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To Ransom us from Futility
But influence does not mean that we are totally determined by our parents or by our background. There are some things that we inevitably inherit and there are other things that are totally outside the influence and control of either our parents or our background.
We may have had Christian parents who loved and honoured the Lord Jesus Christ but that did not mean that we automatically became Christians ourselves. What we all do inherit from our background, whatever that background might have been, is our rebellious sinful nature. We do not automatically inherit our parents’ faith or their spiritual vitality however much our parents have desired that we did. They might have tried hard, praying, teaching, cajoling etc. but they could not determine that we would come to faith.
It was the same for our parents too. They were born as rebels against God and had futility written all over their lives until God intervened graciously to save them (if our parents were indeed genuine Christians). This fundamental futility they passed on to us – none of us are born immediately into God’s family. We each have to become Christians for ourselves.
Jesus died to deliver us from the futility that is life apart from God. And that is the subject we are dealing with this evening as we consider our text:
As we think about this verse we will need to consider:
The deliverance that had to be secured
The futility of a past way of life and the hope of a new
The ransom price that was paid
The need for a deliverance or a setting free or of a radical change of circumstance and experience is flagged up by the use of the word ransom. (We’ll leave for a moment the actual ransom price that was paid and simply focus upon the idea of paying a ransom, regardless of what the price might be).
If you looked up the verb "to ransom" in the dictionary you’d find something like this:
"To obtain the release of a captive or a prisoner by paying a price, usually a sum of money"
The underlying assumption is obviously that to be held captive is a negative experience and to be set free from such a state an undoubted benefit.
Now Peter used just this sort of language as he describes a Christian’s salvation:
v.18 "you were ransomed from..." he wrote.
Peter wants us to understand that the natural state of a man or a woman in the world is a very negative one. Whether we are (or were) aware of it or not is not the point -
In general terms, too, a captive cannot pay his own ransom price. Held in captivity he needs another to make the payment on his behalf. And that all serves to highlight the sorry spiritual condition or state we were all in before God graciously intervened in our lives.
The good news is that deliverance has been secured because a ransom price has been paid. Before turning to the price we need to spend a little more time thinking about the life from which we need to be delivered.
The Characteristics of that Past Life and those of the New
The word that Peter uses to describe the life that we have naturally inherited from our ancestors is futility.
v.18 "you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers"
Looking at how different translations render the word gives us a better picture of just how sorry such a life is – if indeed it merits being called a "life" at all. The various words used to describe this ‘life’ are words such as empty, fruitless, useless, worthless. It was a "dead-
Eccl.1:2 "Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
And closes with more of the same:
Eccl.12:8 "Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
Such a life is destructive and proves to be an impossible drain upon the human spirit. Such a life holds out no hope and life without hope is no life at all!
We can push further than this and ask the question in what ways exactly is this naturally godless life inherited from our ancestors "futile" or "empty" and when we do we realise that Peter’s use of the word futile is actually his way of summing up the life he has already been detailing earlier in the chapter.
The life from which deliverance is necessary by the payment of a ransom is a life where significant blessings are absent.
The old must be replaced by the new. Let me show you what I mean.
The old must be replaced by the new
1Pet.1:3 "born again to a living hope"
The salvation that is heralded in the gospel involves a fresh start that only God can bring about – a new birth. This new birth introduces all those who receive it into a new and living hope. The vanity, the hopelessness, of the old way of life is completely altered as new life in Christ is brought about. This new life is brought about through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only did he die for his people but he was raised to newness of life for them too!
A new inheritance is held in store for those who benefit from this new birth:
1Pet.1:4 "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,"
Those who formerly had no hope and no purpose in life are now granted a solid and sure hope. That hope looks to an inheritance that will never ever experience any sort of deterioration or change for the worse – it is kept safely in heaven, where no thief can break in and destroy, and it is kept for the one who has been brought to participate in the salvation secured by Jesus Christ.
It is not just the believer’s inheritance that is kept safe – the believer himself is protected as well and by such a power! Insecurity gives way to security.
1Pet.1:5 "you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
On Friday Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the USA. The Times showed some of plans of the officials to protect him from possible attack – the fleet of cars included several which even included devices designed to jam radio signals that might otherwise be used to control a missile attack. The scheduled slow drive to the White House was described as a security man’s nightmare. The journey of a mere two miles involved in addition to the President’s secret service detail the deployment of a further 30,000 security personnel. The cost? An estimated 100m$.
Every believer is safer than that. Who needs 30,000 men when the power of God is our defence?
