“Therefore, having girded the loins of your minds, being sober, thoroughly hope upon the grace being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As children of obedience, not being conformed by the passions you did at first in ignorance, but just as the Holy One who called you, also be holy yourselves in every manner of life. Because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
With the word “therefore” we are forced to look back upon all that Peter has said up to this point. The Greek conjunction διὸ functions like a hinge upon which Peter’s argument now swings from doxology to commands. As one commentator says, “Believers are to obey because they are God’s chosen pilgrims, because they have been begotten by the Father, because they have an untouchable inheritance, and because of the greatness of their salvation.”
The order in which we express these truths is of the greatest importance. We must not preach a righteousness of works that states we are to obey and thus obtain this great salvation. Peter rightfully addresses the issue by declaring first the great mercy of God who caused us to be born again. Only after plumbing the depths of this wonderous salvation does he dare to demand obedience. For if we have not been born again, we cannot obey.
The first and greatest commandment is to love Yhwh our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:4-7; Matt. 22:37-40). This is where practical salvation must begin, and this is where Peter first points his readers. Regarding this love of Yhwh, Peter demands two non-negotiable aspects of every Christian’s relationship with God.
The Reality of Hope (v. 13)
Most of our translations make it seem as if there are several commands issued in this verse. In truth, there is only one imperative in the Greek: to thoroughly hope. Dear reader, it is important that you never forget the meaning of the word “hope” (ἐλπίς). To hope is not to wish for something that may or may not come to pass. To have hope is to have a confident expectation of the certain reality that has not yet occurred.
As Peter issues this single command he provides us with some context. Rather than giving a simple command, he includes the manner and the means by which we are to thoroughly hope.
Active Hope (v. 13a) – “Therefore, having girded the loins of your minds”
The translation that you read here is not likely reflected in the printed Bible upon your knee. Most English translations read something like, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action…” This captures Peter’s intention, to a point, but robs the text of the rich imagery Peter carefully crafted.
To “gird up the loins” is a phrase describing what a man would do with his outer garments in preparation for physical activity. The robes worn by ancient mid-eastern men would reach nearly to the ground and thus easily become entangled when laboring in the fields or in the heat of battle. If it was known that speed, agility, and flexibility is required, the first step in preparation would be to gather the skirts of the outer robe and pull them through a belt to free the legs from encumbrance. Peter is not speaking of one’s physical dress but of the mind.
As we have already mentioned, this is not given as a separate command, but as a preparatory action before the command to come. Before we can fix our hope thoroughly upon the grace of Christ, we must first prepare our minds by binding up all loose and unseemly thinking. This opening phrase answers the question of how. The means by which we fix our hope upon Christ begins by actively setting out thoughts in order. This assumes an active preparation. Nothing about the Christian life is passive. In light of God’s gracious salvation, Peter first warns his readers that they must actively prepare to live a life of obedience.
Constant Hope (v. 13b) – “being sober, thoroughly hope upon the grace being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
As much as it may seem appropriate to have a side discussion on drunkenness and intoxication, it is difficult to make that the main point here. While the overindulgence of alcohol would certainly fit into this discussion, the term νήφω describes a state of self-control and balanced thinking. If hope is predicated on a prepared mind, it lives in a life that is well balanced and avoids the extremes of “reckless irresponsibility of self-indulgence on the one hand, and of religious ecstasy on the other.”
Peter uses the present tense to answer the question of how one continues to hope. Hope is not possible unless we first actively resolve to hope, and hope cannot be maintained unless we constantly keep our thoughts and lives in balance. The Christian life is not an hour of ecstatic revelry on Sunday followed by self-indulgence and self-service the rest of the week. If we have been truly born again, then we have both the power (by God the Holy Spirit) and the motivation (thanksgiving and adoration for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) to be resolved to live a life of obedience. That obedience is a life fixated upon our future hope.
Only now do we come to the imperative, to thoroughly hope. Peter commands his readers to anticipate and confidently expect the grace being brought to them when Christ returns. It should be apparent by now that Peter’s view of salvation is highly eschatological. By the revelation of Jesus Christ (ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) he refers to the future second coming.
Ours is an active hope with a certain object. We possess the ability to confidently anticipate Christ’s return because we even now have been given the marvelous grace of our loving Lord. Because we have been born again, we are commanded to hope. But this hope does not live in a separate container in our lives. Those who hope in Christ must become like Christ.
The Necessity of Holiness (vv. 14-16)
In similar fashion to v. 13, Peter again gives a single command that does not appear until v. 15; the command to be holy. Holiness is not extra credit, something only the super spiritual strives for. Holiness is demanded by God of His people. To put it more simply, holiness is not an option for Christians.
The Antithesis of Holiness (v. 14) – “As children of obedience, not being conformed by the passions you did at first in ignorance”
Peter sets the tone by referring to his readers as “children of obedience.” Many of our translations do a great disservice by translating the Greek τέκνα ὑπακοῆς as “obedient children.” The genitive carries a much deeper meaning. By couching this new topic in the context of children and obedience, Peter refers back to vv. 2&3 and to the God who caused them to be born again (v. 3) and the purpose for which they were chosen; namely, to obey Jesus Christ (v. 2). He refers to them as children from obedience as opposed to children of disobedience. Peter appeals to their new nature as children of God in Christ.
As children of obedience, they must not be conformed to the passions they once were formed by. Peter’s argument is framed much like his earlier argument in v. 13. This is not an imperative, but another participle of means that describes how they are to be conformed. In other words, they are to be conformed, but not by the passions of their old lives.
