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1 Peter 1:13-21: Reasons to Rejoice Print E-mail
1 Peter
Sunday, 18 March 2007

I have borne the name of many things in my life.  I was born a Marshall and a Tennesseean.  In grade school and High School, I was unfortunately a Devil and a Rebel, respectively.  I am currently a Union and Southern alum, a husband of Glenna, and a pastor here.  In each of these examples, there is a sense in which I represented others by my life and conduct.  If I was a bad kid, then I brought disgrace on the Marshall name.  If I got in a fight during a game, then I brought shame to my school.  If I sin in public, then I will bring scorn on my Alma Maters, this Church, and my wife.  Thus, I want to conduct myself in such a way so as to not bring disgrace on those I care about.

Yet, what about the name of Christ?  When the Lord by His grace gave me a new heart and called me to repent of my sins and follow Jesus, I was given the name of Christian.  In fact, since the early followers of Christ in Antioch were called Christians, all those who have been redeemed by Christ have been known by this name.  And of all the privileged names we could be called, none is greater than this.  Of course this raises an important question: how do we live so as not to disgrace that name?

The first 12 verses of Peterís letter are filled with descriptive statements about who his readers are.  Through faith in Christ, we too are those who have been born again to a living hope (v. 3), who by Godís power are being guarded (v. 5), who love Christ and rejoice in Him with joy that is inexpressible (v. 8).  This is who we are in Christ by the great mercy of God.  Through faith we are Christians, we bear the name of our Savior.  As such, how are we to live so as to bring honor and glory to the name of Christ?  How do we avoid bringing disgrace to such a glorious name?  Peter will spend the rest of the letter answering these questions and teaching us how to live as the redeemed.  Do not reverse the order that Peter gives us.  He tells us who we are in Christ first and then tells us how to live as believers.  He begins with three exhortations found in our passage this morning.

First, the redeemed should actively hope in future grace (v. 13).

The first command of the letter comes in verse 13.  Look at that with me.  Peter calls his readers to set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Even as he has already done, Peter encourages his readers to have an eternal perspective, to look to the future.  Again, how do we faithfully deal with present struggles?  According to the biblical writers we deal with present struggles by fixing our attention on future grace, or the grace that we will receive when Christ returns. 

Yet, it should be noted that setting our hope on future grace is not a passive activity.  Peter is not calling us to set around with our fingers crossed hoping for future grace.  Rather, we are to actively hope in future grace.  We see this at the beginning of the verse: preparing your minds for action, and being sober-mindedÖ  The first phrase echoes an idea from the Old Testament.  When people were being told to prepare for battle, they were told to gird up their loins for action.  This meant that they were to wrap their hanging clothes around their waist in order to be able to move quickly.  This is how we are to prepare our minds.  The idea of being sober-minded refers to our minds being without distraction.  Thus, Peter is calling us to have disciplined minds, ready for action and free from the distractions of the world.  We are to be a people who meditate on Godís Word and in hope of future grace, we are to act upon the Word. 

There used to be a commercial that showed a child struggling at practicing the piano.  I cannot remember exactly, but somehow the child was given a glimpse of a great piano player giving a concert and was told that that was who he would be in the future.  When the commercial went back to the child, he had renewed fervor to practice hard.  The same should be true of us.  The Bible gives us a glimpse of the glories of future grace so as to encourage us in our active pursuit of obedience.  Faithful obedience to the Word is active hope in future grace, which is Peterís first command for living as the redeemed.

Second, the redeemed should be radically holy (v. 14-16).

Peterís second command is found in verses 14-16.  Look at those with me.  First, in verse 14, he tells us that we should not live like we did before our conversion.  Peterís primarily Gentile readers were not to be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.  They were not to live as they once lived before Christ.  We too must put away our former ignorance.  Instead, we are to be holy.  This is what Peter says in verses 15 and 16.  Rather than live as we once did, those who have been redeemed are to live different lives.  What is our standard for holiness?  None other than God Himself.  He is our standard.  We are to be holy as He is holy.  If you are wondering just how holy this is, just read the book of Leviticus and Godís call on the people of Israel to be holy.  Needless to say, by the end of that book, you will have a better understanding of Godís call to holiness on our lives.

