The author of this letter is Peter, who was an apostle of Jesus Christ, one of the twelve disciples, and a leader of the early church. He wrote this letter to Christians who were scattered throughout various regions of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), such as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. These Christians were mostly Gentiles who had converted to the faith through the preaching of Paul and other missionaries. They were facing persecution and suffering from the hostile society around them, which was dominated by pagan religions and the Roman Empire. Peter wrote this letter to encourage those believers to stand firm in their faith, to live holy lives, and to hope in the future glory that God has prepared for them.
The theme of this chapter is the living hope that we have in Christ. Peter begins by praising God for his great mercy in causing us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. This living hope is not a vague wish or a sentimental feeling, but a confident expectation. The fact is, no matter what trials or troubles we face in this life, we can rejoice in this hope, knowing that God is guarding us by his power through faith for salvation.
As we jump into today’s thought, I’d like to focus our attention on verses 13-25. As we know, the New Testament teaches that the foundation of our right relationship with God (what scripture calls justification) is the finished work of Christ on our behalf, by faith (see Eph. 2:8–9). We are not made right with God or kept right with God for that matter, by our good conduct. Nonetheless, the New Testament also teaches that how we do conduct ourselves is a massively important component of the Christian life. We are encouraged repeatedly to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). Conduct is the centerpiece with Peter in this passage.
From its bold opening verse all the way through, we are called by this passage to a distinctive way of living in the world. It calls believers to be “holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). It calls us to “conduct yourselves with fear” (v. 17). It calls us to “love one another earnestly” in “obedience to the truth” (v. 22).
But even in his explicit attention to conduct, Peter consistently anchors his call for Christian conduct in theological truth. Specifically, he urges us in our conduct to carefully think on, and then take our cues from, four preexisting, God-anchored realities.
First, Peter points us to the great “grace that will be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (v. 13). Though the fulfillment is yet to come, God has given us the promise of this future grace and he intends that promise to wield influence and to translate into prepared, courageous, and sober-minded conduct now.
Second, Peter reminds us of the very character of God. Rather than taking our cue from our “ignorant” (godless) desires, we are to directly model our conduct after God’s holiness, which here speaks not just of his otherness but also, and especially, of his moral purity.
Third, Peter calls us to a certain conduct based on the immeasurable price of our redemption: “knowing that you were ransomed . . . with the precious blood of Christ” (vv. 18–19). Consider Christ’s death on your behalf, Peter tells us, and let that amazing sacrifice shape how you live.
Fourth, Peter speaks to us of the very source of our life—namely, “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (v. 23), then you should act in a way that reflects this source of life. Both the quality (“imperishable”), and the content (truth), of God’s word shape our conduct. Ultimately, what we need to see is that God is not calling for our obedience in a vacuum but in light of the richness of his goodness to us in the gospel.