Commentary on 1 Pet 1:18-25
Peter reminds us that we have been “redeemed”. In the Scriptures, to ‘redeem’ (literally, ‘buy back’) means to free someone from something bad by paying a penalty, or a ransom. Similarly, in the Greek world slaves could be made free by the payment of a price, either by someone else or by the slave himself.
In this case, the ransom price is not silver or gold but something far more precious, Christ’s own blood poured out for us by his death on the cross. The result is the “forgiveness of sin” and our reconciliation with God.
The readers are told that they have been redeemed from the “futile conduct”, an empty way of life, that had been handed down by their ancestors. Some maintain that the letter is addressed to former pagans because the New Testament stresses the emptiness of pagan life. Others think they may have been Jews since Jews were traditionalists who stressed the influence of keeping the Law. A life simply based on the observance of external laws could not bring salvation and redemption. In the light of the context of the whole letter, probably both Jews and Gentiles are addressed.
They have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, an “unblemished Lamb” foreseen long ago in God’s plan to bring us all back to him and replacing all other animal sacrifices of the Old Testament which were only a pale foreshadowing of what was to come. The Old Testament sacrifices were types (or foreshadowings) of Christ, depicting the ultimate and only effective sacrifice. An unblemished lamb was the centrepiece at the Passover meal. But for us, Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb, the One who takes away the sin of the world.
It is through this Lamb, raised by the Father into glory, that we have become believers in God and that, through our faith and hope, our lives have become centred on God, the only source of meaning to our lives.
Before time began Jesus was already chosen but only revealed in these times to those who are called. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1) “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” (Col 1:15). Some think the Greek for this word can mean ‘foreknown’ rather than ‘chosen’. In other words, God knew before creation that it would be necessary for Christ to redeem the human race but he has revealed Christ only in these last times. Others interpret the word as meaning that in past eternity God chose Christ as Redeemer.
It is through this Jesus, raised from the dead to eternal glory, that we put all our faith and trust in God.
Our submission to this understanding of our origins leads necessarily and unavoidably to a deep love for our brothers and sisters. “Therefore, love one another constantly from the heart.”
All in all, our being re-born is the result of an enduring seed planted in our heart, that seed is the word (Word) of God. “The grass withers, the flower wilts, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (Is 40:6-8). Our new birth comes about through the direct action of the Holy Spirit , but the “living and abiding” word of God also plays an important role, for it presents the Gospel to the sinner and calls on us to repent and believe in Christ.
The writer concludes by quoting from the prophet Isaiah (40:6-8):
“All flesh is grass… the grass withers…
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
It is this word which the Letter is proclaiming, a word which is a source of life. It is the Gospel which we hear proclaimed to us. That Gospel can be summed up in the two points brought up in today’s passage: 1, we have been bought back from sin by the priceless blood of the Lamb, poured out on the cross for us; and 2, we show our gratitude for this by the unconditional love we show for our brothers and sisters everywhere.