Fifty years ago, when I asked people if they were going to Heaven, most replied that they didn’t know for sure. That question led to opportunities to explain that we CAN know the destination of our eternal soul. We can know without a doubt that we are children of God. You can know. When the same question is asked today, there are still many people who say, “I don’t know for sure,” or “I hope so.” But it seems to me that far more people today just don’t care. The question is irrelevant in our secular society. There is far less thought about life after this life. What a tragedy in either case, because I am convinced that, with some exceptions, only those who know for sure they have been delivered from their sins, have actually been saved, redeemed and born again. “I hope so,” usually comes from the person who is confused and is, as a result, eternally lost.
As I’ve said many times thus far in this study, Peter’s letter was being read by people who were Christians. This is not a gospel tract, designed to bring the unbeliever to the Saviour. Peter is assuming things about the people to whom he is writing. And so he freely talks about God’s election of these people; about their spiritual birth and eternal inheritance. He refers to the end of their salvation and the grace which is to be brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And now he says, “Forasmuch as ye KNOW that ye were… redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ… see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (verse 22).
With that statement we come back to my theme: we can know without a doubt that we are redeemed. It is a Biblical fact which is often expressed. The Apostle John said in I John 5:13: “These thing have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life…” Paul said that it was one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to our human spirit “that we are children of God.” And to the Corinthians he added, “We KNOW that if our earthly house of this tabernacle (our body) is dissolved (dies), we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Peter is not directly trying to make the same point. He just says as a matter of fact before moving on: “since you know you have been redeemed…”
And with that I ask you again: “Do YOU know whether or not you have been redeemed?” Has the Spirit of God enlightened you about your salvation? Do you understand redemption? Have you come to see yourself as redeemed? If your answer is “no,” then a follow up question is: “Why don’t you trust Christ for His salvation?” And again, if you aren’t sure whether or not you are redeemed, then it is likely you are not a child of God.
Let me share with you a story I heard so often early in my Christian life I’ve deliberately never used it myself. Sometimes it is attributed to A.J. Gordon, a Baptist pastor in Boston, who died in 1895. But I’ve also heard it attributed to S.D. Gordon, another Baptist who was not related to A.J. I am going to assume that true, no matter what its source. One day Pastor Gordon met a young boy swinging a rusty cage with several terrified sparrows inside. He asked, “Son, where did you get those birds?” The reply was: “They are mine, I trapped them.” “What are you going to do with them?” “I’m going to play with them for a while, and then, I guess, I’ll feed them to my old cat. He loves birds.” Gordon looked with pity on the birds and then said he’d like to buy them – cage and all. The boy replied, “Mister you don’t want them. They are just little old wild birds. They are good for nothing. They can’t sing or anything. They are just going to die.” When Bro. Gordon offered the boy two dollars in coin, the lad took the money, giving the cage to the man and saying, “You’re making a bad bargain.” After the exchange was made, the boy went off, thoroughly pleased with himself, while Pastor Gordon took the cage behind the church building. He opened the rusty door, and one by one the birds made their escape. The preacher said that he imagined them flying off twittering, “Redeemed, redeemed. I am free.” My point is: those birds knew the difference between freedom and continuing in that cage. You can know that you have been set free. You can know that you are redeemed.
There are several Greek words in the Bible which are translated with some form of “to know.” Their variety point to different kinds of knowledge or different ways of knowing things. Some speak of knowing things, because they have been experienced. “Once burned, twice shy.“ Some of those words speak of knowing things through study; the employment of observation and thought. Some people have never touched a hot stove or been burned by a campfire. But by observation and logic, they decide not to put their hands in the flames. The word Peter uses speaks of knowledge in the sense of perceiving or understanding. Someone had taught them the doctrinal truths about redemption. “Forasmuch as ye (UNDERSTAND) that ye were… redeemed… with the precious blood of Christ… see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” True Christians are people who have come to see that they have been redeemed. Do you have that understanding? Are you absolutely sure?
