PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Marriage and Divorce

11/17 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Marriage and Divorce; Audio available at:

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

10 Τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσινπαραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι —11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμοςἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω — καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖςλέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος· εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν·13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ· ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband11 (but if she does, she should remainunmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Today we find ourselves in a challenging passage of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering questions he had received from his church plant in Corinth. The verses we are studying address issues of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. There was a teaching that had become popular in Corinth that Paul refers to in verse 1; “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul, as a good shepherd, responds ‘it depends’.

In verses 2-5 he addresses married people, and he says that if you are married, it is good for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. Coming to Christ does not mean that you abandon your existing relationships in a pursuit for greater spirituality. In fact, depriving one another within marriage is sin.

In verses 6-7 he holds up his desire that, in light of the present distress, all would be content in singleness with its advantages for gospel ministry that he will outline later in this chapter. But he acknowledges that not all have received the same gifting, and God’s gifting is decisive rather than his preference.

In verses 8-9 he addresses the unmarried and widows. He may have in mind specifically widows and widowers, or he may be addressing more broadly those who are presently not married, whether single, widowed or divorced. His advice to them is that it is good to remain as they are, but if they are not gifted for celibacy then they must marry.

In verses 10-11 he addresses the married, specifically marriages where both husband and wife are believers.

In verses 12-16 he addresses another category of married people, those marriages where the husband or wife has come to Christ, but the spouse has not.

In verse 25 and following he will take up issues concerning virgins, those who have never married.

The Teaching of the Lord and of Paul

Let’s look at what Paul has to say to believers who are married to believers.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

We know that he is addressing marriages where both husband and wife are believers in these verses, because in the next verse, he addresses a different group (the rest), specifically those who are married to an unbeliever.

He differentiates his instructions to the two groups by saying to the first that the charge comes not from him but from the Lord; where to the rest he says ‘I, not the Lord’. It is very important that we do not misunderstand what he is saying. Down in verse 25 he will say:

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have wrongly interpreted these statements to mean that Paul is differentiating between divine revelation and his own personal opinion, between inspired and uninspired Scripture. There is no such thing as uninspired Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. As God’s word, all Scripture is authoritative. Paul, as an apostle of our Lord Jesus, was commissioned by our Lord Jesus to instruct his church, and what Paul, controlled by the Holy Spirit, taught was no less authoritative than what Jesus himself taught. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) categorizes Paul’s letters as Scripture. In verse 17, Paul will say of his instructions:

1 Corinthians 7:17 …This is my rule in all the churches.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative in all the churches. Paul’s teaching is also authoritative in all the churches. What he is doing is simply distinguishing between things that Jesus himself spoke to directly, and things that Jesus did not speak to, but by the Holy Spirit equipped his Apostles to address. At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, the gospels had not yet been compiled, but there was a body of memorized sayings of Jesus that the churches held dear, to which Paul would be referring here.

The Command of the Lord to the Married

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul is saying, in the context of the question of the Corinthians about it being good for a man not to touch a woman, that his command, based on Jesus’ own command was that the wife should not separate from her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. It is not spiritual for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual intimacy in marriage, and it is not spiritual for them to terminate the marriage by separation or divorce. To do so would be to disobey the clear command of Jesus. Jesus’ clearly brought us back to the original intent of marriage as one man and one woman made one flesh by God for life. Jesus taught:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (cf. Mark 10:8-9)

