1 Peter 1:14-16
As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:…
Probably we are not to see in the first words of these verses any reference to the filial relation which Christians bear to God, tempting as the view is which would make them parallel to Paul's exhortation, "Be ye imitators of God, as dear children." The literal rendering is, "children of obedience," which is plainly a Hebraism, and means simply "persons whose characteristic is obedience," like "sons of light," or "of earth," or "of thunder." Submission to the Divine will in the twofold form of resignation to its appointments and of obedience to its behests is the very life-element of the believing soul. This obedience is to express itself in the ordering of the outward life. There was a time when self-will shaped their lives. They molded themselves according to their own desires, but all that must be at an end now. A new pattern is set before them. They are now to fashion themselves, not after the ideal framed by their own tastes or inclinations, but, as we might read the words, "according to the Holy One who hath called you." So we have here -
I. THE MOULD OR PATTERN FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Can that infinitely perfect Divine nature be proposed as a pattern for men with any good results? Is imitation possible? Will not the snowy whiteness of the far-off peak dazzle rather than attract, and its steep height seem to counsel rest in the valleys below rather than the toilsome climb to the summit? How can human virtue in its highest form be analogous to the holiness of a Being who has no weakness, no passions, no temptations, no changes, no limitations? But love, gentleness, goodness, righteousness, must be so far identical in God and man that we know what they are in him by what they are in ourselves. A dewdrop is rounded by the same law which moulds a planet, and its tiny rainbow is the same as the arch which spans the heavens. Power, wisdom, cannot be limited, but righteousness may. To be like God morally is the sum of all religion. Worship presupposes that the character of the being worshipped is regarded with admiration and aspiration. The worshippers make their gods as embodiments of their ideals, and then the gods make the worshippers. "They that make them are like unto them" is the law for heathenism, and explains many strange perversions of conscience. In Christianity the end of all the grand manifestations of Divine love and power is just this - to make men like God. What is all revelation for? Not, surely, that men may know about God nor that they may feel devout emotion towards him. We know that we may feel, and we know and feel that we may be and love like God and do his will. A holy Godlike character is the crown of all religion and the highest purpose of all revelation. That model is comprehensive, so as to include the whole round of conduct. "All manner of conversation" is included within its great sweep. And it is homely, so as to fit tight to and regulate the smallest duties. The commonest things may be done in imitation of the holy God. The plan of the poorest kitchen garden cannot be made without celestial observations. In our pettiest affairs we can bring the mightiest principles to hear. Indeed, the only way to make life great is to apply great principles to small duties; and every deed of the humblest career may be glorified by not only being done as unto God, but in being done like his own acts, of which love is the motive and righteousness the characteristic.
II. THE PROCESS OF COPYING THE PATTERN. The language of the text suggests very clearly these points.
1. We ourselves are to be the artificers of our own holy characters. God gives his grace, and implants his Spirit, which transforms; but all these Divine powers, how numerous and strong soever they may be, do not reach their end without our own strenuous effort. They are the tools put into our hands to fashion the fabric of a holy life; but we must use them, and put our strength into the use of them, or the fabric will not be built. God makes no man holy by magic, without the man's own hard work.
2. The process is slow. We fashion ourselves by repeated efforts and gradually build up a character like his. Emotion may be quickly excited, but making character is always slow work. It cannot be struck out at a blow as sovereigns are struck, but has to be patiently elaborated like some delicately chased golden cup. Actions often repeated make habits, and habits make character. It is formed slowly, as the sedimentary rocks are laid down at the bottom of the sea, by an unseen process lasting for long eons. More than "forty and six years is this temple in building."
3. It is accompanied by a painful destructive process. The character already formed after another model has to be recast. Formerly they had been molded according to their own "lusts." Each man's own desires had shaped him. He did as he liked best. That is sin. That is human nature - not in absolute exclusion of sense of law and duty. Yet still, on the whole, self-will moulds men's lives. Negatively, then, the false tendency of pleasing self must be thwarted. The character already formed must be fought against and subdued. The old man has to be put off. The old metal has to be thrown into the melting-pot, and to be run into a new mould. And that cannot be done without self-denial and pain, to which the bodily tortures of crucifixion are compared by St. Paul. Tears and blood are shed with less pain than accompanies tearing off this worser self. It is like tearing the very skin from the quivering flesh. But, hard as it is, it has to be done, if we are ever to be holy as he is holy.
4. The command is made blessed by the motive which enforces it. "He has called us." Then, if he has called us to holiness, we may be quite sure that we shall not aim at it in vain. The thought that we are working in the line of the Divine purposes, and obeying a Divine call, inspires a hope which mightily strengthens us for the task, and goes far to fulfill itself. God's commands are promises. If he has called us to be holy, certainly, if we try to obey him, we shall be so. He never summons to tasks which he does not give power to perform. He has called, and that makes it certain that he will perfect that which concerneth us. Therefore we may set ourselves with good heart to the glorious task of copying the Divine holiness, assured that to do so is not presumption, but simple obedience, and that, however slow may appear our progress upwards to the shining, snowy summit, it is verily his will that we shall one day stand there, and be satisfied, when we awake, in his likeness. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: