Summary: Presents the great value of the redemption we have.
Let’s review Peter’s letter. Remember, he is following the ancient letter form. In verses 1,2 he identifies himself, then his readers and adds a greeting. He next writes a thanksgiving covering verses 3-12. In verse 13, he begins the body of the letter, which goes through 5:11.
We had noted that the form itself is not significant; however, the way that Peter invests it with Christian meaning is. He uses the first elements of letter writing to lift up the eyes of his readers to the hope that they have in Christ. They have been born again into a great hope of an eternal inheritance. He uses that hope then to exhort the believers to live holy lives. He is saying to them, “Considering the wonderful hope to which you have been called, live lives worthy of such a hope.” In our passage today, verses 18-21, he provides further motivation, this time focusing their attention to the great value of their redemption that allows them to have their hope.
For you know… that you were redeemed. What does “redeemed” mean? The term means “ransomed from captivity.” Very often the context in both Scripture and the ancient world in general was redemption from slavery. If you were captured by an enemy and made a hostage or sold into slavery, your family could redeem you by paying a ransom fee. Or you might be a slave who was able to come up with the money agreed upon by your master, and you offered your own ransom payment.
The great illustration of redemption in the Old Testament is the story of Hosea and his wife Gomer. After bearing three sons, Gomer ran away and ended up in slavery. God eventually instructed Hosea to reclaim his wife. He reported the following: So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about 10 bushels of barley (Hosea 3:2). Hosea redeemed Gomer; he paid the ransom price to release her from whoever owned her that they might again live as husband and wife.
Now that leads us to a question: Who is it, or what is it, that owns us? What are we slaves to? The answer is simple – sin. Paul expresses it well in Romans 7:14,25:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin... 25 So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
How is it that we are enslaved to sin? We are enslaved to the acts of sin. Psychologically, you might say we are obsessive-compulsive sinners. We sin every which way we can and as often as we can. Our best works are accompanied by sinful thoughts and actions. Sin is a disease with us that infects every cell of our bodies. Listen to a sample of Scripture’s diagnosis of man:
Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:9,10).
All our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Surely Jesus had a more charitable view of man:
For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean” (Mark 7:21-23).
I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34).
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts (Matthew 7:11).
We are enslaved to the consequence of sin – death. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). From the moment we are born we are drawn to our doom and we cannot escape it. Death awaits us all, how ever long we may live in the body, how ever good we may act, how ever care we take of our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
We are enslaved to the three rulers or agents of sin. Satan reigns over us; our own flesh corrupts us; and the world unceasingly lures us away from God. The result is that even the good law of God becomes a burden that we cannot bear and our condemnation exposing our sin. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20).
Here is the bottom line:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).