from God comes every good and perfect gift. Verse 18 basically says that it is God’s will for us to become like Him. So the purpose of regeneration is to give birth into life. To regenerate us to do good not evil and to give us power over sin as a part of a new creation. When God touches your life, it is to produce life, not death, to produce righteousness not sin. To make a new creation, not exercise the old one.
God is therefore not tempting men to sin. James 1:18 is so rich because it introduces us to the subject of regeneration. God leads men out of sin into a new life. Without holiness, no one will ever have a relationship with God and enter into His eternal presence.
In Romans 3, at the end of verse 9 it says that all are subject to the control of sin over their lives. And then he goes on to show this in extent by quoting from some Old Testament passages and he says, “As it is written, There is none righteous no not one.” There is not one human that is right with God and who obeys the will of God in and of himself.
There is none that fully comprehends that which God requires and is fully able to understand it and carry it out. There is none that even seeks after God. John 3 says, men have all diverted themselves from the path that God ordained for righteousness. There is none that does good, not even one. He then describes the nature of their evil. The way of peace have they not known and there is absolutely no reverence of God before their eyes. He gives a definition of sinful man, man without God. And there is no way he says, in verse 20, that through their flesh, they can be justified by God.
In Ephesians 2 verse 1 we find that man is characterized again as being dead, the stench of a corpse and the characteristic of his deadness is a deadness in trespasses and sins. The one who is in charge of a man’s life is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience, Satan. That means, he is a target of judgment, he is the object of God’s judgment.
Now the question comes up, what are you going to do to change the situation? External changes are not enough. You cannot by some resolution in your own mind determine that you are going to obey the law of God and work your way out of this deadness. You cannot give yourself new life. We need to be recreated. You need a new heart, a new inner person, a new life principle. You need to be born again. So when we talk about the gospel or the new birth, we are not talking about putting a new suit of clothes on an old man. We are talking about a total transformation. To enter into a right relationship with God, demands a total new person. Jeremiah says, “can the leopard change his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). But in Jeremiah 31:33, we see the promise “I will put my law in their inward parts. I will write it in their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people …”
In Romans 6, it says, when you put your faith in Christ, you die and you rise to walk in. The best and most graphic illustration of this is found in the wonderful encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3. Jesus answered the question in his heart and said, “Truly, truly I say to you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Jesus said, you do not add anything to your life, you start all over again. This has to be done by water and the spirit. It has to be done by a power and a resource outside yourself, outside of you. That’s the water of salvation, promised in Ezekiel 36 verse 25, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you.”
This is a sovereign act of God. It comes through the Holy Spirit. Just like Ezekiel prophesied, clean water, cleansing your filthiness. Paul writing to Titus talks about the washing of water through the word. The water of regeneration, verse 26, “a new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, take away the stony heart out of your flesh, I will give you a heart of flesh, then this, I will put my spirit within you and cause you from the inside to walk in my statues. You shall keep my ordinances and you shall do them.”
Then he says, the wind blows where it wants and you hear the sound and you can’t tell from where it comes and where it goes and so is everyone that is born of the spirit. You can’t tell how or when the Holy Spirit does this, but it is a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of God moves in where he wills and gives new birth to whom he wills, through the washing of the water of the word in regeneration, cleanses the heart and plants that spirit within a man. 2 Corinthians 5:17, says all things have become new.
Going back to James 1:18, it leaves us with four questions about regeneration.
First question: What is it? Regeneration is that act of God by which the principle of new life is implanted in man and the governing disposition of his soul is made holy. That is a total transformation. In fact, Peter says, we become partakers of the divine nature. God gives us his own life, his own self, his own righteous character, his own holiness is implanted in us, just a tremendous thought. 2 Peter 1:4 says we are partakers of this divine nature. This is completed in a moment of time. It is not a process. It is an event. That’s why we can’t, in the words of Jesus, tell the wheat from the tares, because this particular act is known only through its effect. That is a divine miracle unseen by any human eye.
