Godly fear is not merely a dread of God as a hard master or vindictive judge, but a holy, reverential desire not to offend Him and a tender concern to please Him in all things. It is a filial fear, born in reverence in a spirit of adoration. Fear of God is not inconsistent with loving Him or with us knowing that He loves us. Rather, the fear of displeasing Him is the necessary counterpart to loving Him. We often set our hopes and fears too low, hoping and fearing temporary things, but God calls us to hope in and fear Him, who is eternal.
I. God is an Impartial Judge (verse 17a)
God is the best Father and He is also the most righteous Judge. Membership in His family is a great privilege, but privilege must not lead to presumption or to thinking that disobedience to God will go unnoticed or undisciplined. Because He is an impartial judge, we can be sure that the motive of our actions, manner of performance, and end for which we acted will be investigated and sentenced according to their real quality.
II. Your Stay on Earth is Short (verse 17b)
As “aliens” in this world (1:1), Christians are merely sojourning and passing through (c.f. James 4:14). Given the temporary nature of our lives here, we must be intentional about conducting ourselves in fear, making the most of our time. We should conduct all aspects of our lives in the fear of the Lord knowing, “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Proverbs 28:14).
III. Because You Were Redeemed from Futility (verse 18)
“Futility” points to the meaninglessness of life. Peter’s use of redemption here is not directly related to sin and guilt, as much as it is used to note the contrast of their vain lives before Christ saved them. In Christ, we were redeemed from meaningless, empty, and worthless lives, and we were redeemed to live for that which is of ultimate meaning, value, and worth. We were taken out of the sphere of sinful patterns of life and put into the sphere of obedience to God. The hereditary chain of sin is broken by Christ; the cross of Christ breaks the cycle of vanity.
IV. Because Christ’s Blood is Precious (verse 19)
The blood of Christ is precious, more valuable than the best of perishable things (c.f. 1 Peter 2:4). His blood cleanses our conscience (Hebrews 9:14), gives us bold access to God (Hebrews 10:14), conquers our accuser (Revelation 12:11), and rescues us out of a sinful way of life. God is not pleased if we casually disregard the practical and ethical purposes of His redemption and reconciliation. If we continue to live according to the former futile way of life, we are implicitly denying the value of Christ’s death.
V. Because His Humility Gives You Hope (verses 20-21)
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world. He is eternal and infinite. The Second Person of the Trinity has always been. He is of one essence with the Father. But He humbled Himself, voluntarily subordinating Himself at the incarnation when He took on flesh like ours. He humbled Himself even to the point of death on the cross for us, in order that we might have hope.
- Godly fear results in running away from sin and temptation, and running to God. Being in awe of God does not drive us away from Him, but woos us to His care and compassion. Consider the great love of Christ for you—the burden it bore, the sorrow it felt, the misery through which it traveled, the humiliation it underwent, its groans, its sighs, its darkness. Consider the sins it has pardoned, the guilt it has cleansed, the declensions it has restored, the sorrows it has soothed, the patience it has exercised, the gentleness it has exhibited. Could any other but the love of God in Christ have endured this? Do you address God as Father through this redeeming love of Christ? Do you conduct your life in fear? In what ways is the fear of God demonstrated in your life? In what ways do you need to grow in your fear?