The term “conformed” (συσχηματιζόμενοι) describes the actions of a mold or form. Bricks are formed using a mold. Concrete is poured and held in place with forms. The shape these things will take is determined by the form that is used. Every person is being formed by something. The only question that remains is what is being used as the mold.
Peter here refers to their previous passions (ἐπιθυμίαις) or their strong and burning desires. This term is not an inherently negative term. But when used to describe desires of a sinful nature it is usually translated as “lusts.” Redeemed children of God who have been caused to be born again cannot allow their personal longings and desires to form them. We must not be molded by our carnal wants and longings. When we were ignorant to the gospel, having not yet received the gift of faith and repentance, we did what we wanted because we wanted to do it. This is not the form that molds believers.
It is one thing to reveal the wrong form, but that does not get us any closer to understanding the correct form. What are Christians supposed to be conformed to? Peter answers that question in the next verse.
The Standard of Holiness (v. 15) – “but just as the Holy One who called you, also be holy yourselves in every manner of life.”
“But” (ἀλλὰ) introduces a stark contrast. The standard of holiness is not our subjective desires, but the objective person of Almighty God. He, the Holy One, is the standard of holiness and provides the form into which we must be poured. Throughout the Scriptures, God is referred to by this single perfection of holiness (2 Kings 19:22; Job 6:10; Ps. 78:41; Prov. 9:10; Is. 10:20; 43:3; Ez. 39:7; Mk. 1:24; Jn. 6:69). He is the very definition of holiness to the point where Scripture often uses this simple adjective (ἅγιον) as if it were God’s very name: The Holy One.
In the same manner that God (the Holy One) is holy, Peter’s readers are to likewise be holy. The aorist imperative is saved for the final portion of this verse. The original audience would have read the full description before arriving at the single command to be holy. The aorist tense is the strongest way to give a command in Greek. The implication is simple: there will be no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” about it. You must be holy.
Yet again Peter guards us against a works-based righteousness. Even this strong imperative is tempered with the reality that this same Holy One is the One who called us (καλέσαντα). This call is so much more than an invitation. When God speaks, stuff happens. God did not invite light to appear in the midst of darkness (Gen. 1:3) nor did Jesus request Lazarus to come forth (Jn. 11:43). This call is God’s effectual call that speaks forth light and life to appear where only darkness and death existed. We are commanded to be holy as God is holy. But this command is given in the context of those who have already been caused to be born again. God provided the grace of ability before making the demand for holiness upon His children. They are, after all, children born for obedience.
Peter has answered the question of how we are to be holy. We must not use our old subjective and sinful desires but God as the canon of conformity. Likewise, we can be holy because the Holy One has called us and caused us to be born again. What is missing is the reason for holiness. Why must we be holy?
The Reason for Holiness (v. 16) – “Because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
I love Peter’s curt explanation: because it is written! The perfect tense (γέγραπται) describes a completed act with continuing results. The facts of the matter have been carved in stone and their meaning remains to this day. God has already revealed in His Word why His people must be holy. If we are His children, then we must be as He is. He is holy. Therefore, we too must be holy.
Yet Peter’s use of Old Testament revelation does far more than simply conclude his thoughts. He quotes from Leviticus, yet this phrase is found in three different passages (11:44; 19:2; 20:26). Each of these verses either conclude or introduce a section of instruction that details Israel’s uniqueness, separation, and holiness from the world around them. Leviticus chapter 11 describes many of Israel’s dietary laws. The reason that Yhwh demands them to eat differently and be separate from many other cultures is because He is holy (v. 44). Chapter 19 introduces commands regarding Israel’s social and religious interactions. These commands are predicated upon the fact that Yhwh is holy (v. 2). Chapter 20 prohibits any interaction with the pagan nations as well as forbidding any syncretism with satanic cults. The reason provided for these prohibitions is the fact that Yhwh is holy (v. 26). In other words, when Peter stated in v. 15 that his readers are to be holy in every manner of life he is not giving a new command. Moses had already clearly articulated what it means to be holy. Holiness permeates one’s life and touches every thought, word, and deed. Every relationship, duty, desire, and practice will be affected by the resolve to be holy as Yhwh alone is holy. Peter does not need to elaborate any further. He states the standard (v. 15) then points to the thorough explanation and reason (v. 16).
It is common for those who profess Christ to live a life of passive pleasure. They might not choose to gather with the saints on the Lord’s Day, fellowship with other believers on occasion, or attend the occasional mid-week prayer meeting, but there is nothing in their lives that clearly marks them as God’s own possession. Salvation, while finding its completion in the eschaton upon Christ’s return, comes with immediate implications that completely transforms our temporal sojourn in this world. Nowhere in Scripture will you find an example of a passive Christian. Christianity is an active pursuit of Christlikeness that is fueled and empowered by God’s grace.
We are commanded, in the strongest of possible terms, to anticipate Christ’s return (hope) by conforming ourselves to the image of the Almighty (holiness). If the greatest commandment is to love Yhwh our God, this is where it begins. To believe that Christ is returning to rule and reign assumes that we anticipate Him. To anticipate His arrival assumes that we busy ourselves with conforming to him while we wait. May He find us faithful upon His return.
Soli Deo Gloria!
 Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), p. 77.  D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 Peter (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1984), p. 91-2.  R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1966), p. 53-4.  Schreiner, p. 80.