Responding to the Redeemer
© 2020 C. O. Bishop
1st Peter 1:13-25
We are studying through 1st Peter, and we have seen the security of the believers and the Joy that is their choice, and which is only possible because of their position in Christ. Given that position, that security, and the possibility of such Joy, the logical question seems to be, “What now? How should we respond to this reality?” Peter addresses that question in the last 13 verses of this chapter. He begins by listing three things the believer is to do:
How should we Respond?
1. Gird up the Loins
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
I am told that when a man of that time was called to some sort of active work, or a coming battle, he would prepare by picking up the hem of his tunic or robe or whatever sort of long garment he was wearing, and tucking it into his belt, or “girdle” as it was called, then cinching it so that it could not fall loose and trip him. I have no way to know the accuracy of that historical note, so all I can do is look at it in the context of the rest of the scriptures and see that, in every case, when people were told to “gird up their loins”, it meant to prepare themselves for coming activity, whether a fight, a trial, or a task. It was an admonition to “get ready for action.” God wants to use your life: prepare yourself so that you are usable in His hand! We see this over and over in the New Testament. We are saved to serve. We have been set free from our slavery to sin, and now we are free to go to work “with Jesus.” He asks us to join Him in His work, but working with Him requires that we are prepared to serve.
2. Be Sober
Being sober is not the opposite of being drunk: it is looking at things realistically, from God’s perspective: not frivolously, but also not overly optimistically when God has not promised a good end to circumstances. Nor are we to think pessimistically, assuming that God doesn’t care. We have been left in this world to live as lights in a dark place! If life were “all easy” for us, then we would not be seen as lights at all: we just would appear to be “privileged characters” incurring the envy and anger of all those around us. If we are complaining about life all the time, then we are not seen as a light, either: we are simply seen as whiners.
But, if we see life soberly, accepting hardship and privation as being part of life, and choosing to find our Joy in the Savior Himself, instead of only in all He provides, then the people around us can see that we have something to be desired. We have clear Hope when there seems to be no hope. We have Joy in the presence of grief. People are not blind to the work of an active faith. Serenity and peace during tumultuous times is an unusual thing, and it is seen as valuable to most people. It is a mark of stability and strength, and attracts attention to the source of that strength.
3. Hope to the End
All the believers to whom this epistle was originally written have died, obviously. Every one of every generation since then has also “hoped to the end” to see the revelation of Jesus Christ. I believe that we are very close to His return, now, but we are still told to “hope to the end.” So, we keep pressing on, doing what we were told to do, placing our faith in the faithful Creator who claims us as His children; building our lives on the foundation of our new relationship with Him.
A New Relationship
We have been born again, so we are in a new relationship with a new Father. We want to imitate our Heavenly Father, just as a toddler tries to imitate his parents.
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
God’s primary attribute is His Holiness. Even His Love is subject to His Holiness. So, we need to consider what that means, if we hope to imitate it. The word “Holy” means “set apart for a particular purpose.” It does not mean “walking around with your hands pressed together as if in prayer, and with a pious expression on your face.” The world recognizes that phony charade and rejects it, just as God does. The Pharisees specialized in that sort of behavior, and Jesus condemned it as hypocrisy and fraud. In Matthew 23:25, He said they were polishing the outside of a cup, while the inside was still filthy; “…filled with extortion and excess”.
But we are called to imitate the holiness of God, because He has created us by the new birth to be as holy as He is Himself: It means that, as His child, and His new creation, you belong to Him, and you are created for His personal service and fellowship.
Your whole life belongs to Him, which is really nothing new: He created every sub-atomic particle in every atom of every molecule in every cell in your body as well as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat. That was true of us all, even when we were still in our sins! How much more, now that He has freed us from our slavery to sin, and provided us with eternal life?
We are re-born in His image, and we are created for His pleasure and service. It is our privilege to be in his service. We are in a place of honor and reward, not “forced servitude.” So He calls us to imitate Him in His holiness. Paul begged the believers to do just that In Ephesians 5:1, saying, “…be imitators of God, as dear children.”
This is part of what is involved in “girding up the loins” of our minds, in preparation for service. It means that we are to subject our wills to His, and see our lives beginning to reflect His character. It also means that we are to learn His Word. Over in 2nd Peter 1:4, it says that by means of the “exceeding great and precious promises” in God’s Word, we are to become “partakers of the Divine nature.” The way…the only way, God promises to change us into His likeness is through the application of His Word, as we allow the Holy Spirit to use that scripture to change our hearts. (Psalm 119:9-11)
Since we are born of “His seed” as it says in 1st John 3:9, we are “genetically predisposed” to bear His likeness. One of the first laws discernible in God’s Word is the Law of the Harvest: “Like begets like!” God made man in His image, but that image has been marred by sin. So He offered the new birth, and we are born again in His likeness, with the express intent that we are to be like Him, in character and purpose and action. Psalm 119:9 says that the way our lives can be cleansed is by the application of God’s Word. This is a key issue, because it means that His Word can change us into His likeness. (So, what was the means by which we have been born again in the first place? We will answer that question in verse 23. But for the moment, we are to remember the price that has already been paid for us.)
How did we Get here?
17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Since we call upon the Lord as our Father, we need to consider and remember how we became His children: the result should be a sobriety and a respect for the Holiness of God, and a dread of offending the Eternal One who loves us.
