What’s an Exile to Do? Live in Reverent Awe of Your God

Posted by R. Fowler White

Exiles are non-essential, or haven’t you heard? Even as God’s kingdom-colony of exiles, the church is expected to pipe down, if not shut down. In response, however, the Apostle Peter cites a higher standard. Throughout the time of our exile, he says, we’re to trust and obey God’s commands. Called as we are to His eternal glory in Christ, we’ll endure the trials that test our faith, confessing that the God of all grace will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us after we’ve suffered for a little while (1 Pet 5:10). In the meantime, Peter exhorts us: conduct yourselves with fear—that is, live in reverent awe of your God (1 Pet 1:17b). In 1 Pet 1:17-21, Peter provides us ample incentives to do just that.

Live in reverent awe of our God, says the Apostle, because He is our Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds (1:17). In saying that it is our Father who judges, Peter teaches that the judgment that God’s children (1:14) experience is different from the judgment that God’s enemies undergo. The standard of His judgment is the same for all (cf. 1:16): in that sense, our Father plays no favorites in His judging. The purpose of His judgment, however, will be different for us who through faith call on Him as Father. Let’s elaborate. At the last day, all people who have ever lived on earth will appear before Christ’s tribunal, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds and to receive according to what they’ve done in the body, whether good or evil (WCF chap. 33.1). Just as certainly, God the Father will judge His children not for entrance to His eternal kingdom, but for greater or lesser reward in it. Thus, Peter’s point is not that we believers should live our lives scared of being openly denied or condemned on the last day. After all, the Apostle has just exhorted us to live in confident expectation (1:13). Instead Peter’s point is that we should live our lives with an attitude that so highly esteems and deeply adores our Father God that we cannot bear the thought of displeasing Him. In colloquial terms, it’s like the fear that keeps conscientious student drivers from driving recklessly. Biblically, it’s the fear that comes from knowing that we’ll answer to our Father. It’s the fear that Paul describes in 2 Cor 5:8-10; 7:1 and 1 Cor 3:13-15; 4:3-5: the fear that God’s refining fire will burn up our works, and we’ll suffer loss (though we ourselves will be saved). Thus, the fear to which the Apostle refers here is the fear not of final condemnation, but of lesser commendation when He evaluates our thoughts, words, and deeds. In that light, we’re to live in reverent awe to please our Father and to avoid grieving or dishonoring Him.

Peter cites another reason to live in reverent awe of our God: because the price of our salvation was the precious blood of Christ (1:18-19). What a declaration this is! In contrast to Greco-Roman custom in which slaves and captives in war went free when money was paid for their freedom, the price for our emancipation from sin and death was like that of Israel from slavery in Egypt: the payment God demanded for their release was not silver or gold, but the blood of a physically flawless firstborn lamb. Yet to be set free for holiness, we sinners needed a redemption from sin and death with a blood more precious and powerful than that of a physically flawless firstborn lamb. We needed a redemption with the blood of a morally flawless firstborn son. Such was the blood of the Son of God sent from glory, of Him who was eternal but incarnate, sinless but slaughtered, put to death but raised immortal. To paraphrase John Flavel, Christ [was] so in love with holiness, that at the price of His blood He [bought] it for us. Dare we ask: how precious is that blood?! Ponder, then, what incentive we have to live in reverent awe of our God. Not to live in reverent awe of Him is to deny the supreme value of Christ’s sacrificial death, is it not? Just so, Peter admonishes us: live in reverent awe of your God because the price of your redemption was nothing less than the precious blood of Christ.

As if we need more incentive to live in reverent awe of our God, the Apostle provides another reason: because even our faith and hope are the fruit of God’s eternal plan (1:20-21). We’re told here that, before the foundation of the world, our God planned redemption for us in Christ. With a view to His only begotten Son’s appearance in these last times, the Father chose and ordained Him to accomplish redemption for our sake. And now through Him God has applied that redemption to us (cf. 1:2). So much is this the case that it is through Christ that our faith and hope are in God. All the blessings of redemption, even the faith and hope we have in God, are gifts to us through Christ in keeping with God’s eternal plan. Believer, consider what Peter teaches us here: God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain our redemption and even the faith and hope we now have. How can we not live in reverent awe of such a God as ours!

Though the world may treat us exiles as non-essential, the Apostle Peter addresses us as former slaves freed to live new and holy lives in reverent awe of God our Father (cf. 2 Cor 7:1). What extraordinary incentives he provides us to do just that! And what a tragedy—no, what a travesty—it would be to live any other way!

3 Comments

  1. Adam Kane said,

    January 4, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Reblogged this on Citizen of New Jerusalem and commented:
    When I was in seminary, I studied the final judgment for believers as my Master’s thesis. This short post captures the biblical essence of the subject – highly recommended. Encouraging!

  2. rfwhite said,

    January 4, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Adam. Very glad to be of help.


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