Jesus taught that divorce was allowed and regulated because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.10:5). Sadly, that hardness of heart still exists. Paul is aware that wrongful divorce among believers does happen. His instruction to believers divorced from believers is clear. Remain unmarried or be reconciled. The background for Jesus’ teaching is Deuteronomy 24. This is the passage the Pharisees appealed to as their scriptural basis for divorce. It will be helpful to look back at that passage to help us understand the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Much of the debate in Jesus’ day revolved around the meaning of the phrase ‘some indecency’. The rabbi Shammai taught that ‘some indecency’ was limited to fornication or immorality. That is the only legitimate ground for divorce. The rabbi Hillel, on the other hand, taught that ‘some indecency’ meant that a man could divorce his wife for anything that displeased him, like if she burned his meal or if he found another woman more attractive than his wife (Adams, p.64). Rabbi Hillel with his broad understanding of ‘some indecency’ was closer to the actual meaning of the phrase. In the chapter immediately preceding, instructions are given to the Israelites to go outside the camp and bury their excrement, so that the Lord would “not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (Deut.23:14). This is the same phrase used in chapter 24 of the grounds used for divorce. So the immediate context demonstrates that ‘some indecency’ is much wider than sexual immorality. But both of these rabbis and their schools of thought missed the point. Deuteronomy 24 is not about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce, but rather regulates a current practice that was out of control for the protection of the woman. If a man divorced his wife for ‘some indecency’ and she remarried, he could never have her back again, even if her second husband died. Protection and restraints are put in place because of the hardness of human hearts. The passage says that she is defiled by the second marriage, which implies that the reason for the divorce was not legitimate. This fits Jesus comments on this passage in the gospels.

Jesus’ teaching was that divorce on illegitimate grounds did not free a person for remarriage. He clearly states in the gospels that the husband who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt.19:9; Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18); the divorcing husband causes the wife to commit adultery (Mt.5:32); that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt.5:32; Lk.16:18); that the woman who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk.10:12). However, in Matthew’s account, Jesus states that the only legitimate exception was sexual immorality, in which case the divorce would be legitimate (5:32; 19:9).

Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ teaching is crystal clear.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Believers must not divorce. If, due to hardness of heart, they do separate, they have only two options open to them: remain unmarried, or be reconciled to their original spouse. Even in the exceptional case of adultery, (which Paul doesn’t address here) believers are permitted, but never required, to divorce; rather the goal is repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Believers have God’s word to guide them, God’s Holy Spirit living inside them, and God’s church to counsel and correct them. They have everything they need to find healing and hope and help for difficult circumstances and broken relationships. Because our broken relationship with God was reconciled through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the power of the gospel to reconcile our relationships with one another.

Remain with the Unbelieving Spouse

Paul goes on to address a situation created by the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. As the good news penetrates the darkness of this world, it reaches into homes. Sometimes a husband and wife will hear the gospel and they will both reject it. Sometimes they will both embrace the gospel and together become followers of Jesus. But sometimes one will reject the gospel and one will become a follower of Jesus. What is to be done in these situations? It seems the counsel in Corinth was ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. If the higher spirituality was celibacy, and even married believers were being encouraged to abstain or divorce, then for a believer to have intimacy with an unbeliever would certainly defile them. In chapter 6, Paul warned against a believer joining with a prostitute.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul will warn in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This clearly forbids a believer from entering into a marriage relationship with an unbeliever, or even dating an unbeliever. But if we apply this to existing marriages where one spouse becomes a follower of Jesus and the other does not, we might wrongly conclude that the best thing for the believer to do is to terminate the marriage. This is not Paul’s counsel. Instead he says, if possible, remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

The gospel transforms us. A believer is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. New ways of thinking and feeling and acting. A new heart, new desires. New convictions. This total transformation can cause tension in a marriage. The believer is never to sin, compromise conduct or violate conscience to keep a marriage together. However, the believer is never to use the gospel as an excuse to get out of a marriage. If the unbeliever is willing to put up with the gospel transformation in their spouse, and consents to continue the marriage, the marriage must continue. Paul’s reason goes like this:

Because They are Made Holy

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This seems confusing at first read. We know that salvation is not transmitted from one person to another. Christianity is not genetic. A child is not a Christian because he is born to Christian parents. A child becomes a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus. A husband does not become a Christian because his wife converts to Christianity. He must himself trust Jesus and be born again. If we read ahead it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about salvation here. In verse 16 he asks:

