Easter 3 · 1 Peter 1:17-25 · April 6, 2008
By Arthur E. Graudin,
Textual Considerations: The words “judges each one according to each one’s deeds” (1:17) (ESV) are a reminder of the final judgment described by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46. Good deeds do not earn salvation but are the evidence of faith.
The words εv φοβω (1:17) have been translated “with fear” (ESV), “in fear” (KJV), “in reverent fear” (NIV, NRSV, NLT). A footnote in CSSB (p. 1907) states, “reverent fear. Not terror, but wholesome reverence and respect for God, which is the basis for all godly living (cf. Pr 1:7; 8:13; 16:6).” In An Explanation of the Small Catechism (c. 1991), the word “fear” is explained. “We fear God above all things when we revere Him alone as the highest being, honor Him with our lives, and avoid what displeases Him” (58).
The Greek word παροικίας (1:17) has been understood in a literal or metaphorical sense. Some interpreters think that 1 Peter was written to believers who had been scattered and were in a form of exile. In verse one of this letter the apostle Peter does address “those who are elect exiles of the dispersion.” Others understand that the word was used metaphorically as a reference to believers who were awaiting the return of the Lord. In today’s liturgical setting the metaphorical use is appropriate. Believers are in Christ’s church militant and are anticipating Christ’s return to transport them to His church triumphant.
It should be noted that not all believers will die before the return of Christ. As St. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alone, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep….Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (ESV).
Verses 18 and 19 point to the consequences of original sin and the price Jesus Christ paid to redeem mankind.
Verse 20 points to the eternal existence of Christ and His coming in the flesh. As true God, He conquered sin, death, and the devil. As true man, the price He paid was deposited in mankind’s account as payment for mankind’s sin.
Verse 21 indicates that Christ, whom God raised from the dead and glorified, made it possible for people to become believers and to have “faith and hope.”
The apostle Peter calls believers to display “brotherly love” since they have been “born again…through the living and abiding word of God.”
Verses 24 and 25 are a shortened quotation from Isaiah 40:6-8. Human beings are compared to grass that withers and flowers that fall, “but the word of the Lord remains forever.” The end of verse 25 points out that “the word” referred to in the quotation is the Gospel that has been announced to Peter’s hearers and readers.
(The antiphon of the Introit for the Day calls for fellow believers to dwell in unity: “Behold, how good and pleasing it is when brothers dwell in unity.”)
Believers/Brothers in Christ:
Have been redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ.
Have been “born again…through the living and abiding word of God.”
Are called “to love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”