We were not bought out of our slavery to sin by a “cash payment” of any sort, nor were we freed from the Law of Sin and Death by a price that we could pay. This is especially important in the case of these Jewish believers: they had lived their whole lives attempting to please God by works of the Law, as their ancestors had taught them. They (like most humans) were convinced that they could live in such a way as to please God. But they could not pay the sin-debt that stood as a testimony against them. That One Blood Sacrifice approved by God and delivered by Jesus is the only price that could redeem them and us. The Greek word, here, for “redeemed,” is “elutrothete” which is a form of the infinitive verb “lutroō,” meaning “to purchase with the intent to set free.” There are three words translated “redeem” in the New Testament:
- “agorazo,” meaning “to purchase in the marketplace”…the “agora.”
- “exagorazo,” meaning “to purchase out of the marketplace”…not to be sold again. And,
- “lutroō,” meaning “purchased for the purpose of setting free.”
All of these words, combined, tell the story of our redemption.
- We were enslaved to sin. Jesus went to that marketplace of sin, to purchase us with His own blood. That is where he bought us, because that is where we were!
- He purchased us out of that marketplace, never to be returned there. We belong to Him eternally. And, best of all,
- He purchased us with the purpose of setting us free. He was not just trying to increase his household staff, nor the number of workers in his field. We were set free by that purchase. We are free to serve Him, but also free to choose not to serve, in which case we suffer loss, though we still are saved.
Remember, we were all pretty much living pointless lives, serving our own desires, in activities that had zero eternal value, regardless of how they may have seemed to us. He has given us a new purpose in life. Now we can live in such a way as to be to His eternal glory! We can work with Him in a task that has eternal value and which will earn us eternal reward!
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
This is an important concept and it is very easy to just “pass over” and not notice it. It says here that He was “foreordained” (or “appointed before the time”)…when? Before the foundation of the world! Before Genesis 1:1 (!) Ponder on that for a while! So, when it says, “In the beginning…” He was already there and was already “Plan A” for our salvation!
Compare this verse to Revelation 13:8, and see what it means: in that passage, He was “the Lamb Slain, from the foundation of the world.” But here it says, from “before the foundation of the world!” Jesus was always “Plan A” and there is no “Plan B.” Before He created the world, God ordained that Jesus was to be the sacrifice for the fallen Human Race…the “as-yet non-existent, un-created, un-tested, and not-yet-in-danger, Human Race.” God provided for us before He created us. What wisdom and care! We can see in Ephesians 3:8-11 that God had an eternal plan. And, He laid the foundation for His plan before He laid the foundations of the earth!
Where do we Stand? And, What should we Do?
21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
It is interesting that he is not “commending them” simply for “believing in God:” these were Jews, who already believed in the God of Israel. And James points out that “belief in God” is not necessarily even meritorious: he said, “The demons also believe, and tremble!” But something has changed in them, in Acts 2-7: they met God personally, by faith, in the person of Jesus their Messiah. Now they believe in God through Jesus. The result is an unfeigned (genuine) love of the brethren. Agape love is the fruit of their lives because they believe through Jesus. They received the Holy Spirit when they believed, and He changed their hearts and their desires, just as He has changed our hearts and desires. Each has a new nature, because they have been born again, same as we have. And along with them, we are commanded to fervently love one another with that Agape Love. Finally, he reminds us of the means by which we were born again:
23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Take special note of what Peter says, here: He says that you were “Born Again:” by what means? By the Word of God! It had nothing to do with works! It had everything to do with your having heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and having believed that message, placing your trust in the promise, and thus in God who gave it.
So, this also correlates with verse 3 where he says that we have been “begotten again.” The “seed” of natural birth is corruptible. The “seed of God,” in this case, is incorruptible, as it is the Word of God.
This is an important concept, because we sometimes are given to think that our own “persuasive speech” is the key to drawing a lost soul to Christ. But Jesus said, in John 12:32, “If I be lifted up…I will draw all men to myself!” He is the one who draws souls, like bits of iron to a magnet. We are to lift up Jesus, not try to dazzle unbelievers with our convincing arguments: The door to the truth is the will, not the intellect! We are to preach the Cross and Jesus Christ: not try to “convince” people by philosophy or moralizing, or any other sort of Human reasoning. Paul echoes this idea, in 1st Corinthians 1:17, saying that he was sent “…not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; not with wisdom of words, lest the preaching of the Cross be made of none effect.” We actually reduce the effectiveness of the Gospel through our “human effort.” Peter concludes this passage with a clear comparison between the flesh and all its “human wisdom” versus the Word of God and His eternal Wisdom. He says,
24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
Let’s bear in mind that God’s Word has eternal value. Everything we can do on our own is destined to decay and failure. What God chooses to do through us, by His indwelling Spirit, by His perfect Word, not only has eternal value, and will bear eternal fruit, but it will also pay eternal rewards or “dividends.” God gives us the will to serve, and He does the work through us, but then He rewards us for the work as if we had done it ourselves. What Amazing Grace!
Lord Jesus, free us from our addiction to self. Teach us to subject ourselves willingly to Your will, to Your Holy Spirit, and the teachings of Your Word. Continue to remake us into your likeness, and let us shine in this dark world as reflections of your Light.