Peter is writing to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor who have been experiencing trials and difficulties. Peter warns that in the near future they will have to face significant persecution – described in 4:12 as a ‘painful (lit. ‘fiery’) trial’. They need encouragement and Peter provides this by reminding them of the great foundation truths of the faith on which their eternal welfare rests. He has much to say about the work of Christ and its results for those who put their trust in him. We consider the encouragement offered in 1 Peter 1:18-19 A Lamb without blemish.
1. An empty life
Peter provides a vivid description of ‘the empty way of life’ from which they have been saved. Life lived according to man’s fallen nature is characterised by aimlessness – ‘the futility of their thinking’ (Ephesians 4:17). As we look around we see that the lives of many are aimless, with no idea of why they are in the world or how they ought to live. If there is no God to whom we are answerable, why not live to please ourselves? This is true of both younger people and older people, even though the ways in which such futility shows itself vary considerably. Like the rich farmer in Luke 12:20 they are fools in God’s sight. This way of life is ‘handed down to you from your forefathers’ – the sinful nature we inherit from Adam asserts itself in every generation. As Ecclesiastes 1:2 states the matter – such a life is ‘vanity’ – emptiness, meaninglessness. It offers no lasting fruit (see Romans 6:21).
2. A useless payment
There are those who, for various reasons, come to realise the emptiness of such a godless life and seek to produce their own solution. Sin, however, still warps their thinking and they seek redemption through ‘silver and gold’. This sums up all man’s attempts to save himself. He may depend on good works or try to avoid sin by his own willpower. Some rely on religious observances, such as church attendance or presence at Communion. This also shows itself in the popularity of various religions and cults. None of these ways is a solution. All are condemned as ‘perishable’ – none produces lasting results. Good works apart from faith promote pride and self-reliance. We cannot possibly pay our debt of sin – ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6). All hopes offered by these ways are delusions, of no value in God’s sight. Something greater than we can provide is needed.
3. A costly redemption
Peter speaks of Christians being ‘redeemed’ – a ransom must be paid if we are to be released from the captivity of sin. We are slaves of sin and Satan, standing under the broken law of God which brings on us his holy wrath. The cost is ‘the precious blood of Christ’ – the fact is that, because sin is so serious, ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’ (Hebrews 9:22). It seems Peter has in mind the Passover lamb by which the Israelites were redeemed (Exodus 66). Jesus the Lamb of God shed his blood to redeem the people of God – Titus 2:14, Mark 10:45. He is the sinless One – ‘without blemish or defect’. He has done all we need and we can rejoice in the amazing love of God revealed in the death of the Lamb.