But it plants in the person a new disposition that is enabled and driven to keep the law of God. No longer are we subject to sin, Paul says in Romans chapter 6, sin no longer has dominion over us. We now follow a new master willingly and eagerly. Jesus said in John 10, “I am come that they might have life.”
Second question. Who does it? The sovereign will of God is the root of this new life. It is the grace of the Giver, not the desire of the receiver. That desire of the receiver is prompted by the grace of the giver. So it is wholly the choice and the work of almighty God.
Look at verse 12 of John 1, “As many as received Him to them gave He the right or the authority to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name.” So didn’t I initiate it? Look at verse 13, “nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,” You believed and you received because it was the will of God. Behind it, all was the sovereign, determinative, gracious will of God. No man comes unto me Jesus said, except the father draws him. Even the very faith we exercise, is granted graciously by God.
God in his grace and love predetermined to have an eternally intimate love relationship with you just because that’s what he wanted. We love him because he first loved us. And because God has willed to save us and to give us new life and a holy nature, it is absolutely impossible, James says that he could ever lead us into sin. He longs for us to be in his presence and to make us like his own son and he will pour out eternal blessing on us forever and ever and ever. 1 John 3, “Behold what manner of love the father hath bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God.”
Third question. How does it happen? By truth’s word. That means the word of God, the scripture. God regenerates, washes and cleanses us and plants a spirit in us through the power of His word. If you don’t hear the word, you don’t hear the message that saves, in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says it is the word that works with a believing heart. God Sovereignly moves to redeem. A person responds to the exposure to the word with faith and salvation takes place.
2 Corinthians 6:7 says, by the word of truth, by the power of God. In Colossians 1:5, it says, “Of which you heard before … in the word of the truth of the gospel.” 2 Timothy 2:15 also mentions the word of truth, so the word of truth in general is the word of God.
So what’s the gospel? The good news that Jesus came, died and rose again, so people are saved when God sovereignly sets out to give them new birth and plant His spirit in them. But how important it is to preach it? Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ that he died on the cross and rose again, that comes through the revealed word of God. 1 Peter 1 also states that we are being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible the word of God, which lives and abides forever.
Now, if anything is to change in us, God must do it, but we must respond as well, to the gospel.
Now the forth question. Why is it done? God wants a new kind of creation and we are the first fruits of that. But what are first fruits? Exodus 23:19, Leviticus 23 as well as Deuteronomy chapters 18 and 26 in the Old Testament tells about first fruits. First fruits meant two things, I want the first in order and I want the best. The first of a full crop that’s coming later.
Do you realize that the world will not continue the way it is right now? Do you know that we are headed to a total transformation of the world as we know it? Do you know that this entire operation on the earth will burn up and the Bible tells us that the Lord will recreate this earth, to his own liking? He will make a new creation, everything will be born again, everything. Men and women and everything, in fact, as He will make a new heaven and a new earth, there is coming a whole new creation and we are just the first evidence of it.
As Christians, we are a sample of what’s coming. He recreates us as symbols and as illustrations, of His coming new creation. We are just the first fruits and the promise of the full crop. God says, I want to take you to be my special possession. I want to take you to belong to me. We are therefore to stand out in the world as living examples of where this world is headed when He will recreate it.
Creation, it says in Romans 8 is groaning waiting for its recreation. And we also are crying out for the recreation, not of our soul, we have had that, but of our bodies where the flesh hangs on.
There is no way that God wants you to sin. No way is he pleased with your sin. He created you to be a model.
Our father, we have been made new in order that we who were unholy might be holy. Father we thank you so much for making us the symbols of your new creation. And father, we pray that we might shine as lights in the world.
That we might, who have been redeemed be so grateful that we might live in such a way as to properly represent that whole new creation of which we are but the first fruits. Help us to realize that it is your desire to recreate us unto holiness. And help us to pursue that with all our might and the power of the spirit. Thank you Jesus Christ, that we may experience that glorious sovereign mercy and grace and the joy of being first fruits and living examples of the coming recreation. Oh God, help us who know you to live up to who we are. And rightly represent to this world what is coming in the future. We pray in Christ’s name, amen.
(Main source: Grace To You)