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Author:Rev. Arthur Van Delden
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mundijong
 Mundijong, Western Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Rockingham
 Rockingham, Australia
Title:As sojourners conduct yourselves in fear, for your Father is an impartial judge
Text:1 Peter 1:17-21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Text: 1 Peter 1:17-21

Reading: Deuteronomy 5:22-33 / Hebrews 10:26-39 / 1 Peter 1:13-16

Ps. 19:1,2
Ps. 19:3,4
Ps. 76:3,4
Ps. 7:2,3,4
Ps. 139:11,12,13

Ps. 87:1,2,3
Ps. 87:4,5
Ps. 76:3,4
Ps. 7:2,3,4
Ps. 139:11,12,13
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ:

In developing our parental skills there are two extremes that we will want to avoid. The one is being overly harsh and stern towards our children. Children need positive stimuli. They need to be praised and complimented on their work by those who love them. We do well to develop a system of rewards in order to encourage and entice our children to pursue moral, intellectual, and physical excellence in whatever they do.

But at times positive stimuli are not enough to prevent our children from doing wrong. Sometimes we need to use warnings or discipline. Often a measure of fear of arousing the wrath of father or mother will prevent a child from doing wrong. Scripture teaches us that as parents we should not spare the rod, but willingly use this divinely sanctioned means of guiding our children’s conduct.

Often the positive stimuli and the negative are viewed as being opposites that contradict each other. But I would point out that the two, though opposite, complement each other wonderfully. Maybe I could use an example. Pushing and pulling are two opposites. Yet both can be used to move a vehicle. If one pushes from behind, and another pulls from the front, the two seemingly opposite forces will achieve the desired result. So also both positive rewards and negative rewards will work together to direct children’s conduct on the pathway of obedience.

This is the way in which our heavenly Father guides us, his children. He uses both positive and negative. We find this back in the inspired exhortations of Peter. In the verses preceding our text, we read of the positive stimuli that Peter gave to the Christians in Asia, by which he enticed them to live holy lives. He spoke about their glorious inheritance as heirs of the eternally glorious kingdom of God. And now he encourages his readers to holiness by instilling into them a holy fear of their Father, the impartial judge of all humanity.

This morning I preach to you the Word of God with this theme:



We will consider:
1) What we should fear
2) What we should not fear


Peter wrote, “If you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear….” Let’s look at these words a little closer.

“If you call on the Father….” To call upon the Father is a very basic reference to prayer. And that is what Peter has in mind here. We could translate this, “If you pray to the Father….” Now we need to ask a question: Does Peter refer here to prayer in general, or does he have something specific in mind? The context of this phrase, as well as the historical circumstances of his readers would lead us to the conclusion that Peter had a specific petition in mind. Peter doesn’t only say that they call upon the Father, but that they call upon the Father as Judge. And this makes good sense in the historical situation that they lived. As we’ve seen before, these Christians were being persecuted for their faith and godly conduct. They were suffering horrible injustices. In such a situation we could well expect that they would pray that God, as Judge, would execute justice upon His and their enemies, and so deliver them from their trials and tribulations. This was a very common theme in the OT, as we see in the book of Psalms. Let me just read a few verses from assorted Psalms to illustrate this.

Psalm 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in Your anger; Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies; Rise up for me to the judgment You have commanded!

NKJ Psalm 76:7-9 You, Yourself, are to be feared; and who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry? You caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment, to deliver all the oppressed of the earth.

Psalm 143:12 In Your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all those who afflict my soul; for I am Your servant.

Yes, the persecuted Christians in Asia undoubtedly took the example of the earlier saints and cried to the Lord and asked him to render justice to their enemies, and to deliver the oppressed.

Now notice that Peter says that they call this judge “Father.” In the original language this word is put right up front for emphasis. Peter has already stressed the fact that they have been elected by the Father. That means that they are His children. They have a special relationship with Him.

Now it has happened that those who have a special relationship with someone in authority think that they might get away with wrong-doing. For example, the police commissioner’s sons or daughters might think that they’ll get away with speeding on the roads or with some other traffic offence.

