1 Peter 1: 17 - 21
Peter wrote this epistle to believers scattered across ancient Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Peter encourages them to stand fast in the grace of God in spite of their trials. Peter’s whole point is that God loves us so much that he has saved us and promised us an eternal inheritance. Nothing that happens to us on earth can cause God to break his promises to us. In light of that magnificent salvation, Peter gives his readers 3 commands: Be holy, Fear God, Love one another deeply.
Fear God? That’s such a negative concept. It brings to mind a picture of cringing before an angry deity who is waiting to zap us with another lightning bolt. We would rather hear about love any day. In light of that, let me drop a thought into your mind as we begin - We cannot grow spiritually if we only pay attention to those commands of Scripture that we personally like. If we want to grow as Christians, we must pay special attention to those biblical teachings that pull us out of our comfort zone. If we only listen to what we like, we’ll stay the way we are. If we embrace the challenging parts of God’s Word, then we can grow.
v. 17 - “fear” - Greek word phobos -English word “phobia” -irrational fear. That’s not what Peter has in mind. We need to go back to the OT where the “fear of the Lord” is a major theme. Few verses from Proverbs that help us flesh out the meaning: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). “To fear the Lord is to hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 10:27). “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge” (Proverbs 14:26). “The fear of the Lord is a fountain, turning a man from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great wealth with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16). “Through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil (Proverbs16:6). “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth, honour and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
We can summarise these verses in 2 statements:
1. The fear of the Lord is the key to long life, wisdom, prosperity, knowledge, happiness.
2. The fear of the Lord is the single most important quality a father can hand down to his children.
2 other OT verses help us understand what the fear of the Lord is:
1. It is an attitude of the heart. "Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!"(Deut.5: 29)
2. It is a choice. "Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord" (Proverbs 1:29)
1. Love Plus Respect
The fear of the Lord combines the 2 qualities of love plus respect. It is “loving respect” and “respectful love.” To fear someone in this sense is to love them and respect them at the same time. We can see this more clearly if we state it in the negative. Where there is no respect, there is no love - Say it.
Applies to all relationships. Where there is no respect inside a marriage, there is no love either. Where there is no respect in a family, there is no love either. Young ladies, remember this when a young man asks you out. No matter what he says, if he does not respect you, he does not love you. Love and respect go hand in hand.
How does this apply to our relationship with God? My definition of the fear of the Lord. It is the choice I make to obey God because I love him and want to please him. The fear of the Lord is an ongoing attitude of my heart that causes me to choose over and over again to obey God even when it might be easier to do something else. I make that choice because I love God and want to please him. The fear of the Lord is not cringing fear, which is respect without love - it is not irreverent flippancy, which is love without respect. Respect plus love equals the fear of the Lord.
Seen in that light, the fear of the Lord is not the opposite of love. It's what real love is all about. A healthy sense of fear can be a positive motivation for doing right. This sort of loving respect is the basis of our relationship with God. When I choose to fear the Lord, I am choosing out of respect and love to do the things which please him. The fear of the Lord is thus the most positive attitude you can have toward God.
2. 3 Reasons to Fear God.
These reasons are really motives for godly living. We ought to take God seriously because these 3 things are true.
A. Life is short.
v.17 - Peter reminds his readers that they are “strangers” on the earth. Same word - v. 1 - “aliens” or “sojourners.” No one lives forever. We are born, we live 30, 40, 50 or 60 years. If we are strong and healthy and blessed by God, we may live to be 80 or even 90. Some people live to be 100. But it doesn’t matter how long you live because eventually everyone dies. We’re all terminal. The only difference is, some of us know it, and the rest of us act like we’re going to be here forever.
If you live each day as if it might be your last, one day you will be right. Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). James 4:14 - “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” That’s all life is - a bit of breath on a cold windowpane.
What should we fear? Fear that you will waste your life on things that don’t really matter. Fear that you live for 50, 80 or 100 years only to discover that you spent your brief life on trivialities that vanish before your eyes. Fear that you will be so preoccupied that when God calls, you won’t hear his voice.
Sometimes the difference between greatness and a wasted life is simply a willing heart. Life is short. Fear God. Fear being so busy with triviality that you are not willing to answer God’s call.
B. He is our judge.
v. 17 - we call on a Father who judges impartially. To call God our Father is a comfort. To say that he is our judge isn’t quite so comforting. Note the present tense. God is judging you and me at this very moment - He judges impartially - means without a mask. When God judges, he sees right through the little masks we put on to make ourselves look better to others. God isn’t fooled - he judges us according to our works. That concept troubles some people. “Aren’t we saved by faith?” Yes, we are. We are saved by faith, but we are judged by our works. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since you are saved by faith, your life doesn’t matter.
