1 Peter 1:13-16


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1 Peter 1:13-16

Call to Holiness in conduct

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

The various translations of verse 13, including the more famous ‘gird up the loins of your Mind’, all concur in stressing that St. Peter is issuing a call for stenuous action on our part. 1:3-12 is, in the Greek, one long sentence, so this verse is a bridging passage, but it also contains the assurance that what we hope for in Christ will be granted. We can only attain what we hope for, and live up to the injunction which follows if we have our minds fixed on the final outcome and we trust in Christ. The implication – that our own strength is too little – is plain.

Peter follows His Master in taking literally the fact that God is Our Father; we are called to be as obedient as children. Once we were ignorant (compare Rom. 1:18-32), but now we are not. Previously we lived according to our own devices and desires, constrained, if at all, only by the laws of Society; now we have to deny those sinful impulses. Once ignorant of God, now we are not; once under the control of our impulses, now we are controlled by God’s law; lives which were once futile will find real meaning in Christ. Later, in 4:1-5, Peter will tell us the sorts of things from which we are to desist.

The reason is given in verse 16 – we are to be Holy as Our Father in Holy. This is a call from Leviticus 19:2. He does not say that the whole of the Law there is to be applied, but he does establish the continuity with the OT and its calls for us to be transformed by our relationship with God: we are reminded too of Lev. 11:4; 20:7-8; 20:26 here. The Greek is from the LXX. Matthew 5:48 tells us God is holy and acts in a holy way; if we are His, we should do likewise. We are to be set aside from the society in which we live.

The road of the Christian is not smooth; but the rewards are there – for those who will follow.

1 Peter1:1-12


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1 Peter1:1-12

The Gospels fulfill the Prophets

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care,

11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

The Greek here is not easy to translate, and the NIV does a good job, so I have used it.

Peter is reminding his readers and listeners of the salvation history which lies behind our salvation; Christ did not just appear from nowhere. The prophets were guided to the knowledge of the Messiah and predicted His coming. They were guided by ‘the Spirit of Christ’, or the Holy Spirit, so we know that what we call the OT was also an inspired text. But, as with Our Lady, they were not mere puppets, they pondered, they wrestled, they engaged with the Spirit; so must we.

Christ Himself referred to the prophets in Luke 24:25-27, and it is natural that Peter should have recalled those words which he echoes here. Although he does not name the prophet, the commentators are agreed that it was Isaiah .

Again, we see a theme touched on earlier, the connection between suffering and glory; in 5:1 he will explicitly identify himself as ‘a witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.’

Peter himself is passing on that teaching and its insights; he is the latest prophet in this sense. We see, yet again, the importance of tradition. That what has been revealed and given to us is something for which the angels longed is further confirmation, were it needed, of the extraordinary gift He has given us.

1 Peter1:6-9


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1 Peter1:6-9

Suffering & salvation

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

7 These have come so that your faith— of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire— may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

In verse 8 St. Peter introduces us to the profound paradox of living our Faith: the presence of inexpressible joy amidst the reality of suffering. This would seem to be an expression of what the Lord Himself told the Apostles in Luke 6:22-23. This is a mark of the disciple of Christ. It also seems to echo what St. Paul says in 2 Cor 4:17.

The metaphor of the refiner’s fire we find commonly in the OT (Job 23:10; Prov 17:3; Wis 3:5-7; Zech 13:9). The Greek is not easy to follow, or translate, and here the NIV does a good job. If gold, the most precious of earthly metals requires purification, how much more do we? We read in Sir 2:5: ‘For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.’ Bede’s commentary, one the earliest complete treatments of 1 Peter, has some good comments on this section, but they are too long for reproduction here.

Like us, these Christians (unlike St. Peter) had not seen Christ with their own eyes, but they believe in Him and love Him. Jesus Himself said to Thomas: ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’ (John 20:29).

Their suffering is not the stoic philosophy of the ancient world, it is something new; it is the product of the deep joy of tasting our heavenly inheritance. They, like ourselves, are on the way to salvation; again we see that being saved is a process, not a one off act. This the Church has from Peter and passes to us.

