The Christian life should be a pursuit of holiness. We can do this for the wrong reasons: to make ourselves look good, to avoid the earthly consequences of wrongdoing, or as a way to earn favour with God. But there’s a passage in 1 Peter which gives us several reasons for earnestly seeking a godly life.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9-12)
Why does Peter exhort us to be holy?
You are part of God’s people
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” (v. 9)
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (v. 10)
When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, your whole identity changes. You become a new person. Your sin alienated you from God, but now he has adopted you as one his children. All believers are set apart as a holy nation—and this new identity requires new behaviour. Live a life worth of your calling as you wait for Jesus to return.
Be holy because God has made you holy.
This world is not your home
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles…” (v. 11)
Belonging to God means that we no longer belong to this world. We still live on earth, surrounded by the devastating effects of the Fall, but we should not be comfortable with it. The term “sojourner” is rarely used today, but it means someone who resides only temporarily in a certain place. We are travellers passing through. This affects everything about our lives: how we spend our money and our time, how we treat people, how we relate to God. We must throw off sin and press on to our true country.
Be holy because you don’t belong in this sinful world.
Sin is destructive
“…abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (v. 11)
Sin isn’t just unwise—it’s immensely harmful. We were made to worship God and find our joy in him. When we give in to temptation, we’re looking elsewhere for this joy. Over time, sin obscures our view of God’s glory. Satan is waging a long war of attrition against our souls, and we feed it by turning to the cravings of the flesh for our happiness and fulfillment.
Be holy because sin destroys you.
It will glorify God
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (v. 12)
Few things damage our witness more than when unbelievers see us persistently sinning like the rest of the world. God is not glorified by our assimilation! But when we live godly lives, people will not always like that either. Jesus warned that those who follow him will be hated. In the end, though, God will be glorified by our good deeds. It’s not clear whether the “day of visitation” means conversion or the final judgment, but both give us an incentive towards holiness. Some will see our good deeds and turn to trust in God, bringing him glory by their faith. Others will malign us in this life, but we will be vindicated when Jesus comes back and we all stand before God’s judgment throne.
Be holy because it glorifies God.
Peter gives us four compelling reasons to pursue holiness. There are plenty of reasons not to be holy: it’s easier to give in to temptation, we will be persecuted, and it will be costly. But on the day when Jesus returns, will any of these reasons make sense? Let’s think about Jesus, who “called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (v. 9), and walk in that light every day.