1 Peter 1:15
But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation;
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(15) But as he which hath called you is holy.—More correctly, But according to (or, after, i.e., in the likeness of: see Ephesians 4:24, “after God”) the Holy One who called you. The “calling” is mentioned because of the obligation it imposes upon us. Bengel notices how fond St. Peter is of the words “call,” “calling.” (See 1Peter 2:9; 1Peter 2:21; 1Peter 3:9; 1Peter 5:10; 2Peter 1:3; 2Peter 1:10.) The “call” here seems to mean specially the call to be children of God.

So be ye holy.—Perhaps the imperative would come out stronger thus, Do ye also show yourselves holy in every part of your conduct. Leighton says, “He hath severed you from the mass of the profane world, and picked you out to be jewels for Himself; He hath set you apart for this end; that you may be holy to Him, as the Hebrew word that signifies ‘holiness’ imports ‘setting apart,’ or fitting for a peculiar use; be not then untrue to His design. It is sacrilege for you to dispose of yourselves after the impure manner of the world, and to apply yourself to any profane use, whom God hath consecrated to Himself.”

1 Peter


1 Peter 1:15.

That is the sum of religion--an all-comprehensive precept which includes a great deal more than the world’s morality, and which changes the coldness of that into something blessed, by referring all our purity to the Lord that called us. One may well wonder where a Galilean fisherman got the impulse that lifted him to such a height; one may well wonder that he ventured to address such wide, absolute commandments to the handful of people just dragged from the very slough and filth of heathenism to whom he spoke. But he had dwelt with Christ, and they had Christ in their hearts. So for him to command and for them to obey, and to aim after even so wide and wonderful an attainment as perfecting like God’s was the most natural thing in the world. ‘Be ye holy as He that hath called you is holy, and that in all manner of conversation.’ The maximum of possible attainment, the minimum of imperative duty!

So, then, there are three things here--the pattern, the field, and the inspiration or motive of holiness.

I. The Pattern of Holiness.

‘As He that hath called you is holy.’ God’s holiness is the very attribute which seems to separate Him most from the creatures; for its deepest meaning is His majestic and Divine elevation above all that is creatural. But here, of course, the idea conveyed by the word is not that, if I may so say, metaphysical one, but the purely moral one. The holiness of God which is capable of imitation by us is His separation from all impurity. There is a side of His holiness which separates Him from all the creatures, to which we can only look up, or bow with our faces in the dust; but there is a side of His holiness which, wonderful as it is, and high above all our present attainment as it is, yet is not higher than the possibilities which His indwelling Spirit puts within our reach, nor beyond the bounds of the duty that presses upon us all. ‘As He which hath called you is holy.’ Absolute and utter purity is His holiness, and that is the pattern for us.

Religion is imitation. The truest form of worship is to copy. All through heathenism you find that principle working. ‘They that make them are like unto them.’ Why are heathen nations so besotted and sunken and obstinate in their foulnesses? Because their gods are their examples, and they, first of all, make the gods after the pattern of their own evil imaginations, and then the evil imaginations, deified, react upon the maker and make him tenfold more a child of hell than themselves. Worship is imitation, and there is no religion which does not necessarily involve the copying of the example or the pattern of that Being before whom we bow. For religion is but love and reverence in the superlative degree, and the natural operation of love is to copy, and the natural operation of reverence is the same. So that the old Mosaic law, ‘Be ye holy as I am holy,’ went to the very heart of religion. And the New Testament form of it, as Paul puts it in a very bold word, ‘Be ye imitators of God, as beloved children,’ sets its seal on the same thought that we are religious in the proportion in which we are consciously copying and aspiring after God.

But then, says somebody or other, ‘it is not possible.’ Well, if it were not possible, try it all the same. For in this world it is aim and not attainment that makes the noble life; and it is better to shoot at the stars, even though your arrow never reaches them, than to fire it along the low levels of ordinary life. I do not see that however the unattainableness of the model may be demonstrated, that has anything to do with the duty of imitation. Because, though absolute conformity running throughout the whole of a life is not possible here on earth, we know that in each individual instance in which we came short of conformity the fault was ours, and it might have been otherwise. Instead of bewildering ourselves with questions about ‘unattainable’ or ‘attainable,’ suppose we asked, at each failure, ‘Why did I not copy God then; was it because I could not, or because I would not?’ The answer would come plain enough to knock all that sophisticated nonsense out of our heads, and to make us feel that the law which puts an unattainable ideal before the Christian as his duty is an intensely practical one, and may be reduced to practice at each step in his career. Imitation of the Father, and to be perfect, ‘as our Father in heaven is perfect,’ is the elementary and the ultimate commandment of all Christian morality. ‘Be ye holy as He that hath called you is holy.’

