By Teresa Reeve (New Testament Department, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University)
It would make a great addition to the billboard messages from God that sprang up along freeways across the country a few years ago:
“You shall be holy for I am holy.”
This message from 1 Peter 1:16* seems clear and unequivocal, it can be read in a moment while speeding along one’s way, yet it stimulates recurring questions and ruminations that refuse to let us rest. For some, it also stimulates feelings of discouragement and despair as they consider how far they are from attaining to the holiness of God.
What Does This Call Mean?
So what is meant by the call to holiness in 1 Peter? The concept of holiness, expressed by the Greek word, hagios and its cognates, is important throughout the epistle. Key to understanding 1 Peter’s use of hagios is that, when used of created persons and objects, the word means: “set apart to the divine.” It was thus also employed to describe things and persons considered fit to approach God— those that are “pure” and thus acceptable to Him. Hagios is regularly used as the opposite of koinos (common).