Bible Study Commentary
Lesson 6: Fear Of God
1 Peter 1:17-21
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Right after the exhortation of holiness, Peter exhort the early believers to fear God. He reminded them of who God really is and what God has done for them. Again, Peter's exhortation in this passage is based on solid theology. It is to remind the believers that as chosen people of God, their lifestyle should express that they belong to God.
What kind of relationship does the early believers have with God when they become a Christian?
answer: The word "since" implies that the father-child relationship they have with God is already existing even as Peter is writing the letter to them. Just like holiness to salvation, they are not required to do anything to have that father-child relationship. God has already accepted them as his children the moment they had faith in Jesus Christ.
"live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear"
What is Peter really asking them to do in this passage?
answer: One can argue that Peter does not explicitly say "fear God" but rather he says "live in fear". Looking at the motivation Peter gives on living in fear implies no other suggestion other than God himself as the object of this fear. It is difficult to suggest that Peter is asking the early believers to fear anything or anyone other than God.
What motivations does Peter give on living in reverent fear?
answer: First, the fact that God is an impartial judge is a reason for living in reverent fear. God who knows and sees everything will judge everyone's work impartially. There is nothing that we can hide from God. Secondly, the price paid for our redemption is another reason to live in reverent fear. It cost God the death of Jesus Christ to bring about the redemption of the believers from their old empty life to a new life in Jesus Christ that they enjoying right now.
What does fear mean in this passage?
answer: The NIV addition of the adjective “reverent” as well as the mention of the judge as our father are helpful evidences for us to understand the accurate meaning of the word “fear.” This fear does not convey a feeling of terror, dreadfulness, anxiety or worry. This is the fear that a human being would feel in the presence of God who is merciful as well as absolutely great, powerful, holy and just. It is mixes with the kind of fear that a child has for his father who is loving but will not compromise discipline.
"For you know"
This phrase indicates that the early believers are already aware of the fact of Jesus Christ's sacrificial death to redeem (save) them from their old sinful life. The truth of verses 18-21 is not new to them, although Peter might have elaborated more than what is common knowledge during the early days of the Church. Some also suggest that these verses (18-21) or part of it belongs to an early liturgy (e.g. hymn).
"you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,"
Is redemption necessary?
answer: Although we can find many reasons from the Bible to answer our question, in our passage Peter emphasis redemption from "the empty way of life." The word "empty" means vain, without purpose or uselessness. Peter introduce Gods as the ultimate Judge, and for someone to live his or her life in vain means trouble before the Judge. Peter also indicates that they are slaves to "this empty way of life" because it is the only kind of life their forefathers had known from the beginning and now they have inherited it. But God's acts of redemption has set them free from this "empty way of life" to experience new birth to a life full of hope and joy. (see 1:2-3,8).
"He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake."
What is Peter's emphasis on this phrase?
answer: It is easy to get carried away with various doctrinal issues from this verse. What Peter simply wants us to see is that God's plan of redemption does not happen accidentally or haphazardly. God's act of redemption is part of God's great plan of salvation in Jesus Christ since the very beginning. The plan was made even before time, and is now revealed to us in an appointed time. The phrase "for your sake" also indicates that God has the believers in mind as the benefactor of the redemption plan.
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
What is our part in accomplishing our redemption?
answer: None. God has planned and has set out to accomplish our redemption since the beginning to the end. Just like what the passage indicates, it starts with God and end with God. Our part, if we can call it that, is simply to believe, have faith and put our hope in God.
What are the benefits of knowing that God's the ultimate impartial Judge?
answer: This world has so much injustice. All of us have experienced or witnessed injustices of some kind. As with the early believers, it would have been very common for us to experience mistreatment and persecution unjustly from the people around us who do not appreciate our faith in God. It would have been very disturbing to see injustice and the guilty not being punished, unless we have the assurance that at the end, God will judge everyone according to what he/she has done. Knowing God as the ultimate Judge will help us not to have an attitude of vengeance towards those who have wronged us.
God as an impartial Judge will also result in an extra motivation for us to live in holiness. Knowing that there is nothing hidden before God, it will help us to be more careful in the way we think or do things even when no one is around.
Peter reminds the early believers the cost of their redemption. What does it say about God's feelings towards us?
answer: The fact that God is willing to give up his only Son to save us, assures us that God's love for us is great and genuine. No wonder He is willing to call us His own children. Such truth will also motivate us to respond not only with awe and fear, but with love and gratitude towards our God.
Is there anything else that you can learn in Lesson 6? How would you apply it to your life today?
Summary Lesson 6: As Peter continues his exhortation, he reminds the reader that God is an impartial Judge to whom everyone will give an account at the end. Peter also reminds them that the great salvation they have received from God has cost the blood of Jesus Christ to be a sacrifice. These truths should motivate them to always live their lives in reverent fear here on earth. Let's go to Lesson 7 (not available yet).
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