************ Sermon on 1 Peter 1:18-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 16, 2021
1 Peter 1:18-21
A young Julius Caesar was captured by a band of Cilician pirates and held captive for a month. When the pirates demanded a ransom of 20 talents, he scoffed and suggested they ask for 50. Once the sum was paid and his release secured, Caesar raised a small fleet, tracked down the pirates, and had each of the kidnappers crucified.
On the way home from one of his crusades, Richard the Lionheart, king of Britain, was handed over to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Henry demanded a ransom amount that was more than twice the annual revenue of the British crown. Raising the sum took over a year and required the levying of crippling taxes.
In 1996 Victor Li, son of a Hong Kong tycoon, was released after his kidnappers were paid a ransom of $134 million. I thought the $6 million paid for Patty Hearst in 1974 was a lot.
I mention these ransom examples because the key word in our Bible reading is "redemption." "Redemption" simply means to set free by paying a ransom, a price. It is a technical term for money paid to buy a person's freedom.
The word "redeemed" has a special meaning for Peter's audience. Many of them were former slaves who had been set free after a ransom was paid -- either by the slave himself if he could collect sufficient funds or by someone else who paid the price and set him free. There were probably 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire -- most of them looking, hoping, praying for ransom!
"You were redeemed," says our text. We want to answer three questions: first, what are we redeemed from; second, what are we redeemed by; third, who are we redeemed by.
I What we are Redeemed From
A What are we redeemed from? That is our first question. I find Peter's answer to be surprising:
(1 Pet 1:18; NIV84) — 18 you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,Do you hear the answer? "From the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers."
This is surprising because the language of Paul in Ephesians, Colossians, and Galatians has been drilled into our heads; namely, redemption means we have been redeemed from sin and from the curse of the law (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Gal 3:13).
B Peter has a slightly different take on redemption: "You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers." Notice the phrase "handed down." Meaning it was inherited, learned, and imitated behavior. Peter is reminding us of total depravity and original sin.
In place of the word "empty" other translations say "futile, vain, useless." Peter says life without Christ is empty, futile, vain, useless. Life without Christ is a pocket full of air, a wallet full of nothing. Without Christ in your life you can do no good thing; especially you do not live for the glory of God. In response you might ask about the accomplishments of unregenerate man in the areas of art, music, science, technology, medicine, engineering, and so on. First, these are all signs of God's common grace. Second, we need to remember what Jesus asked: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Mt 16:26).
Empty way of life. Realize, congregation, that we and our children are conceived and born into an empty way of life. Each generation passes it on to the next. It was passed on to the children who were baptized this morning. So they, with their parents, also need redemption.
C This is not the first time Peter has mentioned the empty life of the unredeemed, the unregenerate. Back in verse 14 he describes the unsaved as those who conform to evil desires, strong desires. They blindly follow the lusts of the flesh. Think of Sodom and Gomorrah. Think of what Paul writes in Romans 1 about shameful lusts. What life can be more empty than one that only lives to eat, drink, and be merry?
Also in verse 14 Peter describes the unregenerate as those who live in ignorance. Ignorance of what? Ignorance of Christ, ignorance of God, ignorance of the Gospel, ignorance of righteousness, ignorance of truth. I was talking with a liberal professor this past week. She spouted all the current dogma about critical race theory, white supremacy, and so on. Not a single word about God. Wise in her own eyes but ignorant in the eyes of God.
The answer, the only answer, to empty lives of shameful lusts and ignorance is redemption.
II What we are Redeemed By
A We need redemption. So how are we redeemed? This brings us to our second point.
What are we redeemed by? Peter chooses to first answer this in the negative:
(1 Pet 1:18; NIV84) — 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed ..."You know," says Peter. Peter reminds me here of what Sherlock Holmes always says to Dr. Watson: "Elementary, my dear Watson." Elementary. You know. In other words, it is foundational knowledge, knowledge that is assumed. Every Christian knows this: you can't buy redemption with money, silver, or gold. Isn't this what the psalmist says?
(Ps 49:7–8; NIV84) — 7 No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him— 8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—
We expect the unregenerate to think they can purchase salvation. After all, the man and woman of the world has been led to believe that everything is up for sale -- all you have to do is be willing to pay enough. Companies pay off injured customers or employees. Hollywood parents pay off admission officers to get their kids into elite colleges. Students pay other students to take the college entrance exam for them. In a 1993 movie a married couple is offered a million dollars by a stranger for the wife to spend a night with him; the movie was a box-office success and grossed $267 million worldwide; opinion polls at that time revealed many people are willing to do this for a million dollars.
As I said, we expect the unregenerate to think this way. We don't expect to find this way of thinking among God's people. Yet, I'm sure you realize the Pharisees specialized in this. They thought by keeping their version of the law they could earn salvation. I'm afraid there are many modern day Pharisees who also think this way. They believe salvation is owed them because they attend worship, put money in the offering plate, support Christian causes, live a good Christian life, regularly read the Bible, attend Bible Study, and so on. Christian parents cannot repeat this often enough to their children: "Son, daughter, salvation is not up for sale. That's not why we go to church."
Perishable things can't redeem you. Things that decay, corrupt, and perish cannot pay the price of eternal redemption. You don't buy your salvation by your money. You can't buy your salvation by your works. As the song puts it:
Not what my hands have done
can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne
can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears
can bear my awful load.
B What are we redeemed by? Peter also mentions a positive answer: "precious blood." We are redeemed by blood. What does that mean? Blood means death. Let me show you by asking you a question: When is the first time we see blood in the Bible? At the murder of Abel. Remember what God said to Cain: "Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground" (Gen 4:10). To be redeemed by blood means to be redeemed by death.
Do you remember the place of blood in the Passover? A lamb was killed. Its blood was collected and painted on the door frame of the house. When the angel of death struck down the firstborn of Egypt, he did not kill the firstborn of any home painted with the blood of the lamb. In those homes, the firstborn was redeemed, ransomed, by the blood of the lamb.
Go back five hundred years before this to Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. Isaac was supposed to be sacrificed to the Lord. But God provided a ram to die, to shed blood, in his place. Do you see a pattern? Blood is shed when God redeems His people.
The second word is precious. Redemption is not just by blood, but by "precious" blood. Peter tells us blood is precious when it comes from a lamb without blemish or defect. This means the shepherd picks out the best lamb of his flock, a pure lamb, an unblemished lamb, a perfect lamb, to be the Passover sacrifice.
III Who we are Redeemed By
A Who are we redeemed by? This is the third question we are answering this morning. Who offered the most precious blood? You all know the answer: the most precious blood was offered by Jesus the most precious Lamb of God. He is the Lamb who was killed as an atoning sacrifice.
B What makes Jesus and His blood so precious? First reason: He, above all others, is a Lamb without blemish or defect. He is the spotless one, the unblemished one, the most precious because He was perfect. For instance, He was tempted in all things as we are yet was without sin (Heb 4:15).
Second reason His blood is so precious: "He was chosen before the creation of the world" (1 Pet 1:20). Notice that word "chosen." Other possible translations: "foreknown, foreordained, destined, predestined." Christ and His blood were predestined, planned, before the creation of the world. It wasn't a gut reaction. It wasn't accidental. God did not react to the Fall of the human race with a last second plan. He planned it. Before creation. From eternity. Christ and His blood were always part of God's eternal plan. We might plan out things a week, a month, even a year in advance. But God's plans are eternal. Isn't that awesome?! That tells us how precious is Christ and His blood.
Furthermore, God always accomplishes His plans. What God plans actually comes to pass. This past week we buried Aunt Ella. Ella, being a teacher, was really big on plans. So she had everything planned out: a viewing, a memorial service in the building of Long Beach CRC with her favorite songs and Bible passages, pall bearers were selected, a luncheon. She suggested we get rid of her stuff with an estate sale. COVID messed up all of these plans to the point it was doubtful we were even going to have a funeral. God's plans are never in doubt. God's precious plans for precious blood became reality.
Third reason His blood is so precious: "He ... was revealed." Revealed. Not just born, but revealed. Implying a prior existence. Implying life before birth. Implying, don't you see, that He is God, the eternal Son of God, the second person of the triune Godhead.
Fourth reason His blood is so precious: God "raised him from the dead." His blood was shed, remember -- meaning death. But His body did not remain in the grave; rather, it was raised never to die again. So far He is the first and only to be raised and not to die again.
Fifth reason His blood is so precious: God "glorified him." How? We have glimpses of His glory throughout his birth, life, death, and resurrection; but we especially see His glory when He ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God. We see that glory in John's revelation of Jesus in heaven. John saw the myriad of heaven's angels:
(Rev 5:12; NIV84) — 12 In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”In John's same vision the angels are not alone in singing praise to the Lamb:
(Rev 5:13; NIV84) — 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”Do you hear that? The Lamb of God is worthy. The Lamb of God is praised. The Lamb who was slain. The Lamb whose blood redeems us and our children.
We are redeemed from our empty way of life. We are redeemed by precious blood. We are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God.
Why? Why were we redeemed? Why was the precious blood of Christ Jesus paid as a ransom? Look at the final clause of our Bible reading: "so your faith and hope are in God." Christ's work is for us and our salvation. Christ did His work so we would "believe in God" (1 Pet 1:21).
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is the only reason for Christ's work. Christ did His work for a variety of reasons: to defeat the devil, to usher in the Kingdom, to fulfill the law, to save Jew and Gentile. The ultimate reason: to bring glory to God.
Still, though, rejoice that His work is also for you: so that your faith and hope are in God. Faith is what we live by now. Hope is what we expect for the future. Because of the precious blood of the precious Lamb, we and our children trust God for the present and hope in Him for the future.
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