Where the world comes to study the Bible

A Call to Holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16)

13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Introduction

The word “holy,” in contemporary thinking, is closely akin to the term “nerd” which our children use. Holiness is not thought of as a virtue but as a vice. How insulting to be thought of as “holy” by your peers. Even in the church, holiness is becoming rare. Only recently I heard a well-known evangelist speak of holiness as something which the church in America has lost.

How comfortable we are to add God to our lives with little or no change necessary on our part. Such is not the message of the true gospel or the teaching of the Scriptures on the spiritual life. The Old Testament prophets, along with John the Baptist and then Jesus, called for a radical change for those who would trust and obey God. “Repent” was an indispensable word to those who proclaimed the Word of God in truth. To repent means to change not only our thinking but our actions. When we are saved, we are saved from our heathen desires and practices and called to live a life of holiness. This call to holiness comes very early in Peter’s first epistle in chapter 1:14-16 and continues to be stressed throughout his epistle.

The belief and behavior of holiness of which Peter speaks comes neither naturally (through our flesh) nor easily. Peter did not find it natural or easy either. While the concept of holiness is frequently taught in the Old Testament, Judaism (especially the scribes and Pharisees) distorted it until it became something entirely different. To many, the scribes and Pharisees, who saw themselves as holy, were the epitome of holiness. How shocking Jesus’ words must have been to those who first heard them:

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

True holiness was not what the scribes and Pharisees or Peter thought it was. The message Peter shares with us in his first epistle came to him with great difficulty. In fact, only after the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord did Peter understand true holiness.

Our lesson begins by tracing the theme of holiness through the Bible, from the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt until the time Peter wrote this call to holiness in his first epistle. With this background, we will try to understand what Peter requires of us if we would be holy like the One who called us.

A Basic Definition of Holiness

To be holy is the opposite of being “common” or “profane.” God is holy in that He is utterly different and distinct from His creation. His people must also be distinct, separate from the heathen attitudes and actions which characterized them as unbelievers. The translation of 1 Peter 2:9 by the King James Version conveys this idea of “separateness:”

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9, KJV).

Holiness and the Exodus

When God delivered His people Israel from their bondage in Egypt, He distinguished Himself from the “gods” of Egypt. Pharaoh’s challenge set the scene for a sequence of plagues that would answer his question in a way that would prove the God of Israel was God alone:

1 And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go (Exodus 5:1-2).”

This hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the work of God so that He might show Pharaoh and the Egyptians that He alone was Lord:

2 “You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 When Pharaoh will not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt, and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst (Exodus 7:2-5).”

25 And the hail struck all that was in the field through all the land of Egypt, both man and beast; the hail also struck every plant of the field and shattered every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the sons of Israel were, there was no hail (Exodus 9:13-16).

In addition to distinguishing Himself above Pharaoh and all the “gods” of the Egyptians, God also distinguished the Israelites from the Egyptians by means of the plagues:

20 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 21 For if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of insects on you and your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of insects, and also the ground on which they dwell. 22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD am in the midst of the land. 23 And I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall occur”’“ (Exodus 8:20-23).

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, ‘Thus says the LORD the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go, and continue to hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the LORD will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks. 4 But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel”’“ (Exodus 9:1-4; see also 9:25-26).

Holiness and the Law of Moses

Once the Israelites were brought out of Egypt, God gave them laws which governed the conduct of every Israelite and of every one who dwelt among them as aliens. What laws, of all those given at Mount Sinai, would you expect to set the Israelites apart from all the nations as a holy people? I would have thought the Ten Commandments were given particularly for this purpose. Surprisingly, we do not find “holiness” directly linked with these commandments. The command, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” is found several times in the Law of Moses but not in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5. Rather, this command is found in the Book of Leviticus. Interestingly enough, it is found in that part of the Law many Christians feel is least relevant and applicable to the New Testament saint. This portion of the Law is often referred to as the “ceremonial law,” as opposed to the “moral law,” of the Ten Commandments. And yet this is the portion of Scripture Peter uses to support his instruction in our text.

Why is this so? Consider this possible explanation. The Ten Commandments do not set the Israelites or contemporary Christians apart because virtually every civilized nation accepts many of the values and commands of these Ten Commandments as a valid standard of conduct. Civilized nations condemn stealing, lying, and murder.17 Israel was not nearly as distinct by her obedience to the Ten Commandments as she was by her obedience to the laws regarding “clean” and “unclean” set down in Leviticus.

While these distinctions were set out clearly, the reasons for them were not. Why, for instance, was a woman declared “unclean” twice as long for having a girl than for having a boy (see Leviticus 12:1-5)? Why was beef “clean” while pork was declared to be “unclean”? Many of the distinctions between “clean” and “unclean” made in Leviticus appear to be arbitrary without rational or logical explanation.

I believe this is by divine design. That which sets the true child of God apart from all others is their faith and trust in God, evidenced by obedience to His commands even when they do not seem to make sense. Not eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did not make sense to Adam and Eve, but God required their obedience. Offering up Isaac as a sacrifice to God made no sense to Abraham, but he obeyed God by his willingness to do so. So too obedience to the distinctions God made between the “clean” and the “unclean” set Israel apart from all other peoples. In false religions, men create their own “gods” and their own rules, all according to their own desires. In Christianity, God makes the rules, and they are not according to our preferences or desires. But the Spirit of God enables us to obey them (see Romans 7:7–8:4).

With this in mind, a brief review of the concept of holiness in chapters 11 through 20 of Leviticus might prove helpful. Leviticus 11 distinguished between “clean” and “unclean” foods. The unclean foods defiled the Israelites and made them “unclean” before God, thus restricting their fellowship with Him:

43 “‘Do not render yourselves detestable through any of the swarming things that swarm; and you shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean. 44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy.’” (Leviticus 11:43-45).

In Leviticus 12-15, other forms of ceremonial uncleanness were defined. A woman was declared unclean after the birth of a child (Leviticus 12:1-5). Leprous infections made a person unclean, and very precise regulations were given regarding such persons. Clear instructions were given concerning the quarantine and the ceremonial cleansing of those no longer unclean.

In Leviticus 16, we find a very special event in the annual Day of Atonement. By the sacrifice of one goat and the release of another, a great “cleansing” was anticipated, the cleansing from sin:

29 “And this shall be a permanent statute for you; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls, and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; 30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the LORD (Leviticus 16:29-30).”

This annual Day of Atonement was a temporary cleansing of the sins of the people of God, until that day when our Lord Himself would be sacrificed as an acceptable offering for sins, once for all. This was no mere ceremonial act, but the basis for our justification before God.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:11-14).

In Leviticus 17, the more mundane matters of ceremonial uncleanness are again taken up. Chapter 17 deals with the offering of sacrifices. In chapter 18, God reveals through Moses that the Laws He is giving His people are given to set them apart from the Egyptians (among whom they formerly lived) and from the Canaanites (with whom they are about to make contact in the promised land):

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God. 5 So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD (Leviticus 18:1-5).

The Israelites were not to imitate the sexual practices of the Canaanites (18:6-23) which would make them unclean and also defile the land. It was because the Canaanites defiled the land that they were expelled from it. If the Israelites imitate them, they too would be expelled:

24 “‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled, therefore I have visited its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 26 But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you; 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land may not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. 29 For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God’” (Leviticus 18:24-30).

In Leviticus 19, holiness is not merely symbolized by avoiding that which is declared to be ceremonially unclean. Instead, holiness is defined in terms of respect for one’s parents (19:3), generosity toward the poor (19:9-10), honesty (19:11), justice (19:11-18), and love for one’s neighbor (19:17-18). In chapter 20, holiness encompasses the entire spectrum of human conduct and all the laws God had laid down:

6 “‘As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. 7 You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes and practice them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you (Leviticus 20:6-8).”

The Old Testament prophets continually stressed the principles of holiness, not the minute details of the law. In the words of our Lord, they (unlike the scribes and the Pharisees of His day) emphasized the “camels” of the Law rather than the “gnats” (see Matthew 23:23-24):

6 With what shall I come to the LORD and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? 7 Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).

Holiness According to Jesus

Jesus’ definition of holiness was one of the bones of contention between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders of His day. In His famous “sermon on the mount” (Matthew 5-7), Jesus drew the lines which distinguished His teaching from that of contemporary Judaism. He shocked the smugly self-righteous Jews by calling those “blessed” whom they regarded as accursed (5:3-12). He told the people that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees would never get them to heaven (5:20). He distinguished their teaching of the law from His own, showing that they had a very legalistic view of the law, rather than an appreciation for its underlying principles (5:21-48). He warned of external religion which is big on appearances but lacking in heart (6:1-34). He spoke of wolves and false teachers, who claimed to know and serve Him but whom He had never known (7:13-23).

Mark’s Gospel describes an incident which laid the foundation for a radical change. Although Peter was present, it would not be until after our Lord’s death, burial, and resurrection that he understood what it meant:

1 And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have been received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. 7 But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” 9 He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” 14 And summoning the multitude again He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand; 15 there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” … 17 And when leaving the multitude, He had entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you too so uncomprehending? Do you not see that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; 19 because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach, and is eliminated? (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:1-15; 17-23).

The scribes and Pharisees were miffed because Jesus’ disciples did not ceremonially cleanse their hands before eating. Now this was not the kind of hand-washing mothers require of their children before they can eat. Mothers want their children’s hands to be clean in a healthy sense, free of dirt and germs. But the Jews wanted people to eat with ceremonial cleanness. This ceremonial cleanness was not what the Old Testament Law required as described in Leviticus. This was a cleanness defined by a different standard—the traditions of the elders (verse 3). They had added all kinds of cleansings to the Law of God and then came to regard their definition of “clean” more highly than that which God had established in Scripture.

Jesus pointed out that it was even worse than this. To add human standards to those of divine origin was one thing. But it was quite another to use these standards to set aside and even violate the Laws of God. Yet this is exactly what Judaism had done, and Jesus exposed their hypocrisy in so doing. The Law required that one should honor their father and mother. This included caring for them in their times of need. And yet the Jews had devised a way to avoid this financial liability. They “dedicated their money to God” using the term “Corban” to do so and then excused themselves from their obligations to their parents by claiming that this was God’s money. So to speak, it was “holy money,” which they claimed could no longer be used to care for their aging parents. But it could be used to satisfy any of their lusts—for example, a vacation.

Biblical holiness results in the care of one’s parents in their time of need. The hypocritical “holiness” Jesus condemned would allow for self-indulgence and excuse one from clear biblical obligations. To rebel against God’s laws openly is one thing, but to do so in a way defined as holiness is quite another. This is the degree to which much of Judaism had departed from true holiness.

If Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of the Judaism of His day, He had even more to say to all who would understand. Cleanness was not a matter of externalism but a matter of the heart. It was not food that defiled a man but that which is inside the man that defiles him. A man is not defiled from without but from within (verses 18-19a). Mark then adds this very significant parenthetical comment:

(Thus He declared all foods clean) Mark 7:19b.

Why was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to be avoided? For one reason: because God declared it so. Adam and Eve did not understand why. They were not to understand why. They needed only to know that God had declared the fruit of this tree off limits to them.

Why were some meats “clean” and others “unclean”? Because God declared them to be so to the people of Israel. Why was a woman unclean twice as long for bearing a girl baby than a boy? Because God said so. Why are sinners deemed to be righteous, forgiven, and destined for heaven? Because God declares them to be justified. Why are all foods now clean according to Mark 7:19? Because God declared them to be clean.

The basis for this cleansing is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. His shed blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The basis of all cleansing is the shed blood of Jesus Christ. The fact of that cleansing is the declaration of God that it is so. This is the cleansing foreshadowed by the annual Day of Atonement:

“For it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30).

It is this cleansing for which the Old Testament saints hoped and prayed and the Old Testament prophets promised:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:2).

Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9).

“And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me, and by which they have transgressed against Me” (Jeremiah 33:8).

25 “And they will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. 33 And they will be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23; see Ezekiel 36:25, 33).

It is this cleansing which our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished by His death, burial, and resurrection:

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? … 22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these (Hebrews 9:13-14, 22-23).

7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7; see also Romans 3:23-26; 1 John 1:9; Hebrews 8-10).

Neither Peter nor any of his fellow-disciples understood what Jesus meant when He “declared all things clean.” This was only grasped after our Lord’s death, burial, and ascension, and after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In Acts 10, Peter was about to be invited to the house of a Gentile—Cornelius. There was no way Peter would have gone apart from the revelation he received from God in a dream:

10 And he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15 And again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16 And this happened three times; and immediately the object was taken up into the sky (Acts 10:10-16).

The sheet that descended from heaven contained all sorts of animals, some of which would have been unclean according to Leviticus 11. But God ordered Peter to kill some of them and to eat. Peter was horrified. He had never done so, and he did not plan to start now. The divine response was simply that God had cleansed them, and that Peter was now no longer to consider them unholy. That cleansing had been accomplished in the sacrificial death of our Lord. God had declared all foods clean. Now, Peter must obey this definition of clean and unclean, because it is God alone who can declare something holy or unholy. It is He alone who can cleanse the unclean and make it clean.

Peter was soon to understand the significance and application of his vision. Messengers from Cornelius arrived and asked him to come with them to the home of their master. Peter complied, still puzzled at what God was teaching him. But when the Holy Spirit fell upon these Gentiles, just as He had upon the Jewish believers at Pentecost, he understood that the coming of our Lord was intended to cleanse both Jews and Gentiles from their sins. Those whom God had cleansed, no man should dare consider unclean.

Peter’s Call to Holiness

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Years later, Peter calls the readers of his first epistle to a life of holiness.18 In these three verses, Peter tells us why we should be holy; he also tells us how. Let us begin with the “why” which can be summed up in two statements:

(1) We are to be holy so that we are obedient to the Word of God which commands it. Peter’s call to holiness is but a repetition of a command given long before by God Himself to the nation Israel: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” We should be holy because God commands it. To do otherwise is to be disobedient.

(2) We are to be holy to be like God, our Father, who called us to be holy. Those commanded to be holy are the children of God. Never is it assumed that unbelievers can or will strive for holiness. Only His children are able to do so, by His grace and through His Spirit. The “saints” are God’s children, whom He has called to be holy:19

7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7).

2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2).

The people of God are to be a manifestation of the presence of God to the rest of the world. Thus, we are commanded to be like our heavenly Father:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).

How then are we to be holy? Peter gives us several directives.

(1) We are to be holy in all our conduct. We are to be holy in every aspect of our conduct. Holiness is not to be compartmentalized into certain “religious” areas of our life. Holiness is a way of life that affects everything we do. Holiness is a lifestyle, rather than mere conformity to a list of rules.

(2) We are to be holy by not being conformed to our former lusts. Holiness is a lifestyle which differs dramatically from our manner of life before we were saved. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He called them to live in a way which would set them apart from the Egyptians among whom they had lived and the Canaanites among whom they would live (see Leviticus 18:1-5).

Holiness is the choice to march to the beat of a different drum. Rather than to live as our culture encourages us to, we must live as God requires. If we are not to be conformed to this world (see Romans 12:1-2), neither are we to be conformed20 to our former desires. At first, it may sound strange to think of being conformed by our desires, but this is precisely what happens. Consider the following texts:

21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:21-25)

16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16).

17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:17-24).

Although God’s creation bears witness to His eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20), men have chosen to worship creation rather than the Creator. Because of this God has given men over to their lusts, and in the pursuit of these lusts, their minds are darkened and distorted. Men are not only mastered by their lusts, they are conformed to them. They become mere creatures of instinct and impulse. Peter speaks more of this in his second epistle:

12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you (2 Peter 2:12-13).

Though the Christian has died to sin and been raised to newness of life in Him, he or she must also choose to serve Him and turn from their former lusts. They must no longer allow sin to master them (Romans 6:1-14). Like Paul, they must gain control over their fleshly desires, rather than be mastered by them:

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

This is one of the lessons we should learn from the Israelites of old (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-13). The alternative is to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2) and the members of our body as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:12-13). Our minds are to be renewed by the Word of God (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:20-24). We are to recognize that sin brings dullness of heart and mind, and that our former lusts are exceedingly deceitful, causing our thinking to become cloudy when we surrender to sin.

Paul lays down a vitally important principle here we dare not fail to grasp. He distinguishes our “former desires” from those we should now possess as children of God. The desires which characterize the fallen world we live in once dominated us. These desires are themselves to be rejected and replaced by new desires. This is what holiness is all about—not just doing what God wants, but desiring those things in which He delights. In the words of the prophet Micah, we are “to do justice” and “to love kindness” (Micah 6:8).

I am beginning to understand Peter’s strong reaction to the vision he received. He was repulsed by the thought of eating anything unclean, just as he was supposed to be so long as God had declared it unclean.

Reading Leviticus 11 teaches me an important lesson about holiness. Those things God declared unclean were unclean. And these “unclean” things were not only to be avoided but to be considered detestable:

10 ‘But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers, that do not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you, 11 and they shall be abhorrent to you; you may not eat of their flesh, and their carcasses you shall detest … 41 Now every swarming thing that swarms on the earth is detestable, not to be eaten (Leviticus 11:10-11, 41, see also verse 13).

It was not enough for the Israelites to avoid eating what God declared to be unclean; they must also loathe what God called unclean. They were to adjust their desires to conform to God’s desires. They were to delight in what God found delightful and to loathe what God found detestable. This command is not just for Old Testament saints but for New Testament saints as well:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good (Romans 12:9).

When we understand and apply this truth, we will find a great deal of practical help. We are not nearly as likely to participate in those things we find detestable as those things in which we delight. George Bush was not nearly as tempted to eat broccoli as he was to raid the refrigerator for his favorite dish. Our problem becomes evident when our desires often do not conform to those things in which God delights. Conversely, we often desire the very things which displease God. When we find our delight in God and in the things which delight Him, then we, like David, will search His word to know more of His law rather than avoiding the Law of God and restricting its application to our lives.

