Peter’s Use of the Old Testament, Part 3

You Shall Be Holy (Part One)

“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ ” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NAS)

We’re return to the apostle Peter’s first epistle to take a look at His initial inspired use of an Old Testament quote. It is one that reaffirms in the New Covenant the principle that as God’s people, we are to be holy as He is holy. Now, there are many in the religious marketplace who would say it is controversial to take this as a plain, straight forward statement given Peter from the throne in heaven, with that exact expectation from the Lord. We’ll discuss that further as we move through our study on this principle found in Peter’s quote. First some background.

Five times in the book of Leviticus, while expounding upon the Law given Moses, the great God stipulates this principle of “I am holy” followed by an exhortation to the people to then  “be holy”, reflecting the character and purpose of God. The passage that most closely reflects the word for word content that Peter cites under inspiration of the Holy Spirit is found in Lev. 11:44-45. It reads: “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy.’ “

Useful Principles For Our Example

The context of the law was designed to impart to the people of God the difference between the holy (things set apart, consecrated, useful) and the profane (the common things) so that they could then make those distinctions (Lev. 10:10, 20:25) and not get entangled in the wickedness, deceit and idolatry of the surrounding nations which the LORD abhorred (Lev. 20:23). In so doing, the LORD was communicating His character and His purposes for the people. These principles are written for our example and instruction, so we should view them as such!

Peter’s inspired first letter to “those who reside as aliens scattered throughout” has often been noted as a practical guide for Christians facing persecution. The progress of Peter’s exhortations move the reader from the topics of God’s sanctified servant, to he/she who is a submissive servant, who recognizes they will suffer for their service to the Lord. Context before and following an Old Testament quote found in the New Testament will always help us to see the Lord’s intended practical application in the life of the Christian.

Practical Application-Delivered from Spiritual Egypt, Brought up to God

Part of the motivation for the nation of Israel to array themselves in holy attire by submitting to the law, was the reminder of their deliverance from Egypt, the world’s greatest power at that time. The Lord had freed them and then bestowed upon them tremendous blessings as His special people, demonstrating His faithfulness in executing the previous promises made to the forefathers. We should then note where Peter, through the Spirit, cites the passage from the book of Leviticus.  It’s placed right in the section dealing with principles of holiness as God’s sanctified servants following his reminder of their salvation, having been delivered through the protecting power of God.  (1 Peter 1:2-5) Sound familiar to the Exodus? Yup.

In the passage from the book of Leviticus which Peter quotes, the terminology is, “I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land”. God had told Moses at Horeb (Mt. Sinai) that once He had delivered His inheritance, the Israelites, out of Egypt through Moses’ leadership, God had made reservations for them. Moses was going to bring them back to Horeb where they were to “worship God at this mountain.”   Notice what Peter says regarding the salvation and sanctification of Christians, God’s true, intended eternal inheritance (Eph. 1:18) purchased through the power of the blood of Christ and His resurrection from the dead.  God’s eternal plan had made reservations for us too! They are in heaven, on the true spiritual mountain (Heb. 12:22) where He has “brought you up from the land”. Egypt was a great power, but according to the Scripture, Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). It is the “snare of the devil” which holds people  captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26).The point is that Christ Jesus delivered us from that snare when He took down the greatest known power on earth and lifted us up into heaven! What great motivation then to implement the tools God has given us to “be holy.” Of this inheritance in heaven the apostle Paul spoke frequently as well. Consider: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32) “But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:16-18) For you to “be holy”, this is one principle that cannot be overemphasized -you’ve been delivered into the presence of the Holy one in heaven! Amen.


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