The Jews felt that way. They were the children of Abraham. They never considered the possibility that they themselves come under the judgment of God. As the children of Abraham, they felt that they were impervious to the wrath of God. But John the Baptist warned them, “and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3:9-10).

Now it is precisely this point that Peter wants to drive home. In the previous verses, Peter has exhorted the Christians in Asia to live in holiness. “As obedient children, do not conform yourselves to your former conduct, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (v 15).

Don’t think that your status as God’s children will make you impervious to God’s judgment. No, God is an impartial judge. He doesn’t show favouritism to anyone, even to His own children. He judges each person, not according to who they are, but according to what they have done. No one will escape God’s judgment because He is a member of God’s covenant, or a member of Christ’s church. No, God judges every one according to his work. He will judge the works of His own children with the same measuring stick that He uses to judge the works of the ungodly. His own children will not get away with unholy living just because they are his children. No, just the opposite! He expects more from His children. He expects obedience

But is that really true for the children of God? Will we actually be judged according to our works? If the words of Peter are not clear enough on this matter, then surely the words of Paul leave no doubt. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).

Now the point which Peter made is this: if the Christians in Asia prayed to their Father that He might judge the ungodly for the evil which they committed against God’s people, then they had better conduct themselves throughout the time of their sojourn here on earth in fear.

Peter reminded them of what he had written to them in verse 1. They are pilgrims in dispersion. They don’t belong to this world. They are passing guests, temporary residents. He reminded them that they have their citizenship in the kingdom of God. I think we covered this thought adequately when we dealt with verse 1. I won’t repeat what was already said then.

What we want to focus upon this morning is Peter’s exhortation: “conduct yourselves … in fear”. Peter meant that their conduct must be governed by the fear that their father will judge their works. This “fear” is to induce them to live holy lives, lives of obedience to God’s covenant law.

Now I think we need to be honest here and admit that we don’t like to hear these words. They are harsh words. They don’t seem to fit with the positive tenor of this chapter that we’ve covered so far. Peter has given so much comfort as he described the eternally glorious inheritance which is kept secure in heaven for them. Peter gave so much comfort when he assured his readers that God was also securely keeping the heirs and giving them the strength to persevere through the midst of trial. Yes, so far Peter gave only positive stimuli as an encouragement to live holy lives. He has held up before the wonderful reward. But now he mentions this negative stimulus for holy living—fear of punishment.

There are many who try to remove the sharpness of these words of Peter by reducing this “fear” to reverence or respect. But Peter means more than respect or reverence. He really means fear. He uses the same word in chapter 3:14. He says, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” This is the same word, and Peter used it is the same way in our text. Christ also used this same word, and it means “fear.” He said to His disciples, “Do not fear those who can kill the body, but fear him who can kill body and soul in hell.” Christ himself used the negative stimulus of fear to encourage obedience and faithfulness.

This concept of fear as an incentive to walking in holiness is not something unique to the NT. This fear of God is a fundamental concept of the OT. I could quote a long string of texts from the OT. But I will only quote one of them. God said to Moses concerning Israel, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments!” (Deut 5:29). That text is very revealing, for the people were deathly afraid. They had heard the voice of God on Mt Sinai, where God revealed His holiness, His glory and His greatness. They stood in the presence of such an awesome God, and they were afraid. And God says, “I wish they would always possess such a fear, for then they would always walk in obedience.” And this is precisely the fear that Peter referred to.

The Christians in Asia should have this healthy fear of their Father, for He is an impartial judge who repays every man according to His works. He shows no favouritism to His people, but will bring into judgment every word they have spoken, and every deed they done. And God is a consuming fire, as the people at Mt. Sinai learned. As the author of the letter to the Hebrews mentioned, “The LORD will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:30).

But if the Father judges us according to our works, doesn’t that mean that salvation is through good works, as Rome taught? Was Rome correct after all? Not at all, beloved! For here is the wonderful gospel. If we truly repent of our sins and forsake them, seeking forgiveness in Christ, all our evil works will be erased from our record. None of them will be brought to remembrance on the Day of Judgment.

The point that Peter wants to make is that we cannot continue to live in sins. Forgiveness is only granted where there is repentance. And repentance is not simply saying, “I’m sorry!” True repentance is turning from sin and forsaking it. True repentance is hating sin and fleeing from it. True repentance is loving righteousness and pursuing it. He who says, “I’m sorry” but continues to live in sin is not truly sorry. Neither is he forgiven! Those who live in sin have much to fear. For they scorn the redemption which they have in Christ Jesus. And that is a very fearful thing to do.

That’s what Peter points out in verse 18. “… You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers….” Notice here that Peter says they were redeemed from the aimless, the worthless, the empty, the futile ways that they inherited from their fathers. Peter contrasts their worthless conduct to the precious price of their redemption. They inherited nothing but worthless conduct from their fathers, but they receive precious redemption from Christ.

What is this redemption that they received through Christ? In verse 19, words are used that remind us of the Passover sacrifice. God had commanded the Israelites to sacrifice an unblemished lamb (cf. Lev 12:5). As a result of this perfect sacrifice, the people of Israel were set free from slavery to Pharaoh. And that is the kind of redemption that Peter has in mind.

The Christians in Asia to whom Peter wrote this letter were redeemed from their worthless conduct inherited from their fathers. They were set free from that corrupt lifestyle. They were set free from the tyranny of sin and the dominion of the devil. Sin no longer ruled them as it once did. The devil was no longer their lord and master as he once was. Instead, Christ was their Lord and King who ruled them by His Word and Spirit. Whereas they once rebelled and resisted God, they began to offer their hearts promptly and sincerely to God. Their redemption meant that they could now live lives of holiness, lives of obedience to God’s covenant law.

Now the point which Peter has in mind is that they must not return to their former lifestyle. For to do so would be to bring upon themselves the wrath of God, something they should fear!

Remember what the Israelites did in the wilderness! They reverted to their pagan ways when they made a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God was angry, and so was Moses. God had just delivered them from that pagan country. But they continued to serve God in a pagan way. By doing so, they had aroused the wrath of God.

So it would be for these Christians in Asia. If they would return to their sinful way of life after being redeemed by Christ, they would arouse the fierce wrath of God.

I remind you of what we read from the letter to the Hebrews.

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27)

Why would God be so angry? To use the words of Hebrews, this would be to count the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified a common thing. Christ shed His blood for them so that they could live sanctified lives. If they were to return to their former way of life, they would profane the precious blood of Christ. They would regard it as worthless, of no consequence.

Can you begin to see what Peter is driving at, beloved? If Christ has shed His precious blood so that you might be able to live sanctified, holy lives, then you must conduct yourselves in fear. Let me use an example. A young man committed a serious crime. He was sentenced to pay a huge fine or remain in prison for many years. He couldn’t pay that fine. But His father, who loved him, sold all He had—all that was precious to him — even his house, in order to pay that huge fine, so that his son could be free. How do you think this father would feel if his son returned to a life of crime again, only to be caught and punished. Wouldn’t the Father be terribly hurt, and extremely angry at his son? He might say, “I gave up so much so that you could be free. You should have lived in obedience to the law. But you have totally disregarded the great price I paid. You’ve made my great sacrifice of no account!”

This is what Peter wanted to drive home to his readers. If they have been redeemed from their worthless conduct at such a great price, they must ensure that they conduct themselves in fear — a fear that compels them to walk in holiness, lest they make the shedding of Christ’s precious blood a worthless sacrifice.

Do you see, then beloved, what it is that we must fear? We must fear lest we by our sinful walk of life arouse the anger of our Father for He is an impartial judge. But having seen what we should fear, let us turn to what we should not fear. This is our second point.


We quoted Deuteronomy 5:29 where God said to Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai, “Oh that [my people] had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments.” God wanted his people to fear Him. And yet in Exodus 20:20, we read of other words spoken at the foot of Mt Sinai after the giving of the law. The people were afraid and trembled at the display of God’s majesty and power. They no longer wanted God to speak to them. They were scared to death. Moses said to them, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin."

