Jesus Bought Your Holiness

Jesus did not just die to make salvation possible – He died to actually save His sheep. Jesus’ blood is mighty to save.

JDudgeon on November 5, 2023
Jesus Bought Your Holiness
November 5, 2023

Jesus Bought Your Holiness

Passage: 1 Peter 1:17-19
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Last week we began a discussion on fear. As Peter instructs us on how to live in the light of the grace of God, he told us, in verse 17, that if we “call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.”

We saw last week that “conduct yourselves with fear” was the main command in this passage, and it’s supported by two reasons. The first reason is that God our father is also our judge. Knowing that He’s going to evaluate us based on what we’ve done, knowing that we all must appear before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), we are to live our lives with a sense of holy fear. Not a fear that would make us run away from God, but a proper fear of what He will do if we spend our lives running away from Him.

And if you weren’t here last week, and the thought of God judging Christians sounds like heresy to you, I encourage you to listen to or read last week’s message on the website, and please feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

Today, as we turn to verse 18, Peter is opening up a second major reason for why we need to conduct ourselves with fear. And it has to do with the death of Jesus on the cross. Conduct yourselves with fear, “knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or good, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

“Ransomed,” which can be translated as “redeemed,” is speaking about the price that was paid for us on the cross by Jesus. There’s a rich Old Testament background to this word, going back to Israel being ransomed from slavery in Egypt, and the idea was carried on throughout Israel’s history when a price was paid to free a person from being enslaved, or paying for a property to keep it from being lost to a family.

And Peter here reminds His readers that they’ve been ransomed with the blood of Jesus. They have been bough and paid for. It’s a similar point that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 6 when he says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). According to Peter, the fact that we’ve been ransomed is given as a reason to live in holy fear.

And there’s just some massive ideas in these words that we want to make sure we do our best to understand so that we can really get Peter’s point.

An Effective Redemption

Let’s start with the first key idea, which is that Christ’s redemption was an effective redemption. Here’s what I mean by that: Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t just crate the possibility of making us save-able. Rather, the price that Jesus paid for us on the cross actually accomplished something concrete and actual. He actually redeemed us.

What do I mean by “making us save-able”? It’s this idea, held by many people, that Jesus died for every human in the exact same way. He died for you and Hitler in the same way, with the same intention of making it possible to be saved.

And the only difference between you and Hitler is that you responded to Jesus and Hitler didn’t. It’s as if Jesus’ death on the cross was like throwing a drowning person a life preserver. You’ve given them the option of being saved from drowning, but now it’s entirely up to them to grab on to that ring and be saved. The ball is in their court.

And many people believe that’s what the death of Jesus did. It opened up the possibility of salvation, but left the ball in our court. Whether or not we’re saved is now up to us. And in the end, it’s our response instead of Jesus’ death that makes the final difference between heaven and hell.

It’s a common idea that I used to believe. But I no longer believe it because I don’t think it’s what the Bible teaches. I don’t think the Bible teaches that Jesus died to make us sayable. I think the Bible teaches that Jesus died to actually save us.

We can see this truth right there in the word for “ransom,” or “redeem.” If someone is a slave, and you pay for their freedom, you haven’t just created the possibility of their freedom. You’ve actually made them free. They no longer belong to the old owner. They now belong to you, because you bought them.

And in the same way, Scripture points to the truth that Jesus actually bought a specific group of people when He died for them on the cross.

Jesus speaks about these chosen people and His mission to save them in John 6:37-39: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

Hear what Jesus is saying, there is a people, whom God chose before the foundation of the world and gave to His son. And Jesus came down to save them effectively and effectually. Not just to make them saveable, but to actually save them.

A few chapters later Jesus spoke about these people when He said, in John 10:11, Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “The sheep” are a particular group of people that He died for in a particular way. After all, just a few verses later He told the Pharisees, “you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:26–28).

So again, there’s that idea of Jesus saving His chosen people by dying for them in an effective way. And Scripture after Scripture tells us this same truth—that Jesus died for His people in a particular way, and that His death actually accomplished their salvation in an effective way.

  • “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
  • Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
  • But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one.” (Ephesians 2:14: )
  • Colossians 1:19-20 says that the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Jesus “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

You see there that Jesus’ blood didn’t just make things possible. It actually did something. It actually brought us near, actually made us one, actually made peace, actually freed us from lawlessness, actually purified us, actually caused us to belong to him, and actually made us zealous for good works.

Jesus bought us on the cross. His death actually saved us.

Now don’t get me wrong—I believe that there is also  sense in which we can say that Jesus died for everybody. There is a sense in which the death of Jesus is enough to pay for the sins of anybody and everybody in the world. And I believe we have biblical warrant to say to anybody, anywhere, that if they believed, they would find forgiveness in the death of Jesus.

So I’m not saying less than that. But I am saying that there is gloriously more than that. Scripture tells us that while the death of Jesus is sufficient for the whole world, it was particularly effective for a specific group of people, His sheep, His bride, His church, the people chosen by the Father before the foundation of the world and given to Christ to redeem.

Here’s another question—what about our response? Isn’t it important for us to believe in order to be saved? Isn’t salvation “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:22)? Absolutely and amen.

But even that response of faith something that Jesus gets the credit for. Ephesians 2:8 says that even our faith is a part of God’s gift so that nobody can boast. Down in verse 21 in 1 Peter here, we read that it’s through Jesus we are believers in God. It all comes back to Jesus. He ransomed us. His death effectively saved His people. The blood of Jesus didn’t just create new possibilities, but actually made new realities.

A Redemption From Sin

And one of those new realities is redemption from sin. Not just a redemption from punishment for sin, but redemption from sin itself.

Redemption from punishment is a wonderful truth we celebrate often and don’t want to downplay at all. Jesus died to redeem us from the penalty of sin by taking that penalty for us. “On the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”

But Peter is showing us that there’s more to this. By satisfying the demands of justice, Jesus was also redeeming us from the presence of sin itself. Not just God’s wrath, but also the futile ways inherited from our forefathers.

We heard this already in Titus 2:14, which says that Jesus redeemed us from lawlessness. We heard it in Ephesians 5, which says that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25–27).

Jesus didn’t just purchase our forgiveness. He also purchased our holiness. He bought and paid for our transformation from “futile conduct” to “holy conduct.”

This transformation happens through the Spirit. Having died and ascended to the Father’s right hand, Jesus poured out the Spirit who gives us a new birth and causes us to hunger and thirst for righteousness from the inside out.

And this is why Christians must live in holy fear—because freedom from the presence of sin is one of the aims of the death of Christ. We can’t be casual about sin by living in the things that Jesus died to save us from.

If we do, if we do keep living on in unbroken sin, we demonstrate that we haven’t actually been saved. We haven’t actually been ransomed.

That’s why Jesus can tell us to gouge out our eye if it causes us to sin, and threatens us with hell if we don’t (Matthew 5:29). That’s not about salvation by works. That’s about Jesus getting what He died for: a holy, Spirit-indwelled people who are zealous for Good works. The presence of the Spirit making us hate sin and fight against it tooth and nail.

These are not things to do to get saved. These are blood-bought, Spirit-applied results of being saved. This is what Jesus died for. He ransomed us from the futile ways inherited from our forefathers.

A Redemption From the Ways of Our Fathers

That last phrase brings us to our third point, where Peter points to the fact that Jesus specifically died to ransom us from the ways of our fathers. Or, as He puts it in verse 18, “the futile ways inherited from your forefathers.”

This kind of language would have been absolutely shocking in the 1st century. The word Peter uses here for “inherited ways” is roughly equivalent to our word for “heritage.” And just like our word “heritage,” it had a very positive meaning. People’s heritage, their ancestral ways passed on from generation to generation, were thought to be the cornerstone to the very stability of society. Their heritage was to be treasured and celebrated. It was everything to them.

And Peter says they are nothing. Empty. Worthless. Something Jesus died to save us from.

It would be tempting to reduce Peter’s words here to just the religious beliefs that they had before becoming Christians. But Peter doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say, “futile beliefs.” He says “futile ways.” That word for “ways” is used all over the New Testament to talk about the whole way that we live and act. It’s the same word used in verse 17 for “conduct.”

So in other words, the whole way of life they had received from their ancestors was empty and pointless and something they’d been ransomed from.

That was shocking in the 1st Century. And this is shocking to us today. We’ve been taught to respect our heritage and other people’s heritage. Missionaries get taught this. Respecting other people’s cultures is just in the water we drink.

And Peter walks in and says “Nope. Your heritage is futile, empty, fruitless. Jesus died to save you from it.”

Now we want to make sure we really understand what Peter is talking about here. Is Peter really talking about our whole heritage, our complete human culture? Is he saying that every single thing we learned from our parents and grandparents is futile? Did Jesus die to save you from your grandma’s bread recipe, and when you become a Christian you need to leave that all behind?

Don’t be too quick to say “of course not” or “I don’t think so.” If that’s what the Bible actually says then that’s what we do. We don’t negotiate with God.

But I don’t think that’s what the Bible is actually saying. Based on Scripture, I don’t think that Peter is saying that Jesus died to save us from every last aspect of human culture. One reason I say that is because of Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”

Language is something we learn from our parents and ancestors. And it’s there in heaven. Differences between tribes and peoples are a part of our cultures and heritages, and John can see them in heaven. So Jesus hasn’t completely erased their culture.

