1 Peter 1:17-21


In verses 1-2 Peter addresses his hearers as God's elect, though they be earthly pilgrims. In verses 3-12 Peter comforts them. Despite their various earthly trials, they are to rejoice and thank God who, in His mercy, has begotten them again to a living hope in Jesus Christ. They have a marvelous prospect, an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance, reserved in heaven. This salvation was foretold by the prophets. These prophecies were so wonderful that even the holy angels wished to appreciate them.

In verses 13-21 Peter speaks of holiness of living. He begins verse 13 with "therefore" in view of what he had said in verse 1-12. Read verses 13-16 before you begin working on this text. Because of God's grace in Christ they are to live soberly, as obedient children, keeping themselves free from their former lusts. They are to be holy, even as God Himself is holy, Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7.

This is to be taken literally. It does not mean: "Do the best you can." It means: "Be holy, for I (God) am holy." The true Christian is exactly that, not because of himself but because of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth him from all sin and because he is a branch of Jesus, the Vine, Who causes him to bear much fruit. By grace, through faith in Jesus he is holy.

1 Peter 1:17 (NIV) Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

"And" connects this section with the previous one. Verses 13-16 spoke of faithful living. Verse 17 speaks of praying and living. The conditional clause does not denote uncertainty. Fact conditions never do. In this case it means "If, as is the case, you etc."

"Call" means "pray to, call on, invoke, address." In verse 15 we were told that God called us. It is a fruit of faith that the Christian calls on the Father, which implies that the Christian is a son, free from sin, death and the power of the devil. But when he calls upon the Father he must remind himself that his Father is an impartial Judge. That pertains to the Father's dealings with the individual in the areas of Law and Gospel. The Father is impartial to ALL human beings. Only Christians truly know and believe it. In this case we are told that the Father is impartial "so far as each one's conduct is concerned."

Luther: There is no faith where there are no good works. Therefore link faith and good works together in such a way that both make up the sum total of the Christian life. As you live, so you will fare. God will judge you according to this . . . Works are the evidence of our belief or unbelief . . . They show whether you have believed or have not believed. . . The works are fruits and signs of faith and that God judges people according to these fruits, which certainly have to follow, in order that one may see publicly where belief or unbelief is in the heart.
Stoeckhardt: Evil works are the result of unbelief, of impenitence. And so it is either faith or unbelief upon which hangs man's final fate.
Lenski: There is no discrepancy between judging according to work and judging according to faith; the work is the evidence of the presence or of the absence of faith.

"Impartiality" occurs only here in the New Testament, see Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25, and look at Peter in Acts 10:34.

Luther: Be afraid lest God forsake you and withdraw His hand, as a pious child is afraid that it may anger its father and do something displeasing to him.
Stoeckhardt: This fear is not slavish fear but holy awe for the Judge's sternness and righteousness.

This fear is aroused by God's mercy, not His anger.

Quenstedt: The apostle does not mean, lest we be not in God's grace, but lest we fall from grace. Fear is the opposite of false security, not of joyful faith; and we do not reject the fear of vigilance and caution which is afraid of insulting God and falling into the danger of forsaking Him, but we reject the fear that is due to doubt.

It is like the fear of Joseph who fled from Potiphar's wife.

"The time" means "temporary residency, temporary stay."

Bengel: He calls them strangers because they are in the world, 2:11.
Luther: We must deal with temporal good as if they did not belong to us.

"I'm but a stranger here, heaven is my home." I'm only a steward, not an owner. Note the main verb of this section, everything that precedes and follows it depends on it.

1 Peter 1:18 (NIV) 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,

"Because you know." Because of what they've already learned they can and must live correctly.

Rienecker: For the Jews the picture of redemption would be God's deliverance from Egypt. For the Gentiles it would be the picture of a slave whose freedom was purchased with a price.

Peter is addressing Jews and Gentiles alike.

Lenski: 'Ransomed' here has it full native meaning, 'you were ransomed by the payment of a ransom-price,' see Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14; 1 Corinthians 6:20.

Note that Peter states first by what they were NOT ransomed. The "corruptible" is temporary and sinful. The "incorruptible" is eternal and holy.

The news media inform us daily concerning the price of silver and gold because, not only are they necessary in this life, but, more so because they mean so much to people. Wouldn't we be surprised if, for a change, TV would substitute the blood of Jesus Christ, informing us that it does not change in value?

Peter tells us from what we were not redeemed.

Selwyn: It describes the ways of those who are without the worship of the true God, either because they have never known it or because they have fallen into apostasy from it . . . It probably refers to Gentile paganism.
Lenski: Their fathers and former generations had nothing better to pass on to their descendants . . . The ransoming out of vain conduct and out of guilt always go together . . . He is writing to Christians who for the most part, have come out of paganism and its dreadful bondage.

No two versions render this phrase exactly alike. Compare these translations: "From your aimless conduct, from the futile ways, from the worthless manner of life, from the empty way of life, from the futile way of life." In each case, it was inherited from the fathers, dead in their trespasses and sin. Apart from the redemption in Christ Jesus life is aimless, futile, worthless, empty. Is it any wonder that so many commit suicide? Is it any wonder that so many consider abortion of no consequence? Is it any wonder that so many hold marriage in contempt?

1 Peter 1:19 (NIV) but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

"But" after a negative is a very strong "quite to the contrary." Immediately Peter states by what they have been ransomed. Since silver and gold stand in apposition to "blood," Peter is saying that gold and silver are absolutely worthless, compared to the precious blood of Christ.

Luther: Just one drop of this innocent blood would have been more than enough for the sin of the whole world.
Selwyn: For redemption in or through or by Christ's blood conceived as the price, look at Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 14:1-5.
Lenski: He undoubtedly means sacrificial blood shed in a sacrificial, expiatory death.

