1 Peter 1:17-19
17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
The apostle Peter has argued that, because of the inheritance and salvation we have (vv. 1-12), we ought to set our hope on Christ’s coming (v. 13) and live a holy life as obedient children of God (vv. 14-16). Then he begins to admonish us to live in the fear of the Lord: “in fear conduct your lives during the time of your temporary stay on earth” [my translation] (v. 17b). Why should we fear God as we go about our days? Of course, it is because our heavenly Father is the one who sees and judges everything in justice (v. 17a). Yet, there is another important reason we must live in the fear of God. What did the Father pay for adopting us His children? What was the cost He paid to execute the plan of the gospel through which we are redeemed? In the next two verses, the beloved apostle explains the reason we must live in the fear of God—the high cost of the gospel.
We are redeemed by the most precious thing in the world.
Nowadays, the word “to redeem” or “redemption” has become an impersonal term, used of the recovery of items from a pawnshop, the exchange of coupons for goods, and the like. But in the first century, the term was understood differently. The concept of redemption in the Greco-Roman world was applied to the emancipation of slaves from their masters and the release of prisoners of war. In the Old Testament, the term was used to describe how God set His people free from bondage in Egypt (Deut 7:8; 9:26; 15:15; 24:18) or in Babylon (Isa 41:14; 43:1, 14; 44:22-24; 51:11; 52:3; 62:12; 63:9) to bring them out to live in freedom in the Promised Land. The term was also applied to the liberation of individuals (Pss 25:22; 26:11; 31:5; 32:7). The process of redemption generally required the payment of a ransom.
In today’s text, Peter first argues that nothing in the world, no matter how precious it is, can redeem our souls (v. 18a). Even silver or gold cannot buy us back because they are materials that cannot stand the ravages of time. People value precious stones greatly and have even bought and sold people with them. According to FinancesOnline.com, blue diamond costs nearly $4 million per carat (i.e. 200 mg/0.007 oz). Yet, even this most expensive stone in the world cannot set free a single soul because it will perish some day while a soul will last forever.
Peter, in verse 19, contrasts the perishability of earthly jewels with the preciousness of the blood of Christ. The shed blood of Jesus Christ signifies death, the giving up of His life. Blood is precious because “the life of the flesh is in the blood” which “makes atonement by the life” (Lev 17:11). In the Old Testament dispensation, animals’ blood had to be spilt for atonement for sin, and this cultic process foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ would make for sinners. Animals were without defect physically, but the Lord Jesus was physically and spiritually without sin or defect (cf. 2:22). He was a perfect sacrifice whose blood can only redeem sinners.
In other words, Peter reasons that we must fear God in our daily walk because He paid the great price to execute the plan of the gospel to redeem our souls. God’s infinite love for us was demonstrated by the infinite cost He paid for us—His Son’s shed blood. This is the reason why even the angels long to understand the mystery of the gospel (v. 12). The mighty Sovereign of the universe, who reigns above all the hosts of mighty angels, humbled Himself to the point of death for weak and worthless human beings! Do you have faith in His blood? (Cf. Rom 3:24-25) Then, you would know how precious this is. How can you not conduct your life in the fear of the Lord when you know the price that was paid for your soul? The Father sent His precious Son to die so that you would have life. What are you doing with your life which was bought with this greatest price in the universe?
By His death, we are redeemed from our former lifestyle.
From what are we redeemed? Unlike Paul who teaches that we have been redeemed from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13) and sins (Rom 3:24-25; Eph 1:7; Tit 2:14), Peter does not connect redemption directly with freedom from sin and guilt. He rather proclaims that the precious blood of Christ has redeemed us from our former empty lifestyle received from our ancestors (v. 18b). Commentator Karen Jobes remarks on the meaning of the phrase “your conversation [or, manner of life] received by tradition from your father”: “Peter describes the former way of life before the new birth as useless, possibly even idolatrous, no matter how venerated by its indigenous culture.”
Believers are redeemed not only from sins but also from their former way of life. No matter how we lived before our conversion, our former way of life was useless and empty. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we were all “dead in trespasses and sins” and lived under the jurisdiction of “the prince of the power of the air.” We were “by nature the children of wrath,” who conducted our lives “in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” We might have looked okay outwardly, but we were corrupt through and through inwardly. “But God, who is rich in mercy for his great love,” (Eph 2:4) redeemed us from the corrupt way of life through Christ’s blood.
The truth we find in today’s text clearly refutes the false idea that one can become a Christian without a transformed life. Those, who are redeemed from sins, are also redeemed from their former way of life. We are bought with a great price and transferred “from the power of darkness” to “the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col 1:13). To continue to live in our useless former lifestyle is implicitly to undervalue the price Christ paid on the cross. To “walk in newness of life” (Rom 5:4) is to honor the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and to fear the Father who paid the greatest price for our souls. It is telling that The Book of Acts testifies that, after the Holy Spirit coming to indwell all believers, every single person who embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ immediately abandoned his or her former way of life and lived a transformed life. A great change took place in their lives because of the great price paid on the cross. What about your life? Is your life bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ? If so, are you walking in newness of life?
- Read 1 Peter 1:10-12. Even the angels long to understand the mystery of the gospel (v. 12b). Why do you think the mighty beings are amazed by the gospel?
- What does Peter mean when he says, “You are redeemed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers”? (v. 18b) Consult Ephesians 2:1-4.
- Why does Peter warn believers to fear God? (v. 17) What was the cost God the Father paid for our redemption? (vv. 18-19)
- From what are we redeemed from? (v. 18b) Is it possible for a person to become a believer and live in the same way he or she lived before believing in Christ’s blood?
- How do you demonstrate that you fear God?