Updated: Dec 11, 2020
To Whom We Long For:
“If you had it to do all over again, would you have changed anything?” In retrospect, many—if not all—persons can look back at their lives and point to one or two substantial events that truly transformed the outcome of their lives. Whether it was a choice to attend a certain school, to take on a particular job opportunity, or to maintain/terminate a diacritic relationship, these junctures within a young developing life has paid enormous dividends in regards to the current situation that one finds themselves in. And yet, within the scope of the initial question what is not taken into consideration, necessarily, is the internal transformation that has produced character and virtue by the decisions made themselves. That is, in our production-driven culture, there is a tendency of emphasizing the final outcome rather than meditating upon the development within the process itself. Again, we analyze and interrogate the results over and against, at times, the transactions and proceedings that got us to this point.
Similarly, when faced with a pandemic or a critical election year, many seek merely for the end result. There have been many instances where the gaze of the pandemic is quickly overlooked by the resolve to return all activities to normalcy. That is, we want to move from problem-to-solution without doing the tedious work of understanding what these events genuinely reveal in the disposition of our hearts—individually and corporately. We long to return to major sporting events, entertainment functions, and/or simple outings at the shopping mall—which are not morally evil in and of themselves—while neglecting the core gathering of the saints (cf. Heb. 10:25). The credence for and the dependency in these ventures not only speak to the affections of our hearts’ content, but the lack of affection for the things of God. Thus, the current trials that are in our midst do not solely function as a problem to be solved, but rather a thermometer in gauging the internal longings of our hearts. As one author rightfully articulates, “God uses suffering providentially to remind us of our need for Him and to draw us close to Him.”
Holiness is Our Aim:
The themes interwoven into the first epistle of Peter do not convey discrepancy due to the church’s sufferings, but, quite the contrary, it speaks to her covenantal fidelity amid union with Christ. More specifically, their difficulties express the counter-cultural dimensions that are birthed from their kingdom dominion with Christ which runs contrary to the fallenness of this world. Patrick Schreiner captures it well in saying,
At the center of this Kingdom plan stand the new people of God, who are created by the Word. God called out not a group of individuals, but a community. Paul speaks of this community as confounding the heavenly beings (Eph. 3:10). It is through the church that people get a glimpse of the Kingdom.
Thus, the sufferings that are experienced is in line with her new citizenship which await its fullness in the final eschaton. The adversity, then, is tied to the production of holiness which is derived from the covenantal Lord Himself. That is, the character of the people of God will be indicative of her covenantal Lord. Two central themes, in turn, flow from 1 Peter 1:13-21, (1) a holy mindfulness and (2) the precious blood of Christ.
A Holy Mindfulness. The term “Therefore” functions as a transitional marker which connects the previous argumentation—which was based upon faith in Christ (vv. 3-12)—with the oncoming charge to “set your hope on the grace” (1:13). The Apostle Peter demonstrates a similar pattern as to the Apostle Paul in conveying the indicative, i.e., truth claims, prior to laying out the imperatives for the church. Thomas R. Schreiner rightly contends that “God’s commands are always rooted in His grace. Another way of putting this is to say that the indicative (what God has done for us in Christ) is always the basis of the imperative (how we should live our lives).” Thus, the sequential elements to the nature of didactic literature is vital and formative in comprehending the out-workings of the Gospel articulated by the apostolic agency.
The first imperative, then, is seen in the Apostle’s charge to “set your hope on the grace” (1:13). Peter calls the church to an eschatological gaze which sees the fullness of reward in the coming of Christ. Yet, one could ask what does setting our hope in grace actually look like? How are we to practically do that? The participles found within the clause grant credence in substantiating the mechanism in achieving the imperative; that is, setting our hope in the grace of Christ. Thus, the two main particles are “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded” (1:13a, italics mine). In this way, we will examine them in order.
First, in order to set one’s hope upon the grace of Christ, one must literally gird up the loins of your mind to discern any/all circumstances. This is indicative of Christ who directs His disciples in the midst of Pharisaic fallacies to “[stay] dressed for action and keep your lamp burning” (Lk. 13:35, italics mine). Both instances use words stemming from the cognate zónnumi, which means to “to gird” or “to pull the belt.” The mandate, then, is virtually tied to a mind saturated amid resurrection power (1:3-5) and prophetic fulfillment in Christ (1:10-11), which was seen earlier in Peter’s argumentation. This assertion, furthermore, finds additional support in the Apostle’s following sanction to “not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” (1:14, italics mine). Calvin demonstrates this well by saying,
He means that our minds are held entangled by the passing cares of the world and by vain desires, so that they do not rise up to God. Therefore anyone who really wants to have this hope must learn in the first place to disentangle himself from the world, and gird up his mind so that he does not turn aside to vain affections. For the same reason he enjoins sobriety, which immediately follows. He commends not only temperance in eating and drinking, but rather spiritual sobriety, when we contain all our thoughts and affections so as not to be inebriated with the allurements of this world. Since even the least taste of them draws us away stealthily from God, when anyone plunges himself into these, he must of necessity become sleepy and stupid, and he forgets the things of God.’
Secondly, the Apostle calls for the saints to be “sober-minded” (1:13). That is, the sobriety to which Peter alludes to is indicative of the disenchantment and discontentment toward the fallen world due to a regenerate appeal in the salvific reality of Christ Jesus. This redemptive status, again, conjures familial bonds which expresses itself in the apostle’s description of the saints “[as] obedient children” (1:14, italics mine). “Reborn life or life in God’s family is described as life lived under the control of the human cerebral cortex,” says Peter H. Davids, “so long as that cortex is informed by a vision of the future in which Jesus is revealed as God’s reigning king.” Due to covenantal inclusion, the apostle contrasts their prior conduct of life as “the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1:18). By cause of redemption in Christ, those familial boundaries have been rewritten. Consequently, Peter refers to the paternal nature of God in saying, “And if you call on Him as Father” (1:17a). This, then, grants assurance for the saints to stand in opposition to the spirit of the age and to cement themselves, through the power of the Spirit, to the vision of the eternal kingdom in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And yet, collectively—the preparation of mind and the sobriety of thought—leads to a posture of holiness that is anchored in a mind saturated and persuaded by eschatological realities. That is, in setting our hope upon Christ and looking to the Day of Judgement, we will find motivation toward righteousness in the midst of turmoil and unrest. Peter stresses, then, to “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1:17b; cf. 1:1). Thus, salvation in Christ not only garners a positional curry with the triune God of the Universe but produces in the regenerate an inclination toward holiness. Hence, the apostle reminds the people of God what the covenantal Lord has conveyed, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1:16; cf. Lev. 11:44). The covenantal life, in turn, “requires a change of habits as well as a change of convictions. It comes from belonging not only to the present but gaining a sense of belonging to something that reaches into the past as well as far off into the future.”
The Precious Blood of Christ. The futuristic gaze which empowers the present struggle is situated upon a past fulfillment. Or phrased in a question: on what grounds can future judgement be leveraged as an incentive toward righteous living? How could believers have the audacity to hold the Day of Judgement as a symbol of hope amid a dying world? Two interlocking components: (1) divine wisdom and (2) precious atoning blood.
The giving of Christ as a salvific appeal was not merely a reaction to the quarry doom brought about by the Adamic fall. Rather, it was established in the infinite mind of God to redeem a people for Himself through the blood of His Son—the sacrificial lamb. Peter renders Christ as “foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1:20). Meaning, the “elect exiles” (1:1) are the beneficiaries of God’s redemptive telos in magnifying His Name across the universe. That is, this salvific narrative was etched in the mind of God prior to the created order. Calvin helpfully conveys this notion by saying,
It was not a common or a small favour that God put off the manifestation of Christ to their time, when He had ordained Him by His eternal counsel for the salvation of the world. At the same time, however, he reminds us that from the side of God it was not a new or a sudden thing that Christ appeared as a Savior; and this is what ought to be specially understood. . . . Hence according to His wonderful wisdom and goodness, He ordained that Christ should be the Redeemer, who would deliver the lost race of man from ruin. In this there shines forth more clearly the unspeakable goodness of God, in that He anticipated our disease by the remedy of His grace, and provided a restoration to life before the first man had fallen into death.
