Open with me in your Bibles the 1 Peter, chapter 1. And as you’re turning there, I’ll take the opportunity to thank John MacArthur and Phil again, and the brethren at Grace to You for inviting me to speak to you all. It is an immense privilege, one I am conscious that I do not deserve. And it’s just a thrill to meet you all. We were remarking, some of us as the speakers, just on your zeal and encouragement, the smiles on your faces, the eagerness with which you express your thanks and gratitude for the ministry of Grace to You and John MacArthur. It is just a blessing to all of us to know that the Word goes forth and has its effect on God’s people. We hear of the ministry, we see Grace to You, we go to the building week in and week out, we go to the church, but you are the effect of all of that; and what a delight it is to get to know some of you during this week.
I can say more, but let’s turn to the Word of God: 1 Peter chapter 1. I’m going to read—our text tonight is verses 17 to 21; I’m going to read starting in verse 13. Peter says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’
“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these 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.”
I am convinced that the most serious calling and stewardship that pastors have today is to prepare their congregations to endure suffering and persecution in a way that honors Christ. That shouldn’t take any of us by surprise. The Lord Jesus warned us that the world that hated Him would hate His followers. John 15:20, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Those who think and speak and act like and look like Jesus, in this world that hated and mocked and crucified Jesus, will be marked by the afflictions of Jesus. But I believe the time is coming for us, for believers and followers of Jesus in North America, to experience a level of persecution that we have not before.
I wonder if you could have ever imagined that you’d live to see the United States government sue churches because they are gathering together on the Lord’s Day in obedience to Christ’s commands. I wonder if you could have ever imagined that you’d see a church building fenced off and padlocked by the government and guarded by 200 police officers, preventing worshipers from entering, the way we saw with GraceLife Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada. Could you ever have imagined that the governing authorities would put pastors in jail for assembling with their congregations for Sunday worship, as was done to James Coates and Tim Stephens in Alberta?
And the events of the past two and a half years have only made government totalitarianism look more plausible: lockdowns and mask mandates and vaccine mandates and travel restrictions and even historic levels of inflation. And then there’s the growing cultural totalitarianism that demands that you live by the lies of the New Paganism. If you refuse to celebrate and affirm homosexuality; if you refuse to concede that the baby in the womb is just a clump of cells that can be discarded at the mother’s will; if you refuse to call Richard, Rachel, or use someone’s preferred pronouns; if you refuse to repent of your whiteness; you may be canceled. There is no question the body of Christ needs to be equipped to suffer well. We need to be equipped to stand firm in the face of persecution, to remain faithful in the midst of trials, because those trials are coming; and that is because this world is not our home.
In the opening verse of 1 Peter, Peter calls the believers he’s writing to “those who reside as aliens.” That term speaks of a temporary resident in a foreign place, those who do not have the rights of citizenship but are temporary residents of an area. Peter will say in chapter 2 and verse 11 that we are “aliens and strangers in this world.” Hebrew 11:13 says that believers in the promises of God confess that they are strangers and exiles on the earth. Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” And in 1 Peter 1:17, the beginning of our text this evening, Peter speaks of the believer’s present life as “the time of your stay on earth.”
Do you hear how temporary that sounds? Where do you hear about “your stay”? In hotels: “I hope you enjoyed your stay, sir; please come again.” You are a sojourner, you are a pilgrim, you are a stranger, journeying through the foreign land that is planet earth to the country of your true citizenship. We forget that sometimes; and when we set our minds on these things here below, we start trying to carve out a little portion of this world and call it our own, and we wed our affections to this world as if it’s our home, and then we become indignant when the circumstances of life barge in and rearrange our furniture; and we want to fight back, and we want to reclaim our territory.
But Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Here we have no lasting city; here we are strangers and exiles on the earth. We desire a better country—the country of our citizenship, “the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God,” where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal, where there is an inheritance reserved for us that is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away.
We are pilgrims, friends, and so you should only expect suffering. It only makes sense that the world would hate those who are not its own.
Remember what Jesus said to the disciples in John 15:19: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” You’re a pilgrim; you’re not of this world. You speak differently, you behave differently, you enjoy different things. You’re unimpressed with the worldly lusts that so captivate their hearts, and they hate you because of it.
What does Peter say in chapter 4, verse 4? “They are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you.” A life lived according to the customs of the country of your citizenship indicts the sinful lifestyle of those who live according to their own lusts and pleasures, and it provokes them to hate you.