Recall how Luther used these beautiful words in the explanation to the second article: "Not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death."

And now follows an analogy. Look at John 1:29. There you will find the major passages on the word "lamb."

Perhaps Peter has the Passover lamb in mind. "Without blemish" Christ has in HIMSELF no taint. "Without spot" nor did he contract any stain from WITHOUT. He was sinless and kept Himself free from sin.

Look at the directions given in Leviticus 22:17-25 as to the quality required in sacrificial victims. The Paschal Lamb, was connected  par excellence  with Israel's redemption.

Lenski: The second adjective is not used in the Old Testament with reference to the lambs to be sacrificed. Peter is here thinking of Christ himself, of the antitype which exceeds the type, and thus designated him as 'a lamb.' The point is that Christ is the great original, the types are only imperfect copies . . . Christ alone is such a lamb, there being no other.

An excellent observation. Antitype always governs type, not vice versa. Look at Hebrews 7:3. Melchizedek, a type of Christ, was made like the Son of God.

1 Peter 1:20 (NIV) He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

Both participles in the genitive case refer back to Christ. They are contrasted by a beautiful construction. Note that both participles are passive, with God as implicit agent. The first is perfect tense, the second aorist. Each participle is followed by a prepositional phrase denoting time. The first participle immediately reminds us of 1:2. God elected me from eternity to save me. God elected His Son from eternity to carry this out. The first is of redeemed, the second is of Redeemer. Implicit in Christ election is His incarnation. On "was foreordained" all of God's good pleasure is fulfilled in Christ.

Luther: We have nothing to boast of. The glory belongs to no one but God alone . . . No more glorious and no clearer proclamation has come into the world than the Gospel.

That is a good and significant remark. God foreordained from eternity not only my redemption but also the incarnation of the Redeemer. He promised it for hundreds of years in time and sealed it with an oath. Luther is correct.

Stoeckhardt: The redemption of the human race is conceived in the loving counsel of the Triune God before the creation of the world, that is, in the eternity before time began.

Lenski reminds us that this is what our fathers meant by the Latin phrase  nosse cum affectu et effectu." That means  "to love with affection and reality." It was an eternal love toward both Redeemer and redeemed.

Besser: Christ's sacrifice was seen by God as eternally present.
Lenski: We who know and consider this properly are bound to prize our ransoming, so as to walk in fear, in order that at the end God, the impartial Judge, may not pronounce upon us the awful verdict we should deserve if we disregarded or scorned this ransom.

Verses 18-20 bring out the  sola gratia  and  sola fide  principles.

Last but not least note the phrase at the very end of the verse. Why was Christ foreordained before the foundation of the world and revealed in the time of fulfillment? BECAUSE OF YOU. Who is the  "you"? ANYONE WHO READS IT. We realize that Peter is here addressing believers. But if an unbeliever were to pick up this Epistle and begin reading he would see in verse 17 that God is absolutely impartial. He condemns and damns all unbelievers, all rejecters. He saves all believers. He treats all of mankind with justice and mercy. The justice of God has mercifully been satisfied in Christ Jesus. Therefore, this verse pertains to anyone who reads it.

1 Peter 1:21 (NIV) Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

These words plainly say that our faith in God is caused by Christ. Not only did He shed His blood for us but He even gives us the faith to believe it. Look at the explanation to the third Article of the Creed.

The greatest miracle of all was that God raised Jesus from the dead and glorified Him. Note that the human nature of Christ is stressed here. God did not raise God, as such. But, in the person of Jesus, God raised the God-man. According to His divine nature it is said that Jesus raised Himself. See John 10:17. God raised Jesus and glorified His human nature. This touches on what we call the genus majestaticum. He is now in the state of exaltation, the state in which His human nature fully uses all the qualities of the divine nature.

Does the verse indicate intended or actual result? KJV makes it intended result: "that your faith and hope might be in God." That is wrong. NKJV, RSV, NASB rightly read: "so that your faith and hope are in God." Similar to this are TEV, NEB, AAT and the version we use in these notes, the NIV. It is fortunate that the large majority of versions get it correct. Faith is the gift of God whereby we are converted, declared righteous, accept Christ as our Savior from sin. Christian hope grows out of this faith and is the firm conviction that everlasting life is ours in Christ. Look at 1:3-5.

Note that faith is always directed toward God. Galatians 5:5 is a fine parallel passage here. Both faith and hope are mentioned there. Galatians 5:6 shows us that by the working of the Holy Spirit through faith we await the hoped-for righteousness of everlasting life.

Bengel: "In Him" in whose resurrection is the ground and power of faith and hope. Faith and hope are very closely joined together, and yet they differ with respect to the present and the future.

Stoeckhardt: The foreordained plan, verse 20, and the election according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, verse 2, and the are two eternal acts of God's will. As two distinct decrees we must keep them apart conceptually and dare not intermingle them. . . . Both decrees, conceived in eternity, are independent of what occurs in time and in the world, are firm and immovable and are and will positively be carried out. The decree of redemption has been completely realized. Christ has come and has redeemed the human race.
Lenski: With their faith and their hope so solidly anchored, the readers are to watch their conduct, so that it may ever be that of 'obedient children' passing the time of their position as aliens in this foreign world in fear . . . 'Our' is to be construed with both nouns. Hope is added to faith because 'living hope' was mentioned in verse 3 and because of our setting our hope on God's grace, verse 13. . . to live as 'foreigner' in this world is possible only when we have both faith and hope, both of them looking to God and what he has done in Christ, our ransom, freeing us from the old bondage.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1983, pp. 112-115. Used with permission.

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