Catechism 5: On Our Redemption and What it Means
1 Peter 1:18-21
Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled, Foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but manifested in the last times for you, Who through him are faithful in God, who raised him up from the dead, and hath given him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.
The word that I want to focus on here is the word "redeemed." That is part of the heart and soul of Catholicism, redemption. The Churches message is a message of redemption. When we present the gospel, we should present it with redemption being the center of our presentation. It's one of the great words, it's one of the great titles of Christ, Christ our Redeemer. The question is whether or not we really understand the fullness of the word redemption.
In the past, even today, We cry out against the immorality in our government and in our culture. We are concerned with the culture of death as we see babies brutally murdered. We stand for hours with our posters waving in the air against such slaughter.
We are appalled by the destruction of the family. Starting with divorce all the way down to the homosexual life styles, sexual neutrality, and marriage going beyond the man and woman.
We think if we speak out against these thing in our country and pass legislation against these immoral things that we can convert our country back to when there was a Godly morality.
But our responsibility is not to moralize the unconverted, it's to convert the immoral.
Our responsibility is redemptive, not political. We do not have a moral agenda. We have a redemptive agenda. And none of us should be surprised that we couldn't...we couldn't reform the kingdom of darkness ruled by Satan himself. Our message is not morality, it has never been morality, our message is redemption. That has always been and always will be the pure and true message of the Church. And I hope that people who have literally spent their time and millions upon millions of dollars trying to moralize the unconverted will now turn their attention to trying to convert the immoral. And at the heart of this matter is the understanding of redemption. It's a great word. It's a word not often used and not fully understood.
I remember when I was a little boy I read a book, a little book that left a deep impression upon my mind. It was about a little boy who made a little boat. He got some pieces of wood and he kind of carved them out and glued them together and made a little boat and put a little mast on it and made a little sail and attached it to the boat and worked very hard with his little tools and produced what to him was a very special little sailboat, and painted it up the way he wanted it. Went down to the lake nearby to sail it. It was carried along, however, by a strong breeze and eventually got beyond his reach and then it went out of sight. He was sad about losing this little prize of his own craftsmanship. And later walking through the little town he lived in he noticed it was for sale in the window of a shop. He went in and told the shopkeeper that it was his and he tried to lay claim to it. The shopkeeper did not believe him, however, and the man behind the counter demanded that if he wanted it he'd have to pay for it. He'd have to buy the very boat that he had made with his own hands. He went home, broke open his little piggy bank and found that he had just enough money. So he returned to the shop, put the money on the counter and bought back his little boat. It was surely his then, twice his, he said, because he not only made it but he redeemed it.
Made by the Creator and then redeemed by the Creator. That's really the story of Catholicism, isn't it? And that's St. Peter's theme in the passage and it's the theme of our faith. Our message is redemption. One of my favorite words in scripture is "redeemed." It may not be often used among Catholics, but it should be. We should refer to Jesus Christ much more frequently as our Redeemer, thus exalting this wonderful aspect of His saving work.
It has been said, "Great was the work of creation, but greater the work of redemption.
It cost more to redeem us than to make us. In the one there was but the speaking of a word. In the other there was shedding blood. The creation was but the work of God's fingers. Redemption is the work of His arm,".
It's true. Redemption is the greater work. The Lord Jesus, pointed us to this work of his when he says "For the Son of man also is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many." (Mark 10:45). Redemption is more specific than salvation. It speaks of the heart and soul of salvation. It focuses on the fact by which salvation is achieved. Redemption has to do with the purchase by payment of a price. Redemption then focuses on how God bought us from our bondage to sin...how God paid the price. It views man's condition as a prisoner, a prisoner to sin and iniquity and sees God coming to set the prisoner free by paying the full required price.
Sin calls for justice. Justice demands a price. The price justice demands is death. Redemption then of the sinner must come through death.
The imagery shadowing Saint Peter's words here comes from Exodus chapter 12. This scripture passage is so basic to our understanding of redemption.
