Live Here In Fear—1 Peter 1:17-21



17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear [the title of this sermon came from here: Live Here In Fear]: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:17–21)


Live here in fear. Does that sound right? Does God want us to live in fear? After all, we can find verses like 1 John 4:18:


18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18).


There are, however, different kinds of fear in the Bible. It is important to to look at the context of the verses. In 1 John 4:18, you will find that it is speaking about having a confident boldness in the day of judgment. 


Elsewhere in the Bible, we find that we are not to fear persecution of our faith (1 Peter 3:14; Revelation 2:10); That we should speak the Word of God without fear (Philippians 1:14); and that we are not to fear death as Christians (Revelation 2:10).


Yet there is a fear we are to have, a reverent fear or, you could say, an awe of God, a respect of God…that is the kind of fear in view here.


Oswald Chambers, a pastor from the early 1900’s, said:


The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.


Fear of God is not to be a fear that is dread or anxiety. It’s the healthy fear that we mortal humans should have before a great and awesome God.


A good driver will have a reverent fear of the cars around them and of the great speed that vehicles can travel at. It’s not that they are anxious and in dread of driving—that would be a scary driver! But they aren’t careless about what they are doing when they drive. A good driver has a healthy, reverent fear of a car’s speed and power and of having an accident.


It is surprising how many Christians today donʼt have a reverent fear or awe of God…one classmate of mine described Jesus as his “cuddly wuddly bear.” I think I understand what he was trying to do—to describe the love and grace he receives from God—but he did it without much consideration for the whole character of God. God is not a stuffed animal, he is powerful and holy and dangerous and should be respected as such. 


God is not the “big cheese” or “the guy upstairs” either…these terms are degrading and indicate that we do not have a proper respect for God. 


Other Christians display a lack of reverent fear or awe of God simply by not thinking about him very often. He does not enter into their decisions that they make in their daily lives. In fact, when we sin, it displays at least a momentary lack of fear, awe, or reverence of God. 


I asked the evangelist at our Bible Camp this question (and it’s a good question for all of us to ponder): in what ways do Christians (and we each should just say “I”) display a lack of reverent fear or awe of God? Right away he said, “Selfishness.” He went on to say that we often let our self-will rise above God’s will in our lives. We let our old selfish nature get off the altar that it has been crucified on. Whenever we let our self, our old nature, rule in our lives, we are displaying a lack of reverent fear or awe of God. 


Which brings us to Peter…look at the end of 1:17 where we find the main, controlling idea for verses 17 to 21: “pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:” Another way of saying that is “Live Here in Fear.” 




1 Peter 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 


“And if ye call on the Father”—Peter is really just saying, “since you are a Christian.” But he phrases it this way because he wants to emphasize God’s authority.


A father is to the authority over his family…some fathers have used their authority wrongly and others have used it wisely—there are no perfect earthly fathers. Yet God tells us to honor our fathers and mothers…to reverence them, to fear them. 


If we are to fear or respect our earthly fathers authority, how much more are we to respect our heavenly Fatherʼs authority!


Peter says that God the Father “…without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work.” A good judge must be impartial, no matter who is standing before his bench. 


I read about a judge in New Jersey who refused to try a teenage boy as an adult for the brutal rape of a teenage girl. In a statement, the judge said the…


“…young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well. He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high,” [The judge also noted that the teenager] was an Eagle Scout. (


Was the judge being partial or impartial? That judge got censured because he was partial in his judgment. He chose to overlook a rich kid’s crime because of who the kid was. 


Our Father in Heaven is completely impartial in his judgments. Have you ever found yourself thinking that you have built up enough brownie points with God that you could get away with a few sins here and there? These are called presumptuous sins…we just figure that God’s gonna forgive us, so why not have a little fun?


Maybe that’s what Ananias and Sapphira thought when they lied to the apostles (and the Holy Spirit) about the amount of money that they had supposedly given to God’s work. Perhaps they thought, “We are giving a lot of money to the apostles…what difference does it make if we keep back some for ourselves and don’t mention it? Nobody gets hurt. We get a well-deserved pat on the back.”


Was God partial to their reasoning?


3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. 5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. (Acts 5:3–6)


A little while later, the same thing happened to Sapphira. When God judges he is completely impartial. Our Father does not play favorites.


We are to live here in reverent fear and awe of God’s authority. Our loving God has the authority to judge…believer and unbeliever, living and dead…everyone. 


Now, to be clear: if you are a believer, God won’t judge you by sending you to Hell. But he will discipline you—like a loving Father should—to get you back on the right track (Hebrews 12:7, 11). That’s the authority of our Heavenly Father.


We are to live here in reverent fear and awe of God’s authority. 




1 Peter 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 


The word “redeemed” is a great theological word. It means to buy back or to set free by paying a ransom. In the Roman Empire, you could become a slave in many ways. You could be taken prisoner when your city got conquered. You could be enslaved for failing to pay a debt or for committing a crime.


