Sunday, August 15, 2010

Peter's call to holiness

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15-16)

The interpretation of the above is straightforward: Peter said God is holy and we are to be holy in all we do because it was written, “Be holy, because I am holy”. This is despite the phrase “Be holy, because I am holy” was first quoted in the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus.

In Bible interpretation we first try to understand what the writer was trying to put across, or the theme of a particular passage(s). Often Biblical writers, Paul, particularly, wrote with great flow, meaning, their singular theme ran over many verses, even chapters (chapters, being put in there by us).

In more recent times, I have engaged some of the “overly” grace believers in discussions on the internet, I realised that their doctrines are very skewed indeed. I was “attacked” for exhorting effort to be holy by a mere signing off, with a prayer of asking God to help me to be holy in line with 1 Peter 1:16. This was how I signed off:

“God, help me to be holy as you are holy, in keeping with 1 Peter 1:16

Such overly grace believers’ tendency is to argue that we, the traditional institutional church (“ICs”, as they called us) use isolated and often singular verse to expound on the need for people to live right, be righteous and be holy in the things we do, to confess, and ask for forgiveness for our sins. Do not be taken in by their allegations that believers’ positions on such matters of right living, repentance, confession, and asking for forgiveness are based on isolated singular verses in the Bible; it is not like that. Before I expound on this passage of the Apostle Peter in this first epistle of his, let me quote that even the Apostle Paul, in 2 Cor 7:1 echoed the same:

Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Cor 7:1)

[Added: 07/07/2011 - Another call by the Apostle Paul is found in his epistle, 2 Timothy, particularly in 2 Tim 2 & 3. The key text there being 2 Tim 2:21: - "If a man cleanses himself from the latter {ignoble, from v20}, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work."

You can hop over to this separate article,"You must choose to cleanse yourself from ignoble", to see the importance of our part to cleanse ourselves from ignoble (whole list of ignoble from the epistle was given in the article).]

The truth is that, often, there were singular themes running in the passages of Biblical authors, not singular verses; and when it is the former, it meant that the issue in the heart of the author was very important, and if we believe that the writings in the Bible were God-inspired, then, it meant it was also very important in the heart of God.

Sometimes, it makes one wonders what the overly grace believers were driving at. The overly grace believer has one, and only one belief in their entire theology – By grace, God has, through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, forgiven us for all our sins, past, current, and FUTURE, ALL DONE AT our born again, nothing for God to forgive anymore, no blemishes to talk about, no unrighteousness or un-holiness can ever be present in a believer regardless of the individual sinning subsequently. I do not want, in this article, to discuss what is amiss in this theology which has gained many followers among Christians, but for those who are curious enough, you may read my separate article, “1 John 1:9 is for believers”, to gain a better understanding of the danger in such a “grace, and nothing but grace” theology.

Back to the passage in discussion, the Apostle Peter was calling the children of God to be holy, and this singular theme ran all the way from 1 Peter 1:14 to 1 Peter 2:12, minimally. I will put down here, some of the relevant verses to illustrate the importance of seeing flow in biblical interpretation:

1 Peter 1:14-16 -
14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

1 Peter 1:21-22 -
21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Yes, there is recognition of purification of being born again in the above verses.

1 Peter 2:1-3 -
1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

We are To GROW IN OUR SALVATION, and that is including growing in matter of holiness and righteousness.

1 Peter 2:5 -
5you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

As we grow, we are BEING built to be a holy priesthood.

1 Peter 2:11-12 -
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

There we have it, Peter made a "closure" with the call for us, BELIEVERS, to abstain from sinful desires which war against our soul, and to live right, and do good deeds so that we may glorify God. By the way, sinful desires come from the sinful nature that is still in us.

This is how I read (passages in the Bible), and may I encourage you to do likewise. If there is no need of us to work on righteousness and holiness, why do you think we have so many such passages in the New Testament? And please, they are addressing believers, more than they were addressing non-believers, if we are truly honest with ourselves.

For those who do not want to avoid, but want to face the fact that holiness and righteousness are top priority with God, you may want to read other articles under the “Holiness series” caption; recommended reading: Way of Holiness - Way of the Lord.

For those who ask, “But what if I sin again, and again? What am I going to do?” Go do 1 John 1:9. But will God forgive me again and again? Jesus was asked a similar question by Peter himself {Matt 18:21-22}. His answer gave us the assurance, if He had asked that we do that, to forgive, and forgive, and forgive, and …., forgive a brother, how much more would He not forgive us, when we confess and ask Him for forgiveness!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions - God, I know you hate profanity against your holiness, help me Lord, to refrain from that.

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