Then let me remind you that the unattainableness is by no means so demonstrable as some people seem to think. A very tiny circle may have the same centre as one that reaches beyond the suburbs of the universe, and holds all stars and systems within its great round. And the tiniest circle will have the same geometrical laws applied to it as the greatest. The difference between finite and infinite has nothing to do with the possibility of our becoming like God, if we believe that ‘in the image of God created He him’; and that men who have been not only made by original creation in the Divine image, but have been born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word into a kindred life with His, and derived from Him, can surely grow like what they have got, and unfold into actually possessed and achieved resemblance to their Father the kindred life that is poured into their veins.

So every way it is better indefinitely to approximate to that great likeness, though with many flaws and failures, than to say it cannot be reached, and so I will content myself down here, in my sins and my meannesses. No! dear brethren, ‘we are saved by hope,’ and one prime condition of growth in nobleness is to believe it possible that, by His blessing we may be like Him here on earth in the measure of our perception of His beauty and reception of His grace.

II. Again, notice the field of this Godlike holiness.

‘In all manner of conversation.’ Of course I do not need to remind you that the word ‘conversation’ does not mean talk, but conduct; that it applies to the whole of the outward life. Peter says that every part of the Christian man’s activity is to be the field on which his possession of the holiness derived from and like God’s is to be exhibited. It is to be seen in all common life. Here is no cloistered and ascetic holiness which tabooes large provinces of every man’s experience, and says ‘we must not go in there, for fear of losing our purity,’ but rather wherever Christ has trod before we can go. That is a safe guide, and whatever God has appointed there we can go and that we can do. ‘On the bells of the horses shall be written Holiness to the Lord.’ The horse-bells that make merry music on their bridles are not very sacred things, but they bear the same inscription as flamed on the front of the high priest’s mitre; and the bowls in every house in Jerusalem, as the prophet says, shall bear the same inscription that was written on the sacrificial vessels, and all shall belong to Him.

Only, whilst thus we maintain the possibility of exhibiting Godlike holiness in all the dusty fields of common life, let us remember the other side.

In this day there is very little need to preach against an ascetic Christianity. There has been enough said of late years about a Christian man being entitled to go into all fields of occupation and interest, and there to live his Christianity. I think the time is about come for a caution or two to be dropped on the other side, ‘Blessed is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth.’ Apply this commandment vigorously and honestly to trade, to recreation--especially to recreation--to social engagements, to the choice of companions, to the exercise of tastes. Ask yourselves ‘Can I write Holiness to the Lord on them?’ If not, do not have anything to do with them. I wonder what the managers of theatres and music-halls would say if anybody proposed that motto to be put upon the curtain for the spectators to read before it is drawn up for the play. Do you think it would fit? Don’t you, Christian men and women, don’t you go into places where it would not fit. And remember that ‘in all manner of conversation’ has two sides to it, one declaring the possibility of sanctifying every creature of God, and one declaring the impossibility of a Christian man going, without dreadful danger and certain damage, into places where he cannot carry that consecration and purity with him.

Again the field is all trivial things. ‘In all manner of conversation.’ There is nothing that grows so low but that this scythe will travel near enough to the ground to harvest it. There is nothing so minute but it is big enough to mirror the holiness of God. The tiniest grain of mica, upon the face of the hill, is large enough to flash back a beam; and the smallest thing we can do is big enough to hold the bright light of holiness. ‘All’! Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what in the name of common sense is there left for it to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones come every time the clock ticks. And as they say, ‘Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves.’ If we keep the little things rigidly under the dominion of this principle, no doubt the big things will fall under it too, when they emerge. And if we do not--as the old Jewish book says:--’He that despiseth little things shall fall by little and little.’ Whosoever has not a Christianity that sanctifies the trifles has a Christianity that will not sanctify the crises of his life. So, dear brother, this motto is to be written over every portal through which you and I go; and whatsoever we can put our hands to, in it we may magnify and manifest the holiness of God.

