The elect are called to holiness through the Spirit’s sanctifying work. Peter says this, affirming that sinful, depraved people cannot enter into the presence of a holy God and live a holy life unless God, through His Spirit, sanctifies them. Peter says the Spirit does this work of sanctification in those whom the Father elects. The original Greek here indicates that growth in holiness is an ongoing process rather than a one-time act. This ongoing work draws the elect to pursue holiness in dependence on the Spirit. So Peter says to believers later in this chapter, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).
In this, Peter refutes the greatest objection Arminians have about the doctrine of election. “If election is true, men can live as they please,” Arminians say. “Therefore election is a dangerous and demoralizing doctrine. If people glean their assurance in any way from election, their holy walk with God will be compromised.” Peter replies that the very purpose of election is to make men holy. God’s election does not destroy moral effort; rather, as Spurgeon notes, “God’s choice makes chosen men choice men.” And Thomas Watson says, “Sanctification is the earmark of Christ’s elect sheep.”
God wants to make His elect holy, for He has predestined them to be conformed to the image of His Son. No one can then say, “I am elect; therefore, I do not need to be Christlike.” Rather, as Peter implies, a believer should say, “Because I am elect, I cannot avoid being Christlike.” God’s elect cannot be at peace living in sin; they cannot live under sin’s domination (Rom. 6:11-14) or live counter to Christ and His will. If we are elect, God has committed all the fullness and glory of His resources to make us like His Son. As surely as God has determined to save the elect from eternity past and provided the cross of Calvary as the means of that salvation, so He has determined that the effects of that salvation will be holiness, even into eternity.1
- Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Kindle Edition) ↩