"And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall be to you the beginning of months: it shall be the first in the months of the year. Speak ye to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses. But if the number be less than may suffice to eat the lamb, he shall take unto him his neighbor that joineth to his house, according to the number of souls which may be enough to eat the lamb."
In other words, have a lamb that is consumed by two families if families are too small to consume one full lamb. "And it shall be a lamb without blemish, a male, of one year: according to which rite also you shall take a kid. And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month: and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood thereof, and put it upon both the side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread with wild lettuce. You shall not eat thereof any thing raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire: you shall eat the head with the feet and entrails thereof. Neither shall there remain any thing of it until morning. If there be any thing left, you shall burn it with fire.
And thus you shall eat it: you shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat in haste: for it is the Phase (that is the Passage) of the Lord. And I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every firstborn in the land of Egypt both man and beast: and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be: and I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you: and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt. And this day shall be for a memorial to you: and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord in your generations with an everlasting observance.”
Now that describes God initiating the Passover. Let me give you a little bit of background around that passage. One of the patriarchs of Israel, Joseph, mentioned, of course, in Genesis, had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. He then became Prime Minister of Egypt alongside the Pharaoh. During a severe famine in Israel, the family of Jacob, Joseph's father, came to Egypt to survive. There was food in Egypt but not in Israel. When they came into Egypt, these Hebrew people began to dwell there. They were keepers of livestock so Pharaoh gave them their own section of land, it was called the land of Goshen. They lived there and raised their crops and their herds there and they began to multiply. In fact Exodus 1:7 says the children of Israel were fruitful, increased abundantly, multiplied, waxed exceeding mighty and the land was filled with them. They literally had explosive growth. They reached the proportion of several million people, Hebrew people living in the land of Egypt. Their status, however, began to deteriorate as they began to grow. They were seen as a threat. And so eventually, of course, they became slaves.
Pharaoh became jealous of these Jews in his land. Fearing them because they had become so powerful and were so blessed by their God. So he decided to turn them into slaves, forced them into making bricks for his great buildings that he was building. However, this slavery made them stronger and their numbers continued to increase. Eventually it was God's time to call them out of Egypt to take them to the Holy Land and establish them as a nation. After 400 years of Egyptian exile God began to move. The Pharaoh who was cruel and who hated the Hebrews and yet was greedy for their slave labor wouldn't release them. You remember Moses said, "Let my people go," and Pharaoh refused to do that, so God unleashed on Egypt plague after plague, a series of ten plagues culminating in the final plague which was the supernatural execution of the firstborn animal and the firstborn in every family. This is a cataclysmic judgment. The firstborn in the family was the heir to everything the family possessed, the favored child. The tragic judgment resulted in Egypt letting the Israelites go and several million people exited Egypt, you remember, the story of them crossing the Red Sea and Pharaoh then changing his mind, chasing them and having his entire army drowned. But the death angel was going to move through Egypt and slay the firstborn child in every house...an unthinkable judgment on this vast race of people. In order for the Hebrews to be spared this divine death of the first born, this death angel, God instructed them to kill a lamb or a kid, it could be a goat, of the first year without a blemish, without a spot, offered as a sacrifice to the Lord and splatter its blood around the door at the top and on the sides, so the death angel could see the blood and know that they had obeyed God and offered a sacrifice and spare the firstborn.
Now follow the thought. The lamb's life was given in place of the life of the firstborn.
The lamb died as a substitute. It is a substitutionary death, that paid the price God required and redeemed the firstborn from death. It would be hard to imagine the busyness of that time, the busyness of the preparations, the activities of the families as two weeks ahead of time they get this lamb, they bring it into the house, they live with that lamb, they begin to understand what's going to happen. This lamb that they come to know as a household pet is going to be the substitute that's going to die in place of the firstborn. the firstborn is then going to be ransomed by the bloody death of the lamb. These front doors were literally a wash in blood on that night, giving some kind of a picture even of the cross on which the future, final Lamb would be slain. It was the blood then that redeemed the family from divine judgment.