As Christians, our works will be judged, not to determine our eternal destiny, but to determine our rewards in heaven. The sad part about that is that some people will discover in that day that they wasted their life on earth.
What should we fear? We should fear living as though we don’t believe in God at all. When we give in to anger, rage, malice, greed or lust, we are living as if we don’t believe in God. When we turn to pornography to satisfy our lust, when we let hurtful words fly out of our mouth, when we defraud each other, when we seek revenge, when we lie about one another, when we forget the hurting people around us while hoarding up treasure for ourselves, when we have to be Number One and win every argument, every game, every competition, when we cannot lose gracefully and with dignity, we are living as if we don’t believe in God. When we complain about how persecuted we are, when we moan about how hard we have it, when we gossip about how easy someone else has it, we are living as if we don’t believe in God. At that moment, we are practical atheists even though we may go to church every Sunday.
C. The Blood of Jesus is So Precious.
“You were redeemed” (v. 18) - word means to set free by the payment of a price - comes from the slave markets of the 1st century. When Jesus died on the cross, his blood paid the price to set us free from the slave market of sin. Of all the names that believers give to Jesus Christ, none is more precious than Redeemer. We use other names more often, such as Lord and Saviour. But no word touches the heart like the name Redeemer. It reminds us of what it cost him to save us from our sin. Redeemer is the name of Christ on the cross. We remember not only that he gave us salvation, but that he paid a mighty price for it.
Jesus’ blood is more precious than money because money could never redeem us from sin (v. 18). No matter how much silver and gold we paid, we could never pay for even one of our sins. Most people think that money is the most important thing in the world, but it doesn’t matter how much money you have when it comes to having your sins forgiven. I could have more money than Bill Gates and I still couldn’t forgive even one of my sins. Money matters. But not when it comes to forgiving your sins. That’s Peter’s point. The blood of Jesus is far more precious than all the money in the world. Only the blood of Jesus could deliver from hell, forgive our sins, and open heaven to us.
We will all live forever somewhere. Heaven and hell are the only 2 ultimate destinations. Better to be shocked now if that will prevent us from being shocked later. If the blood of Jesus is not precious to you, either you are not saved or you have forgotten how hopelessly lost you were. A good memory of your past will help you love Jesus and count his blood as precious to you.
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died.
My richest gain, I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
3. Planned Before Creation
How far is God willing to go in order to save us? - v. 20, 21.
A. God planned our salvation before he created the world.
Some people think that when Adam and Eve sinned, God said, “Oops! I didn’t see that coming,” as if the coming of Christ was an afterthought in God’s plan. The opposite is true. Before the universe was created, God knew that he was going to create Adam and Eve. He knew they were going to sin and bring ruin and destruction to the world. In the councils of eternity, the Father said the Son, “You must go to the earth to save them from their sins.” Redemption was on God’s heart long before sin entered the world.
B. He revealed his plan when Jesus came to the world.
“These last days.” For thousands of years, people waited for him to come. Generations lived and died. Fathers told their sons, "He's coming. The Messiah is coming." But we who live in the biblical last days are privileged to experience what the ancients only wondered about. What started before the world was formed now has been manifest in the death of Christ!
C. He applied his plan of salvation to us.
v. 21 - “you believe in God" and "your faith and hope are in God." What a privilege we have. Through Jesus Christ we have a relationship with God. We know him personally and intimately. What an astonishing thing to say. Can anyone truly say, "I know God" and not be boasting? Yes. If we are not astonished by that, it's because we take it too much for granted.
God planned our salvation from first to last. He planned it, revealed it, and applied it to us so that our faith and hope are in God alone. He did it this way so that he alone gets the glory. Please understand this truth. Let it soak into your heart.
God chose his Son to be our Saviour. Jesus won our redemption at the cost of his precious blood.
I started out talking about living in the fear of God. All the practical things about how we should live are tied directly to what we believe about God and his Son. The more firmly we believe them, the more likely we are to take God seriously. If you want the whole message in one sentence, here it is: Holy living is motivated by a godly fear which does not take lightly what was purchased at so great a cost.
Here is the whole passage, plainly stated:
We are here so briefly . . . Fear God!
We are judged so completely . . . Fear God!
We are loved so deeply . . . Fear God!