1 Peter 1:15, 16 Identity: Holy

… but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”


Jesus was set apart by God the Father for a special purpose.  He was holy.  God changes the things that he sets apart for himself.  They become holy.  They begin to reflect more of God’s nature.  This does not mean that being holy includes being proud or lording it over others.  Being holy means that you are living by a different standard than the rest of society and that standard has been dictated by God.  Plenty of people want God’s love, grace and mercy, but they must choose holiness if they want those things.  People must choose to live a life that is free from sin and corruption.  Beyond that, the Christian’s life must show that they pursue God with everything they have.

John D. Watts writes:

Holy also applied to persons who were to meet God. The priests had to undergo special rites that sanctified and purified them for service in the Temple. God wanted all His people to share His presence. They had to be instructed in the character and actions what would accomplish that. The Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-25 ) commands the people to obey God’s laws in all parts of life in order to be “holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ). Here holiness is seen to include a moral character as well as cultic purity. Sin and disobedience works the opposite and has to be cleansed or atoned by sacrifice (Leviticus 1-7 ; Leviticus 16:1 ).

An understanding of holiness is needed for New Testament study to appreciate the cross and the results of God’s work through the cross. The Gospels make clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21 ; Luke 1:31-35 ). The crucifixion is portrayed as Christ shedding His blood and giving His body for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:26-29 ; Mark 14:22-25 ; Luke 22:19-20 ). Faith in Christ is portrayed as acceptance of His full atonement for sin (1 John 2:2 ; 1 John 3:5 ; Revelation 5:9 ).

The Holy Spirit is the agent of holiness for the church and its leaders (Acts 1:8 ; Acts 2:4 ; Acts 5:32 ; Acts 13:2-4 ). He keeps the church pure (Acts 5:1-11 ). He promotes holiness in its members (1 Corinthians 6:19 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:7 ).

Christians are called to holy living (1 Corinthians 1:2 ; 1 Corinthians 3:17 ). They are saints who lead godly, righteous lives. Being sanctified, or made holy, is a work of the Holy Spirit on the basis of Christ’s atonement that calls for obedient submission from those who have been saved. Christians are holy because of their calling in Christ, because of His atonement for their sins, and because of the continual ministrations of the Holy Spirit. They are holy inasmuch as they receive and submit to these saving and sanctifying agents.


I don’t feel naturally inclined to call myself ‘holy’.  It seems presumptuous.  However, you have declared us holy and you require a more moral life as a result.  Help me to follow through on this desire.


  1. Why is a person to be holy?
  2. What does holy mean?
  3. In what ways would early Christian conduct be different from the ancient norms?
  4. How do ‘holy’ Christians set themselves apart by their actions today?
  5. How does  God want to make you more holy?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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2 Responses to 1 Peter 1:15, 16 Identity: Holy

  1. Christina Zezulak says:

    To be holy means to be set apart. God is holy, and thus, believers are called to be conformed to the image of the Son, who is holy. Christians today should be set apart in their speech, their actions, their desires, their thoughts and perspectives.The more I become like Christ, the more I see myself being radically different than others around me in these ways. I also don’t dress the same or listen to the same music or watch the same movies. Every aspect of my life has become more holy as I have pursued and been pursued by Christ. I truly believe that a Christian’s life, in every aspect, is completely transformed by the Holy Spirit, as he or she walks with the Lord. It is often how I can tell from those who claim to walk with Him and those who do walk with Him. The difference is clear, and I believe it is easy to tell. In terms of salvation, i’m not sure how to draw the line, and I don’t try to as much anymore. But I have to wonder, is there really a salvation that does not completely life transform or is that the result of a nominal and lifeless Western Christianity?

  2. Bronwyn says:

    I think that’s a good point above that says that an understanding of holiness is needed in order to make sense of why Jesus came to die on the cross and why His death and resurrection is the only means for us to be reconciled to God. Why don’t our good works cut it? Why was atonement necessary?

    A thought I had too, is on how Christianity differs from “good, moral people” who do not have Christ. It’s true that I also am seeking to do good deeds and live a moral, highly ethical life. But the reason for which I am doing good things and living a moral life should be very different from a “good” unbeliever.

    My pastor has been preaching through Hebrews and it was neat to hear that the author of the book of Hebrews calls his listeners, “holy brethren” (3:1), even though the people to which he was writing were possibly struggling with thoughts of giving up the faith!

    We are holy, we are saints because of the Triune God.

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