And then, besides the holy life, the world hates those who, like their Lord, testify of it, that its deeds are evil,” John 7:7. See, the world cannot abide those who will stand up and testify that Richard is not Rachel; that marriage is not up for redefinition; that the child in the womb is not a clump of cells until the mother decides he’s a person, but he’s an image-bearer of Almighty God, who alone determines personhood. And so suffering and persecution are coming, and we need to be prepared ahead of time to weather that storm, to endure faithfully, to suffer well, to stand firm. And to do that, it’s fitting to turn to the epistle of 1 Peter because it’s in this letter that Peter writes to persecuted believers, who he said reside as aliens and strangers in the world.
He encourages them to bear up under unjust suffering, and he begins in chapter 1, verses 3 to 12, by praising God for the privileges that these persecuted pilgrims enjoy as a result of His grace at work in their lives. “I know you are suffering, I know the fire is hot, but let’s begin by considering who you are in Christ, and what you have in Him.” They have the sure hope of an imperishable inheritance, verse 4. They enjoy the assurance of a sincere faith tested and proven by trials, verses 6 and 7. They’re animated by a fervent love of and inexpressible joy in Christ, verses 8 and 9. And they have the great privilege of seeing centuries of prophecy fulfilled in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, in verses 10 to 12.
And then in verse 13, Peter begins to outline how we, as the beneficiaries of those privileges, are to live in response to the grace of God that we have been given. And in verses 13 to 21, he issues three key imperatives. First, in verse 13, he calls them to a life of steadfast hope when he says, “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He’s saying, “You will suffer well, dear pilgrims, when you set your minds entirely, not on the present troubles and distresses that you must face as strangers in the foreign land, but on the unfathomable grace that you will enjoy when Christ returns.”
Secondly, in verse 15, he calls them to a life of universal holiness, saying, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” So you will suffer well, dear pilgrims, when you commit yourselves to pursuing holiness in all of life. Why? Well a couple of reasons.
One, because when persecution comes, the temptation is to yield. “Listen, I believe that Jesus died for my sins and everything; but if I’m going to lose my job, if they’re going to take my house, if I could go to jail, if they try to kill me, maybe I don’t have to be so fanatical about this Christianity thing.” And you’re tempted to compromise. You’re tempted to blend in with the world so you don’t incur their wrath. But Peter says no; if you’re children of the Holy God, so you also be holy as He is holy. Be like your Father.
And there’s another reason why a life of holiness is essential to standing firm against persecution, and that is because you will not suffer for a God whom you will not obey. You will not suffer for a God in wartime whom you will not obey in peacetime. You will not persevere in obedience to God unto the loss of your freedom or unto the loss of your property, if you can’t obey in the secret place when all your obedience costs you is the false pleasures of sin.
Christians who care nothing for pursuing communion with Christ in disciplined prayer and Bible reading don’t go to jail for Christ. Christians who don’t devote themselves to the assembly of the saints and the ministry of the local church don’t joyfully accept the seizure of their property for the name of Christ. Christians who don’t find Christ satisfying enough that His glory severs the bonds of their lusts don’t lay down their lives for the gospel. If you compromise when all discipleship costs you is the lust of your flesh, you will not stand on conviction when following Jesus costs you your family. Those unconcerned with holiness do not stand in the day of real trial. And so Peter calls believers to a life of universal holiness.
But then, as we come to our passage for this evening, verses 17 to 21, Peter issues a third imperative: not only hope in Christ, not only live in holiness, but also he calls them to a life of holy fear, a life of holy fear. Look at verse 17, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.”
And that third imperative seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? We like the command to fix our hope completely on future grace. And though our flesh resists the call to sanctification, we get the command to be holy in all of our behavior. But the command to live in fear? That grates against our contemporary sensibilities, even in the church. We’re happy to talk about our responsibility to love God, to worship God, to obey God. But to fear God?
