COMMENTARY ON FIRST PETER
" . . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."NKJV (1 Pet 1:17)
The life of faith is lived with an acute awareness of two realities: (1) The old life from which we have been delivered, and (2) The new life into which we have come. There is no aspect of our life in Christ that does not require a consistent understanding of these two realities. Just as the old life from which we were delivered had no good in it, so the new life into which we have come has no evil in it. It is truly an epoch of spiritual life when we experience some degree of clarity concerning these things. Life in the flesh was totally profitless. As Jesus said, "the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63). Our former lives were characterized by ignorance (Eph 4:18), hopelessness (Eph 2:12), death in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1), foolishness (Tit 3:3a), and deception (Tit 3:3b). Enslaved and dominated by Satan, we had no power to extricate ourselves from the dilemma. Nor, indeed, were we even aware that we were in a dilemma. The Spirit will now recall to our hearts the means through which we have been delivered. He will rivet the truth to our conscience with great power, bringing strength to the heart that calls upon, and trusts in, the name of the Lord.
NOT REDEEMED WITH CORRUPTIBLE THINGS
" . . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold." NKJV The concept of redemption is central in Scripture. It was developed under the Law, and that with a great amount of detail. The word "redeem" is a very weighty one. Some of its English synonyms make this clear: recover, reclaim, salvage, ransom, and rescue. As used in Scripture, the word "redeem" denotes setting at liberty-being set free. But there is even more to the matter than that. The Word of God established that redemption involved a cost. It was not simply the result of a decision-a price had to be paid. That price had to be a satisfactory one, else the freedom would not be realized.
There are several conditions postulated by the need for redemption. (1) The one requiring redemption was being controlled by another. He was in bondage, and was unable to get free from it. (2) The one being redeemed was helpless-unable to resolve the predicament himself. He was too weak and too poor to pay the cost of ransom. (3) There was an established cost by which the enslaved one could be redeemed and set free.
The language of our text is rooted in Old Covenant types and shadows. The very first use of the word "redeem" is a found in Genesis 48:16. There Jacob, upon being restored to his son Joseph, confessed he had been "redeemed from all evil." The second use of the word is found in Exodus 6:6, where the Spirit began to reveal the involvements of redemption. "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments." Following their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites sang on the banks of the Red Sea, "Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed" (Ex 15:13). Thus we are introduced to the nature of redemption.
Under the Levitical law, considerable was said about redemption. If, for example, a poor man had to sell some of his possessions, his brother could redeem, or buy back, those possessions (Lev 25:25). If a person, because of poverty, sold himself to someone as a slave, "one of his brothers may redeem him" (Lev 25:49). Unclean beasts, houses, and fields were also redeemed with money (Lev 27:13,15,19).
Under the Law, the firstborn of everything belonged to the Lord. "Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the LORD" (Num 3:13). However, there was a special stipulation concerning the firstborn of man and that of unclean beasts. "the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem" (Num 18;15). The redemption price, in such a case, was a monetary one, and was to be paid according to the "shekel of the sanctuary" (Num 18:16). In all of these cases, redemption was an ordained formality, designed to acquaint men with the ways of the Lord. The Spirit now tells us of a redemption that was more than a mere formality. Further, it was a redemption so costly it could be paid by no one but Deity.
Throughout the Holy Scriptures, the Spirit reminds us that we have been brought into a covenant that is "better" than the Old Covenant, which was "concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation"NKJV (Heb 9:10). Our redemption was not according to "the shekel of the sanctuary" of old. Nor, indeed, was it a lifeless formality.
When the Spirit says our redemption was not with "corruptible things, as silver and gold," He confirms it is not a temporal redemption. In fact, we are pointedly told it is an "eternal redemption," obtained for us by the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb 9:12). Our deliverance is not a momentary one, but an everlasting one. The price paid by the Lord Jesus is not a temporal one, but a once-for-all price that has forever satisfied the Lord.
By saying "you WERE not redeemed with . . . " the Spirit emphasizes that the price has already been paid in full. The Gospel, from this view, is the announcement of the ransom payment that brings liberty to the prisoners. God be praised for that effective redemption! All glory to God that it has already been paid, and is available to all who will believe.
THE LIVES FROM WHICH WE WERE REDEEMED
" . . . from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers . . . "The candor with which the Spirit speaks concerning our former lives is worth pondering. Remember, He is reasoning with us concerning the girding up of the loins of our minds, hoping unto the end, and being holy (1:13-16). Here, the reason adduced for engaging in such arduous activity is that we have been "redeemed" from our " vain conversation"KJV, "aimless conduct"NKJV, and "futile ways"NASB. We are powerfully reminded that apart from Christ Jesus our lives were pointless, aimless, and futile-from every point of view. Until a suitable ransom was found, we were locked, so to speak, into vanity. This condition was expressed by Solomon, who spoke of life WITHOUT a Savior in mind. "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? . . . I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccl 1:2,14). Outside of Christ, that is an absolutely precise statement. In Christ, there is not a syllable of it that is true. It is in the Scriptures to substantiate the utter futility of life that is not lived in the Son.
