1 Peter 1:13-16
Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober…
The word holy has received various interpretations, according to the culture of those employing it, In the law of Moses, the word of which it is the translation seems to mean nothing more than ceremonial cleanliness. Then, certain moral ideas got associated with it, and to be holy signified to be virtuous. By and by the idea of pure feeling was added on, and it was seen that there must be an inward as well as outward purity in order to make a man holy. Our English word starts from an altogether different basis. Its fundamental conception is that of health; the holy man is the healthy, sound, whole man. But, then, it went through the same spiritualising process; first of all, health, holiness, consisted simply in soundness of body, then of mind, then of morals, and, finally, of the whole being. I like this conception better than the Hebrew; it gives one an idea more completely in harmony with the truth. I find it very hard to work my way up to spiritual holiness from the Hebrew standpoint of ceremonial cleanliness. But I discern this holiness, in the highest sense, to be wholeness, soundness, or health, that is, existence in the normal state, according to the laws of my whole being. And that, surely, is the holiness of God. He lives, He acts, according to the condition of His own absolutely perfect nature — from Himself, according to the truth of His own being. The text, then, is a call to Christian people ever to be striving after higher attainments in this holiness, ever to be setting before them the absolute holiness of God as the ideal after which they should form themselves.
1. First of all, I feel there are a great force and beauty in the terms the writer employs: "Not fashioning yourselves according to your former desires, in your ignorance." The idea is that of constructing the outward form of your life according to the inward scheme you have formed of it. And so, again, when he says, "Be ye holy in all manner of conversation," it means, in every turn of your conduct, in deeds as well as words; let your outcoming be according to the perfect law of your nature. Words, actions, are simply the covering, habitation, exuded from one's soul which shows clearly what the soul is — its character, tone, refinement, thought, feeling, purposes, life. Every instant we are thus giving out from ourselves and proclaiming to those who are by us what we are. And when I say this, I do not forget that a great deal of what we say and do is done according to custom and etiquette of the set of people amongst whom we live. Very few live according to the pure, free, spontaneous impulses of their own nature. But, then, it must be remembered that these social usages of thought and expression have entered into and become a part of our inner being before they get themselves outwardly observed by us. You mingle, for example, with coarse people; their coarseness, sooner or later, consciously or unconsciously, insinuates itself into your soul; then you fall into coarse ways; that is, the coarseness your soul has grown into, comes out in coarse words and manners. Or, let us hope, you associate with refined people; the influences of their refinement purify your soul, and it, too, becomes refined; the manners, morals, modes of life which you henceforth exhibit become, of necessity, the expression of that refinement. A noble soul puts its nobleness into the smaller acts of its life as well as into the greatest: two sentences will disclose the want of order in an illogical mind; Divine love radiates its tenderness through the simplest expression; the pure soul indicates its purity by the kind of its response to purity and coarseness, as the thermometer responds to heat and cold. The only way of being good, pure, noble, holy in the high Anglo-Saxon sense of the word, is to have the soul filled with truth and goodness, and then act from the inward impulses freely. Schematise, fashion your outward life by the plastic energy of your own soul.
2. Secondly, I think this text intimates the progressive character of holiness in each individual. A past and a future are referred to; the present is the transition point from the one to the other. In the past, the outward life was fashioned by ignorance, or rather, in ignorance; now, knowledge is to take its place, and a higher ideal is to give the model of the conversation. Yet, observe, as much as the writer supposes his hearers to have risen above that former state, it was one of comparative evil rather than of positive — of privative knowledge rather than absolute ignorance. However high the attainments of today, and however pure the life of today may seem, when the higher knowledge and life of tomorrow come, we shall look back upon all we have attained today, as today we look back upon what we were yesterday. The youth at sixteen or seventeen thinks himself a man, and laughs at the childishness of ten years ago. When he has grown to forty or fifty years he will look back upon his present age as that of his boyhood. And so it always happens that our past seems to us folly, weakness, evil, in the light of the grace we have now reached. But that just leads the thoughtful to see how the past belongs to the present, and forms an essential part of it, containing within itself the rudiments of all that is truest and best in us now.
3. But thirdly, we have here given to us the primal condition of this increasing holiness; namely, the setting before us of a perfect ideal. As He calling you is the holy One, be ye holy in all forms and turns of your life, for it is written, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." Now, you will observe, this is quite accordant with all I have said about the holiness being dependent upon, not an outward rule, but an inward principle. For, although correctly, God is set before us as the pattern, type or object with which we are to conform ourselves in holiness, yet, clearly, it is not God existing outwardly and beyond ourselves, but as He is known to, and conceived in our own minds. The outward revelation of God must be construed to the mind in the .form of its own ideas, before it can possibly produce the least spiritual effect upon the soul. And that is true, whether the revelation be given in nature or in books. And now, consider a little the principle that it is the forming of higher ideals which is the one primal condition of progress in holiness. You can never rise above your own thoughts, that is certain. There is nothing which you have out of which anything higher and better could come; you are kept down to that level by a law harder than fate. Ex nihilo nihil fit. Blessed are those who can realise their thoughts to the full! For, whilst it is true that we cannot rise higher than our ideals, our thoughts, it is not true that we can always rise as high. The reverse is the truth. We never can shape the material on which we work so readily as we shape our thoughts. The thing done is never so true and good and beautiful as the idea we had of it. Sometimes the fault lies in the unshapeable, unplastic materials. More often with the untrained, disobedient hand, or other powers with which we do the work. What Divine songs our fancies, for instance, sometimes sing, and how they get never sung by the unmanageable organs of speech! What fame some artists would have, if the hand could but create the idealised picture or sculpture! And all this is still more true of the moral qualities of things, for in them we meet with more hindrances to realisation. We picture goodness, which a little passing appetite is strong enough to mar in operation, We idealise justice, and the chance of some palpable advantage causes the idea to get sadly distorted when it comes out in deeds. Wonderful and mysterious is that plastic power of the soul! as it thinks of Divine things it becomes Divine, and forthwith the divineness spreads through words and deeds; and although in spreading the divineness becomes diffused, attenuated, yet it is divineness still, which, radiating through, glorifies the character, and, in proportion to the fulness of the original thought, renders the outward life Divine. Wonderful power! mirroring Thine, great Father, Thou supernal power of all, who clothest Thyself with this universe wrought out of Thine eternal ideas — ever energising the forms of beauty and life we dimly see around — dimly see, because not for us, the finite, is it to comprehend Thine infinite thoughts. But as we comprehend and rise in our conceptions of Him — as more and more our souls conceive truly and fully goodness, love, the perfect life to which we are called and of which we are capable — it issues forth into the "conversation," the character, the moulding and turning of words and deeds; and we become holy as the Holy One is holy.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;