1 Peter 1:17-21
And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work…
The order of thought in the first twenty-one verses may be summed up in salvation (vers. 3-12), holiness (vers. 12-16), fear (vers. 17-21). This last paragraph contains one long reason why those who have salvation through Christ should live in fear. It is remarkable that the demand for fear should follow what has been already said. The apostle has spoken strongly of the certainty of their redemption to whom he writes; he calls them "elect according to," etc.; he blesses God that they have an inheritance reserved for them, and that they are kept for it; he says that loving Christ they have now the salvation of their souls; he adds that the revelation of this salvation, being given through the Holy Ghost, is infallibly true; but after all that, he bids them pass the time of their sojourning here in fear - an emphatic contradiction of the idea that the doctrines of grace foster a spirit of carelessness. Fear is the natural result of God's free salvation.
I. THE FACT OF REDEMPTION NECESSITATES HOLINESS. The seventeenth verse is based on the eighteenth and following verses.
1. Redemption is from the vain manner of life received from our fathers. "Conversation;" equivalent to" manner of life." Christ died to deliver us from the sinful manner of life received from our fathers. From hell; yes, that is clear. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all; He bore our sins in his own body on the tree;" "There is therefore now no condemnation," etc. But that is not the end for which he died, only a means to an end. Holiness in us was the purpose of the atonement, so much so that if we can imagine one getting no further than the canceling of his sins, we should have to say that Christ died for him in vain (see 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14). Redemption by Christ is from the life of the natural man: "If any man be in Christ Jesus, it is a new creation."
2. Redemption is only effected at unspeakable cost. "Not with corruptible," etc. An emphatic testimony that redemption is through our Lord's death - not through his life, or example, or holiness, or mediation, but, as Scripture invariably says with unwavering consistency, by "his blood." God himself bore the penalty of human guilt that he might righteously extend his mercy to the guilty. Nor can we imagine any method which so glorifies his grace and reveals himself. Think of the worth of our Lord's offering. The universe were as nothing compared with the Son of God. What unfathomable meaning is in the words, "the precious blood of Christ"! Now, this stupendous price was paid for nothing less than that we might be holy. In that we see how imperative, how indispensable, holiness is.
3. Redemption is to faith and hope in God. (Vers. 20, 21.) Characteristic of Peter to emphasize the foreordination of Christ. It occurs here naturally when we see that it is a point in perhaps all his recorded sermons. What a redemption this is which is based on God's eternal purpose! and what a hope which goes back through all time, and finds its foundation in the everlasting thought of God! But the point is that Christ was appointed to this work by the Father, manifested by the Father, raised up by the Father, given glory by the Father - Redemption is the working out by the Father of his own plan, quite contrary to the idea that Calvary was to appease him. The text says that God did all this that we might be believers in him, not stop short at Jesus, but go on to rest in the Father. Alienated man drawn to act in faith and hope. Then as the stream flows from the fountain, so by the constraint of conscious obligation and loving petition, consecration to God will flow from this faith and hope, and thus, if redemption is to faith and hope, it necessitates holiness.
II. THIS NECESSITY CALLS THE PROFESSING CHRISTIAN TO FEAR. (Ver. 17.) The more Christian life we have, the more we find that fear is one of its characteristics. Not that which hath torment, and repels; but that which is the opposite of carelessness, presumption, self-confidence, disobedience.
1. For a filial spirit toward God leads to the fear of his disfavor. Perfect love produces fear - fear of distressing him we love. The word "father" tells of tender relationship, mutual happiness, reciprocated affection; that either would shrink from paining the other; and that any barrier coming between them is unbearable. He on whom we call as Father must have holiness. Then we cannot help going through life with this element of fear; he who does not fear does not love.
2. Then, a remembrance of his impartiality leads to a fear of his judgments. "The Father, who without respect of persons judgeth," etc. The kind Father is also the impartial Judge, and he will judge us by our works. We are saved by faith; we are judged by holiness; we are redeemed to holiness. Then if we are amongst the redeemed, we are holy. What should we like to be tested by - experiences, profession, creed, charity, opinions of others? God will judge us impartially by our works. "Show me thy faith by thy works." Is not that something to make us fear?
3. A consideration of the brevity of life leads to the fear of losing eternal blessing. "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." We are here but for a short time; the perfected blessings of redemption are yonder, and what they are no tongue can tell. But redemption is holiness, and therefore apart from holiness we have no right to anticipate these. Without holiness there is no redemption, that is, no heaven. Is not this calculated to create fear, to destroy spiritual indifference, carelessness about conformity to Christ, lightheartedness respecting inconsistency? Does it not compel us to examine heart and life with anxiety, and press forward to better things with something of the feeling of the racer lest he lose the prize?
III. THIS FEAR IS CONSISTENT WITH JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY. This must be remembered to avoid misapprehension. The fear the apostle urges is not that which clouds life, but that which harmonizes with the joy he has spoken of. Yes; this fear contributes to the joy.
1. It leads to a correct knowledge of our Christian position. Making us search to the foundations of our hope, it enables us to say, "I know."
2. It compels us to a simpler dependence on the Savior. For looking for holiness as an evidence of redemption, we discover how little we have, and are compelled to fall back on Christ the more entirely - than which what is more blessed? Blessed fear, which makes us know better how perfect a Savior Jesus is!
3. It glorifies even our trials as a means of keeping us holy. For if holiness be essential, we can welcome that as a friend which tends to deepen it, and makes us thank God for our very sorrows. - C.N.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: