Faith and Fear Produce Love

Lessons on Living as Exiles, Part 5

“If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds” —call on him as Father who judges impartially (1 Peter 1:17). We have a Father who judges impartially — very strange. Oh, that’s worth an hour. We have a Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds — Christian deeds.

Conduct Yourselves with Fear and Knowledge

“Conduct yourselves with fear” so you fear because you have a God who judges impartially. Conduct yourselves in fear. How many people believe that? How many people teach that? “Whoa, I thought perfect love casts out fear. I mean, what’s going on here?”

“Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” I think that’s your life. “Knowing that you were” — now, this is another reason to fear, right? The way this participle works here. “Conduct yourselves with fear knowing.” Conduct yourself in fear knowing.

You got two reasons. In the front, you have a reason. You have a Father who judges impartially, so conduct yourselves with fear, and now conduct yourself with fear knowing — and then a real surprise ground for fear — “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:18–19).

What kind of argument is that? Conduct yourselves with fear because you were ransomed with infinite price. What? That takes away fear, doesn’t it? Isn’t it supposed to? Isn’t thinking about the preciousness and infiniteness of the blood shed on my behalf supposed to take away my fear of hell and fear of God’s wrath and fear? But yeah, it is, so what does he mean?

Gird up your loins. Spend a lifetime on 1 Peter. These sorts of things are worth days of reflection. In one minute, instead of days. I think that whether you’re talking about God’s role as Judge who’s impartial. He’s not impressed by anybody who’s trying to twist his arm. He is impartial.

He’s going to judge according to what really matters, and the blood of Jesus are two ways of saying you got something really scary over here — the judgment of God — and you got something really valuable over here — the blood of Jesus — and you could offend against either one in such a way that you’d be in big trouble. You should be afraid of doing that. You should be afraid of doing that, and let that fear drive you to the place that casts out all fear: the Fatherhood of God and the blood of Jesus.

The Ransom Parable

I’ll give you an illustration. Suppose you are a teenage, 18-year-old girl, woman and you’re kidnapped, and the kidnapper sends your dad a ransom note saying, “We want a million dollars, and you can have your daughter back. Don’t go to the police,” and for whatever reason, probably not a good idea, but in the illustration — this is the way it’s going to work — the dad sells things, divests, borrows.

He loves her, he loves her, and he gathers a million dollars in cash, puts it in the briefcase, leaves it at the appointed place where she’s supposed to come out, take it back and then join him. She comes out, gets the briefcase, walks back and says, “Sucker!”

That’s what this is talking about. Be afraid of doing that, right? Be afraid of treating the ransom of Jesus like that. I mean, how else can you make sense out of this? Conduct yourself with fear, knowing how precious the blood of Christ is. It’s just so counterintuitive.

Conduct yourself with fear, knowing how precious the blood of Christ is. Unless it means fear, scorning the preciousness of the blood. Fear, scorning the preciousness of the blood, which means fear, unbelief.

This is what it says in Romans 11:20, “They were cut off because of their unbelief. You stand fast only through faith, therefore fear.” Fear what? Unbelief. This is why I said 1 Peter 1:5 is so precious to me. I am prone to scorn the blood of Jesus. I am prone to treat it as light. I am. I’ll go for hours, days, hardly give it a thought. Say things to my wife that are so utterly out of step with the crucified Jesus that he must just go like this. Like where did that come from? How ugly is that? “What’s that got to do with my blood that I shed to deliver you from your futile ways?”

John Piper should fear that and let that fear drive me to Christ, to his forgiveness, to the infinite preciousness of his blood. I think what I wrote down here was, “Let fear keep you in the relationship that casts out fear.”

The Fear of Running Away

One more illustration. I know our time is almost up, but this may be worth the evening.

When Karsten, my oldest, was six years old. He’s now 42 or 43. We went to visit Dick Teegan. I remember his name: Deacon. Dick Teegan had a German Shepherd that looked my son right in the eye. That’s how tall he was and how tall the dog was. We opened the door to go in for dinner.

He had invited us over, and Karsten who likes dogs, looked at this monster looking him right in the eye and didn’t know what to do. At that moment I said, “Karsten, I forgot something in the car. Would you go get whatever it was?” He said, “Sure.” He runs off, and this dog leaps up behind him with kind of a low growl. Karsten’s terrified. Dick Teegan said, “Oh, Karsten. You might want to walk. He doesn’t like it when people run away from him.”

I said that’s in the sermon next Sunday. It’s been in a hundred sermons like right now. Okay, is that what it means to fear God? Fear running away. Put your arm around him, he’ll lick your face. He’ll fight for you. He just doesn’t like it when people run away from him. I think that is a beautiful illustration of this and how fear of God drives you to God. I hope it helps. It helps me because it’s here.

Conduct yourselves with fear. You got a Father Judge and you’ve got an infinitely valuable blood atoning for you. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifest in the last times for the sake of you who, through him, are believers in God who raised him from the dead, gave him glory so that your faith and your hope are in God. Just extolling all that God has done for us in and by Christ to heighten the value of the blood, the value of the redemption, the value of the inheritance.

Faith in the Gospel

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22–25)

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth.” I think obedience to the truth — and we’ll see this tomorrow in a couple of contexts — means faith in the gospel.

There’s two or three other places in 1 Peter where it’s pretty clear. Husbands who don’t obey the truth or don’t obey the word in 1 Peter 3:1, and people in 1 Peter 4:17 where they do not obey the gospel. When you obey the truth or obey the gospel or obey the word, you are putting your faith in the word because the word commands you to believe. That’s why it’s called obedience. Faith here is the means by which our soul is purified and that leads to brotherly love.

