1 Peter 1:17-21 ~ 20081026~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/26 1 Peter 1:17-21 Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!
1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Peter has spent the first 12 verses celebrating what God has done to make us his forever. He chose us and caused us to be born again. He is guarding us by his power for our salvation through our faith. He is testing our faith by the fire of trials so that it is proved genuine. He points to our joy in Jesus as evidence of our genuine belief. He encourages us that prophets and angels and evangelists, through the Holy Spirit were all working together to bring us salvation. Then in verse 13 he inserts a critical 'therefore' to give us commands; because of what God has done to make you his forever, this is how you should respond. And he gives three commands. Set your hope on future grace, be holy (wholly devoted to God), and live in fear.
We will take up this third command today. Because of what God has done for you to secure your eternal inheritance, set your hope completely on God's grace that will be brought to you in the future. Don't act like you're still stupid but be holy like God is holy - have your value system transformed by what is most valuable: God. Be wholly devoted to God. Be hopeful, be holy, and be afraid. Be very afraid. So today's message is on how to be afraid in a way that honors God. There is a way to be afraid that disbelieves God's promises and dishonors God and there is a way to fear that promotes your holiness and your hope and brings honor to God. I hope today we can see the difference and fear in a way that brings glory to God and brings progress in our sanctification.
Jesus commanded us to fear and not to fear. There is appropriate and inappropriate fear for the believer. Jesus was telling us to have our fear in the right place. And what Jesus tells us runs contrary to everything we naturally think and feel. Do not fear those who can kill you. That would put your fear in the wrong place. Do not fear evil men with machine guns and machetes. Do not fear the earthquake and the tsunami. Do not fear the firing squad and the electric chair. Do not fear the terrorist threats. That would be fearing the wrong thing and demonstrate your lack of faith in God. Listen to the words of Jesus:
Jesus doesn't tell us to stop being afraid. He tells us to get our fear gland trained to respond to the right stimulus. Do not fear the bullet; fear the one you will stand before a millisecond after the bullet goes through your brain.
But doesn't the bible says that we should not be afraid because perfect love casts out fear? Yes - in 1 John 4 it says
So if you have been perfected in love you can go home right now - the rest of this message does not apply to you. This same John that wrote these words was the one at the Revelation of Jesus Christ was terrified.
Jesus commanded us to fear God; John was terrified when he saw Jesus. In Acts 9:31 it says:
Fear of God is a characteristic of a healthy church. 2 Corinthians 7:1 tells us:
We are told in the proverbs:
And in the Psalms:
The fear of the Lord is something we can practice. In Psalm 147, fear of the Lord and hope in his steadfast love are not incompatible but parallel ideas:
God's holy presence elicits a response of terror. Last week we saw the holiness of God on display as we saw Isaiah's vision of the throne of God. Remember his response? 'woe to me for I am undone'.
Isaiah was terrified in the presence of holy God. He pronounced a curse on himself. Peter had this same experience when he was in the boat with Jesus after the catch of fish:
Fear of God is commended to us and modeled for us in throughout scripture. So let's look at what Peter has to tell us about fearing God.
The main command is 'conduct yourselves with fear'. He starts by pointing them to their relationship with God. You call on him who judges impartially according to each one's deeds. The one you call on is the Judge of the living and the dead, the one before whom everyone will stand and give an account. And this judge is impartial - he plays no favorites. Absolute justice will be done. Peter began to understand this when he was called by God to go to a Gentile's house and proclaim the good news:
In this letter, Peter tells us that God's judgment will start with believers:
And this is the one you call on as 'Father'. You call on him as Father because he caused you to be born again. God stands as just judge over every man. But you have a unique relationship with him because you have been born into his family. God is judge of every man; he is judge and father to believers. But he is still your judge and he is just.
If we say 'yes, I committed the crime, but I'm not worried - I know the judge', that would indicate either we are naive or the judge is unjust. A just judge doesn't let crime go unpunished because he has a relationship with the defendant. That would not be impartial. No, if your dad is the judge and if he cares about justice and righteousness, you're going to get it in the courtroom and you're going to get it at home. If you call the judge 'Father' then live in fear. Fear messing up and being called into his courtroom. Fear displeasing and disappointing him. Don't think you can live like hell and get away with it because your father is the judge and he will let it slide. If you call on the judge of the universe as your father, conduct yourselves in fear.
