2 Motivations for Holiness
Peter gives us two truths worth remembering as motivations for our pursuit of holiness.
First, we must remember from what we have been ransomed. The Bible says we have been ransomed “from the futile ways inherited from [our] forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). Life apart from a right relationship with God is futile. “Vanity of vanities,” the Bible calls it (Eccl. 1:2). No matter how religious, lavish, or popular your life before Christ was, it was empty. How empty? The Apostle Paul called it skubalon (“rubbish, dung, sewage”):
For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. (Phil. 3:3–8)
According to Paul, his life prior to Christ would have been the envy of most in his world. He had everything anyone in his world could have wanted, and most of it was inherited from his forefathers. He had social status, religious status, educational status, financial status, and moral status. He was a pillar in his society, considered righteous and blameless. Yet, upon the revelation of Jesus Christ in his life, when Jesus ransomed him, Paul came to see all these things as loss, worthless, or even refuse and rubbish. In comparison to knowing Christ, these cultural, ethnic, and social riches were worthless. They belonged to the world of waste and deserved to be disregarded and disdained as such. While his society would have counted his status worthy of envy, Paul said it was futile, a vanity of vanities. Paul was ransomed from such vain pursuits, and so are all who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.
In Philippians 3:3–8 and 1 Peter 1:18, we see Paul and Peter saying the same thing. In Christ, we are ransomed from that futile, vain living that was ours from birth and that had been accumulating ever since. The idea of futility or worthlessness was particularly significant and poignant in Peter’s world, because he was writing to people who, in most cases, like Paul, were the first Christians in their families. Undoubtedly, many came from strongly traditional Jewish homes. Yet, Peter said many of the rituals their parents had handed down to them were empty and worthless, leading to bondage and away from God. But God, through the blood of Christ, had delivered them. Likewise, He has delivered us from futile things. The greatness of this deliverance should not be forgotten. We could not know the futility of our lives until we were made to see the utility of Christ.
Second, we must remember that with which we have been ransomed. Peter says that we have been ransomed not with perishable things but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19). Someone has said that salvation is free. Yes, it is free in that it does not cost silver, gold, dollars, or cents. But that does not mean that it does not cost anything. In fact, it cost Christ everything. Salvation is free to you and me because someone else paid the price:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
It’s one thing to ransom someone from slavery in this world. Many have performed this gracious act, and we thank God for it. But how do we ransom people from slavery to sin? How much do we pay to ransom them from death and hell? For such a transaction, silver and gold are of no value. There is an economy wherein the only currency is the blood of Christ. It is God’s economy. It is the economy of the kingdom of God. It is the economy of the redeemed. To redeem us, Christ did not reach into the treasure bag; He reached into Himself—the treasure of all treasures—and set us free.