If we will always think of our former lives as "vain" and "aimless," we will not be prone to return to that way of living. At this point, we must learn from the Israelites. Once they were delivered from Egyptian bondage, they did not cease to think of that former life. It is written of them, "And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt" (Acts 7:39). Facing the hardships of the wilderness they reasoned, "For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (Ex 14:11-12). And again, "Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Ex 16:3). In the stress of the wilderness, they soon forgot the manner of their former lives.
Thus, the Spirit reasons with those who are "sojourning" in this hostile world. He knows the difficulties of life are an area in which Satan aggressively tempts the saints. You will remember how he tempted Jesus in the wilderness after He was hungry (Matt 4). You may be sure he will also use the difficult times of life to try and make inroads into your life.
By saying we have been "redeemed" from our former pointless lives, the Spirit means we have been liberated from enslavement to vanity. Through the blood of Christ, God has freed us from the shackles of the old life. As Paul said elsewhere, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Rom 8:12). We are obligated to the One who ransomed us, not our former lives. If any believer is lured back into sin, it is not because he was obligated to do so, or could not help but do it. No matter how strong the lure of the old life, in Christ we are able to deny its demands upon us! The ransom that was paid is very real and totally effective-both for God and for us.
Notice the phrase, "received by tradition from your fathers." Here, the emphasis is placed upon "tradition" rather than "the fathers." For the Jews to whom Peter wrote, this was the whole of their former religion. For the Gentiles, it is the concept of life we entertained. Both of them were traditional views, with no spiritual life in them. The meaning is that a form of religion was passed along-a way of approach to God that was primarily ritualistic, bringing neither cleansing of the conscience nor vibrant faith and hope. That condition is what made living futile.
Paul made a critical distinction in the godly life of Timothy, tracing it back to his mother and grandmother. The point, however, was not the traditions they passed along, but "the unfeigned faith . . . which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice" (2 Tim 1:5). A merely traditional religion that advocates coming to God and living by procedure is pointless and vain. We have been redeemed from that kind of living, and are under no obligation to live in a pointless manner. We are free to live unto God!
THE PRECIOUS REDEMPTION PRICE
" . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Here the "Lamb of God" is distinguished from all other sacrifices, and His blood is differentiated from all other sacrificial blood. Peter frequently uses the word "precious," confirming the value of what we have in Christ Jesus. Among the things that are "precious," he includes (1) faith-1:7; 2 Pet 1:1, (2) the blood of Jesus-1:19, (3) Jesus Himself-2:4,6,7, and (4) the promises of God (2 Pet 1:4). The word "precious" means valuable, of great worth, highly respected, priceless, and rare. In the case of Christ's blood, it is precious by nature, and precious in perception. It is possible for something to be precious, yet be perceived as worthless-like an unrecognized priceless painting. Also, something can be perceived as precious, yet be worthless-like fool's gold. The blood of Christ is precious before God, and precious with those receiving Christ. The blood of Christ also surpasses all other values in reality. Once seen for what it is, it also is so considered in the believing heart.
The comparison of "the precious blood of Christ" is made with "corruptible things, as silver and of gold." Additionally, a comparison is now made with all of the sacrificial animals offered under the Law. Christ's blood was "precious" because of the value of His life-for the blood stands for the life (Lev 17:11). Here was a life lived in this world that was totally "without sin"-even though Jesus was "tempted in all points like as we are" (Heb 4:15). For this reason, His blood obtained redemptive value. It was to the spiritual economy what the "shekel of the sanctuary" was to the Levitical economy.
The spirit makes much of the perfection of Jesus-the "Lamb of God." He is "is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb 7:26). He "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Pe 2:22). "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor 5:21). He was made known to take away our sins, "and in Him is no sin" (1 John 3:5). Truly, He was "without spot!" Thus, He fulfilled the Lamb-type that was instituted under Law (Num 19:2; 28:3,9.11; 29:17,26). There was no moral blemish upon Jesus, no taint of character, no inherent weakness. As He Himself confessed, "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30).
Here a most challenging thought is presented to us. As powerful as God is, He required a satisfactory sacrifice before any person could be released from the power of sin and the dominion of the devil. Even the hoary tradition of the Jewish fathers could not rescue men from the vanity and futility of life. Neither, indeed, could the rescue be accomplished by a deliverance like that of Israel from Egypt-something overt and through Divine force. The extrication of men from sin was in order that they might have fellowship with God, and dwell forever in His house. That meant there had to be a total elimination of their past, in order that they might be made "the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). God could not overlook iniquity, or push it aside with a word (Ex 34:7). He had to have a righteous foundation for the acceptance of humanity-one that did not require Him to act in contradiction of His holy and pure character.
The "precious blood of Christ" provided that foundation. It provided the Father a ransom price that allowed the prison doors not only to be unlocked, but carried away like Samson carried away the "doors of the gate of Gaza" (Judges 16:3). It is upon the basis of Christ's vicarious death-and only upon that basis-that God has liberated us from the shackles of our past lives.
This truth is stated several different ways in Scripture, confirming it is a foundation for both our salvation and our reasoning about life. The "blood of Christ" effected our justification (Rom 5:9), forgiveness (Eph 1:7), nearness to God (Eph 2:13), peace with God (Col 1:20), purging of our conscience (Heb 9:14), boldness to enter God's presence (Heb 10:19), and continual cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7). Faith will never take us beyond a need for and access to the blood of Christ! There is no point in living by faith where it is not needed or it is not precious. The redemption that was paid once, is still effective.