Of course, how can we ever hope to be that holy?  Is Peter just giving us an impossible command?  This is why it is important to remember the order of Peterís letter.  He begins by telling us who we are in Christ according to Godís great mercy and only then does he move to the command to be holy.  It is God who caused us to be born again and it is only by His strength and mercy that we can be holy.  So many times we get discouraged in our pursuit of holiness because of past failures or present struggles, but we must remember who we are and whose we are.  We are those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.  And the same mercy that gave us new life will continue to give us victory over sin.  Again, this does not mean that we can be passive.  No, we are to pursue radical obedience by taking the necessary steps to put sin to death in our lives.  We need to identify the areas we struggle in being holy.  We need to develop a plan of action to fight against that sin.  We need to confess to others our struggle and ask them for accountability.  And at the end of the day, we need to act in faith, believing that the grace that has brought us safe thus far, will be the grace that will lead us on to holiness.

Third, the redeemed should sincerely fear the Judge, who is also our Redeemer (v.17-21).

The final command in our passage comes in verse 17.  Look at that verse with me.  In this verse, Peter tells his readers to conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.  Does Peter really mean fear?  We may be tempted to interpret Peter as simply calling us to have reverence for the Lord.  Yet, that is not what he says and such an interpretation losses the weight of Peterís command.  So what is he saying?  Well, notice how he begins the verse: And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each oneís deedsÖ  Peter refers to God as our Father and our judge with this phrase.  Yes, He is our Father, but this does not mean that we can take Him or His coming judgment lightly.  Rather, since we know He is a faithful judge, then we must all the more be motivated to obedience.  In other words, our fear of future judgment should motivate our obedience to the Father.

Solomon Stoddard, the grandfather of Jonathan Edwards, understood the idea of fear motivating obedience well.  In his sermon The Fear of Hell Restrains Men from Sin he writes: ďGodly men have reason to be afraid of hell.  Let me distinguish here that there is a slavish fear of hell rising from a sense that men are in a state of condemnation; in this way godly men should not fear hell.  But there is also a cautious fear of hell that makes man avoid those paths that lead to hell; and this ought to be in godly men.Ē We should fear the paths that lead to judgment and hell.  Such fear should motivate us to remain on the paths of righteousness.  It is this fear that Peter is calling us to in this verse.  Those who have been redeemed by Christ should never take obedience to Him lightly.  Unfortunately, our unbiblical ideas of assurance have allowed many to marginalize Peterís call to fear.  Many professing Christians have no fear of judgment and live lives of open disobedience to the commands of Christ.  We will do well to listen to the text here and conduct ourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile here on earth.  May we never take disobedience lightly.

Of course, we must also remember that God is not only our judge, but He is also our Redeemer.  Look at verses 18-21.  The great hope we have as Christians (see 1:3) is that the One who will judge us has sent His Son to redeem us.    This is the epitome of good news, for as Paul says: If God is for us, who can be against usÖWho shall bring any charge against Godís elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? (Romans 8:31-34).  If our judge has justified us, then who is left to condemn us?  The answer is no one.

Peter not only reminds us that our Judge has redeemed us, but he also reminds us of the means by which we have been redeemed.  We have not been redeemed with silver or gold, which are temporary and will perish.  No, we have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, our spotless Lamb.  If you are still looking for motivation to be a faithful Christian and to bring honor to the Name of Christ, then look no further.  You have been redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, which was planned before the foundations of the earth.  Christ became flesh and dwelt among us.  He was the only man to ever truly be Holy.  He obeyed the Father in every regard, including death on a cross.  The shedding of His blood at the cross, the giving of His life for us, is the means by which we now bear the name of Christ. 

So, as those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, how are we now to live?  We are to actively hope in future grace.  We are to be radically holy.  And we are to sincerely fear the Judge who has redeemed us.  Peter will continue to exhort us to live as Christians throughout his letter.  Yet, he will not get far away from what he calls us to here.  May we be who we are, namely those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ.  May the Name of our Savior be rightly glorified by our lives.  Amen.

1  Solomon Stoddard, The Fear of Hell Restrains Men from Sin (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2003), p.1-2.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 25 March 2007 )

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