No, no, no. Doesn’t perfect love cast out fear? And you would think that in encouraging pilgrims who are strangers in a foreign land, Peter would tell them not to fear: “Don’t be afraid of your persecutors.” But actually, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s telling the believers that they don’t need to fear the wrath of those who would persecute them, to such a degree that they should compromise their lives of holiness and faithfulness to Christ. No. “Instead of fearing man,” Peter says, “fear God.” Peter is telling us that the way that we battle the sinful fear of man is to replace that fear with a superior, holy fear of God. “Don’t fear displeasing man, who can only kill the body, but afterwards can do nothing to the soul. No, fear displeasing God, who, though your Father nevertheless judges each man’s work without partiality, He is the one to whom you will give an account after your flesh is destroyed and your body lies still in the grave.”
And the fear of the Lord is a major theme in Scripture. “The fear of Yahweh,” says Proverbs 9:10, “is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge.” In Deuteronomy 10:12 and 13, Moses asks the question, “What does God want from us?” and he answers with a list of things headed by “the fear of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 10:12, “Now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require from you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep Yahweh’s commandments.” And so you see that fearing God is entirely consistent with loving Him and serving Him and obeying Him.
So also is this fear consistent with joy. Psalm 2:11 says, “Serve Yahweh with fear and rejoice with trembling.” And so if we have the notion that fearing God in the way that Scripture commands is at odds with rejoicing in Him, the problem is with us, because Scripture sees them at perfectly consistent.
You say, “Yeah, but that’s the Old Testament. But don’t we get past that fear in the New Testament? Don’t we move on to love and grace and mercy and kindness?” We don’t move past fear. Acts 9:31, Luke gives the account of Saul’s conversion and reception into the church, and he says, “So the church throughout all of Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” And so the fear of the Lord is not incompatible with peace, with edification, with the comfort of the Holy Spirit. We heard of it in our first session, 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us . . . [perfect] holiness in the fear of God.”
Colossians 3:22, don’t do your work merely to please men, “but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” And then you have 1 Timothy 5:20, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” And it’s really that last sense, that notion of being fearful of sinning that captures what Peter’s after in this command to conduct ourselves in fear. This is not the fear of the guilty, unforgiven sinner who is terrified at the thought of his deserved condemnation.
Some of you—in a group this large, you’d be foolish not to assume that there are some who are outside of Christ. Some of you need to fear that fear: “I am coming up against Almighty God, whose name is holy, and I have broken His law, and I have belittled His glory; and I have no good thing, no righteousness, no atonement to bring to Him that would satisfy His just wrath against me. I am naked before the throne of God.” And you ought to fear that way. But for the believer, for the believer who, in 1 Peter 1:2, has been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God sanctified by the Spirit, and sprinkled by the blood of Christ, that fear has been banished by Christ’s atonement for our sins on the cross. Instead, this fear that Peter calls us to is the fear of displeasing the God whom we love more than anyone or anything.
The 17th-century Scottish preacher Robert Leighton put it this way. He said, “The fear here recommended is a holy self-suspicion and fear of offending God, which may not only consist with assured hope of salvation, and with faith and love and spiritual joy, but is their inseparable companion. The more a Christian believes and loves and rejoices in the love of God, the more unwilling, surely, he is to displease Him; and if in danger of displeasing Him, the more afraid of it.”
This is the fear of sinning against our Father, incurring His just, fatherly displeasure, and experiencing His chastening. This isn’t a servile fear that keeps us in doubt of our salvation; it’s a filial fear—the holy, reverent, awe-filled fear that a child has for his father, that desires to please God precisely because we are His children. And we are sure that we belong to Him because we love Him, and we don’t want to dishonor Him. This kind of fear is the opposite of that kind of cowering terror that keeps us shaking in the corner; it’s a fear that obliterates all lower fears and begets in us a rock-solid strength and courage to meet every trial or conflict that should come at the hands of a hostile world.
And in this passage, Peter gives the believer three considerations to meditate upon, to think over, to ruminate on, in order to feed this holy fear. If the pilgrim’s life in this hostile world is to be lived in the holy fear of God—a fear that will preserve us from compromise, even in the midst of persecution—then these three considerations will help us cultivate that fear so that when the trials do come, we’ll be prepared to suffer well.
And that first consideration we’ve seen a bit already in verse 17, and that is, number one, consider the prerogative of your Father. Consider the prerogative of your Father. Peter says, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” And so Peter begins with another great privilege that we as believers enjoy, and that is we call upon God as our Father. The term “address” in that verse is epikaleō, literally “to call upon,” and it speaks of the great honor that believers have to be able to pray to the king of the universe.
