Rev. Jack W. Davis
1 Peter 1:17-21
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;
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,
19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you
21 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. NASU
When one begins to contemplate the redemption of the believer he is soon struck with the awesomeness of Him in whose heart and mind redemption finds its origin. In this text, Peter first exhorts us as the children of God to “conduct” ourselves in holy awe and then states that the basis for such living is found in what we know regarding our redemption. In verse 20 we are reminded that God PLANNED redemption before the “foundation of the world.” Before He undertook the work of creation, He had already settled this issue of redemption. Redemption was no knee jerk reaction to the disobedience of man. It was God’s gracious plan, before sin entered the world, to provide redemption.
The very nature of redemption requires that a PAYMENT be made. To redeem means to purchase back something that was lost by a ransom or payment. Peter reminds the believer of the high cost of his redemption. Unlike Roman slaves whose freedom could be purchased with small silver and gold coins which have only temporal value, the sinner’s redemption could only be purchased by the perfectly holy, infinitely valuable, eternally efficacious blood of Christ. John the Baptist had indeed prophesied correctly, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus speaking of Himself in Matthew 20:28 stated, “. . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” From the cross Jesus would cry out, “It is finished.” The transaction was complete. The payment had been made. Provision for man’s redemption was accomplished as the life of Christ flowed from His body through His blood.
O what a Savior, O hallelujah!
His heart was broken on Calvary,
His hands were nail scarred,
His side was riven,
He gave His life-blood for even me.
— Marvin P. Dalton
When one considers the price that God paid for our redemption he may ask, “Why?” Why did God plan redemption in eternity past? Why did God pay such a price as to give His only begotten Son to die a criminal’s death being executed by crucifixion? Why did God allow Jesus to suffer excruciating physical pain at the whim of the Jews and by the hands of the Romans? Why would he then increase the suffering Himself pouring out the full force of His fierce wrath toward sin on Him who knew no sin?
Very quickly someone turns to John 3:16 and answers, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” To which there are shouts of, “Amen! The PURPOSE of God’s redemption is to give us eternal life and take us to Heaven when we die! What a day of rejoicing that will be!”
Well intentioned, the Church has taken this verse as its centerpiece for evangelism and made redemption about living forever in Heaven. We have armed ourselves with John 3:16, and asked the lost, “Do you want to go to Heaven when you die?” When they replied, “Well . . ., yeah, sure, who doesn’t want to go to Heaven?” we quoted our verse. Then we asked them, “Do you believe in Jesus?” With a nod of the head they give mental ascent to the historical Jesus and we respond “Praise the Lord another soul is saved and on the way to glory!”
The result of all this is we have congregations filled with folks calling themselves Christians, talking about going to a better place when they die whose lives appear to be no different than their non-professing neighbors except for the 60 to 90 minutes a week they spend at church if they even attend.
Now I believe with all my heart that salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus who died on the cross to make redemption possible. I believe with all my heart that the redeemed are going to heaven when they die or the Lord returns. I acknowledge that a large part of my motivation in turning to the Lord was fear of spending eternity in hell. I want to escape hell and go to heaven. While heaven is the promise of God to the redeemed it was not his purpose. The Bible is explicitly clear. God’s PURPOSE in redemption was not about transporting us into the presence of Jesus when we die, but transforming us into the likeness of Christ. This is clearly stated in Romans 8:29 where the scripture says, “For those whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
Peter helps us understand that this transformation begins in the here and now. He says in verse 18 that we were redeemed “from (our) futile way of life inherited from our forefathers.” God’s purpose was to change our experience in life – an experience we inherited from Adam and Eve.
To fully understand the implications here we must go back to the beginning. As God set out to create man, according to Genesis 1:26-27, He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Now, what does it mean to be created in the image of God? It is obvious that it is not a physical likeness since God is Spirit. We are given some clues in two verses in the New Testament. Colossians 3:10 speaks of “the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” Knowledge has to do with rationality and is linked to the image of God. Being created in the image of God involves the fact that man is rational. In Ephesians 4:24 “the new self, which is in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” This would indicate that man, like God, is a moral creature.
Professor F. Leroy Forlines in his book Systematics makes this observation. “The one word that sums up the idea of rationality and morality is the word ‘person’. God is personal. Man is personal.” He goes on to point out that a person is one who thinks, feels and acts.
We think with our mind. It is here that we reason and make judgments. We feel with our heart which is the seat of our emotions. Here we place value on what we have come to know and understand with our mind. Here we feel sorrow and sadness which reflect a negative value. Here we may feel joy or satisfaction or peace all of which reflect a positive value. We ACT with our will. Here we make choices governed by our knowledge and the emotional value attached to that knowledge. That man is a personal, rational, moral creature is referred to by professor Forlines as the constitutional likeness of God in man. But the likeness of God in man at creation did not stop there. It also encompassed a functional likeness. The constitutional likeness would embrace man in his personhood. The functional likeness of God in man would embrace man in his personality. Remember a person is one who thinks, feels and acts. Personality is the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. As created, man thought, felt and acted in a way that was pleasing to God. At least until they were beguiled by the serpent. Listening to his lies they placed positive value on bad information and made a choice to disobey God and sin entered the world. The constitutional likeness in man remained but the functional likeness was badly damaged and distorted. Man would now be born with a sinful nature no longer capable of pleasing God by the way he thinks feels and acts. This is the “futile way of life inherited from our forefathers” that Peter says that we are redeemed from. God’s purpose in redemption is to restore the functional likeness lost in the fall conforming us to the image of His Son.
The apostle John makes it clear that while this transformation will not be completed until the hereafter it begins in the here and now. In 1 John 3:2 he writes, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.” This is obviously in the hereafter. But in verse 3 he goes on to say, “Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” This is equally obvious in the here and now. God’s purpose is to make us like Christ in the way we function; in the way we think, feel and act.
So the Bible exhorts the redeemed to think like Jesus. In Philippians 2:5 the apostle Paul exhorts the redeemed to “Have this attitude (mind) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” He says in Phil. 4:8, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about thingsthat are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT) We are exhorted to feel like Jesus. That is to be like Christ in our character. Colossians 3:1-13 says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; We are also challenged to act like Christ in 1 John 2:5 where the Bible says, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as he walked.
God’s purpose in redemption is that we become conformed to the image of Christ. The goal of our lives as the redeemed is to be becoming like Christ in our convictions, character and our conduct. No, this quest for Christlikeness is not easy. It is a war. We will lose some battles along the way. But the good news is that WE CAN DO THIS! The very experience of redemption makes it possible. Paul says in Roman 8:2, “And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” He goes on to say in 8:7, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. (NLT) We have been redeemed from that “futile way of life” with the precious blood of Christ. How can we not conduct ourselves in holy awe? What an awesome God we serve.
To be sure the promise of redemption is Heaven, but the purpose of redemption is Christlikeness. Yes we all want to go to heaven. But if we are going to sing When We All Get to Heaven with a confident expectation, we must first be singing O to be Like Thee with a compelling earnestness – for that is the purpose of redemption!