III. Now, lastly, note the motive or inspiration of holiness.

The language of my text might read like ‘the Holy One who hath called you.’ Peter would stir his hearers to the emulation of the Divine holiness by that thought of the bond that unites Him and them. ‘He hath called you.’ In which word, I suppose, he includes the whole sum of the Divine operations which have resulted in the placing of each of his auditors within the circle of the Christian community as the subjects of Christ’s grace, and not only the one definite act to which the theologians attach the name of ‘calling.’ In the briefest possible way we may put the motive thus--the inspiration of imitation is to be found in the contemplation of the gifts of God. What He has said and done to me, calling me out of my darkness and alienation and lavishing the tokens of His love, the voice of His beseechings, the monitions of His Spirit, the message of His Son, the Incarnate Word, and invitation of God--all these things are included in His call. And all of them are the reasons why, bound by thankfulness, overcome by his forbearance, responding to His entreaties, and glued to Him by the strength of the hand that holds us, and the tenacity of His love, we should strive to ‘walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called.’

And not only so, but in the thought of the Divine calling there lies a fountain of inspiration when we remember the purpose of the calling. As Paul puts it in one of his letters: ‘God has not called us to uncleanness but to holiness.’ That to which He summons, or invites {for you may use either word}, is holiness like His own. That is the crown of all His purposes for men, the great goal and blessed home to which He would lead us all.

And so, if in addition to the fact of His ‘gift and calling’ and all that is included within it, if in addition to the purpose of that calling we further think of the relation between us and Him which results from it, so as that we, as the next verse says, call Him who hath called us, ‘Our Father,’ then the motive becomes deeper and more blessed still. Shall we not try to be like the Father of our spirits, and seek for His grace, to bear the likeness of sons?

My text speaks only of effort, let us not forget that the truest way to be partakers of His holiness is to open our hearts for the entrance of the Spirit of His Son, and possessing that--having these promises and that great fulfilment of them--then to perfect holiness in the fear and love of the Lord.1:13-16 As the traveller, the racer, the warrior, and the labourer, gathered in their long and loose garments, that they might be ready in their business, so let Christians do by their minds and affections. Be sober, be watchful against all spiritual dangers and enemies, and be temperate in all behaviour. Be sober-minded in opinion, as well as in practice, and humble in your judgment of yourselves. A strong and perfect trust in the grace of God, is agreeable with best endeavours in our duty. Holiness is the desire and duty of every Christian. It must be in all affairs, in every condition, and towards all people. We must especially watch and pray against the sins to which we are inclined. The written word of God is the surest rule of a Christian's life, and by this rule we are commanded to be holy every way. God makes those holy whom he saves.But as he which hath called you is holy - On the word called, see the notes at Ephesians 4:1. The meaning here is, that the model or example in accordance with which they were to frame their lives, should be the character of that God who had called them into his kingdom. They were to be like him. Compare the notes at Matthew 5:48.

So be ye holy in all manner of conversation - In all your conduct. On the word "conversation," see the notes at Philippians 1:27. The meaning is, that since God is holy, and we profess to be his followers, we also ought to be holy.

15. Literally, "But (rather) after the pattern of Him who hath called you (whose characteristic is that He is) holy, be (Greek, 'become') ye yourselves also holy." God is our grand model. God's calling is a frequently urged motive in Peter's Epistles. Every one that begets, begets an offspring resembling himself [Epiphanius]. "Let the acts of the offspring indicate similarity to the Father" [Augustine].

conversation—deportment, course of life: one's way of going about, as distinguished from one's internal nature, to which it must outwardly correspond. Christians are already holy unto God by consecration; they must be so also in their outward walk and behavior in all respects. The outward must correspond to the inward man.

But as he which hath called you; God the Father, to whom, as the First Cause, our calling is frequently ascribed, Romans 9:11,24 1 Corinthians 7:15 Galatians 1:6,15. It may be rendered: According to the Holy One that hath called you, i.e. according to his example; you are children, and should therefore imitate your Father, Ephesians 5:1.

Called you; viz. effectually, to the knowledge and faith of Christ.

Is holy; so God is often styled by Isaiah and other penmen of the Scripture, as the fountain and exemplar of holiness.

