Purity 1

1 Peter 1:22:  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart…

Calvin complained that Erasmus mistranslated the first word of verse 22 in a past tense, as if Peter was congratulating people on the accomplishment of having purified themselves. Rather, said Calvin, it is a call for action, not the observation of an accomplishment. Calvin would read it as “purify your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love” (v. 22). While we don’t want to forget that this is only one phrase in a complex sentence, we must not continue until we understand this phrase—and there is much in it.

The Greek word in question (hagnizō) turns the idea of sanctification into a verb. And in fact it does mean purify, where purification is a process of separating what is good from what is bad and isolating them from one another. Purifying is not simply a matter of washing, but always includes the idea of separation. To wash a garment is to separate the dirt from the garment in such a way as to trash the dirt and preserve the garment. Applied as Peter uses it, purification means the elimination of evil or moral impurity from one’s life, whether in thought or behavior. In this way the idea of purity requires separation from worldliness.

1 Peter 1:22-

Calvin complained that Erasmus mistranslated the first word of verse 22 in a past tense, as if Peter was congratulating people on the accomplishment of having purified themselves. Rather, said Calvin, it is a call for action, not the observation of an accomplishment. Calvin would read it as “purify your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love” (v. 22). While we don’t want to forget that this is only one phrase in a complex sentence, we must not continue until we understand this phrase—and there is much in it.

The Greek word in question (hagnizō) turns the idea of sanctification into a verb. And in fact it does mean purify, where purification is a process of separating what is good from what is bad and isolating them from one another. Purifying is not simply a matter of washing, but always includes the idea of separation. To wash a garment is to separate the dirt from the garment in such a way as to trash the dirt and preserve the garment. Applied as Peter uses it, purification means the elimination of evil or moral impurity from one’s life, whether in thought or behavior. In this way the idea of purity requires separation from worldliness.

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