RPM, Volume 16, Number 7, February 9 to February 15, 2014

Redemption Applied

1 Peter 1:21

By D. Marion Clark

1 Peter 1:21
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

In our previous passage, we looked at the subject of redemption, specifically what it means and how it is made. It means to make a ransom payment, to buy one's freedom. In our case, a payment is made to free us from the slavery of sin. This payment was made by the blood of Christ. He offered his life as payment. He took on himself our just punishment so that we may go free.

The next step for us to explore is how this redemption is actually applied to us. How do we experience it? Or do we even need to experience it? If Christ has made the payment for the world, is not the world free, whether or not we feel the experience? Remember, I had said that redemption was a matter of a change in status. We are no longer owned by sin, but by God. And I even made the point through an illustration that one man could be good yet owned by sin, and another sin and yet owned by God. Just where do we enter the picture? What role do we play, if any? How again, is redemption applied to us now? Verse 21 leads us to the answer.

Through Him You Believe in God

Look at the first phrase. In the Greek the word for believe is a plural noun. It reads, "through him you are believers in God." The communities from which the Christians came, would have considered that an odd distinction to make of the Christians. For whether Peter is speaking here to Christian Jews or Gentiles, both non-Christian Jews and Gentiles would have claimed that they were believers in God. This is not the age of atheism. God has not been discarded. The Jews would have been especially offended at such terminology. None of the readers to whom Peter is writing would have testified that they had not believed in God before. So what is Peter's meaning?

The key is found in the first two words — "through him." And to understand how close the connection these two terms are to the whole phrase, let me write it literally as presented in the Greek. Verse 21 actually does not begin a new sentence; rather, it continues the previous train of thought. Picking up with verse 20: He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for you, the through-him believers of God.

Christians are the through-Christ believers of God. The redeemed-by-Christ are the believers-through-Christ. Peter is saying, "You are now true believers in God, because, one, you know him in your redeemed status no longer being under the slavery of sin, and, two, you know him through knowing Christ." See the distinction? As slaves of sin, we could not know God because our hearts and minds were in the wrong condition. Christ's redemption changed that condition so we can now know God. Furthermore, Christ himself now reveals God to us. By knowing Christ, we can now know God.

Who Raised Him From the Dead and Glorified Him

Let's go on. If we are the ones who believe in God through Christ, God is the one who raised Christ from the dead and glorified him so that we would believe and hope in God.

This is not the only place where the resurrection and belief and hope are connected.

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).

Let's explore this connection. What is it about the resurrection that produces belief and hope? What does the resurrection signify that lends credence to our faith and nourishes our hope?

It will help to go back to the lesson of the previous chapter. What is it that Jesus did for us? He redeemed us from sin. How? By offering his precious blood as a ransom payment or sacrifice for us. But that leads to another question: how do we know that his payment, the sacrificing of his life, was sufficient? How do we know that God the Father accepted it? What if during Jesus' life, he had developed a blemish or two? Think about it: what do we hear from Jesus on the cross? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Those are not exactly the words we want to hear from one making a payment for us. The truth is we don't know if Jesus' ransom payment was sufficient without evidence, and his resurrection is that evidence.

1 Corinthians 15 gives the definitive exposition of the importance of the resurrection. Verses 17-19 summarize the consequence for Christians if Christ did not rise.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Why are we still in our sins? Because Jesus failed to turn away God's wrath with his sacrifice. He was not lifted up, not exalted by God; or at least that is the conclusion we are left with. It is only through the resurrection that we have reason to believe that Christ's redemption succeeded.

It is also through the resurrection that we believe Jesus reigns as Lord, that he was not defeated by death. The first Christian sermon, which was delivered by Peter at Pentecost, centers on the resurrection, highlighting the great victory of Jesus.

This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him... [Peter then quotes David's psalm (16) to prove how the victory over death was prophesied. He concludes:] 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact (Acts 2:23-32.)

Indeed, the resurrection is what gave the apostles faith and hope, and they understood that their mission in life was to bear testimony to the risen Lord. Cut out the resurrection and the gospel never goes forth; there is no gospel to go forth. The gospel is that Christ has made redemption for our sins, has risen from the dead and reigns over his kingdom now. For the gospel is not just about the sacrifice Jesus made back then; it is also about the ongoing ministry of Jesus now and his final work to come when he returns, neither of which can take place if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Peter notes also that Jesus was glorified. Probably he is referring to what he and the other apostles were able to see. Jesus' resurrection was itself a means of glorification; furthermore they beheld his ascension into heaven, a further means of being glorified. The point is that Jesus did not merely survive death; he conquered it and was exalted over it. As Peter went on to say in his Pentecost sermon:

Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
"The Lord said to my Lord
: 'Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.'"
36 Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:33-36.)

So, we have faith in God because the resurrection of Christ testifies to the sufficiency of his redemption and demonstrates his great power. Now I want us to also think of the relationship between hope and resurrection. To do this we must consider what the resurrection of Christ actually entails.

It means to rise from the dead, but it is more than that. Lazarus rose from the dead; Jesus raised the son of the widow from Nain and the daughter of Jairus the synagogue ruler. We do not refer to any of those cases as resurrections; they are, rather, resuscitations from the dead. They were brought back to the same physical state in which they originally lived, and eventually they all died again.

But Jesus did not die again, and he did not rise in the same state in which he had existed before he died. He rose with a resurrected, not resuscitated, body. His body was not revitalized; it was transformed.

And here is the point to this discussion: we also shall be like him. We also shall experience the resurrection.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him…
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being" the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 42-49).

That is our hope — the final resurrection of our bodies, which will take place when Christ returns. That is the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (v. 5). Our hope is not that we will go to heaven when we die. That's a good thing to take place, but it is not the final stage of our inheritance for which we hope. We ourselves have a final transformation to undergo — our bodies themselves will be in a glorified state. Whereas now we are the people of redemption, we will become the people of resurrection. Now our souls are redeemed, then our bodies will be redeemed.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved (Romans 8:23,24).

At that time the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Let's recap. Through Christ we are believers in God. His redemption put us in the right condition in which to know God, and he himself reveals to us what God is like. God raised Christ from the dead and glorified him so that we would have faith in God and put our hope in him.

Did you catch those significant two words — so that? For some reason the NIV translation has "and so your faith and hope are in God." The Greek reads "so that." Peter's point is that Christ was raised and glorified for the very purpose that we would believe. Our belief is not incidental in the plan of redemption. God devised the plan of Christ's redemption in such a way it would produce faith. For it is clear that without faith, without a response from us, Christ's work of redemption does us no good.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:15,16).

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21,22).

The work of Christ's redemption did not automatically change the status of everyone in the world. It changed only those whom God has chosen as taught in verse 1, and those whom he has chosen must come forth at some time and exercise faith. How is it that they come to exercise faith?

This where we get into redemption applied. Redemption paid is the work of Christ that takes place apart from us. It is a work "out there." Redemption applied is the work that is done in us. Verse 3 gives us a clue of this inner working: In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope. God does the work of regenerating us — planting spiritual life in us — that we may then respond to the gospel by faith and hope. Remember, without Christ we are dead in our sins. We are incapable of responding to the gospel.

This is Jesus' point to Nicodemus when he says no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again (John 3:3). We do not exercise faith and then as a result become born again. We must be born again in order to enter the kingdom by faith.

Later in John 6, he makes the same point, this time discussing faith, the necessity of God's inner working, and our final resurrection.

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day... 44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:39,40,44).

Follow Jesus' argument: To have eternal life, one must believe. The one who believes can have the hope of the resurrection. No one, however, can believe except for the work of God in him, leading him to faith.

This knowledge should cause us to be in awe of the grace that God has shown us. Once more we behold the wondrous attention that the almighty God shows to his people. Once more we see how he determines that his desire is carried out. Here is the great Hosea seeking out his wife who has abandoned him. Here he is redeeming her with the most valued and most painful of payments — the blood of his son. Here he is going to her, leading her by the hand out of her slavery and into his home. This is what our God has done for us.


There are two implications that come out of our study. One, only true believers in Christ are redeemed. What is the role we play in our redemption? We exercise personal faith. The great danger for church people and children of believers is to be lulled into a false security. Because we go through the motions and live in an environment of belief, we think we are included in Christ's redemption. We think that if we live Christian-like lives we must be okay.

But it is not by looking like Christians or acting like Christians, that Christ's redemption is applied to us. It is not by being around Christians. At best, we are runaway slaves, seeming to be free, but still the slaves of sin. Christ's ransom payment must be made for us, and it is only done for those who place their faith and their hope in Christ alone.

Two, only believers through Christ are true believers of God. You can know God only through Christ. This is an offensive statement to make. It offends all religious people, all who count themselves as believers in God. It offends all who worship sincerely, all who live morally upstanding lives, all who devote themselves to knowing God. The offense is understandable, especially when comparisons are made between individuals. My good behavior, to my shame, falls far short of many a nonbeliever. But nevertheless, Christ himself and our belief in him on his terms, reveals the true heart.

For all who would say they know God or love God or fear God; for all who would say they are earnest seekers of God, then here is your test: what do you say of Jesus Christ? Is he the only redeemer for sin; is he your Redeemer? Oh! that you may know him to be so; for those who know him and his redemption, who have placed their faith and hope in him, will testify that he worthy of that faith.

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