Of ourselves, in the nakedness of our own unrighteousness, we have no right to come into the presence of Almighty God, no right even to bow our heads, close our eyes, and address Him in the thoughts of our minds. We have sinned against Him. We have broken His law. We have regarded His glory a light and trifling thing. We have preferred sin and unrighteousness more than His purity and holiness. We are rebels to this King; and not only do we deserve to be banished from His presence, we deserve the lot of traitors—a wretched end of punishment and damnation.
But that is not what we get. Why? Because the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has freed us from this. Peter himself says in chapter 3, verse 18, “For Christ . . . died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring us to God.” In Ephesians 2:18, Paul writes that through Christ we “have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” We have access to the throne room of God; we have an audience with the King. We may address ourselves to Him, and go to Him with our cares and our concerns and our petitions and supplications, and He hears us. And why does He hear us? Because we do not merely address the King, we call upon Him as Father. The righteous, sovereign God is not only kindly disposed to us as our Master, but He is eager to receive us as our Father. We are not merely subjects; we are children.
It’s one thing for a king as the head of state to pardon a guilty criminal, but it is abundant grace for that king to then take the criminal into his own home, and to provide for that criminal, to give him a seat at his dinner table, to give him the family name, to make him an heir of the kingdom. That is what God has done for us through Christ. Romans 8, verse 15 says, “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” You see, once you were no people, but now we have been adopted into the family of God such that our bond with Him gives us leave to cry out to Him in the most familiar of terms: “Abba.” And so Peter says in chapter 1, verse 14, “As obedient children . . . be holy” like your Father. Bear the family name well. If God is your Father, conduct yourselves in holiness in every aspect of your life.
But here in verse 17, he builds on that exhortation, and he says notwithstanding the great privileges of being adopted sons and daughters of God, notwithstanding the great privilege of being able to call upon God as your Father, don’t let familiarity breed contempt. Consider the prerogative of your Father, that the One you call out to is not only this accessible Father but also an impartial judge who will not bend the rules of His holiness, even for His own beloved children. No, He “judges impartially according to each man’s work.”
Now it’s true that in the case of the believer, the final judgment against our sins has been rendered. Christ has borne our condemnation in His cross, and so we need not fear eternal punishment from God. But that does not mean that the Father winks at our sin. That does not mean that He cares nothing for the practical holiness which He calls us to walk in as obedient children. That does not mean that we cannot displease Him or grieve Him or invite His discipline and chastening by walking in unrighteousness. No.
But what does Hebrews 12 say? “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:7, “God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” And Peter’s saying your accessible Father is also an impartial judge of each one’s work. He plays no favorites. He shows no partiality. He hates sin wherever He sees it. And if He sees it in His children, though His judicial wrath against it has been satisfied by the blood of Christ, He is nevertheless displeased by it. And precisely because He loves His children, He sends forth His hand of discipline to correct us and chasten us.
But friends, sometimes, oftentimes, every time, if we are in the proper frame, that hand of discipline stings, doesn’t it? And though it’s for our good, we would prefer not to have it. And so Peter is saying conduct yourselves in fear of that discipline, precisely because you don’t want to displease your gracious Father, and precisely because you don’t want to experience the unpleasantness of His fatherly discipline. Order your lives in such a way that you won’t displease Him and won’t experience that discipline.
When the government attempts to usurp the headship of Christ over His church; and tells Christians that we cannot gather in the name of Christ without adhering to certain guidelines, and that if we do, we’ll face fines and lawsuits; we can conduct ourselves in the fear of Caesar, or in the fear of mammon, or in the fear of ease, and we can compromise and avoid the consequences of persecution. Or we can conduct ourselves in the fear of God, calling to mind that our Father judges each man’s work impartially and that Christ has commanded us to gather on the first day of the week to exalt His name, to exposit His Word, and to edify His people. Caesar says, “Don’t gather; it’s dangerous.” Christ says, “Gather.” Conducting ourselves in the fear of God in that moment is to fear displeasing God more than we fear displeasing government.
And so, as Voddie Baucham says, “You can avoid persecution; all you have to do is compromise.” And we’ve seen a lot of that in the last two years. But that compromise evidences a lack of faith in Christ. It evidences that you fear the consequences of man’s wrath more than the consequences of the Father’s discipline.