It was the death of a lamb that paid the price to satisfy God and the angel passed by.
As evening came those people gathered around the table, they had their sandals on, they had their loins girded which means they were ready to move. They had the belt cinching their garments together, they weren't in a relaxed position. They had their staffs in their hands ready to walk and hike. They were ready to move. They ate quickly, hastily in order to leave that night because that's exactly what was going to happen. As soon as all these people started dying all over Egypt as this divine death angel started executing them, the Egyptians it says in Exodus 12 were urgent among the people that they might send them out of the land in a hurry for they said we'll all be dead. And so they had to move immediately that night.
God thereby had decreed that this passover would be celebrated every year since that time, and it has, as a memorial to remind Israel that they were delivered from judgment through a lamb who died in their place and paid the price to ransom them...a redeeming, ransoming substitute. That then, of course, becomes the dominant theme of the Old Testament sacrificial system. And throughout the years of the Old Testament, even into the life of Christ in the New Testament, millions and millions and millions of lambs were slain in this blood-letting sacrifice which pictured substitutionary death which was a price paid to ransom sinners. That's what was behind Peter's words. Now look at what Peter says in 1 Peter chapter 1, "Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled, Foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world, but manifested in the last times for you, " All of that imagery finds its way to the cross and we are redeemed by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The ransom price required by God was death...the ransom price required by God was death. And the Lamb died to pay the ransom price, it was the Lamb's death for our life. He died that the death angel might pass us by. The word "redeemed" by the way, just as a note there in I Peter 1:18, alutroo or lutroo, this form of it, alutrothete means to be set free by a ransom paid. The noun form means a ransom. It's a technical term for a price paid to buy back somebody headed for judgment, to buy back particularly a prisoner of war or to buy a slave's freedom. To understand the Christian faith then is to understand redemption, ransom, substitutionary death, that's what we must understand.
Four questions Peter answers here, just briefly:
Question number one:
what were we redeemed from? In the case of the Passover which I read out of Exodus, they were redeemed from divine judgment, from death, from execution at the hands of the death angel. What were we redeemed from? We were redeemed from sin.
When talking to some one about there need for Christ, the first thing that's necessary is to discuss sin.
We have to understand the human predicament. We are sinful and we are headed for death, physical and eternal. Look at Genesis chapter 6. God looked at the wickedness of man and saw that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Our motives are corrupt, our desires are corrupt. From the depths of our heart the imaginations of our mind are wicked. St. James talks in 1:15 about concupiscence (lust) conceiving and bringing forth sin. We are fundamentally wicked. We have deeper than our thoughts, down deeper than our conscious thoughts, we have these hankerings, these cravings, these longings for what is wrong and what is evil. We are a flesh-controlled person. Down deep in us there are cravings to lie, cravings to fulfill our sinful passions. These distortions deep in us lead to sins of all kinds being conceived in our minds. Again I say our concupiscence in some ways are deeper than our thinking. They rise into our minds and they are expanded into imaginations and fantasies that then give birth to sin which produces death. We are morally corrupt deep down, that's why trying to moralize unconverted people is futile. All you can do at best would be turn them in to hypocrites.
Secondly, our sinfulness is defined for us in I Peter 1:14 not only as concupiscence which were yours, but he adds, "In your ignorance."
Not only are we sinful morally, we're sinfully intellectually. That is to say we are ignorant of of God's law.
We are ignorant of God's law, ignorant of God's standards. We cannot know God. That is to say we cannot get to know God. We can know there is a God but to get to know him and truly understand what he desires, we are ignorant of these things. The natural man doesn't know the things of God, they are foolishness to him. St. John 17:25 Jesus said, "the world hath not known thee;" we don't know God, we don't understand His truth. We don't therefore have enough information to live as we ought to live. We are characterized in Romans 1:28 as having a reprobate sense, as being driven by the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, of the pride of life coming out of those evil hankerings and having no restraining knowledge of God in our minds. We are ignorant, we have no complete knowledge of God. So we are sinful morally and we are sinful intellectually.