So be ye holy in all manner of conversation; either, through the whole course, and in the several parts, of your conversation; or, in all manner of conversation, as we read it, i.e. with whomsoever ye converse, believers or infidels, friends or enemies, relations or strangers; and in whatsoever condition ye are in, peace or trouble, prosperity or adversity. But as he which hath called you is holy,.... Which is a periphrasis of God the Father, who had called them, not merely in an external way, by the outward ministry of the word; but internally, powerfully, and efficaciously, by his Spirit and grace; and who had called them to holiness of life and conversation, as well as in calling had implanted principles of holiness in them, and therefore is said to call them with an holy calling; and who himself is holy, naturally, perfectly, and originally, and in such sense as no creature is, angels or men; and is glorious in holiness, and is the source and fountain of holiness in others: therefore

so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; which respects not internal holiness, but supposes it; for that is God's work, and not the creature's act; it is the sanctification of the Spirit, of which he is the author; this they were chosen unto from the beginning, and made partakers of in regeneration; but external holiness, holiness of life and conversation, in all the parts and branches of it, both with respect to God and men, in matters both of religion and civil life: and to be holy in this sense is an imitating of God, a copying after him, though he is far from being equalled by a sinful creature, or even by an angel in heaven; however, the arguments to it, taken from the nature of God, and of his effectual calling to grace and holiness, are very strong and powerful; for it is walking worthy of him, who has called us to his kingdom and glory; and walking worthy of that calling wherein we are called; and a following of God, as dear and obedient children; and what is according to his will, and what he directs unto, and requires, as appears from what follows.

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
1 Peter 1:15-16. ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὸν καλέσαντα ὑμᾶς ἅγιον] Steiger: “this positive instruction, instead of forming a participial clause of its own, like the preceding (negative), is in animated discourse at once merged into the principal clause;” there is, accordingly, nothing to be supplied; still Oecumenius explains, in sense, correctly: ἀλλὰ νῦν γοῦν, λέγει, τῷ καλέσαντι συσχηματιζόμενοι, ἁγίῳ ὄντι κ.τ.λ.

ἅγιον] is here a substantive, to which the participle καλ. is added as nearer definition (cf. 2 Peter 2:1), and that by way of strengthening the exhortation (“as ye are bound to do, since He hath called you”). The behaviour of those called must correspond with the nature of Him who has called them. Schott rightly remarks that the καλεῖν must here be taken as “an effectual calling,” by which the readers are delivered from their state of estrangement from God, and introduced into one of fellowship with Him.

καὶ αὐτοὶ ἅγιοι ἐν πάσῃ ἀναστροφῇ γενήθητε] καὶ αὐτοί forms the antithesis to τὸν ἅγιον; Schott incorrectly: “as against what God has, on His part, by His calling, done to you and made you.”

ἐν πάσῃ ἀναστροφῇ] not: in (your) whole (de Wette), but in (your) every walk.[85]

ΓΕΝΉΘΗΤΕ] denotes not the becoming, but the being; Luther correctly: like Him … be ye also holy.[86]—1 Peter 1:16. διότι γέγραπται] διότι, i.e. ΔΙᾺ ΤΟῦΤΟ ὍΤΙ, “for this reason because,” indicates the reason for the preceding exhortation, and not simply for the use of the word ἅγιον (de Wette). The apostle goes back to the command given to Israel, as to the reason why the Christians, called as they were by the God of holiness, should be holy in their every walk. The holiness of God laid Israel under the obligation to be holy, since God had chosen them to be His people—the same is the case, as Peter suggests by καλέσαντα ὑμᾶς, with the N. T. church of believers, the true Israel, on whom, though doubtless in a form adapted to them, for this reason the commandments of the O. C. are still binding. Schott justly observes that the passage quoted by Peter is not meant to establish the duty of holiness in itself, but to show that the fact of belonging to God involves as a matter of duty the necessity of an holy walk. The expression, which the apostle quotes, occurs more than once in the book of Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7; Leviticus 20:26.

[85] For it must be observed that in the case of a collective expression, πᾶς is accompanied by the article when the totality is conceived of as forming one whole; the article is wanting when it is considered as composed of many; e.g. πᾶς ὁ λαός means: “the whole people,” but πᾶς λαός: “all people,” when not: “every people,” in which case the collective expression is the special idea.