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the salvation of the spouse is desired, but in no way assured. The holiness he is talking about is not the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This holiness is holiness in the sense of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. In the Levitical laws, if an Israelite, who is part of God’s people, came in contact with a dead body, they would become unclean (or contaminated), and they would have to go through the appropriate process to become clean or holy again (Lev.21:1). The thinking would go like this: If I, a believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, come into intimate contact with my unbelieving spouse, whom the Bible says is dead in their trespasses and sins, wouldn’t I become contaminated or defiled? No, Paul says, it is more like the altar in the tabernacle; whatever touched the altar became holy or set apart to God (Ex.29:37). He uses children as an example. If your children have not yet become followers of Jesus, do you cut off relationship with your unbelieving children because they may contaminate you? Or do you invest in them with the longing to see them become followers of Jesus? How much more should you invest in your unbelieving spouse! Because of their relationship with you, they are set apart, and God is at work! Peter gives instruction to wives with unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If the Unbelieving Spouse Separates

Paul’s instruction to those with an unbelieving spouse is ‘if at all possible, remain as you are’. But that is not always possible.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So here Paul deals with real life situations. The believing spouse is to do everything in his or her power to make the marriage work, short of sinning. But in this case both parties do not have everything they need to resolve difficulties. The unbeliever may not be willing to listen to the word of God or the counsel of the church, and the unbeliever does not have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within. The unbeliever may choose to end the marriage. In this case, Paul commands the believer to cooperate with the divorce. In this situation, the believer is not enslaved. This would imply that the divorce is legitimate and the believer now has the freedom to marry a believer. This does not mean that they should remarry, but only that they may. Paul’s counsel in this entire chapter is that, if possible, it is best to remain as you are. His instruction to the separated believers in verse 11, that they must remain unmarried or be reconciled, is not repeated here. Instead he says that the believer divorced from the unbeliever is not enslaved. Paul has told us that this new situation is outside the scope of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in the gospels. His instructions are an application of the principle of peace found in Romans.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

If you are married to an unbeliever and they are willing to live at peace with you, then stay. If they are hostile toward you and toward the gospel, let them leave.

His last statement brings hope as well as freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? If the unbeliever is willing to stay, they may very well, as Peter indicates, be influenced by the gospel transformation they see in you, and ‘be won without a word’. There is hope. But ultimately there is freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? Salvation is from the Lord. None of us can save anyone. We may be used by God as instruments in the salvation of another, but God alone is the one who saves. We as followers of Jesus are under obligation to live lives consistent with the gospel. We are called to communicate the gospel. But we are not held accountable for anyone’s response to the gospel. And I should not be so arrogant to think that I am the only instrument God has at his disposal to reach any particular lost person. God is in control and I can trust him. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~


November 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:14-16

1/19 1 Peter 1:14-16 be holy; don’t act like you’re still stupid!

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1:14 wv tekna upakohv mh suschmatizomenoi taiv proteron en th agnoia umwn epiyumiaiv 15 alla kata ton kalesanta umav agion kai autoi agioi en pash anastrofh genhyhte 16 dioti gegraptai [oti] agioi esesye oti egw agiov

We are looking today at the second command that Peter gives us in his letter. And here Peter gets to one of the main points of his letter. But he had to lay the foundation first so that it would be properly understood. So today, we will look at the demand for us to be holy, we will look at the importance of holiness in the life of every believer, we will ask what it means, we will see the high standard and foundation of holiness and the way to pursue it. Then we will see why this command comes second and not first in this letter.

The command is for holiness. We are to be holy. We desperately need to know what this means and understand how essential this command is. We tend to feel that holiness is a nice extra for a few highly advanced Christians. It is certainly not for all of us. We can all think of someone with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, and we don’t feel we could (or would even want to) rise (or stoop) to their level of spirituality. What often comes to mind is a puritanical hyper-legalistic life that is defined by what you don’t do. (By the way, the puritans were deeply concerned about holiness, but they were not the legalistic prudes that they have been caricatured as; defines puritanical as ‘very strict in moral or religious matters, often excessively so; rigidly austere’ – I would encourage you to pick up their writings and discover a gold mine of spiritual depth and richness of Christian joy.) So we need to put holiness in the biblical perspective. What does the bible say about holiness, what does Jesus say about holiness? What’s so important about being holy?

Maybe we should start with a definition. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines holiness as follows:

‘The state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity. Applied to the Supreme Being, holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes.

1. Applied to human beings, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; piety; moral goodness, but not perfect.

2. Sacredness; the state of any thing hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship; applied to churches or temples.