“So what do I do?” You feed your fear, pilgrim. Consider the prerogative of your Father. Consider that He is not only your accessible Father, but your impartial Judge. Consider that pleasing Him is ten thousand times more satisfying than pleasing man. Consider that displeasing Him is ten thousand times more grievous than displeasing your persecutors. This way, when the time comes that you have to choose between displeasing man and displeasing God, your fear of God will keep you from that compromise.
That brings us, then, to a second consideration that will bolster our fear of God and prepare us to stand firm in the midst of persecution and hostility. Number two, consider the price of your redemption; consider the price of your redemption. We see that in verses 18 and 19. Peter writes, “Conduct yourselves in fear . . . knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life which you inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
First, I want you to notice that word “knowing” at the beginning of verse 18. “Conduct yourselves in fear . . . knowing,” that’s what grammarians call a causal participle. You could translate that, “Conduct yourselves in fear . . . because you know.” This means that if you’re going to obey this command to live in holy fear of God, you need to know the truth. You could even say the truth matters—sorry. And you need to bring the truth to bear on your affections. Well what truth do we need to know, that feeds this life of holy fear? It is the truth—look at it—that you were redeemed with the blood of Christ.
Now that commentator I quoted earlier, Robert Leighton, he wrote of this. He said, “If you would increase much in holiness and be strong against the temptations to sin, this is the only art of it: view much; and so seek to know much of the death of Jesus Christ.” You want to be holy? There’s one thing to do: View much and seek to know much of the death of Jesus Christ, knowing that you were redeemed.
What does it mean to be redeemed? Well the concept of redemption means “to secure the release of a captive by the payment of a price.” It means “to purchase someone’s freedom by the payment of a ransom.” The first extended instruction on the laws of redemption in Scripture come in Leviticus 25, where an Israelite had become so poor that he had to sell his property, or even himself, into slavery. God made provision in His law for his family members to redeem his property or to redeem the man himself out of slavery by the payment of an appropriate price.
And then, by far the most famous example of redemption in the Old Testament is the Lord’s deliverance of His people Israel out of their bondage of slavery in Egypt. Exodus 2:23 says that Israel sighed under the bondage of their masters, that “God heard their groaning”; He “remembered His covenant with Abraham.” And in Exodus 6:6, said, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will . . . redeem you.” And so redemption refers to the deliverance of slaves from bondage.
In the same way, Scripture testifies that all mankind is born into the bondage of slavery, that we are so beholden to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life that we are properly said to be enslaved to our sin. Jesus says in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” And who commits sin? Everyone, without exception. This is how God Himself speaks of who you are by nature. You are enslaved to sin. Your mind, your desires, your will—every aspect of your being is held captive by sin.
And so Scripture says that Christ has come to redeem His people from the bondage of their slavery; Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Christ has come to purchase us out of the slave market of sin by the payment of the ransom price of His own life—“to give,” as He says in Mark 10:45, “His life as a ransom for many.”
And look at what Peter says we were redeemed from, verse 18: “from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” This is how Peter describes a believer’s life before he comes to faith in Christ. It is futile. It is worthless. It is useless. It is vanity. It is empty. It is entirely meaningless. This is God’s estimation of your life outside of Christ and enslaved to sin.
It’s been documented that the prisoners of Nazi concentration camps would be forced to spend fourteen hours a day lifting these large, heavy rocks up from the ground and into a wheelbarrow, and then loading up that wheelbarrow with as many rocks as it could hold, and then pushing that wheelbarrow to the other end of the yard and depositing the rocks on the other end of that yard, all day long, back and forth, back and forth—back-breaking labor. And when the prisoners had finally moved all the rocks to that other end of the yard, their taskmasters would tell them, “OK, now bring them all back again.” That is a picture of a life of futility imposed by captors upon captives. Peter says that is what life outside of Christ under the slavery to sin is. It is fruitless. All of your exploits, all of your ambitions for fame and money and power, even all the designs you might have for the betterment of society and the promotion of human flourishing, apart from Christ are nothing more than hoisting fifty-pound boulders into a wheelbarrow from one end of the yard to the other end, and back again, and back again.
You say, “But this was my way of life. This is the way that my family spent their lives. This is our culture. These are our values and traditions.” Doesn’t matter. Look at it again. Look at how Peter puts it: “Your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” Peter’s audience belonged to a society in which deviation from ancestral traditions was tantamount to treason. They believed that those traditions were the foundation of a healthy and stable society. And he tells them that was all meaningless apart from Christ. You say, “Peter, you can’t just say that about people’s culture.” He says, “I just said it. It doesn’t matter who it is, what culture it is; outside of Christ your way of life is not sacrosanct, it’s futile.”
