1 Peter 1:15-19. 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
To really understand the impact of what Peter is telling us here we have to time travel way back, deep into the Old Testament. Into the book of Exodus. The book opens with the Hebrew people enslaved in Egypt. The wicked Pharaoh has made their lives bitter with bondage and forced labor. He has made them his captives. His slaves. And he’s even murdered dozens of their children.
What do the Hebrews need in this situation? Do they need a pep talk? A nudge in the right direction? Do they need to believe in themselves more? Or maybe they just need to follow their hearts.
But could those Hebrews in any way, shape, or form end their own slavery? No. What they needed was a ransom. A full blown Seal Team 6 rescue. They needed to be fully and finally extracted from their captivity. And they needed someone to do it for them. They could not save themselves. So God saved them.
And as the Israelites prepared for that Passover night, the night of their rescue, God speaks to them through Moses. He tells them that because he will rescue them from the death of the firstborn, by the precious blood of the lamb, they will now owe God the lives of their firstborn sons.
Exodus 13:13. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
So…human sacrifice? Never. Instead God tells the Hebrews that they must ransom their sons with the blood of a sacrificial lamb without blemish or spot. The firstborn son representing the whole family, and the lamb representing the firstborn son. A perfect lamb sacrificed in place of the people.
Why? To remind them that they did not rescue themselves. To remind them that they needed much more than just a “hand up.” To remind them that without the mercy and grace of God they were doomed to perpetual bitterness in bondage. To remind them that their lives were purchased back by their Creator and Father. To remind them that they belong to God. And to remind them that their problem wasn’t just their slavery, but that their real problem was their sin. Sin that required the wage of death.
And so now Peter reminds us of our own personal exodus story. We too were once in bondage. Enslaved to sin. Addicted to self. Stuck. Trapped. Hopeless. But then God rescued us from the slavery of our own making. Our own inner Pharaoh. That deadly slave master that we were incapable of escaping. (You know the one I’m talking about, the one you still run back to once in a while.)
You see, our rescue, like the Hebrews’, could have left us still in debt to God. The Hebrews were rescued from their bondage, but they still owed the debt of sin – death. The death of the firstborn that, in God’s mercy, became the death of the sacrificial lamb. But in Christ we are not only freed from our bondage to sin, we are also set free from the wage of sin, sin’s debt owed to God – death. The cross of Christ is our rescue, and our ransom.
OK, thanks for the history and theology lesson Brady, but so what? What does this all mean? It means three really big and amazing things:
1. It means in Christ we no longer die. Our death debt has been paid, not with the futile life of lamb, but by the precious blood of Christ.
2. It means we have been rescued from any and all bondage. We are no longer hapless and helpless. We are free indeed. Now any sinning we do is because we chose to run back to it, not because we were bound to it by law.
3. It means we belong to God. Not just rescued – also ransomed. Purchased. Bought with a price.
Now we can finally talk about being holy. It is not our behavior, morality, purity, or pietism that makes us holy. It is God ransoming us that makes us holy. He bought back our lives, paying for the death we owed him by his own death, and then set our lives apart for his own purpose – to display the glory of his goodness and grace. Therefore, be holy as God is holy.
“To live is Christ” is to be rescued, ransomed, and set apart in holiness. Rescued from the power of sin. Ransomed from the penalty of sin. And therefore set apart from sin’s pleasure into the greater pleasure of God’s grace in Christ.
Do you consider yourself holy? Do you consider yourself ransomed?
You in Christ
In Christ you are rescued, ransomed, holy. Why is this order so important?
Christ in you
Where might your holiness be powered by your own strength, rather than by your having been purchased by God?