He guards and protects and keeps us in the faith and will do so until our final salvation is ushered in! And that salvation is all of grace bound up with and centred upon our Lord Jesus Christ (cf.v.13).
The old way of life, that futile way of sin, was not utterly devoid of enjoyment and the Bible recognises this; yet those pleasures of sin are very fleeting (Heb.11:25). The new life is full of its own joys and those joys are many and glorious!
1Pet.1:6, 8 "In this you rejoice... you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,"
This is a joy that will not sully with the passage of time but rather the more we progress towards the final goal of our salvation our joy will increase – nor is it some small or pokey little joy for Peter describes it as being "inexpressible and full of glory".
The new salvation that God has wrought for his people is such a wonderful salvation that even the angels who are used to standing in God’s presence are intrigued by it and long to examine it looking closely at it!
Just as the old way had its affections so does the new. Once again Peter is aware of dramatic changes that are brought about in the life of the believer. There was a time when the Saviour was unknown and unloved but how all that changes when God begins his work in the soul of a man or a woman. Such a man or a woman is characterised by a new love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now none of the recipients of Peter’s letter had ever had the privilege of seeing Jesus in the flesh as Peter had done but that didn’t stop them loving him and having a true and genuine relationship with him. We haven’t seen Jesus physically either but that mustn’t stop us loving him:
1Pet.1:8 "Though you have not seen him, you love him."
Is this true of you? Do you love the Lord Jesus even though you have never seen him? That is one of the marks of being a Christian – do you have it?
Along with this new love for Jesus go the loving affections that are appropriate when you belong to a close and precious family. Following the old futile and fruitless ways we didn’t know God and we had little concern for his family but since the ransom price has been paid our ignorance has been addressed and our exile brought to an end. We now know that God is our Father in Christ and we relate to him as his children – only how we long that our obedience might be more thoroughgoing and complete than we currently feel it to be.
What changes are brought about in a person’s life when God’s deliverance is applied to their lives! And nor are these changes static they are meant to be progressive and to be developing. As Peter writes in his second letter when talking about the Christian qualities God imparts to us by his power:
2Pet.1:8 "if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The Price that was paid
The problem was a big one because the futility of our lives was comprehensive. The changes brought about were and are enormous and of great quality.
What price had to paid to secure all of these benefits for us?
The answer that Peter gives us is that it was the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that was the ransom price. Peter added a number of comments in order to help us get some small grasp of just what this entailed.
The first thing that Peter says concerns a negative. Before he tells us what the actual price was he tells us what it wasn’t. The price wasn’t paid with perishable things such as silver or gold. You are probably very familiar with these words but let us pause for a moment and think a little more about Peter is actually saying here.
Silver and gold are what are called noble metals and they are called that for a reason. Noble metals resist chemical action, they do not corrode, and they are not easily attacked by acids. In other words you would not normally describe gold or silver as perishable as Peter does here.
Does that mean that Peter made a mistake in what he wrote? Not a bit of it! What Peter is really affirming is that in comparison to the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ gold and silver are pretty worthless.
Now you are well aware of how men have struggled hard and at great personal risk and cost to discover and mine metals such as gold and silver. Their efforts are proof of just how highly men value these metals. How valuable then does that suggest that Christ’s blood is!
When the Bible refers to the blood of Christ we are not being directed to think literally about the liquid that flowed through his veins rather blood stands for death. Blood (or blood shed) speaks of a life being lost or laid down. When blood is used to in a spiritual context it is used to refer more specifically to that life being laid down as sacrifice.
Peter describes Jesus’ "blood", his death, as "precious blood" – it is a sacrifice of enormous worth and value. This is something he further emphasised by comparing Jesus’ blood to that of the sacrificial animal par excellence, the lamb, which had to meet a rigorous set of conditions before it was deemed suitable for offering in sacrifice. The lamb had to be "without blemish or spot" that is it was not allowed to have any physical defects or else it was immediately disqualified. The reference when applied to Christ is not to be understood in physical but in moral and spiritual terms – he was unblemished when it came to matters of sin and moral corruption – as Peter would put it a little later in this same letter:
1Pet.2:22 "He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth."
The voluntary sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ is a wonderful subject for Christians to study. His death was and is the means of him securing once for all the salvation that he offers freely to us in the gospel. This salvation must never be regarded as monotone or one dimensional for it is multifaceted and extremely rich. We need to appreciate something of this richness so that our appreciation of the Saviour and his work might grow.
Here this evening we have seen that another way of understanding just what Jesus did when he died for us was that he died in order to ransom us from the futile, empty, pointless lives that without him we would simply go on living until we died.
Let us give thank and praise him for this great salvation.