3. That which is separated to the service of God.’

Holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; being separated or set apart to the service of God. God told his people in:

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. …45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 19:2 … You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

But is holiness only an Old Testament demand on the people of Israel that doesn’t apply to us today? We are under grace, right? That’s why Jesus died -because we couldn’t live up to the standard. The answer is ‘yes, we are under grace’ and ‘yes, Jesus died because we couldn’t live up to God’s holy standard’ and the answer is ‘yes, God saved us by grace through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus from sin so that we could live holy lives.’

2 Timothy 1:9 [God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

It is by the gift of God’s grace and not by our works that we are saved, but we are saved from sin and for our holy calling. He goes on to say:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

So we must cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable – not in order to obtain God’s grace and favor, but because of God’s grace and favor already demonstrated in our holy calling. But how serious is this call to holiness? Here’s what the author of Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

If you do not pursue holiness in your life you will not see Jesus. That’s huge and heavy. Can that really be what this means? Paul elaborates:

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

But praise God, he goes on:

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Jesus came to seek and to save lost sinners. But did Jesus have anything to say about the necessity of our holiness?

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus says you have to get passionate about your holiness and fight violently against the sin in your life or you will go to hell. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. The stakes are high. We are not talking about an optional extra in the Christian life. If you don’t pursue your holiness with a vengeance, you don’t see Jesus; you go to hell. Your holiness is not a suggestion or a recommendation; it is imperative.

How do we respond to sin in our lives? Do we tend to justify and defend it; even pride ourselves in being free in Jesus? Are we oblivious to the sin in our lives? Do we compare ourselves with others and begin to think that we’re really not so bad? If we do that, the bible says we are not wise. Are we grieved? Acutely and painfully aware of the deep roots of sin in our lives? Are we broken before God crying out ‘who will rescue me from this body of death?’ Do we long for holiness? Are we willing to aggressively attack the secret sins of our heart, dragging them out into the light and butchering them like the wicked traitors they are?Do

How do we go about this thing called holiness? Let’s go back to 1 Peter and see what he has to say about our holiness, and then we’ll put it in the context of the passage and see how it all fits together.

1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We again have one imperative in the sentence; it is ‘be holy’. It is preceded by a participial phrase that describes what it’s not, and a phrase that describes the foundation for personal holiness. Then he follows the command with his textual basis – a quote out of Leviticus. Let’s work backward through the text and then put it all together.

The substantiation for the demand for holiness is the character of God. God said over and over in Leviticus ‘you be holy because I am holy’. And Peter tells us ‘you be holy like God is holy; God’s holiness is the pattern for your holiness’.

So let’s look for a minute at God’s holiness. In the bible we are given many descriptions of God’s character and nature:

Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God.

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God

Deuteronomy 10:17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords…

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,

2 Chronicles 30:9 … the LORD your God is gracious and merciful …

Job 36:5 “Behold, God is mighty…

Job 36:22 Behold, God is exalted in his power…

Psalms 7:11 God is a righteous judge,

Psalms 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth;

Psalms 68:19 … God is our salvation.

Isaiah 26:4 … the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

John 3:33 … God is true.

John 4:24 God is spirit…

Romans 3:30 …God is one…

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

1 John 1:5 … God is light…

1 John 4:8 …God is love.

But there is only one attribute of God that is tripled in scripture. In Isaiah 6 and in Revelation 4 the seraphs cry out ‘holy holy holy is the Lord’. They don’t cry out ‘love, love love’ or ‘merciful, merciful, merciful’. Jesus, when he taught said ‘truly truly I say to you’; doubled as a way of emphasizing the authority and accuracy of what he taught. But no other characteristic of God is tripled like his holiness is tripled. We even find ‘the Holy One’ used as a title for God about 50 times.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

