11 November 2015

1 Peter 1:17-25

“Now that you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love another deeply from the heart.” (v. 22)

Psalm: Psalm 122


In this section the call to holiness continues by emphasising the sense of holiness as a separation. First of all Peter describes the readers as being in exile, a reference to the exile of the nation of Israel in Egypt and later in Babylon but reminding the readers that they do not truly belong to the community and world in which they live. Peter also speaks of the readers being ransomed from the futile ways of their ancestors in verse 18, an idea that was deeply counter cultural in a society that saw respect for the traditions of one's ancestors as far more important than any new ideas (of which the gospel was one). Holiness is a separation from the world and also from the past.

All of this has been achieved by what Peter describes as a ransom in verse 18 but not through the payment of gold or silver. Instead he again uses imagery from the Hebrew scriptures by describing Christ in the imagery of the Passover Lamb (see Exodus 12). But in order to counter the accusations of novelty with this new teaching Peter speaks of an eternal plan that was put in place even before the world was created (verse 20).

The purpose of this holiness is not just for its own sake. This purification has taken place so that there is genuine mutual love in the new community that Peter is writing to. It is not about simple obedience to laws but sincere and deep love between the believers. And just as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:8, there is permanence in this message of love. Using the imagery of a seed the message is contrasted with flowers and plants which will inevitably wither and die, whilst in contrast the seed of the good news will endure forever.

To Ponder

  • In Peter's time the gospel was in looked down upon as a novelty. Today we may argue Christianity is looked down because it is old fashioned. How might the Church counter these prejudices?
  • The purpose of holiness is mutual love. What does this say to you about ethics and morality?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..