1 Peter 1:18, 19
For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…
The immediate connection of these words is with the solemn exhortation to habitual" fear" - a reverential awe of our Father-Judge, and a consequent dread of sin which disturbs our filial relation and incurs his judicial displeasure. The consciousness of the purpose and price of our redemption is here urged as a motive to such fear. Love and thankfulness, joy and confidence, are its fruits. But nonetheless certainly will the adequate sense or' that great sacrifice in its costliness and its purpose lead to our passing the time of our sojourning here in fear. The gospel of redemption is not meant to produce carelessness, or a light estimate of the holiness of God or of the heinousness of sin, but to make conscience more sensitive, and to lead to anxious scrupulousness in avoiding all conduct which would be condemned by the judgment of God. The apostle appeals to that consciousness as familiar and certain. He presupposes the distinct and developed teaching of the sacrificial death of Christ, and of its redemptive efficacy, as well known and universally received. The tone of his reference establishes the existence of that teaching as the fundamental doctrine of the gospel in all the Churches to which his letter was addressed. And the use which he makes of that truth, as the great motive to practical holiness, is in accordance with all New Testament teaching, which ever regards Christ's sacrifice in its practical aspect as the foundation in us of all goodness. We have here three great aspects of redemption - what it is from; what it is by; what it is for.
I. WHAT WE ARE REDEEMED FROM. The original idea of "redemption" is, of course, purchase from slavery. Here we have no reference to what is prominent in other places of Scripture - the deliverance by Christ's blood from guilt and condemnation. That aspect of redemption is involved in more than one place in this Epistle, and underlies it all. It must first be experienced before we can be redeemed from the love and practice of evil. But the purpose which the apostle has here in view leads him to dwell on the other side of the complex idea of redemption - the deliverance from the bondage of sin, holding will and affections in thraldom. "Ye are redeemed," says he, "from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers." Now, that expression is a pregnant description of the whole course of godless life. "Conversation," we perhaps need not observe, is equivalent to "conduct."
1. The implication that all godless life is slavery lies in the very word "redemption." If we consider how sin masters a man, ratters his will, and binds him with iron chains of habit, which hold him in spite of conscience, and in mockery of resolutions and efforts, we can understand the deep truth in our Lord's paradoxical words, "He that committeth sin is the slave of sin." Do a wrong thing, and it is your master, as you will soon discover if you try to efface its consequences and to break away from its dominion. But besides this implication that all sin is slavery, which lies in the idea of redemption, we have here, secondly, the thought that all sin is empty and profitless.
2. There is a whole world of meaning in that epithet "vain." It is the condensation into one little monosyllable of the experience of all the generations. All sin is empty. As one of the Hebrew words for it literally means, it is a missing of the mark. It is always a blunder - no man gets the good which he expected by his sin, or, if he does, he gets something else which spoils it. "It is as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and is faint." Sin is vain, for it yields no results correspondent to the nature of man, and so does not satisfy him. It produces none corresponding to his obligations, and so in the eyes of God, or what is the same thing, in reality, a godless life is a wasted and barren life, however full of fruit it may appear. It produces none that abides. All are annihilated by the judgment of God, and survive only in remorse and pain. The devil always plays with loaded dice. A godless life is a vain life. "The man who lives it sows much and brings home little," and "the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow."
3. This vain life is the fatal gift from generation to generation. A twofold application of the fact that it is transmitted from father to son may be made. This godless course of life has no higher source and sanction than men's notions. It is a poor miserable account for a responsible being to give of his moral conduct and judgments to say, "My father did so and thought so before me." In that view this clause exposes the hollowness and weakness of the foundation on which many a godless life is unthinkingly and almost mechanically built. Or the apostle's purpose may rather be to signalize the strength of evil derived from that solemn fact of its transmission from parent to child. "Heredity" is a new word to express an old truth. A man's ancestors live again in him. Moral qualities descend as plainly as physical peculiarities. And besides the strain in the blood which affects the moral nature, example and habit tell in the same direction. Thus the evil becomes generic and wraps the whole race in its folds. Hence, too, the need for a new power acting from without if men are to be redeemed from it. There must be a new beginning from an untainted source if the bitter waters are to be healed. He who is to redeem the race must come from outside the race, and yet must work within it.
II. So we have here, WHAT WE ARE REDEEMED BY. The apostle employs his favorite epithet in speaking of the blood of Christ. It is "precious." What a profound sense of the worth of that wondrous sacrifice lies in that one simple word, more eloquent and full of feeling than a crowd of superlatives! Our Lord's death is evidently regarded here as sacrificial. The "lamb without blemish and without spot" distinctly refers to the requirement of the Mosaic Law in reference to the sacrifice. It is not merely the sinless purity of our Savior's life, but that purity as fitting Him to be the Sacrifice for the world's sin, which comes into view here. We cannot do justice to the thought unless we recognize the sacrificial character of Christ's death as the teaching of this passage. At the same time, we have to remember that redemption here is regarded as deliverance from the love and practice of evil rather than from its guilt and punishment. But while this is true, these two aspects of redemption are inseparable. Christ redeems us from the former by redeeming us from the latter. The sense of guilt and the fearful looking for of judgment bind men to sin, and the only way to wean them from it begins with the assurance of pardon and the removal of the burden of guilt. Unless we have a gospel of atonement to preach, we have no gospel of deliverance from the bondage of sin. Christ makes us free because he dies for us, and in one shedding of his blood at once annihilates guilt and brings pardon and destroys the dominion of sin. That death, too, is the one means for so influencing men's hearts that they shall no longer love evil, but delight to do his will, and by love and fellowship grow like their Lord. Sin's reign has its fortress in our will and affections, and Christ's death believed and trusted changes the set and current of these, casts out the usurper, and enthrones Jesus as our rightful Lord. Again, Christ's death procures for us the Divine Spirit who dwells in our hearts, and by his presence "makes us free from the law of sin and death." So by setting us in new relations to the Divine Law, by taking away the sense of guilt, by bringing to bear a new motive, by procuring a Spirit to give a new life, the sacrificial death of the sinless Christ redeems us from the power of sin.
III. WHAT WE ARE REDEEMED FOR. The text is a motive urged by the apostle to enforce his previous exhortation: "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." The consciousness of our redemption and the fact of our redemption should lead, not to easy confidence or indifference, but to reverential awe and dread of" receiving the grace of God in vain." The more clearly the purpose of our redemption to be our complete emancipation from all sin be seen, and the more profoundly we value the tremendous price at which God has thought it worth while to buy us hack for his own, the more we shall dread every sin. Surely no motive can so powerfully commend the solemn comprehensive command, "Be ye holy as I am holy," or so strongly impel to that wholesome fear without which it can never be obeyed, as the contemplation of the precious blood shed for our sakes. That awful sacrifice is in vain so far as we are concerned, the blood of Jesus has poured out for naught, unless it has not only availed to stilt our fears and bring us pardon, but also to "cleanse us from all sin," and make us love and do righteousness. We are redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ, that we may be the lambs of his flock without blemish and without spot, like the Shepherd-Lamb. - A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;