God’s holiness is made completely emphatic. He is holy to the third power. God is completely other, wholly set apart, totally distinct. He is the creator and we are created. He is infinite and we are finite. Our power is limited and his power is limitless. We had a beginning, he had no beginning. We are sinners, he is perfect in his moral integrity. He is in a class by himself. That is part of the definition – set apart from. But part of the definition of holiness is set apart for or set apart to. The vessels used in the temple in the Old Testament were holy – they were to be used for nothing else but the service of God. The clothes that the priests wore were not common clothes; they were to be worn for nothing else than approaching God in worship and prayer. The priests themselves were set apart to the service of God. They didn’t have other employment – their lives were completely dedicated or devoted to God. Is there anything that God is set apart for or completely dedicated and devoted to? I think the only answer that we can give is that God is completely devoted to himself. There is nothing higher for him to be devoted to. Devotion to any higher principle or purpose would be idolatry. Just as it is idolatry for us to set anything higher in our hearts than God, it would be idolatry for God to be devoted to anything outside of himself. God is passionate about his own glory. There is nothing higher or more beautiful or more worthy of praise than himself. We can join God in his holiness by being entirely devoted to God. this is the same thing as keeping the first and greatest commandment;

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

So holiness is not so much a negative command of what you don’t do, but a positive affirmation of what is highest in your affections. Be holy – be passionate about who God is. Be consumed with delight in God. Let God meet all your needs and satisfy all your longings. You be passionate about God because God is passionate about God. Value God more than anything else in your life because God is more valuable than anything else. And we are instructed to demonstrate our passion for God in every area of our lives. As it says in

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This of course has some negative implications. That’s why Peter describes holiness by what it’s not:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,

Being set apart for God could be described as not conforming to your former passions. You have a new passion; a new desire, a new lust. Your former lust was stupid. That’s what Peter says: ‘the passions of your former ignorance’. You had an appetite for things that could never satisfy. But you had an excuse then; you didn’t know any better. Now you know that when you immerse yourself in the pleasures the world has to offer you come up with a mouth full of sawdust. Be holy! Develop a hunger for God; develop a taste for what truly satisfies. Have a holy lust for intimacy with Jesus. You are different now – you have a new driving passion in your life. Your spiritual taste buds have been awakened by the truth. Don’t act like you’re still stupid. ‘Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance’.

He tells us to be holy as obedient children; literally ‘as children of obedience’. Notice he doesn’t tell us to be holy in order to become children; the assumption is that we are already children of the Father. We are not commanded to become something we are not; we are commanded to be who we are. As children characterized by obedience, be like your father – be holy in all your conduct. Peter has established in verse 3 that God caused us to be born again – so we are his children by new birth; and in verse 4 that entitles us to the inheritance that is being kept for us. Back in verses 1 and 2 he tells us that we were chosen for obedience – obedience to Jesus Christ. We have a new nature – a nature of obedient children on account of our new birth. The phrase ‘as he who called you is holy’ points back to God as the origin of their new nature – God called you into a relationship with himself. God called you for obedience, so be who he called you to be – be holy!

Now that we understand the gravity of the demand – holiness is essential, not optional if you want to see Jesus; now that we understand what holiness means – that we are to find our delight in God and in all that he is for us in Jesus, that we are to live for the glory of God in every area of our lives, now let’s put this in the context of the passage and see where it fits in the argument. Peter has spent twelve verses telling us how God is at work in us securing our salvation, preparing our inheritance and preserving us so that we make it. His first command in verse 13 hangs on all this like a hinge and says ‘therefore – because of all this’ put your hope fully in God’s future grace. God is going to continue to pour out his grace in your life. You can put your full weight on his promise – it will be there. As John Newton sang ’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. The Lord has promis’d good to me, His word my hope secures; He will my shield and portion be, As long as life endures.’

You can bank on the fact that God’s grace will be there to sustain you tomorrow. In light of God’s work initiating your new birth; in light of God’s work preparing you for your inheritance, in light of the fact that your present trials are serving to prove your faith genuine; in light of the fact that your salvation is the focal point that angels and prophets and evangelist longed to see and the Holy Spirit brought about; in the confidence of God’s future grace you can be holy. God called you to be holy and is at work in you to make you holy. His Holy Spirit lives in you. He is bringing trials to purify your faith; he has adopted you as his child and he wants you to be like him, so be who you are. Don’t act like you’re still stupid. With all your effort and passion and will, strive to be holy. Work hard, passionately and violently pursue your personal holiness because you know that God’s grace will be sufficient to see you through.

Paul describes it this way:

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment