Sermon: Responding in Action to God’s Work of Salvation (1 Peter 1:13-16)

“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. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it  is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”– 1 Peter 1:13-16[1]

In the section of Scripture preceding our sermon text, Peter espouses a breathtaking description of God’s work of salvation in the life of His people (vv. 3-12). We have learned that by the immense graciousness of our heavenly Father that He has caused His people to be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (v.3). This new birth through the resurrection of Christ has brought Christians into union with the Father through Christ and given to them a promise of a future inheritance which is to be hoped for passionately.[2] We have also learned that our faith and hope in what God has done is to be purified, if necessary, by various trials that God has seen fit to send our way. In persevering through trials, our faith becomes much more pronounced as our affections are changed and are centered on the glory of God rather than sinful gain. Finally, in connection with what God has done in salvation, Peter has made clear that we as New Testament saints have much to be thankful for due to the fullness of revelation that we possess; namely, the Word of God. Christians alive today have the ability to examine the whole of redemptive history and to see how all of history has, and still does, pointed to the work of Christ on the cross and we are to be moved to humility because of God’s graciousness.

In light of what the Apostle Peter has taught concerning the nature of redemption, we as Christians are to take what we have learned about salvation and apply it to our own lives in practical ways. Peter begins our sermon text (v.13) with the connector word, “therefore”. Peter wants to connect the metaphysical aspect of salvation to the practical, he wants to unite knowledge with doing (cf., James 1:22). Peter challenges his readers to act accordingly in response to what Christians now know regarding God’s action in salvation. St. Peter makes this connection by issuing two very basic, but extremely important commands: 1.) As Christians, we are to set our hope fully on God’s grace through Christ, and 2.) that believers are to be holy just as our Father in heaven is holy. Therefore, the truth taught for our sermon text is as follows:

Truth Taught: Mediating on God’s work in salvation must produce a solid hope in God’s grace through Christ and a life devoted to holiness.

Command #1Christians are to set their hope fully on God’s grace to them through Christ

“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”. (v.13)

The focus of Peter’s command is centered around setting our hope fully on the grace of God through Christ; grace God has shown us already, and especially, the grace that will be given to us in the future. Remember, God’s grace to His people already entails reconciliation with Him through union with Christ and the hope that we have of a future inheritance in heaven. This hope that Peter commands believers to possess is the same type hope that he calls “living” in verse 3 of chapter one. This hope is a strong kind of hope that enables us to confidently trust the promises of God in such a way as to urge us to live out life in light of this hope. Because God has promised salvation to us through Christ, we should now live our lives as a response to that covenant. Peter suggests that we are to set our hope fully on God’s grace in two ways: by preparing our minds for action and living sober-minded. These are the means in which we are to reach the end of fully hoping in the grace that God’s has revealed in Christ.

Within Christian theology, the mind is very important. As is obvious from this text, we are to use our minds, and use them in such a way as to bring glory to God. Peter proposes that we should be preparing our minds for action. This statement literally means to, “gird up the loins of your mind” and prepare for some strenuous activity. Most modern translations do not translate verse 13 in this way and readers miss the rich echoes of Old Testament language.[3] According to Peter, we are to ready our minds to remain alert during the time of our time in this life. In consequence then, Christians are to be sober-minded, constantly distinguishing between what is sinful and what is righteous. Be sober-minded as to not fall prey to worldly desires.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. – Colossians 3:2-3

Also consider Kris Lundgaard, author of, The Enemy Within, for further reflection:

“Each of the faculties of your soul has duties before God. The mind is the sentinel, commanded to watch carefully over the soul by questioning, assessing, and making judgments: ‘Will this please God?’ ‘Is this according to God’s Word?’ If the mind determines that an action is right, the affections should then fall in line and desire, long for, and cling to that which the mind said was good. Last, the will puts the soul into action, carrying out what the mind said was good and the affections hungered for.”[4]

Though we are to use our minds for the glory of God, our minds, too, are affected by sin in the reaming flesh, and we often give in to fleshly desires very easily. Just as in the parable of the wedding feast (cf., Matt. 22:1-14) we are frequently blindsided by the cares of everyday life, most of which are not inherently sinful in nature, but nevertheless, replace our focus on glorifying God in all that we do.[5] With this in mind, we must ask ourselves then, is our mind being intoxicated with worldly desires? Are we working at being sober-minded in our lives? These are important questions that all, we as Christians, must ask of ourselves frequently.

Command #2Christians are called to be Holy just as our Father in Heaven is Holy

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

In Peter’s second command, he challenges his readers to strive for holiness with the hope of imitating our heavenly Father who is perfectly holy. Just as a child wants to imitate his earthly father, so should we want to aggressively imitate the holiness of our heavenly Father. However, in order to strive for the same type of holiness as God, it is essential that we identify what it means for mankind to seek holiness as God is holy. To be holy as God is holy signifies that we are to morally separate ourselves from vile sinfulness and to dedicate our lives to righteousness as God would have us do (cf., Ephesians 5:11).  As Christians, we are to seek holiness through persevering in a life of godliness in spite of the affects of remaining sin; do not fall victim to the sinful passions of our former ignorance (v.14). In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he provides readers with an awesome contrast between what is sinful and of our former ignorance, and what is evidence of becoming more Christ-like; we would do well to heed this distinction:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. – Galatians 5:19-24

And so, Peter is clear that we should strive to be holy just as our heavenly Father is holy. The state of ignorance that we once possessed is a thing of the past and we are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17); we should seek holiness diligently. In conclusion then, we are to remember the awesome works of God in bringing us to salvation, but in doing so, our hope of a future with Christ should be sustained by preparing our minds for action and being sober-minded. If we are to pursue this life of fully hoping in the promises of God in Christ, we should also seek a life of holiness as God has called His people to, and not relapse into our former ways of ignorance. To add a final touch on Peter’s teaching, the great church reformer, Martin Luther, leaves us with this thought concerning our sermon text:

“This is an admonition to faith, and the sense is this: while such things are preached to you and bestowed upon you through the Gospel as the angels would rejoice and be desirous to behold, rely on them, and fix your confidence thereon with all firmness, so that it shall be a real faith, and not a painted or fictitious fancy or dream”.[6]

It is my sincere hope that you have been strengthened in your faith and that above all, God has received the glory. Amen.

[1] All Scripture references are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] The doctrine of union with Christ is one of the most beautiful doctrines of the Christian faith. It is through our union with Christ, as Christians, that we have access to the Father. This should humble us greatly, as the only thing apart from Christ that we have to offer God is our evil sinfulness (cf., Romans 6).

[3] Please note that modern translations of verse 13 are accurate in stating, “preparing your minds for action”.

[4] Lundgaard, Kris. The Enemy Within, P&R Publishers. 1998. 56.

[5] Things such as family, health, food, money, friends, school, etc., are not inherently sinful, but often cause Christians to replace the importance of glorifying God with other concerns. They then become idols which is very much sinful. As Christians, we must be sober-minded as Peter challenges us to be.

[6] Luther, Martin. The Epistles of St. Peter and Jude Preached and Explained. Kindle edition.

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