1 Peter: The Holiness of Obedient Children

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16

Have you ever considered how often the inspired New Testament writers refer to Christians as “children”?  In today’s text, Peter directs us to be “obedient children” (1:14).  Paul referred to the Christians to whom he was writing as “children of God” (Rom. 8:16-17; cf. Eph. 5:1, 8; Phil. 2:15), as well as his own “beloved children” in the sense of him being the one who had converted them (1 Cor. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:14; cf. Gal. 4:18-19; 1 Thess. 2:7, 10-12).  The writer of Hebrews referred to Christians, and in a larger sense the whole of humanity, as “children” of God (Heb. 12:8; 2:14).  John especially referred to his Christian readers as “children” (1 John 2:1, 12-13, 18, 28; 3:1-2, 7, 18; 5:2; 3 John 4).

It might rankle the pride of us adults to be referred to as “children,” not to mention “obedient children” at that!  From our teenage years onward, we have liked the idea of “having arrived” to adulthood, the sense that we don’t need Mom and Dad anymore because we are now “grown up.”  In one sense, it is appropriate that we feel this way as we get older.  In not only a spiritual sense but also in how we view and interact with life, our Lord wants us to “no longer be children” but instead be mature (1 Cor. 3:1-4; 13:11; 14:20; Eph. 4:14; cf. Matt. 11:16-17; Heb. 5:12-6:2; 2 Pet. 2:14).  Indeed, our society would improve greatly if more men and women in their 20’s and 30’s acted more mature instead of continuing to act like they were still in high school.

However, in a spiritual sense it is good that we retain some of the characteristics of a child, particularly their humility (Matt. 18:3-4; 19:14; Lk. 18:16).  Without that humility, we will never be “obedient” to our heavenly Father as Peter directs us.  However, choosing to have the humble nature of a child which is willing to both emulate and learn from their parents is exactly what is needed to be a disciple who shows what it means to follow Jesus to everyone in his life.

We can thus see the sense in the Spirit through Peter directing us to first come to be “obedient children” before charging us to “not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1:14).  Christians, God’s plan for us before Genesis 1:1 was that we “be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).  He does not want us to be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2).  Brethren, look back at all you have learned from God’s Word in the time since your baptism.  Take inventory of all the ways God has taught you to be a better, wiser, more profitable, more giving and selfless human being.  List all the blessings that have come into your life because of your walk with God.  Do you want to go back to how you were before you knew what you know now?  Which life is better, the life you had without Christ or the life with Him which you now have?

Instead of moving backwards, Peter prompts us to move forward and strive to be more like our Creator, Savior and Friend.  We must “be holy in all our conduct,” just as the God who called us by His gospel to obtain His glory is holy (1:15; 2 Thess. 2:14).  Citing Leviticus 11:44’s “You shall be holy, for I am holy” as the reason for this goal, Peter shows us the primary personal goal each of us should have as Christians: to become as much like our God as is humanly possible.  To “be holy” means to be set apart from the rest of the world, different, more like God than like sinful man.  Take note: we must be holy “in ALL our conduct,” not just the part of us that fellow churchgoers can see for a few hours a week in a church building.  Does this describe you and me, brethren?

— Jon

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