Since it is sometime ago that we called attention to the setting and meaning of this particular portion of holy writ from I Peter, and, no doubt, the exact text is not clearly before our mind any more, I shall write out this particular passage in full.
The text reads as follows: “as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lust in pour ignorance: but like He Who has called you is holy so be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written: Ye shall be holy for I am holy.”
Just to refresh our memories, we wish to call to mind the fact that Peter here addresses the church in their new legal status to God as children, the pilgrim strangers in the midst of this world. Ours is a new Status Quo in Christ. Old things have passed away, we are saved in hope, in a living hope through the efficacious grace of God wrought in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And our sole and whole comfort is that in the day when Christ shall be revealed upon the clouds of heaven God will reward the evil for their evil, but will reward the righteous in tender mercy for their faith and patience performed in the same mercy. Viewing all things in the light of the great and final Day of the Lord is living with the loins of the spiritual mind girt up. That is sobriety in Christ. That is the clear and penetrating knowledge and grasp of the realities of the Kingdom of God and of His Christ.
In this world of sin, as long as we are “not yet” in heaven, we can only walk in spiritual sobriety and according to the Spirit of grace, by actually walking very concretely in conversion.
The text speaks of the actual and continuous conversion of the saints in Christ. Scripture everywhere teaches the conversion of the saints. It never speaks of the conversion of the reprobate. The Bible never tells us that we must convert the world, but Scripture teaches very clearly that the saints are to keep themselves unspotted from the world. James 1:29. For we have seen very clearly from the writings, of Calvin, Ursinus, Bavinck and others, that all conversion is never before faith, but that conversion in both parts, the putting off of the “old man” and the putting on of the “new man”, is out of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, because we are pleasing to God in the conversion by faith. It is a conversion of faith. See Heidelberg Catechism, Question 91.
Such is also the case in our text.
In the first place we should take careful notice on the incentive that is indicated in the text, as being the only incentive and spiritual possibility of conversion. Writes Peter: “as children of obedience.” We wish to point out a very careful touch here in Scripture. This “children of obedience” should not be read simply as though it were the equivalent of obedient children! There is quite a distinct difference between these two expressions. The latter expression would indicate the difference between children of God, namely, the difference between obedient and disobedient children. Both are then children, some walking in sin for a season and others not. But such is clearly not the intent of Peter in the expression “children of obedience!” In the expression in the text the notion is expressed that the children of grace, regenerated unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, are fundamentally and principally children, and, therefore, by virtue of this regenerating grace of God: obedient! The characteristic of the newborn children is that they are obedient with the new obedience of faith to the gospel in Christ.
That such is the case is borne out by the following in the text.
This is born out by the Hebraism of this expression. In Scripture we also have the term “children of disobedience” and that, too, as contrasted with the term “children of light.” Eph. 5:6-8. Only the children of God, who were darkness, but who are now light in the Lord can walk as children of light. Only the elect generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar possession to the Lord can so walk as to show forth the praises of Him who has called them (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light. And when the apostle Peter addresses us as “children of obedience” it is very clear that he addresses the church from the viewpoint, that the Church is sanctified principally in Christ, the church as to her remnant according to elective grace! Children of obedience are the Israel of God that walk according to the rule (Kanon) of faith!
The church is here, therefore, not addressed as a mixed whole, as a general audience, but Peter takes his stand in the Church and confesses to be a fellow partaker of the like precious faith. II Peter 1:1. In this Church he sings in joyful confession: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who according to His great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, unto the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last day. In this Church Peter takes His stand. Let it never be forgotten.
And, therefore, we do not have here a precept of the law cowing unbelievers in feigned submission, but we have the precepts of the gospel, that is, precepts, which are a part and parcel of the gospel! It is the exhortation that is implicit in the good news of God in Christ. It is the precept which God employs by His Holy Spirit to energize to further obedience those who are obedient. It is then according to the rule; he who has receives more. Let it be understood: receives and not acquires more! It is the faith that is then stimulated in us whereby we walk in the obedience of Christ, our head. What we now walk we walk by the faith of the Son of God.
He, who thus receives more grace, will walk in continuous conversion of faith!
The rule is laid down here, first of all, negatively. It is that we be “not conformed to the lust in former times of our ignorance.” In this phrase the apostle reminds the readers and us of what we formerly were apart from Christ and glorious faith-knowledge of the gospel. It was the time when the Gentile Christians still by serving the dumb idols, had not yet had their hearts opened to the gospel of the Kingdom and of the hope of everlasting life. But that is, thanks be to God’s almighty and efficacious grace, a matter of “former times.” They live at the time of the writing of the apostle in the “now” of the knowledge of the glorious gospel in the face of Jesus Christ!
To be in this present grace wherein they stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God they need fulfill no pre-requisites. They were simply born again by the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But since we are thus born again we are obliged unto new obedience, that of not serving in the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the Holy Spirit! It is the “must” of being the new creatures in Christ in self-conscious faith, which becomes more and more assurance of self-conscious faith!
Certainly this self-conscious faith is that of justifying faith. Only as the justified by faith do we crucify the “old man” of deceitful lusts. These lusts of the former times in our ignorance are not merely the lust of the carnal pleasures of fornication and lasciviousness, but they refer to the entire category of all that is contrary to the spiritual nature of the law of God. This is clear by virtue of the contrast in the text. Peter says: in all your conversation! That means according to all the commandments of God and not merely according to some of them! Sanctification is not piece meal anymore then regeneration is piece meal. It is the sanctification of the whole man. Not merely the outside of the cup must be cleansed, but the whole cup must be cleansed. When a man is washed by the grace of God he is every whit clean. Sanctification is not the trying to make a putrid thing look good, with a thin veneer of hypocritical self-righteousness, but it is the cleansing of the inner man so that in all his manifestation he is every whit clean.
That such is the clear intent and evident teaching of the apostle is further evident from the positive side of the walk of conversion out of faith. The apostle writes: Be ye holy for I am holy!
This word from the pen of the apostle is evidently a quotation from the Old Testament Scriptures. Lev. 11:44, Lev. 19:2, Lev. 20:27.
It is a word that gives the deepest and final ground, but also at once the only possibility of conversion and sanctification. For let it not be forgotten that the Lord, our God here speaks to us of His transcendency as well as of His immanency. Jehovah is holy, that is, He is exalted far above all that is called creature. He is separated from the creature as the creator. Never can the two be placed on one line. God is the exalted one dwelling as the holy one in eternity. And He is everlastingly dedicated perfectly to Himself as the most Blessed forever, Amen! Because He is holy all creatures are to worship Him!
Now it would seem that the very fact that God is holy would make it impossible to worship Him. The sinner not covered with the blood is afraid of a holy God. He quakes with fear. How then can this be a motive to incite us to a godly walk?
It is simply this: God has called us unto holiness. He constituted us a holy people, a royal priesthood. And exactly by principally setting us in the knowledge of the blessed Gospel by faith, we are by this faith sanctified. Acts 15:9.
Thus walking in sanctifying faith we walk with the loins of our mind girt up. Nothing beclouds our vision. We see that the night is far spent and that the day is at hand; we will not walk as in the night, but in the light of day. O, the glory of this precept of the gospel. It gives light to the simple. God’s holiness, where into He calls us, is the deepest motive and sure ground of the realization of this walking in conversion.