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, 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. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. – 1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV
Peter challenged his readers to live as who they are – those who have been called and set apart by God. They were to live as obedient children, refusing to conform to their old way of living before coming to Christ. As believers, there was no going back. But to keep from doing so, they would have to be sober-minded, keeping their focus on the hope of their future glorification. He wrote, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 ESV). But Peter also reminded them that the coming revelation of Jesus Christ would also bring judgment. While they call on God as Father, they were to never forget that He also “ judges impartially according to each one’s deeds” (1 Peter 1:17 ESV). God watches His children, and because He is all-knowing, He sees all that they do. Nothing escapes His attention. But what God is looking for are the deeds we do while in the flesh, specifically those deeds done since coming to faith in Christ. Those deeds will one day be judged. Paul tells us about that day: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV). The word translated “evil” in this verse is probably better understood as “worthless.” This judgment has nothing to do with our sin, because our sins have already been paid for by Christ. Romans 8:1 tells us there is no longer any condemnation for those of us who are in Christ. So the judgment that we face has to do with those works we have done since coming to faith. Paul explained it in detail to the believers in Corinth.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV
Our works will be judged. Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which all of us build. It is our faith in Him that should be the basis for all that we do. But if we attempt to perform good works based on anything other than our faith in Him, those deeds will prove worthless. If we try to rely on self-effort to live the Christian life, on the day of judgment we will discover that anything we did was in vain. If we serve in order to get noticed or recognized by men, we will receive no commendation from Christ. In fact, Jesus told His disciples, “When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do–blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get” (Matthew 6:2 NLT).
Peter reminds his readers that they had been “ransomed from the futile ways” that had been passed down to them from their forefathers. Jesus Christ had shed His blood for them, paying the price for their sins and redeeming them from sin and death. They were to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). They were to view themselves as exiles on this earth, strangers who were waiting for their opportunity to return to where they belonged.In the meantime, they were to live their lives in dependence upon Christ and with their faith and hope placed firmly in God. Jesus was to be the foundation of their lives and all that they did in this life was to built on that foundation.
Peter calls his readers to live with hope and reverential fear of God. Their focus was to be on their future glorification by God and the inevitable judgment of all that they had done in life since coming to faith in Christ. God will want to see what they had accomplished with what He had given them. Jesus told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (Luke 14:12 ESV). In that same passage, Jesus goes on to tell His disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit. With His departure, the Comforter would come, the Spirit of truth. And it is the Spirit who would empower the disciples to do greater works. In the power of the Spirit, they would take the gospel to places Jesus had never been. They would impact the world in ways Jesus never did.
Each of us as believers have been given the same Spirit of God to live within us and empower us. And Jesus would have us remember, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48 ESV). We have not been left helpless or hopeless on this earth. We have the power of God resident within us. We have been placed in the body of Christ, the church. We have the Word of God available to us. But we must avail ourselves of all that we have been given and live with a desire to build upon the foundation of our faith in Christ. We have been ransomed by the blood of Christ. God paid a high price for our freedom, so we should live our lives in constant gratitude by making holiness our highest priority.