I am quickly getting the picture that each and every sentence that Peter wrote to the exiles living in the Roman provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia are packed with such encouragement and instruction for how they were to live their lives. This is our eighth study in 1 Peter 1 and today’s lesson is as encouraging and instructive for us as it was for those who first heard this letter written almost 2000 years ago. Let’s read our Scripture and then we will see what we can learn. Let’s begin in 1 Peter 1:17.

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21 NIV)

After Peter encouraged the persecuted followers of Jesus regarding all that God had done on their behalf, in verses 1-12, he then set out to give them guidance about how they were to live their lives in a society that was opposed to those who were followers of Jesus. His first order of business was to remind them to live in hope. Peter told them, “set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (1 Peter 1:13 NIV) Their lives were difficult and they were going to grow increasingly difficult because the Roman emperors believed that the followers of Jesus were a dangerous threat to the Roman Empire. 1 Peter was written during Emperor Nero’s reign. A few short years after Peter wrote this letter, Nero blamed the Christians for a fire that broke out in Rome. The emperor unleashed a horrible persecution on the followers of Jesus and countless thousands of Christians were crucified, tortured, or fed to wild animals in the Colosseum, a giant amphitheater that would seat more than 50,000 people. The persecution of the followers of Jesus wouldn’t stop with Nero’s suicide, at the age of 30, in 68 AD. 

The new emperor, Vespasian, set his sights on destroying the temple and conquering Jerusalem. His son, and future emperor Titus, carried out the attack on Jerusalem. Josephus was a Jew, but he was also a Roman historian who lived while the attack on Jerusalem took place. He wrote,

There was no pity for age, no regard for rank; little children and old men, laymen and priests alike were butchered… The cries from the hill were answered from the crowded streets; and now many who were wasted with hunger and beyond speech found strength to moan and wail when they saw the sanctuary in flames. (Flavius Josephus. The Jewish War

The days were difficult and challenging for the followers of Jesus when they received this letter from Peter, but the challenges and trials would only grow worse. Yet, they were to set their hopes on the grace that would be revealed when Jesus returned. 

Secondly, they were to live in holiness. We spent all of our time last week taking a look at what it means to live a holy, set-apart life. The followers of Jesus in Peter’s day and all of us who are followers of Jesus today are to live holy lives because it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” says the Lord. Our lives are not to look like the lives of those who are not followers of Jesus. We are not to conform to the ways of this world, but we are to pattern our lives after the character and behavior of our God who is righteous and holy in all that He does. 

In our Scripture for this morning we see that we are to live in reverent fear. Like so many important words in the Bible, we need to define biblical fear. Biblical fear is not the fear a child who is abused feels when her dad comes home from work at night raging about his day. Biblical fear is not the fear you feel when someone sticks a gun in your back and demands your wallet. Biblical fear is not the fear you experience when you’re on a hike and all of the sudden hear the rattle of a rattlesnake. The Greek word translated “fear” is the word “phobos” and it means, “terror, fear, or reverence.” In the Hebrew Bible we read, 

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)

In the book of Proverbs we learn that “wisdom” has to do with both the quantity and quality of life. Wisdom leads to a full life, a life lived in view of God’s purpose and will for the individual. How do we obtain wisdom? Do we need to attend some Ivy League school or have a genius IQ to possess wisdom? No, there are many Harvard grads and those who are members of the Mensa Society who possess intelligence, but lack wisdom. If you want to obtain wisdom it begins at square one: The fear of the LORD. Bruce Waltke, the best teacher of Proverbs I have ever heard once said, “The world’s wisdom is live and learn. God’s wisdom is learn and live.” For us to fear the Lord means that we learn that He is God and we are not. He is Sovereign, fully in control, and we can’t control much of anything. To fear the Lord means that we live in the understanding that God is altogether different: He is holy, He is righteous, and we are accountable to Him for these lives that He has given us. Let me share a couple of illustrations of how the awareness of the “otherness” of God strikes fear in the hearts of His people. 

In Mark 4, Jesus and His disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a terrible storm suddenly caused Jesus’ disciples to wonder if they were going to capsize and drown. Mark tells us,

38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:38-41 NIV)

Jesus’ disciples were afraid of the waves, but they were in awe of Jesus. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Do you see how living in the awareness of the complete “otherness” of the Lord stirs a reverent fear in our hearts and minds?

Turn with me to Luke 5 and while you are turning there let me set the scene for you. One day Jesus was teaching when some men came carrying their friend, who was paralyzed, on a mat. They were hoping Jesus would heal their friend. Jesus spoke to the paralyzed man and then Luke tells us,

25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” (Luke 5:25-26 NIV)

They were filled with “awe,” it’s the same word translated “terrified” in Mark 4 and translated as “fear” in other passages of the New Testament. Why were the people filled with “awe?” It’s because Jesus was different, altogether different than any one of them. He was God Incarnate. He was holy, altogether holy. He was righteous in everything He did and said. 