This tells me that we shouldn’t assume that Peter is calling us to leave behind every single last thing we learned from our families, every single last part of our culture. Because some of our heritage and culture will be there in heaven.

At the very least, we can say that Jesus died to save us from every last part of our culture that is at odds with His teaching and the teaching of Scripture.

So this is probably not talking about your grandma’s bread recipe. But it might be pointing to prideful thought that your grandma’s bread recipe makes you superior to others. I’m not joking here. One of the most evil parts of even the best cultures is cultural pride—the feeling that your culture makes you superior to others.

And Christians aren’t immune to this. If you grew up in a Christian home, if you come from a lineage of Christians, you probably have felt the temptation to believe that your heritage is like a VIP pass that puts you ahead of the rest of the line, maybe just a bit closer to God than others.

And Peter’s words make us realize that even the best parts of our heritage don’t get us any closer to God than anybody else. Your culture can have the best language, the best music, the best food, the best customs, and without Jesus, you’re headed to the same hell as everybody else. Even the best heritage, without Jesus, is completely futile.

Which is why Paul could list out his Jewish heritage and say “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7). Its why he was happy to set his cultural preferences aside and adapt himself to whatever culture he was, becoming “all things to all people” in in order to win people to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:22). It’s why he could tell even try new Christians to do things that really challenged their culture, like slaves and masters and men and women treating each other as equals.

It’s why he can tell the Romans to stop eating their favourite food or drinking their favourite drink if it caused their brothers to stumble (Romans 14:21). Even your favourite cultural food and drink needs to take a backseat to Christian love. And didn’t Peter himself have to wrestle with these things on a profound level? (Acts 10-11).

So I want us to think carefully here. It’s easy for us to look at other cultures and see what we think are “futile ways” that people need to leave behind. Which is not bad. Those of you who are or will be missionaries need to think very carefully about what this passage tells us about missions, and how it challenges many assumptions of the things that you may be taught as you train to be a missionary

But Peter is not just calling those other people to exchange their heritage for the story of Jesus. He’s calling us to do the same.

Are we willing to look at our own heritage, the ways we’ve inherited from our forefathers, and be willing to call it worthless if it goes against or gets in the way of the teachings of Jesus? And are we willing, like Paul, to even set aside good things for the sake of the Great Commission? Would we sacrifice our most treasured family traditions for the sake of love?

Perhaps some of these “futile ways” are hiding in plain sight. And that’s why we so desperately need the Word of God to renew our minds and set us straight, pointing us again and again to the way of love, the way of Christ, and not the ways that we learned from our forefathers.

Now up until now we’ve been focusing on some of the challenging aspects of this passage. But can we just stop and celebrate the really good news here for a moment? Isn’t it good news that Jesus died to save us from our worthless ways we got from our parents and grandparents and those before?

Without Jesus, doesn’t sin have a way of getting passed on from one generation to the next? Don’t we see whole cultures crushed under the weight of the sins of the fathers that people can’t escape from?

And here in this room don’t some of us know what those sins of our fathers and mothers are? Ways of acting, behaving, conducting ourselves, that we might have felt in chains to—might have, were it not for the good news that Jesus rescued us. Jesus ransomed us. He set us free from repeating history.

In Christ you are not doomed to keep on making the same mistakes that your parents and this before them made. If you have been saved by Jesus, then you’ve been ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers. He died so that you’d walk in the freedom of holy fear.

With the Precious Blood of Christ

And Peter is not done. So far we’ve focused on verse 18 which talked about our ransom and what it’s from. In the second half of verse 18, moving into verse 19, we discover what we’ve been ransomed with: “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:18–19).

One way of describing Peter’s point here is that the price you pay for something determines how you treat it.

I remember learning how to drive in a big old 1986 Pontiac Parisienne. I was a careful driver, because I didn’t want to hurt anybody, but I wasn’t too worried about the car. When I hit the gas instead of the breaks in the MacDonald’s drive-through and scraped the side of the yellow barricade, I was more worried about the barricade than I was for the car.

But then there came a day when a neighbour handed me the keys to her Lexus and asked me to drive downtown to return a movie rental at Blockbuster. And I’ll never forget getting into the driver’s seat of a vehicle much newer, much nicer, and much more expensive than our old Pontiac. And as I drove to Blockbuster and back, I conducted myself with fear. It was a joyful fear, because I was driving this really awesome vehicle, and my neighbour actually trusted me with it. But I really didn’t want to hurt or damage something so valuable, and I drove as carefully as I’d ever driven before.