Leighton, again—that commentator whom I’ve grown to love—writes, “The whole course of a man’s life out of Christ is nothing but a continual trading and vanity, running a circle of toil and labor and reaping no profit at all.” And the point that Peter’s making is that Christ has redeemed you from that life, Christian. You were in bondage to sin; you were enslaved to a life of fruitlessness and vanity, and Christ the Son of God broke through the shackles of your slavery and redeemed you from the bondage of sin and death.
So in the face of persecution, which tempts you to renounce Christianity, or at least tempts you to stop living so consistently with your Christianity, to look more like your old self than your new self, the new man or woman that you’ve been recreated in Christ to be—when that happens, don’t buy it, don’t retreat back to your old way of life. That life is meaningless. That life is fruitless; it is empty. There is no profit. Christ has redeemed you from that. Don’t throw away the liberty that Christ purchased for you in the face of persecution. You’d be returning to your slavery. You’d be walking into the jail cell with the bars open, and sitting down and getting comfortable. And in that situation, you could escape imprisonment from Caesar, but you would live in bondage.
And then Peter zeros in on the cost of that redemption. We said that that redemption is the purchase of a slave’s freedom by the payment of a ransom. Well what was the ransom price? Verse 18, “Not . . . with perishable things like silver or gold . . . but,” verse 19, “with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” Your ransom, Christian, was not what the slave’s ransom was in Leviticus 25. It wasn’t silver or gold. Those things may seem valuable to the world; indeed, though there is nothing more valuable to the world than silver or gold, silver and gold are perishable. They are corruptible; they will wear out; they are just temporary.
The most esteemed, highly valued commodities among the world mean nothing in the spiritual sphere. Those things could not purchase your redemption; yours was a slavery that was so unbreakable that the most precious metals and stones on earth could not suffice to release you. Psalm 49:7 and 8 says, “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him—for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever.”
But oh, the God-Man, our elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, He can give to God a ransom for the redemption of His brethren. Yes, the redemption of a soul is so costly that every man everywhere should despair of ever paying for his brother’s sins, let alone his own. But oh, our Christ, our kinsman redeemer, does not bring perishable things for the ransom price. He brings His own precious blood—blood worth more than silver, blood worth more than gold, blood worth more than rubies, more than diamonds. He brings the blood of a sinless substitute.
Picking up on the language of the Old Testament sacrifices, which required the sacrificial lamb to be unblemished and without defect, Peter says Christ was that perfectly suitable, unblemished, spotless Lamb of God. Only one who is without sin could redeem those liable to the penalty of sin, and only Jesus was such a lamb.
And then more than the blood of a spotless lamb, Jesus’ blood, Acts 20:28 says, was the blood of God. Paul tells the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the church of God which He”—that is, God—“purchased with His own blood.” Dear people, God has no blood; God is a spirit. But Jesus has blood, and Jesus is God, which means He is not only sinless, He is infinitely righteous, possessed of the infinite merit and worth that God’s law requires of those who would be ransomed back into fellowship with Him.
Christ’s blood, friends, is the blood of the God-Man, which means His blood is, as the text says, “precious.” It perfectly avails for everyone for whom it was shed. And so Hebrews 9:11 and 12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered . . . not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Don’t think about ransoming your brother; the redemption of his soul is costly. Cease trying forever. “Abandon all hope you who enter here.” But this blood was so precious, this blood was so glorious, infinitely meritorious, that it purchased eternal redemption—not for one but for a multitude of sinners whom no man can number.
This was the price of your redemption, Christian: the blood of Christ, the blood of God the Son Himself, the blood of the One who never deserved to have to have blood, let alone to have that blood be shed at the hands of sinful men. And Peter’s point is that if this was the cost of your redemption, can you treat this blood as such a contemptible thing that you give no thought to living the very life of sin that this blood was shed to redeem you from? That is what we do each and every time we sin. Titus 2:14 says Christ “gave Himself . . . to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
The purpose of redemption wasn’t only to free us from sin’s penalty, it was to free us from sin’s power. And when you give yourself to the very lawless deeds that the blood of Christ was shed to free you from, you conduct yourselves in a way that indicates that you do not believe that that blood was precious. And everything in you ought to recoil from that thought. Every fiber of your soul should shrink from that thought in horror—you could say in fear. And that’s Peter’s point: Conduct yourselves in fear because you know how precious the price of your redemption was. Fear living your lives as if the ransom price of Christ’s blood was not precious.