Our first reason for living in reverent fear of God is because He alone is God and He is so different in every way from our sinful ways. There is a second reason why we are to live in reverent fear or awe of God as we live out our days here on earth and it is because we are accountable to Him. Take a look at verse 17 with me once again. Peter writes,

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Peter 1:17 NIV)

He is our Father and He is also our Judge who “judges each person’s work impartially.” We will all stand before God one day and give an account of the things we have done and said in this life, the life that He has so graciously given to us as a gift. In Matthew 12, Jesus told those who were listening to Him,

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. (Matthew 12:36 NIV)

I have to repeat myself often because of the day in which we live, a day in which so many believe they will gain eternal life by living a good life. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. We are not saved by works or living a good life. At the same time, because He has saved us, He calls us to do good works, to live in such a way that our lifestyle brings Him glory and blesses those He has placed in our lives. We will give an account of the work we have done when we stand before Him one day. The Apostle Paul was so aware of this fact and it motivated him to live with one goal–to please Him. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 and let’s read together.

9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11 NIV)

God is our Father who has reconciled us to Himself through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. He is our Father who tenderly loves us, cares for us, provides for us, and who has promised to never leave us. He is also our Judge and He does not play favorites. He judges each person impartially. This type of judgment is totally foreign to what we know in this life. I hope I’m not bursting any bubbles this morning, but the scales of justice in our society, in our city, are not equal. We do not treat one another impartially.

In Deuteronomy 16, God gave Moses instructions concerning setting up judges for each of the tribes of Israel. They were not to take a bribe, they were not to give preferential treatment to some of the people, but they were to seek justice for all people. Why would God set up a judicial system like this? It is because this is how God judges. Before God set the parameters on how judges were to judge in Deuteronomy 16, we learn about the character of our Judge, in Deuteronomy 10.

17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 NIV)

So, we have learned that we are to live out our days as foreigners, as exiles, while living on this earth in reverent fear of God because He is altogether Holy and Righteous and because we are accountable to the One who will judge each person’s work impartially. He has never and He will never play favorites. 

There is a third reason we are to live in reverent fear of God and it is found in verses 18-19. Read those verses with me. Peter writes,

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

Live in awe, in reverent fear of God, “For you know…” What is it that we know? We know the great cost of our redemption. Peter says, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 

Martin Luther published his Small Catechism in 1529. It was written to train children in the Christian faith. The Small Catechism includes teaching on the Ten Commands, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Apostle’s Creed among other important topics. In his teaching on the Apostle’s Creed, Luther wrote,

I believe that Jesus Christ is truly God, born of the Father in eternity and also truly human, born of the Virgin Mary. Christ is my Lord! Christ redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, bought and won me from all sins, death, and the authority of the Devil. It did not cost him gold or silver, but his holy, precious blood, his innocent body — his death! Because of this, I am Christ’s very own… (Luther, Martin. Small Catechism.)

There is no doubt that 1 Peter 1:18-19 had a big influence on Luther when he wrote these words. We live in reverent fear of God because we know the price that was paid for our redemption. That’s another one of those words that needs defining. The Greek word translated “redeemed” in our English Bible is the word, “lytro?” which means “to be or become redeemed by the payment demanded for one’s return.” The word was used to describe the release of captives. The Bible teaches that because of Jesus’ sacrifice for those who will believe in Him, we have been redeemed, freed from the power and sentence of sin. In this passage we are studying this morning, we learn that we are redeemed from something else as well. Look at verse 18 with me once again.  

18 …you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors… (1 Peter 1:18 NIV)

In biblical times, and in some places today, it was inexcusable to turn away from the teachings of your family. There is a story from the second century about a conversation between a Roman lawyer and a Christian named Octavius. While they were walking and talking, Octavius didn’t salute an image of Serapis, an Egyptian god of fertility and guardian of the underworld. The Roman lawyer scolded Octavius by saying, “it is more reverent and better to accept the teaching of your ancestors, to cultivate the religions handed down to you, to adore the gods whom you were first trained by your parents to fear” (La Piana 1927:306).

Dr. Sy Garte came from three generations of militant atheists. His mother and father were members of the American Communist Party. Dr. Garte has a PhD in Biochemistry, taught at several universities for 30 years, and worked at the National Institute of Health. Atheism was ingrained in Dr. Garte’s brain and yet the more he studied science the more he questioned a materialist understanding of life and the Universe. Dr. Garte writes,

When I was an atheist, I believed there was no evidence for God, but that science was truth. Then science showed me there was no evidence for atheism. (Dr. Sy Garte)

Dr. Garte moved away from the teachings of his family. To say the least, it was not easy going against all that his family had taught him, but he turned away from the empty way of life handed down to him by his ancestors and turned to Jesus Christ. 

I read this past week about a man named Tenzin Lahkpa who was born in the mountains of Amdo in west China. His mother took him to a Buddhist monastery when he was 15 years old and dedicated him to the study and service of Buddhism. After several years Tenzin met a relative who had left the Buddhist faith and become a Christian. Tenzin had never heard the word “Christian” before so he asked some of the monks at the monastery. They were horrified and told him never to speak the name Jesus because that name was too dangerous. 

Tenzin became disillusioned with Buddhist teachings and the behavior of the monks. He was empty and lonely and came down with tuberculosis. While he was in the hospital he met a doctor who had a cross on his collar. He asked the doctor what it meant and the doctor told him he was a follower of Jesus. This encounter was the beginning of Tenzin’s journey to becoming a follower of Jesus. While he was in the hospital, Jesus appeared to Tenzin in a dream. He knew he could no longer follow Buddha. He wanted to follow Jesus, but this also posed a great problem for him because he knew how the monks would respond. He also knew he had to tell them.

When Tenzin got back to the monastery he asked for a special gathering of all of the monks. While they were all gathered together, he said,

What if I told you that I prayed to a God who said that He could guide me through the spirit world, and I did not have to earn merits to hear from Him because He gave it all to me by grace? I could not earn it on my own….When I was lying in bed in the hospital, I was told about a God who gave His life for me so that I would not have to suffer any longer. He did not do it because I had earned enough merits. He did it because He loved me. His love leads to the path that ends suffering, and His Name is Jesus. (Tenzin Lahkpa)

Immediately the monks seized him, beat him until he was unconscious, and left him for dead. Even his own brother, who was now a monk, beat him, but Tenzin did not die. Tenzin was told he had dishonored his family, his culture, and his nation. He was told that he must leave and never return or they would kill him. 

Today, Tenzin is serving Jesus as he works with a medical organization which shares the Good News about Jesus with those who are in need. He is thankful the Lord redeemed him from the empty way of life that was handed down to him from his ancestors. 

There may be some of you who are here this morning who were shown a different path, a path other than following Jesus, by your family. My grandfather had a huge influence on me while I was growing up. We both lived in Duncan and we spent lots of time together. When I was a teenager he told me about a girl that I should check out. In Duncan, everyone knew everyone, so I already knew who he was speaking about. I asked him, “Why should I ask her out?” He said, “Her father owns the bank.” Well, I can tell you that Connie’s dad never owned a bank. 

I was in the last year of college when the Lord changed my plans for the future. I knew He was leading me away from coaching football and calling me to share Jesus with kids. My mother told my grandfather and in no time I was sitting with him. He told me, “Never go into a profession where you are dependent on others to provide your income.” It was his way of saying, “Whatever you do, do not become a minister.” It was difficult disappointing my grandfather, but it would have been more difficult to disappoint the One who gave His life for me, the One who had a plan for my life that was far superior than any plan my grandfather could come up with for me.

Sy Garte, Tenzin, and many of you were all redeemed, we have been set free from the empty way of life handed down to us from our families. That doesn’t mean we don’t love our families, I definitely do, but their beliefs and their plan was empty compared to what we have found in knowing Jesus. How about you? 

We were set free not like some freed slave whose freedom was purchased by silver or gold, something that is valuable, but perishable, but by the “precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” We could spend three weeks on this phrase alone, but we won’t. Let me simply show you how precious the blood of the Lamb of God is to those who will trust in Him.

At the time of the Exodus from Egypt, God instructed His people to kill a lamb without defects and smear the blood over the door frame of the house. Those who were under the blood would be spared when the angel of death passed over the land and took the firstborn from every household. Throughout the Old Testament, for thousands of years, God’s people were instructed to bring a sacrifice, a lamb without defect.  In Deuteronomy 15:21 we read,

21 If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 15:21 NIV)

Think of the countless lambs that were slain to cover the sins of God’s people. And then one day, Jesus was walking near the Jordan river and John the Baptist saw Him. John pointed Jesus out and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV) Philip Ryken traces the way God used one lamb throughout the Old Testament to prepare for the day when the Perfect Lamb without spot or blemish would arrive. He writes,

God provided one lamb for one person…Abraham offered one lamb in the place of his son Isaac…one lamb for one household…at the first Passover…one sacrifice for the whole nation…on the Day of Atonement…[and] finally…one Lamb to die for one world. (Ryken, Philip. Exodus: Saved For God’s Glory. pg. 330)

We have been redeemed, set free, by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus our Savior. Do you know Him? Have you trusted Him as your Lord and Savior? If not, won’t you do that this morning.

Mike Hays

Britton Christian Church

March 17, 2024

Live In Reverent Fear of God
1 Peter 1:17-21
Tagged on: