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1 Peter 1:17-21
The theme of the Second Article of the Apostle’s creed is Redemption. But what does the word redemption mean? It’s important that we know what it means because the essential teachings of the Bible are all contained in this one simple word. When we hear the word redemption, we are reminded that we were in trouble. We needed to be redeemed. We needed someone to rescue us. When we hear the word redemption, we are remined that someone has redeemed us, rescued us; someone has paid a price to set us free.
This morning Peter helps us understand and appreciate what it means that we have been redeemed. He reminds us from what we were redeemed, with what we were redeemed, and the one we often tend to forget, for what we have been redeemed.
From what were we redeemed? Peter writes, you were redeemed from your empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.
At first that might not sound like such a significant thing. At first it might sound like redemption is just a re-education process. You had some goofy ideas that were passed on to you from generation to generation, but now you have been re-educated; now you know better.
When Peter talks about an empty way of life he’s not talking about some foolish tradition handed down from generation to generation. He’s talking about something very serious. He’s talking about what we often call “original” or “inherited sin.”
Because we are all descendants of Adam and Eve after they fell into sin, we are all born in sin. Last week we heard Jesus remind Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh. Because of this we all inherit a false view of God. By nature, we see only one side of God. We only see his law side. We see him as an evil task master who demands more than we can give and then delights in punishing us when we don’t live up to his demands. We are born with a natural religion, an empty way of life, that thinks, “Maybe if I’m really good, God will like me and bless me and do what I ask of him.”
You will notice that this is the basis of every religion except true Christianity. Whether it’s ancient Greek or Roman mythology, or Islam, or Mormonism, or what may not even have a name but is believed and practiced by people all over the world, it’s all the same empty way of life. They all talk about a higher power of some kind that has to be manipulated by your actions so that he will either not punish you, or maybe, if you do enough for him, he will bless you. This empty way of life is a part of everyone’s sinful nature. It is so strong that it often takes over even where God’s truth has been revealed. Take the Pharisees as an example; or many of the ideas taught in so-called Christian churches today.
This natural religion passed on from generation to generation that is a part of everyone’s sinful nature is empty. Why? Because it is false. Because it cannot save. Because, if it is followed, it will cause the person who follows it to be empty, to be without hope or comfort because they will never know if they have done enough to please God. It is empty because it will cause you to stand empty handed, without excuse, before God on judgment day so that he will say to all those who followed this empty way of life, “depart from me to eternal fire.”
That’s where you and I were headed. We were by nature objects of God’s wrath and slaves of sin and Satan. But we were redeemed. We were rescued from this fate worse than death, not by anything we have done, but by what was done for us.
Peter says, you were redeemed… not with things that pass away, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without blemish or spot.
If we want heavenly treasure, an imperishable inheritance in heaven, it would be foolish to think that perishable things such as silver or gold could purchase it. It would be foolish to think that anything we do, or anything solely of this earth, would be able to redeem us, to purchase our freedom and enable us to live with him for all eternity. But if nothing solely of this earth, not even all the silver or gold in the world could redeem us, what could? Peter tells us. The precious blood of Christ, like a lamb without blemish or spot.
In verse 16 of this chapter, Peter quotes God’s standard for us. Be holy because I am holy. God’s standard for us is not, “Do your best,” or “Try hard.” God’s standard is 100%, absolute perfection. None of us would dare to claim that we are perfect, holy and without sin like God. But Jesus was. He is the lamb pictured by the sacrificial lambs of the Old Testament. He is without blemish or spot. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He lived on this earth just as we do; he was tempted in every way just as we are; but he remained without sin. He never gave in to a single temptation. He met God’s standard of holiness. But that was only part of the price that was needed to redeem us. Sins had been committed. God’s justice demanded punishment. So, Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
Jesus went to the cross and took our place. He became the lightening rod for God’s justice. He absorbed the bolt of God’s wrath and diverted it away from us. He shed his blood on the cross and, because he had lived without blemish or spot, he could offer his blood to God as the price of our redemption. That’s why we call his blood precious. It’s worth more than all the gold and silver in the world. It alone could satisfy God’s justice and pay the price demanded by God to redeem us from our sins and the prospect of eternal death.
Peter reminds us that this plan to redeem us was not some hastily planned after thought. He helps us see that God has always been a God of love and grace. He (Jesus) was chosen before the foundation of the world. God always had a plan of redemption in place which he revealed to Adam and Eve as soon as they sinned. And this plan of redemption was revealed in these last times for your sake. God has seen to it that we have heard about his plan of salvation, that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. He as seen to it that we have heard not only about his suffering and death in our place, but also that he rose from the dead on the third day. His resurrection proves that the price Jesus paid for our redemption has been accepted. In Jesus we clearly see the other side of God, his loving and gracious side. Through him you are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
You were redeemed. You were headed straight for eternal judgment. You were born an enemy of God and slaves of Satan and there was nothing you could do about it; you couldn’t purchase your freedom. But already in eternity God planned your redemption. When everything was right, he sent Jesus to redeem you, to pay the price you couldn’t pay and set you free from sin and Satan, and from the fear of eternal condemnation. What wonderful, good news!
Now, since our ransom has been paid; since all our sins have been forgiven; we are free to do whatever we please, right? Wrong, if by that you mean that we are free to sin. This is the part that we so often seem to forget. Jesus not only redeemed us from sin, death and eternal judgment, but he also redeemed us for something; he redeemed us so that we could and would serve God and gladly do his will.
Luther summarized this well in his explanation to the Second Article. Join me in reciting his wonderful words: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” And now here’s the part we often forget about. “All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he has risen from death and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.”
Peter says, if you call on the Father who judges impartially, according to the work of each person, conduct yourselves during the time of your pilgrimage in reverence. God redeemed us; he purchased us with the precious blood of Jesus his one and only son, so that we would be his dear children; so that we would live under him in his kingdom and serve him. When he talks about living in his kingdom and serving him, he’s not talking about when we get to heaven, he’s talking about right here and now. Because of what he has done for us we realize that this world is not our permanent home. We are sojourners, just passing through. But as we do, we give witness to the fact that God is our Father, and that heaven is our home. We give witness to that fact by our words and actions. Considering all that God has done for us in Jesus we don’t want to do anything that would dishonor him or disappoint him. We want to live each day in reverence. We want to live each day, not for ourselves, but for the one who died for us and rose again, for the one who redeemed us with his own blood.
Redemption. What does this mean? It means that you were redeemed, that someone paid the price to set you free. From what? Sin, Satan, and eternal condemnation. By what? By the precious blood of Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world. For what? For service, that we may gladly and willingly serve God as long as we are here on earth and then, forever in heaven.