“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”” (1 Peter 1:14–16, NASB95)
Believers in the New Testament are referred to as “saints” in many of our translations. We see this repeatedly in Paul’s letters as well as others. It is used both as an introduction to a group of readers and a description of their identity. It is used to classify them as a special and unique people changed by God. In Ephesians 1:1 and 2 we read, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:1–2, NASB95) This letter was written to the saints who are in Ephesus and all others who would read or hear its content. His audience is described as “saints,” which is a descriptive term more than an accurate translation.
The Greek word translated “saints” is “hagios,” and it means “holy.” It refers to the nature of the individual as well as to his or her actions. We see this in verses 14 and 15 today, where we read in the English Standard Version, “but as [H]e who called you is holy [hagion], you also be holy [hagioi] in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy [hagioi], for I am holy [hagios].”” (1 Peter 1:15–16, ESV) Because of the work of Christ in us where His righteousness has been imputed (put upon us) we are identified as holy with our holy God and we are called to live in accordance with His character and our identity. We have been changed and we are called to live as changed people. It is for this reason that we read words such as those in verse 14 and 15, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior….” Prior to our salvation in Christ we had a different identity as those who were children of the devil and darkened in our spirits. In Christ, we have been made spiritually alive and adopted fully into the family of our new Father and His Son. As such we are to live in full accord with the children we have become.
We are to live obedient to our Heavenly Father. As His children, we are to live as obedient children. This means that we are also to stop living as children of the devil and the ways of the world. We have been given new life and we are called to live in the newness of that life. We are to set aside the desires which are separate from Him and desire after those things that reflect our new identity. When we did not know the ways of God we acted in ignorance, but as we come to know Him and His ways we are no longer ignorant and we are called to live as those who have been enlightened and enlivened by His Spirit in us.
Paul expanded on this in Ephesians chapter 4, where we read, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17–24, ESV)
He said that these former ways are not how we learned Christ, and subsequently they do not reflect how we are to live now. We are to live in accordance with our new identity. This means that we are to purpose not to put on the old yucky clothes, but to dress daily in righteousness and holiness to reflect accurately our new self. This is how we have been created in the likeness of God and it is how we are to live on a daily basis. God is holy, He has made us holy in His Son, and He calls us to live as His holy children. He has given us our identity in Christ, and daily as we identity with His Son we are to live in accordance with how His Son lived before Him and us, and has called us to live rightly as His Spirit makes His Word alive to show the way and empowers us to walk in that way.