1 Peter 1:3-5


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1 Peter1:3-5

New Birth into a Living Hope

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you,

5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.


This, for me, is one of the most inspiring passages in Scripture.

Peter opens with what the Jews call a berakah, that is a blessing, offering praise to the source of all mercy, God. We give thanks for our new birth. The Greek word isanagennao, a word unique to 1 Peter (it is also used in 1:23), and is synonymous with the phrase in John 3:3 – ‘to be born from above’ or ‘born again’.

Peter also speaks of our ‘living hope’ through the Resurrection, a theme which recurs in verses 13 and 21 here, and in 1 Peter 3:5, 15. Our hope is ‘living’ because Christ is alive – we are, he tells us in 2:2 like newborn babies drinking pure spiritual milk.

The other benefit – an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading – conveys powerfully the security of our inheritance in Christ. The English cannot capture the alliteration in the Greek: aphtharton, amianton, amaranton, and the NIV version I am using seems to me poorer on this than some other translations. Our treasure in Heaven cannot perish, it is safeguarded by God Himself.

The salvation to be revealed is of course the second coming of Christ. ‘Salvation’, for Peter, sums up all that we receive from Christ. In some cases it refers to our present status in Christ through faith and baptism (3:21), but here it points to a future hope (see also 1:9-10 and 2:2). There is an obvious lesson here for those who think salvation a one off phenomenon, and we see here, where the Church derives its teaching. The Church teaches that we are saved by baptism, are being saved by the sacraments, and will be saved at the last by Christ; so Peter taught it, so it teaches us.

The ‘last time’ translates the Greek, eschatos, whence we derive the word ‘eschatology’, or study of the lats things, and kairos, or time. This is the moment God will intervene decisively to complete our salvation.

Some commentators think that the whole section which we number 1 Peter 3-12 is, in fact, part of a liturgical hymn or poetry; it is certainly very beautiful and inspiring.

1 Peter 1


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1_peter_title1 Peter 1

1. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,

The author identifies himself with great simplicity as simply ‘an apostle of Jesus Christ’. Apostle means ‘one who is sent’, and Peter here humbly proclaims himself as one send by Christ and vested with his authority. Of course, the Churches would have known well who he was, but as we shall see, it seems to have been characteristic of him to be humble and direct.

I have used the UK version of the NIV, not because I prefer it, but because I happen to have it with a good commentary. It uses the words ‘God’s elect, strangers in the world’ other versions use ‘chosen sojourners of the dispersion’. The ‘chosen’ or the ‘elect’ would have alerted the original readers and hearers to status of the children of Israel (Psalm 105:6: Isaiah 45:4). To be among the elect or chosen is to be blessed by God and to enjoy His favour. Peter will use the term to designate Christ 92:4, 6) and the people called forth by Him (2:9).

The ‘dispersion’ or the ‘sojourners’ raises the question as to whether the letter was addressed to Jews, as ‘diaspora’ was a term used to designate such Jews. It is, however, more likely that Peter is signalling a theme to which he will return in 2:11 – namely that Christians are strangers and exiles in this world, and that their relation to it is like that of the Jews who lived outside of the Holy Land.

The five Churches are in five Roman provinces in Asia Minor (modern Turkey, which was once the heartland of the Faith). In Acts 2:9 we are told that people from Pontus, Cappadocia and Asia, witnessed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and heard Peter himself preach on the day of Pentecost; it would not be surprising if the Churches here were not founded by those very people, and it is rather wonderful to imagine the elders telling their congregations their memories of that great and ever-memorable day. Galatia was, of course, the site of one of St. Paul’s earliest missions and of one of his Epistles (Acts 14:1-20; Gal. 1:2). Interestingly, Acts 16:7 tells us that Paul was prevented from going to Bithynia, so it is interesting to see that by this date it had been evangelised (it is the part of north west Turkey on the Black Sea).

We can’t know, now, why these five Churches were chosen, but the explanation is likely to lie in the fact that they were all on a route well-trodden by Christian evangelists. 1 Peter 5:2 suggests that the letter is a general epistle to these churches and that its purpose was to testify to them about the ‘Grace of God’.

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