On the one hand we should fear God; on the other hand we should not fear Him. What kind of a riddle is this? It is no riddle, beloved. Perhaps I can explain it by way of an example. Electricity is something very powerful. It can easily kill us. As a result, an electrician has a healthy fear of it. I call it a healthy fear, for it is good that he has this fear. For this fear will make him careful in his work. He will take care that he does all things right. As long as he does things right, he has nothing to fear. Electricity is his friend. But if he lacks this healthy fear of electricity, then he becomes careless in his work. Then he’s not so careful to do things right. Because he become careless, he has much to fear. There is good chance that one day he will electrocute himself.

Now that is how it should be with us. We should have a healthy fear of God. This fear will serve to make us careful in the way that we walk. We will be careful to do the things that God has commanded in His Word, lest we arouse the wrath of God. And as long as we have this healthy fear of arousing God’s wrath, we have nothing to fear. Here is a paradox, an apparent contradiction: those who allow their conduct to be governed by the fear of the Lord have nothing to fear from God.

Now this paradox is evident in our text. In verse 18 Peter tells the Christians in Asia to conduct themselves in the fear of God, lest they should arouse the wrath of God by their sin. For God is an impartial judge. But in verse 20-21 Peter wants to assure them that as long as they are God-fearing people who keep themselves from sin, they have no need to fear that they will be condemned on the day of judgement. For they are the objects of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Peter writes in verses 20-21. “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

God’s plan to send His Son as Redeemer was already established in eternity, even before the world was created, even before man fell into sin. Now this Redeemer has finally come. “He was manifest in these last times,” says Peter. With the appearing of Christ on the stage of salvation history, the divine drama of redemption entered into its last and final act. The Grand Finalè had begun, so to speak.

We mentioned that in verse 19, there are overtones that remind us of the deliverance of Israel from their slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt. That was only a shadow of the great redemption that would come later. But Peter tells the Christians in Asia that they were living in the time of the great redemption. These were the “last times.”

Peter also emphasises the fact that they are the objects of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. He writes that Christ “was manifest in these last times for you!” They were redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb. They were partakers of that great redemption of which the Exodus from Egypt was but a faint shadow. Just as the Israelites were delivered from the slavery to Pharaoh, so these Christians have been delivered from their slavery to sin. They have been set free from the worthless conduct inherited from their fathers.

Now Peter wants to emphasise the fact that if they live out of this redemption from the slavery to sin, they have nothing to fear of God in the last day. In fact, if they live in obedience to God, they have a very bright future. Instead of a fear of God, they can have faith and hope in God.

It is with this faith and hope in God that Peter mentions the resurrection and glory of Christ. The Christians in Asia can have faith in God’s grace. If they will live out of their redemption from the slavery to sin, and if they will walk in obedience, as Christ has made possible, then there is a glorious future for them, and not the fearful prospect of facing an angry God.

How can they be sure? Peter points out how God dealt with Jesus Christ. God raised Jesus from the dead, and accepted Him into heaven. He seated Christ at His right hand, and crowned Christ with glory and honour. He gave to Christ the royal sceptre of authority and might.

What happened to Christ will also happen to those who are joined to Christ by faith. The Christians will share in Christ’s resurrection to eternal life. They will be accepted into God’s presence. They, like Him, will be crowned with glory and honour.

This promise of our resurrection and glory produces in Christians faith and hope in God, rather than a fear of God.

Do you understand, then, how on the one hand we should fear the Lord, and on the other hand have no fear of Him? Knowing that God is an impartial Judge, we must not take God’s grace for granted. We mustn’t think that because we are God’s children, we can sin with impunity. We know that God will judge us with the same measuring stick that He uses to judge the ungodly. This wholesome fear of God should induce us to live out of the redemption from sin that we have in Christ. This fear of God should induce us to walk in holiness.

But if we have this wholesome fear of God, we need not fear the Day of Judgment. For we have been redeemed in Christ from the guilt of our sin through His suffering and death. And just as Christ was raised to glory, so we have faith and hope of being crowned with the same glory and honour on the Last Day. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Arthur Van Delden, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright, Rev. Arthur Van Delden

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