11 Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee; 12 Blessed art Thou, O LORD; Teach me Thy statutes. 13 With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of Thy mouth. 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on Thy precepts, and regard Thy ways. 16 I shall delight in Thy statutes; I shall not forget Thy word. 17 Deal bountifully with Thy servant, That I may live and keep Thy word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law. 19 I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Thy commandments from me. 20 My soul is crushed with longing after Thine ordinances at all times (Psalm 119:11-20).

Contrary to some popular teaching, we do not find in God the satisfaction of our natural thirsts and desires. Our former lusts cause us to be at enmity with God and slaves of sin and of Satan:

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led (1 Corinthians 12:2).

False teachers appeal to these lusts and desires:

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:18-19).

Only when we have been born again do we begin to thirst for the things of God:

1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (1 Peter 2:1-3).

1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries (1 Peter 4:1-3).

4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:4).

Those who persist in pursuing their former desires are rebuked:

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:1-3).

The most severe warning is given to those who would consider a return to their former pursuit of fleshly passions:

19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire (2 Peter 2:19-22).”

Peter’s admonishes us to shun these former desires and to pursue and promote those desires God implants within us at the time of our conversion.

(3) We are to be holy by imitating God. We are to be holy because God is holy (see above). We are also to be holy as God is holy. As Jesus once put it,

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

This means we must first come to know God, and then, by His grace, seek to conduct ourselves in a manner that imitates Him. We must love what He loves and hate what He hates. We, like Him, are to be merciful, just, and kind. We become holy as we are conformed to His image. This is what sanctification is all about:

11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13; see 1 John 3:1-12).

(4) We are to be holy by obeying God’s Word. Peter instructs us to be holy “as obedient children” (1 Peter 1:14). The standards of holiness are set down by God in His Word. That is why Peter quotes from the Old Testament Law. We are to be obedient, and that obedience is directed toward His commands and standards as set down in His Word. In the days of our unbelief, we were ignorant, but now God’s Spirit dwells within us to enlighten our minds to understand His Word (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) and to empower us to obey it (Romans 8:1-4). Holiness is accomplished in our lives as the Spirit of God enables us to know God and to obey His commands, through His Word.

Conclusion

The call is a clear one. It is not a popular appeal. It is a call God has made of His people since the exodus. Those who attempt to market the gospel and appeal to the masses would say God has called us to be happy. But those who read the Scriptures more carefully must acknowledge that God has called us to be holy in an ungodly world. It is holiness which sets us apart from the world and to God. It is holiness we are called to pursue and to practice, to the glory of God and for our good:

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing any more, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God; just as God said, I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; AND I WILL WELCOME YOU. 18 AND I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE SONS and daughters TO ME,” SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE OF GOD; but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behaviour excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:9-12).

Will you heed the call? If you are a child of God, then act like one.

There is a strong tie between hope and holiness both in the context of our passage in 1 Peter and in the doctrine Peter lays down here. In verse 13, Peter instructed us to “fix our hope completely on the grace that is to be brought to us as the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Peter, along with his colleague John, understands that it is our future hope which promotes holiness in this life:

2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. 3 And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

Conversely, Peter teaches us in his second epistle that ungodliness accompanies those whose only hope is in this life and not in the one to come (see 2 Peter 2:12–3:4). It is we who have fixed our hope on the coming of our Lord and His kingdom who should strive for holiness by His grace and to His glory:

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Parallel Texts for Your Meditation and Study

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

17 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:17-24).

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3 But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:1-14).

1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him 11—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all (Colossians 3:1-11).

1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8).

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:10-16).

1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men (Titus 3:1-8).

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:2-4).

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and,

although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Romans 1:24-32).

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:12-23).

9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. 7 And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. 16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? 19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we? 23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 25 Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains. 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone should say to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; 29 I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? 31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 9:24–10:33).


17 I am sad to say that abortion has now made the United States an uncivilized nation.

18 It should be pointed out that here, as in verse 13, there is but one true imperative to be found (“be holy”), along with a participle which is also translated as an imperative (“do not be conformed”). The primary command is to be holy, while the subordinate command is to not be conformed.

19 The word “saint” is derived from the word “holy.” Thus, the NASB has a marginal note in Romans 1:7 indicating that the word “saints” literally means “holy ones.”

20 The same word is found both in Romans 12:2 and 1 Peter 1:14 and nowhere else in the New Testament.

Related Topics: Sanctification