An overarching theme of the Bible, maybe even the overarching theme, is that of God’s work in saving fallen humanity. From the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis to the fall of Babylon in Revelation, Scripture in one way or another reveals the work of God in seeking to save “that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). And this theme is revealed in Peter’s letters, as well.
First Peter 1:18-19 describes the significance of the death of Jesus this way: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” There are two key images in these words: redemption and animal sacrifice.
Redemption is used in the Bible in several ways. For example, the firstborn donkey (which could not be sacrificed) and the firstborn son (Exod. 34:19-20) were redeemed by the sacrifice of a substitute lamb. Money could be used to buy back (redeem) items that had been sold because of poverty (Lev. 25:25-26). Most important, a slave could be redeemed (Lev. 25:47-49). First Peter informs readers that the cost of buying them back (redeeming) from their “futile ways inherited from your fathers” (1 Pet. 1:18, RSV) was nothing less than the “precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish” (1 Pet. 1:19). The lamb image, of course, evokes the concept of animal sacrifice.
Peter thus likens Christ’s death to that of a sacrificial animal in the Hebrew Bible. A sinner brought a sheep without blemish to the sanctuary. The sinner then laid his hands on the animal (Lev. 4:32-33). The animal was slaughtered, and some of its blood was smeared on the altar; the rest was poured at the base (Lev. 4:34). The death of the sacrificial animal provided “atonement” for the one who offered the sacrifice (Lev. 4:35). Peter is saying that Jesus died in our place and that His death redeemed us from our former lives and the doom that would otherwise be ours.
|What does the fact that our hope of salvation exists only in a substitute punished in our place teach us about our utter dependence upon God?|