Fearing our Heavenly Father without being Afraid of Him (2)
“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:17-21).
The reality of judgment isn’t the only reason we should fear God, as is clear from what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:18-21. We should also fear God as we come to recognize and to prize the infinite price that was paid to ransom us from our sins.
We should really translate the opening of v. 18 as, “because you know . . .” or “since you know that you were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ!”
“Redeemed/Ransomed” refers to a well-known custom in Greco-Roman culture. In order for a slave to gain his/her freedom, a politician couldn’t do what Abraham Lincoln did and write the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery in the ancient world wasn’t based on race, but on economics. Therefore, a slave would typically experience emancipation or receive his/her freedom after money had been deposited by someone in the temple of a god or goddess. This money would then be paid to the slave’s owner thus ending the slave’s captivity. The sum of money paid for the redemption or the ransom was referred to as the “price” and the slave was considered to have been redeemed by the deity.
According to Peter, his readers were in captivity or bondage to “the futile ways inherited from” their “forefathers.” In other words, they were slaves to the sinful, useless, meaningless way of life that alienated them from God.
But a “price” has been paid! They have been set free! They have been ransomed and redeemed! But not because someone took a pile of silver or a bag of gold to a temple and gave it to some pagan god or goddess. They and we have been ransomed because God the Father put forth the precious blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, as the purchase price for our lives.
Why is the “blood” of Christ precious? Before I answer that question, let’s make sure we know what the word “precious” means.
Peter doesn’t mean “precious” as we do when we first set our eyes on a new born baby and say, “Oh, she’s so precious!” Precious does not mean cute or cuddly or sweet or endearing. Here it means priceless! Costly! Of infinite value! The blood of Christ is precious because it is a spiritual treasure of immeasurable proportions.
And why is it of infinite value and of unfathomable worth? For numerous reasons.
First, it is “precious” because of him whose blood it is. It is “precious” blood because it is the blood of the Son of God, the most glorious and grand and righteous and powerful and loving and gentle and good and holy and humble man who ever lived: Jesus!
But second this “blood” is also “precious” because of what it can do!
The blood of the cross can accomplish what all the silver and gold and platinum and diamonds and rubies and all the wealth of the world cannot do. Yes, money is a wonderful thing. It can purchase comfort and physical blessings and nice homes. But it is powerless to ransom captive souls from sin!
The blood of the cross can accomplish what education cannot. Yes, education broadens the mind and enlightens the understanding and captivates the imagination, but it is powerless to convert the soul and renew the spirit and fill the heart with joy in Jesus!
The blood of the cross can accomplish what science cannot. Yes, science can improve the quality of our lives on earth and protect us from infectious diseases and create devices that improve our communication. But it cannot redeem us from sin or impart forgiveness or give us hope in the face of death.
The blood of the cross can accomplish what technology cannot. I’m grateful for technology, for the airline industry that enables us to travel around the world, for the laptop computer on which I do my work and write my books, for the heating systems that keep us warm and the air conditioning systems that keep us cool. But technology cannot regenerate our hearts or bring us into the true knowledge of God.
Praise God for nuclear energy and economic development and the entertainment industry and athletics and the international banking system. But for all their good, they cannot do what the blood of Christ can do. They cannot ransom us from sin. They cannot redeem us from judgment. They cannot give us God. But the blood of Christ shed on Calvary’s tree can!
So do you hear what Peter is saying? “Live your lives in the fear of God because you know you were ransomed not with pathetic little temporary treasures like gold and silver, but with an infinite, eternal treasure, the blood of Jesus. Fear God because you've been ransomed at infinite cost.”
Thus Peter seems to be saying, “Fear conducting yourself as though the ransom were not precious.” The blood of Christ has redeemed you from a useless and meaningless and futile way of life, so don’t live your new life as if they ransom price was anything less than glorious and majestic and priceless.
You see, some people actually use their ransom from sin by the blood of Christ as an excuse for sinning. They say to themselves: “Well, if I’ve been redeemed from sin and never again have to face the possibility of judgment, then I’ll live like I want. I can do anything I please.”
I once heard John Piper illustrate this point in a powerful way. He said it would be like a girl who is kidnapped from her wealthy father. The kidnappers demand a huge ransom and the father liquidates all his assets, selling his house and his possessions right down to his wife's wedding ring. He brings all that he has to the appointed place and sets the ransom down in a field and walks away. Soon the daughter walks out and gets the ransom and takes it back to the kidnappers. Then she puts her arm lovingly around one of kidnappers and as she walks away looks over her shoulder to her father laughing and shouts at him, "Sucker!"
