“And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and with spot.”
Not finished is the apostle with the admonition which he began to express in the preceding verses. There he had exhorted his readers to gird up the loins of their minds, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto them in the revelation of Jesus Christ. He further exhorted them to be holy in all manner of conversation. Here the admonition which is given emphasizes what we are called to be—holy, asGod is holy!
In our passage we have essentially the same exhortation, however, with different modifications and motivations. If in the preceding we are exhorted on the basis of what we ought to be; in our text we are exhorted on the basis of what we are in the judgment of God as a ransomed people. And this latter must serve as a further incentive to a godly walk.
Pass the time of your sojourning in fear!
It is the fear of God, Who, according to the text, is both Father and Judge. He is the Judge Who does not accept the persons of any; Who judges according to every man’s work. This is true, of course, in general, with respect to the works of all men; and it is also true of the works of the members of Christ’s church in particular. He does not judge merely the outward works, such as a worldly judge can only make judgment upon; but He judges also the inward motivations “of the heart. Before an earthly judge one has only to be concerned that his works meet the demands of the law on the statute books. Before God, however, the thoughts of the heart which also motivate our outward actions are carefully scrutinized and weighed. And in respect to the whole of the work, both outwardly and inwardly, righteous judgment is rendered. In judgment He begins not with what you appear to be on the outside, but He judges first what is within you, in the. inner recesses of your heart.
Moreover, this righteous, impartial Judge, according to the text, is also our Father. The translation here really does not do justice to the original text. The apostle really does not say: “And if ye call on the Father” . . . but literally: “And if ye call upon Father” . . . The implication is that the one whom you address is your Father. You call upon God Who is likewise your Father. Simply therefore this awesome Judge Who judges precisely as every man’s work is, is at the same time your Father.
This makes the fear of which the apostle speaks to be one of love. Not the fear of a slave, does the apostle have in mind, so that you dread to appear before the judge Who stands over you waiting for you to do something contrary to the law, that he may punish you. But here is the Judge with respect to whom we stand in a love relation. He loves us, and because He first loved us we respond in love to Him. And as the apostle John informs us: “There is no fear in love . . . perfect love casteth out fear”; . . . so it is in our relation to Judge-Father. We are afraid to do anything that would be displeasing to Him Whom we love. Our fear is one of reverence, respect, and love.
In that fear we are to conduct our sojourn!
That the apostle refers to our sojourn, is in complete harmony with what he had said before, when in the address of the epistle he denotes his readers as elect strangers. As we have pointed out before, the believers. are strangers and pilgrims in the world because of their election. They have been chosen of God to be strangers and pilgrims. And generally the terms stranger and pilgrim refer to one who is a stranger in a strange land, but who is traveling to his fatherland, to the homeland. In our text, however, the apostle uses a word for sojourning which literally means “boarder.” And a boarder is one who lives with other people, and in the same house with them, while he is not really a member of the family which dwells in the house. He lives as a stranger in the house. He has nothing to say about the affairs in that house; in fact, he must abide under the rules set by the head of that house. So the Christian lives in this world as a boarder. He abides here only on a temporary basis, while he expects presently to enter into his own house—Father’s house—which is above. Until, therefore, he enters Father’s house above, he is required to pass the time of his sojourn here in this world, that is, the time that extends from the moment he consciously becomes a child of God and unto the day of his death, or departure from the world. That time he is required to pass in Godly fear, always seeing to it that he is pleasing to God, Who is both Father and Judge.
If ye call on the Father . . .
Mark you well, the apostle here does not rest his admonition to sojourn in Godly fear on the possibility that we may or we may not call upon the Father. In this manner some no doubt would interpret the Word of God here. Nay, he does not address the church here as potential candidates for either heaven or hell. He is not confronting us with two ways; so that we are required to pass through a crisis to determine precisely what our status is, whether we are believers or unbelievers, strangers or citizens, Christians or worldlings. If this were the case, we would have no gospel truth in our text.