The way out of slavery was to be “redeemed,” or bought back, by someone else. Typically, a slave would never be in a condition to buy themselves out of slavery. He would never get enough gold or silver to be able to do it,


Theologically, we are in bondage to sin. Peter describes our lives as “vain conversation,” meaning, “empty living.” I think Peter is referring to the sinful lives that we, our parents, and all those before us live because we are all born with sinful natures—we are born in bondage to sin. That’s why our lives are vain, futile, empty without redemption. 


The most valuable things we can think of—“silver and gold”—are not sufficient to buy our freedom. In fact, Peter calls silver and gold, “corruptible things,” even though we typically think of them as imperishable. 


What can redeem us? What can buy us back? Nothing…


1 Peter 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 


An empty, futile life can only be redeemed with the most precious thing: the blood of a Lamb that is wholly perfect and completely unblemished, without any flaw. That Lamb is Jesus. 


Why is blood necessary for the forgiveness of sins? Because the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and, Leviticus 17:11 teaches us, the life of the flesh is in the blood. This is why there were animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. God was teaching his people how necessary it was for blood to be shed for the covering of sin. But, the Bible tells us,


4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)


The Old Testament sacrifices were only temporary coverings for sin that also pointed ahead to a perfect sacrifice—Jesus. The only thing that can redeem our imperfect lives forever is the perfect life of Jesus. 


How can we live in reverent awe of God’s redemption? As Christians, we live in awe of God’s redemption when we are secure in our redemption. For instance, we might still suffer guilt for sins that we have confessed over and over again. This is an indication that we are having problems trusting Jesus to forgive us.


To live in reverent awe of God’s redemption of us means that when we sin, we confess our sin and, in amazement, realize that we are clean again. It means that we claim the promise of 1 John 1:9–


9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)


That’s why songs like “Complete in Thee” are so important to me. They remind us that Christ’s sacrifice was totally sufficient for us. Nothing needs to be added for us to be redeemed, forgiven, and made clean:


Complete in Thee, No work of mine

Could take, dear Lord,The place of Thine.

Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,

And I shall stand Complete in Thee.


Live here in reverent fear and awe of God’s redemption. 




In verse 20, Peter says that Christ was…


1 Peter 1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 


The Old Testament sacrifices were not a mistake on God’s part. He did not institute the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and a few years later go, “Well, shucks, it just ainʼt gonna work, Iʼll have to think up a new plan.” 


There has always been one plan since “before the foundation of the world:” Christ crucified, risen and coming again. If you are a Christian, the plan for your salvation was a billion billion years in the making!


We also learn that Christ “was manifest in these last times for you.” Eons after the plan to save humanity was hatched in the minds of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Son was manifest—or appeared—on earth. The word “manifest” (phaneroō) has the sense of revealing something that was hidden. Listen to how John puts it:


14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)


18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18)


God’s plan was made before the foundation of the world to reveal God to you through Christ and to die for you.


Don’t miss those two little words at the end of verse 20. Peter says that the death of Christ was “for you” We mustn’t think of the death of Christ as something that happened long ago and far away. It is intensely personal. Christ died for you. Just imagine…God knew about you and planned your salvation “before the foundation of the world.” 


Is there an event in your life that still seems like it happened yesterday, even though it may have been years ago? Maybe it’s your wedding, Or the death of a loved one. Why does it feel like yesterday? Because it’s so personal. 


Two thousand years ago God’s plan came to fruition when Christ gave his life on the cross. For those who believe, however, it could have been yesterday. Why? Because it’s so personal. It’s not a historical Christ that we believe in, it’s a very real, present, and living Christ that we believe in.


Look at what the next verse says about our belief:


1 Peter 1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 


Christians come to believe in the true God through Jesus Christ. That is God’s plan. We don’t come to God through another religion or philosophy—no one does. Jesus is the only way to God, the only way of salvation.


12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)


How do we know that believing in God through Jesus Christ is the right way? How do we know that our faith and hope is in the right place? Because God has proven that Jesus is the only way to believe in him. How? God “raised [Jesus] up from the dead and gave him glory.” The resurrection is the proof that Jesus’s death bought our redemption. 


God’s plan, before the foundation of the world—before Adam and Eve ever sinned—was to send Jesus Christ to show his glory among humanity and to die for our sins and to be raised from the dead so that we might have faith and hope in God. 


We must have a revenant fear and awe of God’s plan to save us. Jonathan Edwards, in a famous sermon, described our precarious situation:


Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf; and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock (The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 2. Banner of Truth Trust, 1974)


The fact that you are a sinner means that you are destined for Hell. God determines the day of your death, and when your day is up, nothing you do or have—not any righteousness you have—can keep you from falling into Hell.


But it doesn’t have to be that way. God has a plan—a way to save you—if you have a reverent awe of him and his plan of salvation. The Bible says, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3a)


Eternity isn’t something to be trifled with. We need to have a reverent fear that we are dangling by a thread over eternity. Don’t just hope that you’ll be good enough to make it to Heaven. Don’t try to make your own plan of salvation. Know that God’s plan is the only plan of salvation. Place your faith and hope in Jesus Christ now before it’s too late!


Levi Durfey


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