You Shall Be Holy (Part Two)
“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)
Ok, we continue our study on the apostle Peter’s inspired use of an Old Testament quote found in the book of Leviticus. As we mentioned last week, there are about five different times in Leviticus that the LORD, through Moses, states that as He is holy, so are the people to be holy. We offered Leviticus 11:44-45 as an example of the passage that most closely reflects the word for word utterance from the mouth of Peter. Take a moment and reread that passage at your convenience and know with confidence that just as the Israelites were delivered from bondage and the dominion of the Egyptians, so God has delivered us from bondage to Satan and his dominion. We’ve been delivered into His protective, holy presence in heaven, acceptable to stand before Him, blameless and without reproach, part of the promised inheritance which will properly motivate us to employ practicing holiness.
As we’ve also previously mentioned, we want to pay attention to the context preceding and following the quote Peter references from the Old Testament to find the clues on how to meet the expectation by the Lord to “be holy” as He is holy. God’s not going to ask us to do something He knows can’t be done, so (super) naturally He’s going to provide the information necessary to move from theory to implementation.
This week we offer a couple of the other alternate passages from Leviticus that communicates the same principle as uttered by Peter. Here they are. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’ ” (Lev. 19:1-2) And from Lev. 20:25-26: “You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” (NAS)
The Law’s example-No loose ends
The first time the average individual reads through the book of Leviticus, they can come away with the feeling that it’s tedious reading. One specific command after another, with redundant, similar phrases being hammered on over and over. The pagan idolatry which surrounded Israel was so pervasive and so seductive that God had to make sure there were no loose ends that could cause them to stumble or be tripped up. God’s pattern had to be so ingrained that the distinctions became almost automatic. God was establishing the principle of discernment, of cause and effect in reference to heathen practices, coupled with strict adherence to be physically separate from the nations around them.
Now we also know the record of the Old Testament indicates it wasn’t long until these entrenched laws were soon circumvented by seared consciences and dulled senses. Forgetting who they were as God’s covenant people, they intermingled with and entrusted themselves to the protection of the Gentile nations. The ultimate end was they were spewed out of the land as promised (Lev. 20:22-23).
Practical application-No loose thoughts
After reminding Christians (who were primarily of Gentile backgrounds) of their salvation, Peter acknowledges there will be “various trials” and testing of their faith. This too sounds familiar to the context of the Exodus journey of the physical nation of Israel. God did not promise them He’d leave them free from contact with the Gentiles, but that He had put in place a means by which to deal with their influence. The context preceding Peter’s Old Testament quote contains another key component in us effectively executing this divinely ordained holiness we are called to. Peter was moved to say this, “Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13) God’s plan through the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ was to convert us who had been in darkness, into children of light, then send us back out into the darkness to rescue the lost, while exemplifying God’s holiness. Now that’s different from what was expected of the Israelites under the law. They weren’t expected to be evangelistic, per se, yet we are. We will be successful if we “gird up our minds”, not allowing those loose thoughts that the world’s trying to use to divert us from understanding our purpose. Jesus was born into the world to bear witness to the truth and to seek and save the lost. His focus was His purpose. The outcome? His life became the example of being holy, just as the Father is holy. We have been born into God’s covenant people, created for action that glorifies our Lord. How is that done? By bearing much fruit, a.k.a, more Christians. So our minds we “keep sober”, using every circumstance as an opening for how we can put into action our purpose of seeking and saving the lost while speaking the truth in love. Satan will seek to test you to get your mind off that action and onto another. He did with Christ, he will with you. The Lord ingrained a pattern that helps produce holiness in the church. It’s go, make disciples, immerse those disciples, continue to teach them all things He commanded, and repeat the pattern till He comes! Amen.