(Excerpt from Expository Notes on 1 Peter chapter 1 verses 15-16)
(15) 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. [ESV]
By his sovereign grace, God called us to himself—through repentance and faith in his Son. By so doing, God demonstrated something of his infinite love, mercy and compassion toward us. However, the God of love is also the God of light; i.e., he is infinitely holy, just and righteous. (1 John 1:5)
The particular characteristic that Peter mentions in verses 15 and 16 is God’s holiness. In Scripture, holiness is associated with awfulness or ‘awesomeness’. The one who is holy is perceived as being so pure and glorious that he is unapproachable. Hence the expression, [God] who lives in unapproachable light; i.e., indescribable holiness. This holiness is so magnificent and glorious that—to come anywhere near the Most Holy God—would result in a person’s immediate and certain death. (Exodus 33:20; 1 Tim 6:16; see also John 1:18)
Again, holiness is associated with that which is totally uncontaminated by, and separated from, sin and sinners—and from every form of impurity. Hence the reason God’s holiness is associated with his awful majesty or with his awesome power and glory. God lives and reigns in unapproachable light—or holiness. Nevertheless, because of Christ’s merits, the believer can boldly approach the throne of grace. (Isa 6:1-3; Heb. 4:16)
Of course, the believer can never begin to attain to the infinite holiness of God—and this is not what God (through his servant, Peter) is commanding. Rather, the Lord is saying that just as he is characterised by holiness that involves total separation from everything morally, spiritually and emotionally unclean, so also must the Christian live a separated, pure and holy life.
We should note, however, that this is a separation from the moral and spiritual contamination or corruption of the world—not a separation from the people of the world, per se. The holy and sinless Son of God associated with the people of the world, while remaining totally sinless and set apart from the world’s contaminating and corrupting influences.
(Read or download the full version of these Notes on 1 Peter from the Expository Notes section of this website.)