“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1: 13-15, quoting Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7)
This call to “holiness” is by the apostle Peter, who declared it to the readers of his first epistle – to “the pilgrims of the dispersion [Greek, diaspora] in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). Peter’s call to holiness is based on, or echoes, those passages in Leviticus as mentioned above. These have to do with God’s food law and laws against sexual immorality as part of being holy.
This is the first thing to notice in the matter of “holiness”: there has to be a call [some call it a “vocation”] — an invitation by a holy God for a person to become holy as He is holy. As Peter continued to describe the “pilgrims,” they were “elect” [Greek, eklektos, the derivative of the word “eclectic” – meaning “chosen,” “picked out,” “elected”], according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (Verse 2).
It is God the Father who chooses when and who among the millions of human beings on this earth are to be brought near to His Son, Jesus Christ, who is also called “the Holy One [Greek, hagios] of God” (Acts 2:27; 3:14). [See: Peter Knew “the Holy One.”] As John 6:44 quotes Jesus as saying, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Verse 65 repeats, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” [See: The Divine Prerogatives.]
The concept of “holiness”
“Holiness” [from the Greek eusebeia] is also compared with “godliness” (1 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 3:5;Titus 12:1; 23 Peter 1:3, 6, 7; 3:11) – the state of being “Godly” or like God.
“Holy” is translated from the Hebrew qadosh, meaning “sacred” – as contrasted with profane or ungodly, evil. In the New Testament “holy” is translated from the Greek hagios, meaning morally pure – sinless, consecrated.
Holiness, therefore, is equal to moral purity or sinlessness. As such, God stands alone as the Perfect One. Jesus said, “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). In contrast, all human beings – whom God created with free moral choice – have chosen to sin, and have sinned and fallen short of the glory [perfection] of God (Romans 3:23). [See: “My Brain Made Me Do it! and Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe — But Man!]
Sin entered our human community early, soon after God created our first parents, Adam and Eve. [For a detailed explanation, see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]
So, how can sinful man ever become “holy” as God is holy?
First, God has to choose a sinner, to set him or her apart [“sanctify”] from the rest of sinful humanity. For what purpose? In order to save the sinner from the consequence of his or her sin – death, “For the wages [consequence] of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4).
It is the prerogative of God to show mercy to whomever He will (Romans 9:14) – and when. To such persons God applies His mercy – and thus removes the death penalty which every sinner deserves. [See: The Divine Prerogatives, and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]
How is this possible? God, assures John 3:16, “so loved the world [humankind] that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus was the LORD God of the Old testament who, by some divine miracle, became a human being so He could die as the only worthy sacrifice in payment (and thus forgiveness] for all the sins of mankind, so that all who believe in Him will not perish [die] but have everlasting life. [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, The True Christ, and Transgressions Under the First Covenant.]
Not only does a believer in Christ receive forgiveness for his or her sin. They also receive the gift of God’s Spirit, after they have repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38). It is that Holy Spirit of God in such persons that makes them “holy” or “sanctified.” They thus become “saints” [Greek hagioi or Latin sancta; Spanish santos or santas].
Revelation 14:12 describes or defines who God’s “saints” are: “here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
Romans 8:7 affirms that the “carnal” or the natural, fleshly mind of man “is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.”
The only way by which carnal persons can be subject to [or obey] God’s law is for them to have the “Spirit of Christ,” which thus makes them belong to Christ (Verses 13, 9) who is the”Holy One of God.” [See: Peter Knew “the Holy One.”]
It is that Holy Spirit of Christ in true Christians that enables or empowers them to obey God’s law or commandments. [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, Breaking Down Our “Walls of Jericho,“ and Saved For Good Works.] It is that Spirit [which is “holy”] that makes true Christians also “holy.”
The command [for so it is] to “Be holy,” is not in the same category as “Be healed,” which is solely by divine act of healing the sick. “Be holy” is more in a sense similar to Christ’s command, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, KJV). Perfection involves man’s participation in the process by using his power of choice as, for instance, in resisting the Devil (James 4:7), abstaining from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11), etc.
Thus we can fulfill what God commands us, through the apostle Peter: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1: 3-15).
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.