Let me read you one more quote from Leighton, because I simply can’t resist. He writes, “Consider often at how high a rate we were redeemed from sin, and provide this answer for all the enticements of sin in the world. Except you can offer my soul something beyond that price that was given for it on the cross, I cannot hearken to you.” I’m going to read that again: “Consider often at how high a rate we were redeemed from sin, and provide this answer for all the enticements of sin in the world.” Say to temptation, say to sin, “Except you can offer my soul something beyond that price that was given for it on the cross, I cannot pay you any mind.” What an excellent thought.
Brothers and sisters, can sin offer you something worth more than the blood that was shed for your redemption from that sin? So reason with yourself. As you do battle with temptation and your flesh presents to you the allure of sin—“Hey, it’ll feel good to do this. It’ll be better if you don’t make waves. Just maybe this is not your battle. Wait for the next one when it’s really big”—ask yourself, “What is my estimate of the blood of Christ? Is it worth more than the false glory of what sin promises me, or do I consider the blood of God to be a light and trifling thing?” See what a strong weapon the believer’s estimation of the preciousness of the blood of Christ is against sin and temptation and compromise.
There’s a third consideration that will strengthen and support your holy fear of God during the time of your stay on earth: not only the prerogative of your Father, not only the price of your redemption, but number three, consider the glory of your Savior, the glory of your Savior. Look at verses 20 and 21. Peter mentions the name of Christ at the end of verse 19, and then he just bursts out; he can’t hold it in. He says the name of Christ, and then he’s got to erupt into praise. He says, “For he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these 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.”
What is he saying? This glorious redemption purchased by the precious blood of Christ—this was not afterthought. This was no accident. This was the gracious plan that God determined before the world began: that Christ would appear on the earth as the incarnate God-Man, that He would live a perfect life in obedience to the law of God, that He would die to shed His precious blood to ransom His people from their sin, and then He would be raised from the dead and seated in glory at the right hand of the Father in heaven and become the sole source of faith and hope in the one true and living God to everyone who believes. That is a glorious Savior.
And he gives at least four aspects here that he celebrates in these two verses. He speaks of Christ’s predetermination: “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world.” He speaks of His incarnation (“But [He] has appeared in these last times for [your sake]”), His exaltation (“God [has] raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory”), and His exclusivity (“Through Him [you] are believers in God”). And frankly, those four points could be a sermon series in themselves, and so we don’t have time to give them the exposition that they deserve. But I would hope to zero in on just one of them before our time is gone, and that is that third one: His exaltation—“God [has] raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory.”
Why does Peter call attention to this truth in this context? Because it reminds the believers. Friends, it reminds us that we trust in and follow a Christ who is not unacquainted with suffering, that we do not have a never-suffering Savior. We have a Savior that was hated. We have a Savior that was spit on. We have a Savior that was mocked and beaten and killed in the most shameful way possible. Sometimes those who seem addicted to the world’s applause tell us that if we could just be more like Jesus, surely the world would give us a hearing, surely they would accept His claims, surely they would want to be part of His church. They killed Jesus! They crucified Him, the world did. We’re going to follow that One and then be so much like Him that the world rolls out the red carpet for us—when they pierced Him, His brow with a crown of thorns, when they whipped Him, and mocked Him, and taunted Him? Are you kidding me?
But here’s the point, here’s the point: That very same Savior, who was mocked and who was spit on and who was beaten and who was killed and crucified in this shameful way, that very same Savior was raised from the dead. He was highly exalted and given the name which is above every name. He was seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. Our Savior, you see, was made for another world. He came into this world as a pilgrim, as a stranger, as an exile in a foreign land, as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. His sufferings were infinitely greater than anything that we could imagine.
But He did not waver in faithfulness to His Father. He did not compromise. He conducted Himself in fear during the time of His stay on earth because He knew it was only a temporary stay—this time. He knew that this life was for giving away, and that the next life is for rest and reward. And as a result of His faithful obedience, He was raised from the dead and exalted to heaven.