And he reminds them of their sojourner status. This is the time of exile. This is not your permanent position. You don't belong. Expect to be treated badly by those around you who don't know Jesus - but don't fear them. Fear your father who is your judge.
In verses 18-21, Peter gives the reasons why we should fear God. Fear, knowing; because you know, conduct yourselves in fear. Something you know about God fuels your fearful attitude toward him. What is it?
If we compress this sentence down, it reads 'fear God knowing you were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ'. How is knowing you were ransomed by Christ a grounds for fear? Isn't that a reason to rest and rejoice? I would expect the opposite: 'you no longer have reason to fear God because you have been ransomed with the precious blood of Christ'. Instead Peter gives it as a reason for fearing. How can this be? I think he means 'because you have been redeemed with something so precious, fear living in a way that indicates Jesus' blood is not precious to you'. Because of the infinite value of the gift, beware of treating it with contempt and offending the giver. The sentence builds, giving first what we were ransomed from, then what was inadequate to ransom us, then a picture of the ransom, and finally climaxes with who ransomed us.
We are naturally proud of our heritage. I am a criminal and I come from a long line of criminals. We've spent generations perfecting crime. We are good at what we do, and I am proud to carry on the family tradition. Heritage is a powerful thing. Peter calls it worthless. In fact it is so bad, it was holding you hostage - you needed to be ransomed from the worthless heritage that your ancestors passed on to you. You were enslaved by your forefathers and you needed to be set free. This picture begins in Egypt. Joseph brought the nation of Israel down to Egypt. 400 years later, they were in bondage and needed to be rescued. God paid the ransom price. Sometimes you pay a large sum and satisfy the demands of the kidnapper. Other times you track down the kidnapper and take his firstborn son and take back what is yours. That's what God did. He flexed his strong right arm and displayed his power and destroyed Egypt while he set his captives free. The ransom price paid for you was not something of fading value like silver or gold. Peter again points out that in his frame of reference, silver and gold are perishable. It was not perishable gold but precious blood. The price paid for us was innocent life. The blood came from an innocent victim - like a lamb. In the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, they would choose a perfect lamb - one with no defects, and they would observe it to be sure that it was in perfect health. The lamb had done nothing wrong. You would place your hands on the head of the lamb and confess your sins and transfer your guilt to that innocent animal. Then they would slit the throat of the unsuspecting animal and its blood would pour out. The lamb had done nothing to deserve punishment - it was innocent. So the blood that is the cost of our ransom is that of an innocent victim - he has neither blemish nor spot. There is no defect in your ransom price. It was the precious blood, as a lamb without blemish or spot - Christ. Christ comes climactically as the very last word of the verse.
Peter picks up the name of Christ, and gives us a list of things that make Christ abundantly precious.
First, he was foreknow before the foundation of the word. This is the same word Peter used in verse 2 of our elect status which is according to the foreknowledge of God. This is staggering if we pause for a moment to consider what it means. Jesus, the lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world was foreknown before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. He was foreknown before there was even a garden or lambs or a world. God had purposed to give Jesus' blood as a ransom for sinners before God even made people with a capacity for sinning. Before sin entered into the world, God had a plan in place to ransom sinful people. The fall was not an unexpected event in the history of earth. Your ransom with the precious blood of Jesus was God's original plan - before there was a 'you'. Christ was made manifest in the last times for your sake. Jesus was made known in the last times for us. The plan was always in place, but the plan has now been unfurled before our very eyes! How precious is this? Christ was manifest for our sake. And we are believers in God through Christ.
This is what Jesus told us:
Peter said in:
God raised Christ from the dead. We fear death, but there's more to death than being dead. God raised Jesus from the dead! Death is not the final end. What God did for Jesus, he can do for us. And God gave Christ glory. This is what Jesus prayed
And the last phrase brings it full circle back to the beginning again; so that your faith and hope are in God. God knew and chose his Son; he sent his Son; he put his Son to death; he raised his Son from the dead; he gave his Son glory; all for your sake - so that you would hope in God. So that you would believe in God. So that you would believe what God says about sin and that you will be more satisfied in pursuit of a life of holiness; that you will live with a healthy fear of treating God's gift as if it were not precious. Fear putting your hope in other things. Hope in God for God alone is precious and God alone can satisfy. Hope in God's future grace! Be holy! Be afraid! Hope in God!