There’s the sequence. You’ve got word or truth here. You’ve got faith in response to it or obedience to the truth which commands you to believe. Then you have a purified soul and out of that flows brotherly love. Love one another earnestly from the heart. You are purified for a sincere brotherly love.

Born Again by Divine, Human Means

In that, beneath that, is the new birth that we’ve seen already. First Peter 1:23 is picking up on the theme of new birth from 1 Peter 1:3. We have been born again. Here’s the new thing that’s added, so crucial because back then I may have made it sound so lopsidedly divine that you wonder if there’s anything you can do to help people be born again.

I mean, God “according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3). Well, anything we can do? “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). That’s really, really important.

I don’t think anybody is born again apart from hearing the gospel. That’s why your former pastor has the job he has. He believes that too. People are lost without the gospel. They’re lost because people are born of God through the living and abiding word. This word is the good news that was preached to you, and the fact that he underlines the fact that the grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever, is to show that this new birth will never fail you.

If it’s the word that brought about the new birth and the word is imperishable, so is the new birth. This people are an embattled people in Pontus and Galatia and Bithynia. They’re an embattled people. Peter’s doing everything he can to stabilize them and strengthen them and drive the pillars of hope down deep underneath their faith, which is the new birth by the living and abiding word of God here.

Even though, lover of the sovereignty of God that I am who moves sovereignly into people’s lives and opens their eyes and brings them out of darkness into light so that they are saved by grace alone, he only does it through you. Human means are essential, not optional. I’ll say that again.

Human means, and by that, I mean somebody to speak the gospel or put it in a tract or shout it over a loudspeaker or send it through the airwaves or put it in an email or some human means to get the gospel into the mind of an unbelieving person is the agency of the Almighty Holy Spirit by which people are born again. You are essential. Evangelism is not optional. Missions is not optional.

Yes, we love the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, but he does not save them without saints — without you. He has bound himself to the word of God and we are the possessors of that word.

Born Again to Grow

Two minutes. “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the” — there’s another one of those commands to feel — “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow” (1 Peter 2:1–2). This is not a static life. We’re not born again to be static. We’re born again to grow, grow up into salvation. Isn’t that amazing? What an amazing statement. “Grow into salvation.” Who talks like that? The Bible talks like that.

“If indeed you have tasted.” This is why you long for it, if you’ve tasted “that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3). What we long for is this spiritual milk right here. This is not baby Christians. That analogy from 1 Corinthians is not what’s going on here. This is Christians, all Christians longing for what makes us grow, namely feasting upon the kindness of God in the word of God. The Lord is good. The Lord is good.

Have you tasted that the Lord is good? Have you tasted that the Lord is good? Well, if you have, then long for it and where do you find it? Here, and all the ways this is mediated to you in churches, people.

The Spiritual House

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men” (1 Peter 2:4). They shifted the image, right? This is now shifting from eating and growing to stones being built into a house.

Same idea though. Eat and grow up into salvation. Be a stone, a living stone. Be united with other living stones and grow into a house, a house where God lives and you are priests and you make sacrifices. The Christian life viewed as a temple where you’re both eating and growing, the organic metaphor and the structural metaphor.

“As you come to him, to a living stone.” He’s the basic foundational living stone rejected by men.

But in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” To you, therefore, who believe, he is precious, but to those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Peter 2:4–8)

We could spend a whole seminar on that because it’s the flip side of election, and it doesn’t take away any sense of responsibility that we have, and it doesn’t mean that anybody is judged who wants to be saved. It just means God is sovereign.

There’s a downside to election on the others. These are the last verses and I’ll read them and then stop.

A Chosen Race

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). He’s gathering up the pieces. Here’s the election piece again. Here’s the priesthood that he just talked about in the house that you’re becoming. Here’s holiness again that we saw about as your ransom from your futile ways. Here’s the people who are ransomed. They’re his own possession.

“That you may” — and this is the first time now we’ve seen any contemplation of the world outside these walls.

That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:9–11)

Oh, do they ever? Do they ever? Which is why we must have his keeping, and we must gird up the loins of our minds to make war on these passions which will destroy us if we don’t.

Proclaiming the Excellencies

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles beautiful and honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers” — so they do — “they may see your good conduct and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). So they do that too. They speak against you as evildoers, and they glorify God, so don’t give up on anybody. Their first response to you might be, “You Christians are all jerks — born again, homosexual-hating people. I just don’t want anything to do with you.” Don’t say, “Well, I guess there’s no hope for them.” Just keep doing this.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable. The rest of this book is about that. We’re going to stop here. What happens at 1 Peter 2:12 is that he starts talking about being a citizen. He starts talking about being a slave. He starts talking about being a wife, a husband, a church member, and then goes global into the society. This is the most dense book on social ethics in the Bible, and it’s all in the next two chapters.

If that sounds like where you’d like to give some thought — what does this honorable conduct, abstaining from those passions — what does that look like in relation to the United States government? What does it look like in relation to Alabama? What does it look like in relation to employers? What does it look like in relation to husbands and wives and so on?

That’s where we’re heading because he’s just made the shift that all this talk about holiness and all this talk about new passions really is talk about evangelism.

Just make sure you see that before we stop. That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light and keep your conduct among the Gentiles. That Greek word right there, kalos, means “beautiful, attractive, called honorable” here. So that they might glorify God on the day of visitation, which is a quote from Jesus, from Matthew 5:16.