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As Obedient Children

The Scriptures are filled with familial figures that are used to explain the relationship between God and man. For example, the term "Father” is frequently used to describe God in the New Testament (Matt. 23:9; Eph. 4:6). By this figure of fatherhood, we can properly relate to God because of our experience with our own earthly fathers (Heb. 12:5-11). We see how God has acted as our Father, for He has created and sustained us, and He provides discipline and instruction to us just as earthly fathers are to do for their children (Eph. 6:4). The figure of fatherhood has an even greater meaning for Christians, for they are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). As such, Christians may understand God's authority over them, His love and provisions for them, and their love and duties toward Him and one another. Thus, we see that the word of God brilliantly utilizes these figures to facilitate our understanding.

One of the great New Testament passages that employs these figures is 1Peter 1:14-19. This text begins with an address to all Christians, calling on us to be "as obedient children.” Immediately, these words communicate God's expectation for our relationship with Him. It is not enough to be merely children who depend on the Father for every provision, but rather we are to be obedient children who do the Father's will. God has always had a low view of disobedient children (Deut. 21:18-21; Rom. 1:30; 2Tim. 3:2), and He certainly will not tolerate disobedience in His own household. Therefore, 1Peter 1:14-19 constrains us to behave as obedient children and gives us explanation of how to do so. Let us consider each part of this message.

Do not be conformed to lusts. Evil lusts rule in the hearts of those who are disbelieving and unconverted to God, but they have no role in shaping the lives of the children of God. For this reason, Peter says that these are "former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” When a person obtains faith in Jesus and obeys the gospel, he puts away those old lusts by his new found knowledge of Christ (Rom. 6:12; 13:14; Gal. 5:16, 24; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:5; 1Thess. 4:3-5; 2Tim. 2:22; Tit. 2:11-12; 1Pet. 2:11; 4:1-2). Obedience to the Father necessarily requires these former lusts to be abandoned.

You shall be holy.As children bear the likeness of their fathers, so also Christians are to bear the likeness of God. God's nature is holiness, and thus his children must also be holy themselves. In ancient times, God called upon the people of Israel to be holy, but most of them failed (Lev. 11:44; 1Cor. 10:1-13; Heb. 4:1-13). Since Christ came, the holiness of God's children is made possible through the sanctifying power of God's word by which Christians are set apart and made useful to God (John 17:17; 2Tim. 2:20-21; 1Pet. 1:22-25). Children of God are now made holy by the cleansing of Christ's blood, and they remain holy by obedience to God's will.

Conduct yourself in fear.When we "address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work,” we are making a claim to those things described above. We are claiming to be obedient children who are free from our former lusts and holy like the Father Himself. These claims are implied every time we identify God as our Father. Therefore, knowing that God will judge us not according to the words we say but by the works we do (Matt. 7:21-23; 2Cor. 5:10), we must conduct ourselves in fear. The point is not that we should live in dread that our Father may strike us down at any minute, but rather it is that we must not be careless about our behavior. We cannot conduct ourselves in unholy disobedience during our temporary stay on earth, flippantly claim to be God's children, and then expect to be judged favorably by God for eternity.

You were redeemed at a precious cost. The means by which Christians have become children of God was a costly adoption that must be appreciated. God "predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5-6). Our adoptive Father carried out His purpose by redeeming (purchasing) us from our futile way of life at a tremendous price. Silver and gold are among the most valuable materials we know, but God bought us at a much higher price – the price of His Son's blood. This means that membership in the household of God is of tremendous value and must not be regarded lightly. It also means that we no longer belong to ourselves, but rather we belong to our Father who bought us and paid for us at such an awful cost. "For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1Cor. 6:20).

Let us be always mindful of 1Peter 1:14-19 and similar passages of Scripture that demonstrate the true meaning of membership in God's household. It is a lofty assertion to claim God as one's Father, but it is one that God enables us to make. It is His will that we make this claim with complete sincerity "as obedient children.” As such, we will put away our former lusts, be holy as God is holy, conduct ourselves in fear, and live in a manner worthy of the price that was paid for us. If we will do these things, then we can be the true children of God in this generation, and we can look forward to the joy of our Father's inheritance for eternity.

Stacey E. Durham



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