Fear as Motivation for Holiness - 1 Peter 1:17-21
Is there a place for healthy fear?
As I mentioned last week, Jerry taught me to have a healthy fear of using a table-saw (and other tools).
A wise and confident driver has a healthy fear of the danger that driving brings, not only of their own potential for mistakes but also being on high alert for the potential miscues of others.
Can you fear someone you love?
Dad taught me a healthy fear of interacting with a horse.
… Dad also taught me to have a healthy fear of his authority over me.
But that never caused me to doubt his love… in fact, now that I am a father, I can truly understand and better appreciate the depth of a father’s love that is willing to discipline the one he loves to save them from destruction.
So too fearing God as a motivation for holiness is not separate from a loving relationship with God, but rather is one with it!
Let’s see it on our text for today as Peter lays it out in the context :
Review: Previously it was because of the great salvation and inheritance that you look forward to because God has caused you to be born again to a living hope (vv.
1-12)… (in vv.
13-16) Have Hope and Be Holy: 1. Set your hope completely (on the grace to be completed when Christ returns), by preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded.
2. Be Holy in all your conduct, by (like obedient children) not conforming to your former desires, but by desiring to model your life after the holiness of God (as he who called you is holy).
And now we come to a third main verb in the section: Conduct yourselves (and the descriptor is… with fear).
Conduct Yourselves with Fear - 3 Reasons
While terror does not fit but our understanding of ‘reverence’ can be rather watered down and weak.
Like your iced-tea (or soda) that is so watered down from melted ice that it is hardly tea at all.
A right and potent understanding of the biblical concept of Fearing God is critical to our understanding of who God is and how we should relate to him.
The “fear” of which Peter speaks is not paralyzing dread or terror, but rather the kind of fear you have knowing that you must give an account of your life.
(Steve Cole… also next quote)
If we have truly put our faith in Christ as Savior, we know that we won’t fail: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom.
But, as Paul tells us (1 Cor.
3:12-14), our works will be tested with fire at the judgment seat of Christ.
If our work remains, we will receive a reward.
If our work is burned up, we will suffer loss, but we will be saved, although as through fire.
I don’t know exactly what that means, but the imagery of going through fire is scary enough to motivate me to live in fear of the Lord on a daily basis now.
The Time of Your Exile (this present life)
… connects to Peter’s introductory reference to the recipients as Chosen Sojourners
I believe then that Peter’s emphasis here can be taken as living in fear with particular attention to final judgment, when heaven and hell are at stake.
That should motivate us.
So too we should be motivated by knowing that a loving heavenly Father can and does discipline us during our sojourn here if we meddle in sin and act like it’s ok.
God is a holy and loving Father who wants us to remember that sin is the path of destruction and death.
He has rescued us from it and made us his own for his purposes… and so he sets us straight… and we need a healthy fear of his discipline and a healthy fear that if we go on in sin we may prove ourselves to not truly be his children.
Peter used a conditional ‘if’ not so that they would be second-guessing their salvation, but “Peter intentionally wrote the sentence as a hypothesis to provoke the readers to consider whether they call upon God as their Father, desiring, surely, that they would answer in the affirmative.”
(Thomas R. Schreiner) That’s a healthy fear of judgment that keeps us from giving in to libertinism.
WHY? 3 Reasons are given.
Because God Is an Impartial Judge (v.
I’ve been accused by a child of disciplining too severely.
Do you know what my answer is?
You don’t decide that; I do.
(They weren’t right, but because I’m an imperfect parent, I understand that in theory they could have been right.)
But God is never nor can he ever be unjust.
He is impartial and perfectly fair.
We get what we deserve.
Those who believe God to be unfair have a paltry, limited, skewed view of the perfect character of God and do not grasp the depth of his love.
God has not, nor can he, ever treat you unfairly.
He is a holy God, a loving Father, a perfect judge.
Therefore, as we’ve already been discussing, we need not wipe away the potency of the two-sided truth (that if we are in Christ) God is both Father and Judge.
Father - Judge
As in most things if not all things, we need a balance.
(Rather than taking it too far one way or another…)
Alexander Maclaren writes (Expositions of Holy Scripture [Baker], “Father and Judge,” [1 Pet.
1:17], p. 69):
I suppose in Peter’s days, as in our days, there were people that so fell in love with one aspect of the Divine nature that they had no eyes for any other; and who so magnified the thought of the Father that they forgot the thought of the Judge.
That error has been committed over and over again in all ages, so that the Church as a whole, one may say, has gone swaying from one extreme to the other, and has rent these two conceptions widely apart, and sometimes has been foolish enough to pit them against each other instead of doing as Peter does here, braiding them together as both conspiring to one result, the production in the Christian heart of a wholesome awe.
Instead of negating each other, the two parts are complementary.
God as a good Father who judges impartially should remind us that…
Good works are evidence that God has truly begotten (1 Pet 1:3) a person.
The Apostle Paul says it like this about himself:
Such a recognition inspires him to live faithfully; it does not paralyze him with fear.
Anther reason is developed in vv.
Because of the High Cost of Your Ransom (18-19)
Redemption From Previous Bondage (from the futile ways…)
Ransom means to purchase freedom from slavery.
- Before Christ, outside of Christ, we are in bondage to sin and death… as is all mankind.
(Futile) Empty - especially in the OT with reference to idolatry.
- This is not to imply that everything that the world does is only ignoble all the time or that every element in other religions is always ignoble all the time… there are elements that will likely produce morality.
This is due to common grace, and the image of God.
However, in its very premise the promise of the world and other religion is false.
Jesus is the only way.
Cost for Redemption (precious blood of Christ)
… not with perishable silver and gold coins... but with precious blood of Christ (blood of Christ means his death and saving aspects)
God preserves his justice and holiness through Christ’s sacrifice that purchases our forgiveness.
Substitutionary atonement - 1 Pet 3:18a (like a lamb without blemish or spot - reference to sinless perfection, a perfect substitute, once for all)
What is Peter’s goal in reminding us of our purchase price?
Motivation to live lives set apart to him.
Having been purchased at such a high price, can we even fathom going back to adultery with the way of life from which we have been ransomed?
As C. T. Studd put it, “If Christ be God and died for me, there is nothing too great that I can do for Him.”
Redemption is of God (I can’t take any credit.)
Really this is one with (and derived from) the next verses...
And here’s a third reason why fearing God is a motivation to holiness:
Because Your Faith and Hope Are in God (20-21)
The bookend of the little section, and the summary of the point of vv.
20-21 is in the last phrase: so that your faith and hope are in God. - It is for your own benefit that you connect the dots to see that ultimately your faith and hope are in God himself.
Here are some of the things described leading up to this clincher:
God Planned Christ’s Redemptive Work Before We Ever Sinned
… foreknown before the foundation of the world
God Executed His Plan at the Right Time
… made manifest in these last times (here referring to the present age in which the Messiah has come, not to be confused with the last days that we look forward to with anticipation, with hope, in which our Savior is returning to claim his own)
God Applied Christ’s Atoning Work to Us Through Faith
… for the sake of you who through him are believers in God
God Completed It (by raising Christ and giving Him glory)
… who raised him from the dead and gave him glory
Again, here’s the overall point Peter is making:
A life of holiness is one in which God is prized above all things, in which believers trust and hope in his goodness.
Fearing God rightly produces in us a greater appreciation for who he is and of his love toward us.