Have you ever come to see the meaning of the word “REDEEMED?”
It basically means “to liberate” or more specifically, “to release after the payment of a ransom.” Keep that definition in mind as I read these New Testament scriptures. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and REDEEMED his people.” The two Christians on the Emmaus Road said of Christ, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have REDEEMED Israel…” “We hoped that Jesus would have been the one to LIBERATE Israel.” Elsewhere we read: “Christ hath REDEEMED us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Christ Jesus came “to REDEEM them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” He “gave himself for us, that he might REDEEM us from all iniquity.” As Brother Bowles read earlier, in heaven, the saints shall sing in praise to the Lamb of God: “for thou wast slain, and hast REDEEMED us to God by thy blood …”
Those are scriptures which use the verb “to redeem.” Here are some others which use the noun “redemption.” Christians are sinners who have been “justified freely by (God’s) grace through the REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus.” “But of (God) are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and REDEMPTION.” In (Christ) we have REDEMPTION through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” “And for this cause he (Christ) is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the REDEMPTION of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”
All of these verses are from the New Testament, but the Old Testament has more. Obviously with so many statements, redemption is an important Biblical subject. Have you come to see it? Do you understand it? Have you been redeemed?
If redemption refers to being “released after the payment of a ransom” then the next question is: WHY?
If redemption refers to being “released after the payment of a ransom” from what are we being released? Why is redemption necessary? The answer is “slavery.”
It is a very nasty part of our history, but two hundred years ago, many people in this country owned slaves. Two hundred years ago there were thousands of slaves in America. I don’t need to get into the hideousness of slavery. But I’ll point out just one thing: One part of the culture of slavery was that when two slaves had children, those children automatically became slaves like their parents.
Another nasty fact is that our first father, Adam, enslaved himself to sin by responding to the temptation of Satan. He put himself under the judgment of God by breaking the Lord’s first commandment. And as a result, when Adam and Eve, who by then were slaves to sin, brought children into the world, those babies were slaves to the same master. That is not my religious philosophy; that is not simply a part of my personal theology. That is what the Bible declares. “By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Rom. 5:19). That one man was Adam and his sin is clearly seen in Genesis 3. And those “many” who were made sinners were actually “all” of Adam’s descendants. David nailed it when he said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” He wasn’t talking about some immorality that his mother committed during her lifetime. He was expressing the Biblical doctrine that all our parents are sinners – slaves to sin – and all their children come into the world just like themselves. And now death has reigned over mankind for more than 6,000 years, because Adam made us all sinners. But – there is redemption available.
In Revelation 5 we read of former sinners enjoying and worshiping Christ Jesus. the Lamb of God. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain… And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne (God the Father). And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders (God’s saints) fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast REDEEMED us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
Those words: “made us kings and priests” takes my heart back some of the words of Peter. “But (now) ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God…” He was speaking of the twenty-four elders of Revelation 5 pictures and representatives of all God’s saints. The people who Christ has redeemed were all spiritually dead and slaves to sin. Spiritual zombies. But because of God’s grace and redemption they are free to worship and serve the Saviour.
It is important to understand TO WHOM the ransom is being paid.
Three weeks ago I put a short note in our church bulletin, which some of you probably missed. It was a quote by Fenton Hort, of the infamous Westcott and Hort duo. He said that the idea that Christ paid a ransom to God the Father was absolutely repugnant to him. He preferred the theory that sinners are redeemed from the clutches of Satan. But of course the man had no understanding of the Biblical doctrine because he was not a Christian. He is responsible for hundreds of the new Bible versions published over the last 120 years, but the man was not a child of God.
