We know that we have been ransomed.
1 Peter 1:17-19
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. ESV
In the second section of 1 Peter chapter 1, which begins at verse 13, Peter concentrates on showing how the fact of salvation should be worked out in practise in the lives those who believe in Christ and have become children of God. He does so by means of a series of imperatives or commands. We saw the first of those commands in verse 13 where he said: “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed”. We saw the second one in verse 15 where he said: “be holy in all your conduct”.
Last time we looked at verse 17 where we saw the third command “conduct yourselves with fear“. We were able to work out that the fear that Peter spoke of was not “abject fear” of judgement because the fear he referred to was for those who, through Christ, call on God as their Father. As Paul says in Romans 8v1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
We then went on to recognise that, although it is certainly right to have a “reverential fear” of God because is holy and almighty, that is not the fear that Peter spoke of either because the context of this fear is “throughout the time of your exile” or “sojourning”. That is “throughout the time you spend as strangers here in this present world away from your heavenly home”. Rather than either “abject fear” or “reverent fear”, Peter was referring to a fear of displeasing our loving heavenly Father.
Now, although we only considered verse 17 last time, the sentence in the Greek actually continues to the end of verse 21 and adds more to our understanding of the fear with which we are to conduct ourselves. It provides further confirmation that it is neither “abject fear” nor “reverential fear” that Peter had in mind. We’ll consider verses 18 and 19 today. Having said in verse 17: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile”, Peter continues by saying “knowing that 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”.
Do you see the flow there?
It’s “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile knowing that……”. The ESV has rightly continued the sentence but how are we to understand “knowing that”? That could be taken to mean “but make sure that you remember this” or “and be aware of this”. Unlike the ESV, the NIV has, unnecessarily, chosen to begin a new sentence at verse 18. Instead of saying “knowing that” it says “For you know that”. Now I think that is a helpful translation because it captures the correct sense more clearly. The sense really is “because you know that”. Peter is saying to those who call upon God as their Father to “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” because of what you know. If you have God as your Father, if you have become a child of God then there is something that you must most certainly “know” and what you know gives you reason to “conduct yourself with fear throughout the time of your exile”.
So, what is that Peter says believers in Christ know?
From verses 18-19 we’ll consider in three posts three things that Peter says that we know. In this post we are going to consider Point #1.
1 We know that we have been ransomed
2 We know what we have been ransomed from
3 We know how we have been ransomed
We know that we have been ransomed
We see that at the very beginning of verse 18 where Peter says: “knowing that you were ransomed“.
Now, the word “ransomed” isn’t often used in our modern world. There aren’t many situations nowadays in which it’s applicable. The one situation that might involve being ransomed that probably springs to mind is that of a hijacking or a kidnapping. A ransom will be demanded when someone has been taken as a hostage. We sometimes hear of Somali pirates capturing sailors off the east coast of Africa and then demanding that a ransom be paid to gain their release. Of course, that is in a context that is completely illegal and thoroughly reprehensible. We rightly decry such demands for a ransom to be paid. Consequently, we could easily have a rather negative perception of what a ransom is.
However, in the culture of Peter’s day there were two common scenarios in which people were “ransomed” that were considered to be quite normal and legitimate. One was in the case of prisoners of war. They would be set free from captivity if their own side was willing to pay a ransom price for them. That was a commonly accepted procedure. The other scenario was in the case of slaves. In a process known as “manumission” a slave’s freedom could be bought by paying a ransom price. In some cases slaves would save up their own money so that they would eventually be able to pay the ransom for themselves. In other cases a wealthy benefactor would pay the ransom to buy a slave’s freedom for them.
So, when Peter speaks here of “knowing that you were ransomed” he is saying that we know that we were once slaves or captives but that a price has been paid in order to set us free. Peter then goes on to speak of the captivity that we have been set free from and the price that has been paid to secure that freedom. We’ll go on to look at what we’ve been ransomed from and the ransom price that has been paid in a moment but, before we do that, there are three more things that we need to note from the opening clause.
Firstly, note that Peter said “knowing that you were ransomed”.
So, this knowledge of being ransomed is something that we know about ourselves. It’s personal. It’s not a vague, abstract, blanket idea. It’s not just that you know that a ransom has been paid. You know that a ransom has been paid for you. It applies to us as believers in Christ. If you are a believer in Christ you must know yourself to be a ransomed person. That means that you know that you personally were once a captive. You personally were once enslaved but have now been set free because a price has been paid. So, “knowing that you were ransomed” is a reason for great rejoicing and celebration.
Secondly, note that Peter said “knowing that you were ransomed”.
The important point there is the use of the past tense. This ransom that is applied to us personally is something that has been done in the past. We’re not “being ransomed”. We’re not “going to be ransomed”. We were ransomed at some definite point in the past. It’s referring to something that has been done – a payment that has been made. So, “knowing that you were ransomed” is a reason for great confidence.
Thirdly, note that in saying “knowing that you were ransomed” Peter is using the passive voice.
In other words, this is not referring to anything that we have done. It is something that has been done for us. We’re not like those slaves who were able to scrimp and save until they had enough to be able to pay the ransom for themselves. We’re like those prisoners who were held captive by the enemy. We were unable to set ourselves free. We were unable to escape. We are free only because someone else has paid the ransom for us. So, “knowing that you were ransomed” is a reason for great humility. It allows no room for pride.
So, we know that we have been ransomed. We were once slaves. We’re now free and that is not our own doing, it’s because someone else has paid the price to set us free.
Next we will examine point 2: “We know what we have been ransomed from.”
Dr. Steve Orr
Dr Orr has served the Body of Christ in the United Kingdom for many years and in various capacities (preaching, teaching, etc.,). Steve is a regular contributor to the pages of Christ My Covenant. His insights into the Word of God will serve you in your personal study of God’s Word. Learn of Christ!