And so brothers and sisters, that there is not only our Savior, that is our forerunner. He has blazed the very trail that He now calls us to walk as suffering pilgrims on a journey to heaven. And if we can fix our gaze on Gethsemane and on Golgotha and think of the depths of this dishonor that He suffered in His life, and then if we can raise our eyes to heaven and think of the heights of glory that He enjoys now, we will be able to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses daily and to die to self and follow after Him. If we can, like Stephen, gaze intently into heaven and by the spiritual sight of faith see the glory of God and see Jesus standing at the right hand of God—then even in our greatest of trials, even amidst a shower of stones like Stephen endured, we can be comforted that Christ our head has been exalted to glory and therefore that we, His body, shall join Him before long.
The Puritan John Flavel said, “If the head is above water, the body cannot drown.” Our Head is above water, in the glories of heaven, far above the very rule and authority that sentenced Him to death. And so as the resurrection hymn says, “Ours the cross,” yes; ours the grave, yes; but ours the skies as well. Ours the skies because the very worst that they can do to us is kill us. But we serve a Savior who looked at Martha weeping for her brother’s death and said, “I am the resurrection and the life; and he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Death is transformed from the last enemy to the friend. Death belongs to you, 1 Corinthians 3:22, because death takes us to our great reward. And so nothing deserving of the name death can be predicated of the Christian: “The one who believes in Me will never die.” And then after He said that, by the power of His own voice, He raised Lazarus from the tomb.
And a time is coming, and now is, when all who hear the voice of the Son of God will come out of the tombs and be raised to a resurrection, either of eternal life or of judgment. And my point has been that when your heart grabs ahold of that precious truth, that no matter how miserable your persecutors attempt to make your life on earth, that you will live again; that on the last day, the One who raised Jesus from the dead will raise your decaying body to life, will glorify it, and will reunite it with your soul for you to live again in the integrity of body and spirit on the new earth. When your heart grabs hold of that reality, you become invincible. You live above the fear of death, you live above the fear of man, and you conduct yourselves in the holy fear of God.
Look again at verse 21, “So that your faith and hope are in God.” You see, the God of Scripture doesn’t offer us any hope, any solace by setting our minds on this world and the things of this world, but by raising our eyes to heaven where Christ is, Colossians 3, “seated at the right hand of God. . . . For you have died.” You are dead already in Christ, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Here again, we have no lasting city; we’re seeking the city which is to come, a city that has foundations, not this present creation, which Peter says in 2 Peter 3 will dissolve like snow in the heat of divine judgment. No, we are looking for new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. We’re looking for “the city . . . whose architect and builder is God,” a heavenly city which will not decay or fade away. We are looking for our home, where we can be face-to-face with our precious Jesus, to sit with Him, to walk with Him and talk with Him and embrace Him and be at rest with Him, and receive the full communication of His love and glory.
Dear Christian, you may be hated and despised by the world. I can almost guarantee you will be, if you are faithful; I can guarantee you will be. Paul says that in 2 Timothy 3. You may be the special object of the world’s derision and even persecution. The storm is coming, but you be faithful. You magnify the worth of Jesus by the way that you suffer for His sake. You “conduct [yourselves] in fear during the time of your stay on earth” because “soon shall close your earthly mission, soon shall pass thy pilgrim days. Hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.” Let’s pray.
Father, like the hymn says, “O while thou dost smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might, foes may hate and friends disown me; show Thy face and all is bright.” Give us a vision, with the eyes of faith in the pages of Scripture, of the heavenly reward that Your Son has already entered into, that You have promised with the inviolable integrity of Your Word to bestow on those who follow after Him, in going to our death to this world because we trust in Him. Lord Jesus, You are worthy of that devotion; You are. Your glory demands it; Your goodness compels it from us. And yet we feel the weakness of our own flesh to follow after in the way that we ought.
Here with our hearts full of the Word of God, we feel invincible, we feel ready to go into battle. Lord, keep the Word always before us. Keep Christ always before us that we might be so prepared whenever the time comes. We don’t know when it’s coming; we know that it is coming. Give us grace to be on the alert. Help us to suffer in a way that shows, when we lose all things, Christ is greater and more glorious, more precious to us than all things, that when we lose everything, “With Thy favor, loss is gain.” Get what You are worthy of in Your church, we pray in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
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