Peter now serves the second of a two-part explanation of the term, ‘sanctification.’ The first described the believer’s sanctification as evidenced by what is avoided (v. 14). Here (v. 15, 16), Peter makes an all-inclusive statement revealing what the believer does. He instructs his readers, “In every thing you do… be holy!”
I hope I’m not the only one who recoils ever so slightly (okay, a whole lot!) when that word is used to imply my instructed conduct. Peter could have made life a lot easier for me if he had simply said, “Be almost holy,” or “Hey, try to resemble Jesus’ holiness to the best of your ability.” But he didn’t. He said, “Be holy, as God is holy!”
My natural reaction to this word is to immediately envision Isaiah seeing the Lord on His throne, high and lifted up (ch. 6). There before the Throne of God, worships angelic beings crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”
And Peter says, “Be holy.” Peter couldn’t have set a higher mark or standard. There is nothing and there is no one remotely holy as God. So what can Peter be instructing?
Yes, I know… at this point, someone will chime in with an explanation of the believer’s position in Christ. And they will be right. In Christ Jesus, we are robed with His holiness. But Peter is instructing his readers to flee from their former lusts and then walk in holiness; be holy. He’s giving them practical information for guidance.
As Peter unfolds an understanding of the term, sanctification, he is leaning upon an illustration that his hearers would have grasped easily. No one reading his words in that day would have concluded Peter was telling them to usurp an attribute that God alone possesses.
Throughout the Bible, there is another use of the term, holy. It is distinctly related to God’s holiness. It is those things that are assigned to, and set apart for, devotion to God. Consider the articles of the Temple. When something became consecrated for Temple worship, it held a special place in the sanctuary of God, and it was prohibited from common use. It was deemed, ‘holy.’ Simply put, a frying pan assigned to the Temple could no longer be used to cook pork chops for supper (I know, that’s lame). To rein this thought in, read a few verses by Paul. Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; Colossians 1:21-22; 3:12 (Yes, you have to open your Bible and turn to these)
Peter is encouraging believers to be holy in every aspect of their lives. This, by the way, goes much deeper than religious activity. A Puritan writer once observed, “What a man is in private, that is what a man really is in the sight of God.” The motive behind each action is equal in importance. Peter said, “Be holy in all your conduct.” Whether in thought, word, or deed, do everything as one who has been set apart for God’s purposes. And His purpose is clear; the transforming work of His people into the image of His Son.
Christ likeness is God’s goal for every believer’s life (2 Corinthians 3:18). It should be the goal for the believer also.