Peter tells us that we must conduct ourselves with fear because of the price that was paid for us. We were ransomed, “not with perishable things such as silver or gold” he says in the last part of verse 18.

This is the second time he’s talked about gold or silver being perishable—the first time was in verse 7. And the idea here is that gold and silver were among the most precious objects known to people. And Peter says that the world’s most precious objects are still perishable. They can be destroyed.

But we’ve been ransomed with something far more precious.

Imagine meeting someone who had been a slave, literally, as part of a human trafficking ring. And imagine finding out that someone had paid to set them free from this trafficking ring at a high cost, like one million dollars. How would you treat that person? How would you interact with them? I’m almost certain they’d be special to you in some form or another. You’d tell people about your one million dollar friend.

What about a billion dollars? What about ten billion dollars? How would you treat someone who had been bought at that kind of a price?

Now imagine if you were that person. From slavery to freedom at a cost that you could never have paid yourself. How thankful would you be? How carefully would you go through life, knowing that even the simple things you enjoy came at such a price? What love would you feel for the person who paid your ransom?

Here’s the punchline you knew was coming: if you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you are that person—but so much more than that person. You’ve been ransomed not with mere money, but, as verse 19 says, with “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

“Unblemished lamb” is a picture that goes back to the first passover. God passed through the land of Egypt to execute judgment on the gods of Egypt and those who had worshipped them. Israel was not exempt. God was an impartial judge and the sons of Israel deserved death as much as the Egyptians.

But salvation was found in a lamb taking their place and dying instead of them. Exodus 12:5 says that they were to take a lamb “without blemish.” And they were to kill the lambs and put their blood on the doorframes of their house. “And when I see the blood,” said the Lord in verse 13, “I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”

This system of salvation by sacrifice later became a key part of Israel’s life, and the requirement for a pure sacrifice continued. “You hall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you” said the Lord in Leviticus 22:20.

And from our vantage point, we understand that all of these animals, all of the thousands of gallons of blood that gushed forth from slit throats and was poured out, bubbling and burning, upon the altar, was just a picture of the one true and perfect sacrifice who was to come.

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Jesus was the perfect, spotless lamb. We don’t know that His body had no blemishes, but we do know that He Himself was perfect. That’s what the spotlessness of the lambs always pointed to: the perfection of Christ.

As I get older, the sinless perfection of Jesus just grows in wonder for me. Over the years I’ve seen so many heroes fall. As I’ve gotten to know even the best of men I’ve seen spots and blemishes, and I am so aware of the spots and blemishes on my own soul.

And that’s why it amazes me that Jesus is spotless. To live for 33 years in this world, surrounded by temptation as he was, with all the host of hell doing their best to make him stumble, and never, ever once give in even an inch. I think of how quickly we give in and then I see Jesus starving to death in the wilderness, most likely on the verse of collapse, and He’s telling Satan where to go.

There was never a life like this life. There was never a spotless one like this man.

And on the cross He offered up that life for us to redeem us from the futile ways we inherited from our forefathers. The spotless lamb paid for us with his blood, which here, like elsewhere in the Bible, is a picture of someone’s life.

He laid down His perfect life for us, not only satisfying God’s wrath and justice, but also effectively purchasing, making us his. He bought us back from the whole way of life we had been oppressed under for so long. He bought us the gift of the Spirit and the born-again newness of life. And all at the cost of his priceless life.

And knowing this, Peter calls us to conduct ourselves with fear. You have been paid for with such a price. You cannot be casual about sin. You can’t be relaxed about holiness. You’ve been bought at the highest price imaginable. Your holiness was bought at the highest price in the universe. And so you must conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile.

Now as I say these words, I’m talking to you who know Christ. If you don’t know Jesus this morning, you can come. Don’t wonder, “Am I one of those people Jesus died for?” The question is, “Do I believe?” God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that all those who believe would not perish but have eternal life. If you believe, come to Jesus this morning. Trust his promises, embrace His loving authority over your life, and taste the sweetness of knowing you’ve been bought.

And if you do know Christ, look to Jesus and remember the price of blood that stands over your life, your behaviour, your habits, your possessions, your holiness. Know that you were ransomed at this case.

It’s so good for us to be turning now from this passage to the Lord’s supper where we’ll remember the death of Christ for us. Because according to Peter, this is key to living a holy life: knowing the price that Jesus paid for you.

And here in the Lord’s supper, we hold bread and cup to remind us and proclaim to one another that Christ has died for us.

Let’s remember today as we do this that Christ died for our holiness. And let’s let this awareness walk with us into the days ahead, that we might know we were ransomed, that we might conduct ourselves with fear throughout the time of our exile, waiting for the return of Jesus, whose death we now proclaim until He comes.

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