The second point, then, is a sequential paradigm to the divine decree of God’s redemptive criteria. The shedding of messianic blood was brought forth through a heavenly edict to demonstrate the insurmountable worth of God’s glory (cf. Eph. 1:3-14). As Peter, through inspiration, rightfully proclaims it is “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1:19). Though previously the apostle argues for a prophetic basis in mounting a restorative decree (1:10-12), he double downs on his claim and asserts divine wisdom as the fundamental premise for the economy of redemption. The blood shed of Christ, in turn, is foundational in bringing about restoration and fulfillment to God’s plan.
Yet, the bloodshed of the sacrificial lamb is only part-of-a-whole in comprehending the Gospel. That is, the resurrection of Christ is not merely an afterthought. Rather, the resurrection is the vindication of Christ and the means to which believers have “access with confidence through our faith in Him” (Eph. 3:12). The Apostle Peter points toward this end by reference of God “who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory” (1:21b). As the Apostle Paul exclaimed, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). Thus, the resurrection of Christ vindicates the work of Christ and, in turn, validates our union with Him unto glory. “Not only because He is the Son of God by eternal right,” says Michael S. Horton, “but because He is the eschatological image-son by His completion of His commission, does His resurrection achieve a public-representative rather than simply personal character.”
To this end, Peter anchors our (living) hope (cf. 1:3), not amid wishful-thinking nor fairy-tale lullabies, but rather upon a historical event achieved by the historical figure—Jesus Christ. The Apostle himself fastens the glorious claim of resurrection with divine interpretation in saying, “so that your faith and hope are in God” (1:21b, italics mine). That is, the substance and girth of the Christian faith is rooted within the powerful act of the resurrection which assures our salvific gains (cf. Rom. 1:1-4; 8:11; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 2:8-11; Heb. 4:14-16).
Holiness as Imaging Forth the Glory of God:
Jesus Christ, the second Adam, “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3a; cf. Col. 1:15; 19). Thus, as image bearers Christ has redeemed a people for Himself in taking on flesh (cf. Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:19; Heb. 2:5-18) and fulfilling the mandate as the covenant federal head (cf. Rom. 5:12-21). That is, He has restored the brokenness of humanity in Himself by aligning His covenant people to the sanction of creation in imaging forth the glory of God to the ends of the earth (cf. Gen. 1:26-28). To this end, the “image is conceptually like a shadow,” according to Richard Lints, “ontologically dependent upon the object it reflects. It is the imaging relationship rather than the image itself that is the primary vantage point throughout Scripture.” The community of saints, then, are the redeemed people purposed and called as creaturely being making much of the covenantal Lord by living in fellowship with Him and with one another to the praise of His Name. In the midst of a broken and depraved world, the church lives in tension in order to showcase the majesty of her commission.
Therefore, the holiness of God is the climatic telos to which Christ has sought to restore His people in reflection toward His own divine character. The church, then, would be well served in understanding the tension and turmoil that is faced in lock-step with the divine means in bringing forth God’s intended purpose to conform the saints into the image of the Son (cf. Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10). This is coupled with the proclamation of the Gospel that is the means to which the triune God will awaken dead hearts to Himself. As Jeffrey D. Johnson rightly contends, “Christ fulfills the covenant mandate and brings many children into the kingdom, not by procreation, but by the effectual and regenerating power of His Word.” Though the suffering is hard, and adversity is enduring, the covenantal Lord is steadfast in His sovereign will to bring about all the blessings for the good of His people. This, in turn, can spur the saints forward in facing calamity and withstanding hardship with a sharp gaze toward the heavenlies. Soli Deo Gloria!
 Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson, “Suffering and the Biblical Story,” Suffering and the Goodness of God, TIC, ed. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 133.  Patrick Schreiner, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross, SSBT (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 132.  Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, NAC (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 2003), 77.  John Calvin, Hebrews and 1 and 2 Peter: Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 12, trans. W. B. Johnston (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 243.  Peter H. Davids, A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude: Living in the Light of the Coming King, BTNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 129.  Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry: The Image of God and Its Inversion, NSBT (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015), 168-169.  Calvin, Hebrews and 1 and 2 Peter, 249.  Michael S. Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 703-704.
McYoung Y. Yang (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; ThM, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the husband to Debbie and the father to McCayden (12), McCoy (10), McColsen (8), and DeYoung (5). He is a Teaching Pastor at Covenant City Church in St. Paul, MN and a homeschool dad to his four children. McYoung is continuing his doctoral studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His ambition is to use his training as a means to serve the local church in living life through the Gospel lens.