Christ’s ransom was not presented to the devil, Satan. While it is true that when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, we walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience, the children of wrath (Eph. 2). And it is true that we were by nature children of our father the Devil (John 8:44). But the ransom which redeemed us was not paid to Satan. That would be similar to kidnappers, telling the hysterical parents to take their ransom money to the federal prison, giving it to a man, living in solitary confinement and with only a few months to live on death row. Satan needs redemption as much as any human sinner. But for him, there is no hope. Salvation is by grace, and the Lord has sovereignly determined not to be gracious towards the devil.
The Book of Exodus is, as the name implies, about Israel’s departure from Egypt – their exodus. One of the great themes of that book is the redemption which made that exodus possible. And the story bears details very similar to our own salvation from sin. The nation of Israel was enslaved in that country. The people had no personal freedom. They couldn’t worship the Lord the way they should have, but the fact is, they didn’t really want to. They didn’t necessarily have chains on their legs, but they couldn’t leave Egypt, and they were so enslaved by their version of the “Stockholm syndrom,” they didn’t want to leave anyway. But they were outside the land of Promise. Their lives were not their own. And then the gracious God stepped in, providing a way of escape. It was called the “Passover.” A lamb, or goat, was sacrificed, and its blood was painted on the door posts of the believer’s homes. That sacrifice – that blood – was the reason the death angel passed over those homes. Then the next day those redeemed Israelites exited Egypt.
The ransom necessary to save the first born sons of Israel was the sacrifice of God’s designated lamb. And to whom was the sacrifice made? It was to Jehovah. It was not presented to pharaoh. It was not to Satan. It was not to Israel’s taskmasters. It was not to anyone but to God. Our enslavement is to sin and it is due to sin. Our offense is before God and under His law. The ransom providing our exodus is paid to Jehovah to satisfy the demands that His law has against us. As Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…”
It is important to understand just WHAT the ransom INVOLVES.
The ransom required for our eternal salvation couldn’t include anything impure, unfit or corruptible. Peter says, that not even silver or gold are pure and sufficient for our redemption. Such materials might satisfy a human kidnapper, but not the holy God.
If you walk into a jewelry store and ask for something made of pure gold, the sales people would happily accommodate you by showing you items marked “24 karat.” But despite their words, that is not pure gold. In the industry, there is some leeway regarding what constitutes fine gold. The purest type of gold currently commercially available is 999.99 pure, often called “five nines fine.” The Royal Canadian Mint is one of the few entities which produces coins from this level of fine gold. Just below this is 999.9, or “four nines fine,” and examples include the American Buffalo and Canadian Gold Maple Leaf coins. Most commonly however, fine gold is 999. This is the gold most commonly referred to as “24 karat.” My point is: the purest valuable in the world is not perfectly pure. And our redemption requires greater purity than “five nines” of gold.
For the ancient Israelite, the ransom had to come through a lamb or goat of the first year – nothing older and no other kind of clean animal. And it was to be as pure and perfect as possible. Exodus 12:5: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.” It was to be brought into the beleiver’s home, becoming like one of their pets or even as a child. For nearly a week, the family had opportunity to see that it was the best possible animal available. But of course, perfection is impossible in this world.
“Five nines fine” in gold or in lambs, isn’t good enough for our sin-sick souls. Not only must the right sacrifice be made, but perfection must be the standard. Paul, in speaking about other sacrifices admitted, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” To remove our sins and to ransom our souls, we need “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 10:10). How does that work? How can the sacrifice of Christ be sufficient? Remember, He was not only the son of man, but He is the Son of God. And “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” And thus “by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Peter tells us that from before the foundation of the earth, God designed the sacrifice necessary for our redemption. “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; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…”
The people to whom Peter was writing, understood that they had been redeemed by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do YOU have that understanding? Or perhaps a better question should be: “Have you been redeemed?” Have you flown through the open cage door, trusting that Christ’s sacrifice opened it for you? Are you humble and repentant enough to have given up all personal hope to redeem yourself with all your gold, silver, efforts and morality? Are you trusting Christ for deliverance from sin? I assure you, there is no other way. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (an Him alone) and thou shalt be saved.”