[86] Wiesinger asks why? The reasons are—(1) because both in the LXX. and Apocrypha of the O. T., as also in the N. T., instead of the imper. of εἶναι, which is but rarely used, there is very generally the imper. aorist of γίγνομαι, in the LXX. translation of הֱיֵה, הֱיוּ (cf. specially Psalm 69:26); (2) because the exhortation “be holy” is more suited to the condition of Christians than “become holy.”1 Peter 1:15 f. The command Ye shall be holy for I am holy is connected originally with the deliverance from Egypt and the distinction between clean and unclean, which lays down the principle of separation involved in the Exodus (Leviticus 11:44-46, etc.; cf. Isaiah 52:11). St. Peter combines the Scripture with the Word of Jesus for κατὰ τὸν … corresponds to ὡς of Matthew 5:48. Gentiles needed God’s summons before they could regard Him as their heavenly Father; hence Him that called you. Compare Deuteronomy 18:13 (whence τέλειος of Matt. l.c.) where also contrast with abominations of the heathen.—ἅγιον is better taken as predicate than as substantive, since ὁ καλέσας (καλῶν) is well-established as a title of God in His relation to Gentile Christians (cf. 1 Peter 2:9, etc.).—ἐν πάσῃ ἀναστροφῇ, cf. 1 Peter 1:18, 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:16; Tob 4:19, ἴσθι πεπαιδευμένος ἐν πάσῃ ἀ. σου. The corresponding verb, ἀναστρέφεσθαι is found as rendering of הלך in the same sense (Proverbs 20:7, ἀναστρέφεται ἄμωμος); both verb and noun are so used in late Greek authors (especially Epictetus).—γενήθητε become as you were not or show yourselves as you are; the latter sense suits . which is distinctively outward behaviour.15. be ye holy in all manner of conversation] Better, in every form of conduct. The word “conversation,” once used in its true meaning (conversari = living, moving to and fro, with others), has during the last hundred and fifty years settled down almost irrecoverably into a synonym for “talking.” Swift is, I believe, the first writer in whom the later meaning takes the place of the earlier. In Cowper’s poem “Conversation” it is used without even a reminiscence of the fuller significance of the word. For its use in the Authorized Version, see Psalm 37:14; Psalm 50:23; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 1:13, and many other passages. In the reference to the holiness of God as calling us to reproduce, in our measure, that holiness in our own lives, we have an echo of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48). The Greek of the previous clause has a force which the English but imperfectly represents. More literally we might say after the pattern of the Holy One who called you.1 Peter 1:15. Κατὰ, according to) The highest example.—καλέσαντα, who hath called you) Peter often brings forward this calling, ch. 1 Peter 2:9; 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 3:9, 1 Peter 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:10.—ἀναστροφῇ, in conversation) 1 Peter 1:17-18.Verse 15. - But as he which hath called you is holy; rather, after the pattern of the Holy One who called you. The calling is the fulfillment of the election:, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." The Christian's effort must be to fashion himself, by God's grace, after the likeness of God. not according to the former lusts (comp. Matthew 5:45, 48; also Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). So be ye holy in all manner of conversation. In the whole course of your daily life, in all its details, as you move hither and thither among men, take the holiness of God for your pattern: "Be not conformed to this world." (For the word "conversation" (ἀναστροφή), comp. Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:7.) As he which hath called you is holy (κατὰ τὸν καλέσαντα ὑμᾶς ἅγιον)

As of the A. V. is according to, or after the pattern of; and holy is to be taken as a personal name; the which hath called being added for definition, and in order to strengthen the exhortation. Render, therefore, after the pattern of the Holy One who called you. So, nearly, Rev., in margin. A similar construction occurs 2 Peter 2:1 : the Lord that bought them.

Conversation (ἀναστροφῇ)

A favorite word with Peter; used eight times in the two epistles. From ἀνά, up, and στρέφω, to turn. The process of development in the meaning of the word is interesting. 1. A turning upside down. 2. A turning about or wheeling. 3. Turning about in a place, going back and forth there about one's business; and so, 4, one's mode of life or conduct. This is precisely the idea in the word conversation (Lat., conversare, to turn round) which was used when the A. V. was made, as the common term for general deportment or behavior, and was, therefore, a correct rendering of ἀναστροφή. So Latimer ("Sermons"): "We are not bound to follow the conversations or doings of the saints." And Shakspeare, 2 Hen. IV., v., 5:

"But all are banished till their conversation

Appear more wise and modest to the world."

Our later limitation of the meaning to the interchange of talk makes it expedient to change the rendering, as Rev., to manner of living.

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