1 Peter 1:13-16
Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober…
These words immediately follow, and are to be taken in closest connection with, the exhortation to "hope perfectly for the grace that is to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Hope, then, is to be nurtured, not only by a believing contemplation of future felicities, but by exercising ourselves to godliness and practical obedience. Two points as to the words of this text must be noticed before dealing with the thoughts. As the Revised Version shows, the literal rendering is "as children of obedience." The essential or permanent characteristic of a person or thing is regarded as his or its parent. So obedience is represented as the inalienable mark of a Christian. But the immediately following reference to God as our Father seems to suggest that the Hebrew idiom here is blended with the Christian thought of sonship. One other expository remark is necessary. The Revised Version reads in the margin "but like the Holy One which called you." If we adopt that rendering, and connect the words closely with the preceding, God's own holiness is proposed as the pattern by which Christians are to fashion themselves.
I. THAT CHRISTIAN HOPE AND CHRISTIAN OBEDIENCE ARE INSEPARABLE COMPANIONS. The mark of a son is to obey. And obedience means not merely doing what we are bid, but being glad to be bidden to do it; and it means not merely the active submission of will to the loving command of the Father, but also the quiet acceptance of and bowing of the will to the wise appointments of that Father. So it is the exact opposite of that temper and attitude which are characteristic of the godless world which makes self and its own will its law. There are the two courses of life, obedience or rebellion; and there is no middle point. Does our obedience cover the whole ground — of action and of surrender and submission? Such obedience can never be parted from the great Christian hope. Hope will produce obedience. Now, many professing Christians are a great deal stronger in the department of devout emotion than in that of practical righteousness. I should like all these people who find it so good to feed their souls on the meditation and anticipation of future blessedness to notice how, as in one volume, Peter binds up the two things that they keep so distinctly apart, and how emphatically he affirms that, if we have any genuine Christian hope, it will have its effect in helping us, as children of obedience, to do and to accept all our Father's will. There we come down to a very plain practical test. But, then, these two things which the Apostle thus couples by an iron band have a reciprocal action. They work upon each other; in fact, they are the outside and the inside of the same thing; but we may look at them as being different. Just as strong hope will produce obedience, so true obedience will nourish and strengthen hope. For a little sin will go much further towards obscuring and shattering a Christian man's hope than a great sorrow will. It is comparatively easy to keep up the temper of joyous anticipation of the future in the midst of the darkness of a present experience; but it is absolutely impossible for a man, at one and the same time, to be rebelling in heart and act against the will of God and to be entertaining and recreating his soul by the bright hope of a future heaven. No Christian man's hope will last through a sin. Therefore obedience and hope must co-exist and feed one another.
II. THAT HOPE, FED BY AND FEEDING OBEDIENCE, SHOULD CHANGE US FROM THE LIKENESS OF OUR FORMER SELVES. "Not fashioning yourselves according to the former in your ignorance" — that may be said to all people who have been brought out of the darkness into the light. It is but an uncertain light, or twilight mainly, at the best, that shines upon the mysteries of human life and duty, until the sunshine of God, manifested in Jesus Christ, rises and is welcomed by our hearts. So, then, non-Christian living is, in a profound sense, ignorance; and in the ignorance, just as the wild beasts of the forest go forth in the dark and are nocturnal in their habits if they are predatory, so the lusts that war against our souls expatiate and hunt and find their prey in the darkness. But, says Peter, if, hoping, you are obedient, and obedient you hope, then there will be a process of transformation going on in you. But in a world like this, and with creatures like us, unless a man has learnt not to do wrong, there is little chance of his doing right. The evil that we have to fight against is in possession, and we have to turn it out. A large part of all practical morality, Christian or not, consists in negative precepts; and the very heart and centre, in one aspect, of Christian duty lies here; self-denial, self-suppression, self-crucifixion. You have to put off the old self as part of the process of putting on the new. I press this upon you, "not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts, in your ignorance." And that will be a life-long task. For nobody knows how, like a cuttlefish, holding on to its prey by the suckers upon its arm, his evil habits cling to him, until he have tried to fling away the loathly thing that prevents him from freely using his limbs. "Hope?" Yes! "Obey?" Yes! and that you may crucify the old man with his deeds, and put off the garments spotted by the flesh, that you may put on the "fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints."
III. Lastly, THIS OBEDIENCE AND HOPE SHOULD CHANGE US INTO THE LIKENESS OF THE FATHER. If we are children we have the Father's life in us; and we ought to have the Father's likeness. This is the great aim that we have to set before ourselves. And oh! what an aim it is. Nothing less august than absolute perfection is worthy to be the goal of a soul. How different it is to say, Try to be like God as you haw learned to know Him in Jesus Christ, from what it is to say, "Try to be up to the ideal of humanity"; "try to cultivate a pure morality"; "be true to yourselves," and all those other sayings, noble in their way and to a certain extent, which people who turn away from Christianity try to set up as substitutes for its morality. They are all hard and icy; and no kind of inspiration comes out of them. "Be ye perfect. as your Father in heaven is perfect," the ideal lives; the ideal loves, Yes! and more; the ideal is our Father, and so He will make His child like Himself. And that fashioning ourselves like our Father, if it does not precede obedience to the negative precept, must at all events be carried on simultaneously with it. It is a fatal mistake to try simply to obey the negative precept unless we aim along with it at obedience to the positive one. The more we come close to Him the further we withdraw from earth and evil. But notice how hope animates the effort at becoming like God. He is "the Holy One which called you." Well, then, if He has called us to be holy, it will not be in vain that we shall try to be so. And unless we have this "hope of His calling," sure I am that we shall never earnestly and successfully aim at being like Him.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;