It is precisely this erroneous presentation which is given today in the name of gospel—but which is no gospel at all. You are pleaded with to choose between going to heaven or to hell. You are told that if you believe you will be saved, if not, you will be lost—all depends on you! So it is said concerning our text: if you will call on the Father Who is Judge, you will be walking in Godly fear; if not, the very opposite is true. Don’t you see, then, that all your hope and salvation rests only on a mighty “IF?” All hangs in a balance that is weighted by an “if,” a condition which you must fulfill. Then you may be, or you may not be a stranger, pilgrim, sojourner.
Nay, beloved reader, the possibility of our fulfilling the admonition to sojourn in Godly fear rests on an indubitable fact!
We could paraphrase the text, so that you may see its true meaning, and hear the beautiful gospel in it; and that paraphrase would be this: “Since ye call upon Father Who judges” . . . God is your Father. He brought you forth by the Spirit of Grace as His children. He has chosen you and ordained that through the adoption unto sons and daughters you should forever fill the house of His covenant. He is also the unerring and righteous Judge Who has already passed judgment over you in the cross of Christ. He has made you to become His righteous children, and the proof of it lies in the fact that His love has been shed abroad in your hearts.
This is, indeed, the glorious gospel in our text!
You, who were once the children of darkness, are now made children of light. You who were once aliens, standing in enmity against God; are now brought nigh by the blood of Christ, and are able to address God—Abba, loving Father! And since you do call Him Father, Who is also the righteous Judge, you in principle desire also to seek His face, and appear before Him pleasing in His sight. That this is the truth, is borne out also by the rest of the text.
For as much as ye know that ye were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ!
What an incentive to sojourn in Godly fear!
You were redeemed!
O, to be sure, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, were you redeemed! Such may be the means used to ransom those held in physical bondage. But these corruptible things can have no value in realizing your redemption. That the apostle even mentions these things, and by way of contrast mentions them first, is due to the fact that he wishes to emphasize that your redemption is of an entirely different nature, and must be therefore realized through entirely different means.
You were redeemed out of your vain conversation delivered by tradition. Your walk used to be vain, without positive, spiritual-moral content. Once you were wicked, perverse, vain, and your life was also idle and empty from a spiritual-ethical point of view. And you had not simply become this way accidentally. You had not simply become the victims of circumstances, who having been severely tempted had fallen deeply into sin and corruption. Rather, you were born that way. You inherited this vain life and walk, and it was delivered unto you by your fathers. Whether they were Jew or Gentile, that made no difference. You were equally children of darkness as the rest, born in sin and corruption. From father to son you were taught to do evil, and you grew up liking what you were taught.
Surely, there is no hint of a certain common grace here! Not the slightest suggestion is given that some are not as depraved as others, or that one generation had more enlightenment than another. But the apostle expresses by implication that whosoever you are, you were born in sin and corruption, and that you were taught to delve into sin, idolatry, immorality, and all that comes up with you out of darkness. From generation to generation, beginning at the beginning, death reigned outside of the redemption that there is in Christ.
But from that walk you have been delivered, redeemed!
Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ!
How precious was that blood of God’s spotless Lamb! It was without blemish and without fault. It was the blood of One Who was perfectly innocent and without sin. Though He came up out of our generation, and became of the flesh and blood of the brethren, He was nevertheless personally not contaminated with our sin, nor affected with the vain conversation delivered by tradition from our fathers. He was born of the Holy Ghost, and became the Holy Child Jesus. He was the specially prepared Lamb of God. Only the blood of such an One could redeem and pay the ransom for our redemption. He Who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
The knowledge of this should certainly incite in us the desire to sojourn in Godly fear.
For as much as ye know! . . .
You know that you have been redeemed! You know that your sins have been blotted out. You know that you have been reconciled to God. You know that principally you are holy as He is holy. You know that you have been delivered from your former vain conversation, and are able to address God as your Father, and know that His judgment over all your works has principally been finished at the cross, where the blood of atonement has been poured out that washed away all your guilty stains.
Since that is true, pass the rest of your time here in Godly fear!
Then your sojourn will be so tempered that you will desire to do nothing that will displease Him, but it will be your delight always to say and do only that which can bear away His approval and blessing.