We would all say that the girl committed a fearful and treacherous act.
Peter is warning us against the horrible danger of trying to do that with the ransom of God. He knows that there are people who try to take the ransom of God from sin—the blood of Jesus—and turn it into a means of sinning. The very ransom that verse 18 says was paid to free us from a futile way of life some people try to use to fund that very life of sin.
But there’s still more! Verses 20-21 are a continuation of the thought that began in vv. 17-19. Peter is not yet done telling us why the blood of Christ is so precious to us!
Peter tells us five things in verses 20 and 21 that increase the preciousness of Christ. Each of these is worthy of a sermon all to themselves, but I’d rather you simply let them cascade one upon another and feel the cumulative effect of the precious nature of the blood of Christ.
1. He, that is, Christ Jesus, was foreknown before the foundation of the world (v. 20a).
This in itself proves that foreknowledge means far more than simply knowing about something in advance. This is Peter’s way of saying that the Father loved the Son from eternity past and planned his death and the shedding of his blood before any of us had even taken a breath. The death of Christ was not an afterthought. God wasn’t surprised by sin or caught off guard by our futile way of life. His purpose to redeem his people by the blood of the Son antedates the creation of the universe!
So when you begin to concoct ways to ignore the precious blood of Christ and justify your sinful life, stop and think: the divine plan to rescue you from the very sin you are contemplating committing was conceived in the heart of God before the universe was created!
2. He was made manifest in the last times (v. 20b)
Although the plan was conceived and ordained in eternity past, it was necessary for the Son of God to become human and submit himself to the weakness and ugliness of living life as a frail man exposed to the abuse and mockery and hatred of other men. It wasn’t enough for God to plan our ransom: it required that the eternal Christ take on human flesh and appear among us and make a sacrificial offering for our freedom.
3. He was made manifest for our sake (v. 20c)
He did this for your sake! This is breathtaking! Shattering! We are talking here about the infinitely powerful and wise and holy God of the universe and his one and only divine Son. And we are talking about their purpose from the untraceable distance of infinity and eternity to plan an unthinkable penetration into creation. Why? For our sake, that we might be ransomed from a futile manner of life. If that doesn't prove that God takes your behavior and your future seriously, what can?
4. God raised him from the dead and glorified him (v. 21a)
The precious nature of Christ’s blood is seen in that God raised him from the dead and exalted him to glory at his right hand. The ransom Christ paid was vindicated and demonstrated and declared to be of immeasurable worth in achieving the redemption of sinners when God raised him again to newness of life.
5. Through Christ our belief and faith and hope are now in God (v. 21)
Peter says it twice in v. 21. At the beginning of v. 21 he says that it is “through him” that we are now believers in God and again at the close of v. 21 that the purpose of it all is that our “faith and hope” might be in God.
In other words, Jesus Christ has done the necessary work to connect us with God in faith. He was eternally foreknown, he was manifested in human form, he shed his precious blood, God raised him from the dead, God gave him glory and through all of this we come to hope in God.
Do you see that Peter ends this paragraph right where he began it? He started these exhortations in v. 13 by commanding us to “set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought” to us when Jesus appears. And now he concludes this paragraph in v. 21 by telling us that God has done everything necessary in and through Jesus to make it possible for us to put our faith and hope confidently in God and God alone.
Everything God has done for us in Christ is so that we might put our hope in God and not in sin. Many of you today have put all your hope in what you think the world and the flesh and the devil can do for you. You’ve bought into a lie. You’ve listened to the deceptive message of our society that says, “God isn’t worthy of your confidence. You can’t trust him. You can’t believe what he says. The pleasures I offer you are immediate and they feel really good. Don’t believe that nonsense about Jesus and life eternal. I’ll give you life right now. After all, once you’re dead, you’re dead. So grab for all the gusto you can.”
“Stop trying to satisfy your heart's desire with this world and all its God-belittling ways. And turn to Christ. Focus all your mind's attention and your heart's affection on him who was chosen from eternity, manifested in time, crucified for sinners, raised from the dead, glorified at the right hand of God—all for your sake—all that you might be satisfied in God and not sin” (Piper).
This entire paragraph began with an exhortation to live in the fear of God. Fear living your life as if God is not sufficient to satisfy your soul. Fear living your life as if the blood of Christ is not precious and able to deliver you from a futile and meaningless existence.