Thirdly, he talks about how sin effects us socially.
I Peter 1:18 he says, "you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver, from your vain conversation of the tradition of your fathers:" The word vain means empty, better yet, valueless. We would like to think, that we're making great contribution to humanity, that we're making a great contribution to the world and great contribution to people around us and we have some social benefits to lay on the world we influence. The truth of the matter is we are meaningless, we are powerless, we are pointless, we are valueless. All is, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "Vanity, vanity, vanity, nothingness, nothingness, nothingness." Socially we make no difference over the long haul. Our life is empty as far as having any value to anyone else, any real spiritual, permanent, eternal value. So, we in definition from this text are sinful morally, intellectually and socially. We could add one more, religiously. We are lost even though we're religious. Verse 18 says that we were not redeemed with perishable things from our futile way of life, then this, "traditions of your fathers." What that simply means is it's just referring to what tradition was passed down to us. In the case of St. Peter he was from a Jewish environment, he would be looking at apostate Judaism and he would say, "Your religion was corrupt because you were an apostate Jew." If he was talking to Gentiles he would say, "Your religion was corrupt, your religion of paganism, you were involved in pagan religion and that was in evidence of your degenerate sinfulness." Morally, intellectually, socially, religiously, every way you look at it, we're sinful without the working of Christ in our lives. Our morality is not what is acceptable to God. Our minds aren't acceptable to Him. We can't attain to Him. Our social impact is zero and our religion is a damning religion. This is the state of our sin. It is pervasive. We are fettered. And when you ask people today, how do people usually define it? Gambling, drinking, committing acts of sexual sin. It's far more than that, that's sort of superficial. when you look at the Scripture's definition of sin it makes plain that we are in a prison cell and the prison cell is primarily that of alienation from God. And there's no jail break for us by our own hands. We are separated from God with the coils of a twisted self. Our self is tortured into ugly shapes of conceit and fear, resentment, rebellion. It's a slavery too terrible, too tyrannical for us to ever extract ourselves.
And so we are in desperate condition. The punishment for this is damnation.
The condition of unredeemed man is so pervasive it totally engulfs him and there's absolutely nothing he can do about it and God has promised to judge him for it. He is degraded. He is defiled. Once a companion in the Garden of God he is fit only now to have fellowship with devils and demons. His flesh is filthy. His body is stained and need of cleansing. Its members and faculties are given to unclean thoughts and words and actions. There's no part of him that is fit for union with God. The Scripture says his tongue is deceitful, his lips are poisonous, his throat is like an open tomb, his eyes are full of adultery and pride, his ears are deaf to God's voice and truth, his hands do evil and his feet are swift to shed blood. His mind is depraved and reprobate. His heart is desperately wicked. His will is unrepentant and hard. He resists God. He refuses life. His conscience is evil. That's pretty comprehensive stuff. It's not one faculty that sin has defiled, but like a strong poison it soaks in and eats through everything we are and man therefore is left in this utter darkness, darkened mind, groping, unable to comprehend the light, walking in all kinds of wickedness, doesn't know where he's going, stumbles, doesn't know why he stumbles or how to get up. And you can see the desperation. It is from that that he needs to be redeemed. That's what we were redeemed from.
Third question...what were we redeemed with?
Again I Peter 1:18, not with silver and gold, not with any perishable commodity, not with any decaying commodity, this isn't some ransom price that could be used in an earthly environment such as you would read about back in the thirtieth chapter of Exodus. This isn't some earthly ransom. There is no coinage. There is no human wealth. There is no earthly commodity that can pay the price. So, verse 18 says, "We were redeemed with precious blood," that means death, the death of someone precious, the death of a precious Lamb, an unblemished spotless Lamb. Blood is a vivid way to describe death, the sacrificial death was the price paid. Now that should not surprise us because we know if we know the Old Testament that that's the way God designed it. That there needed to be a sacrificial substitute to pay the price of redemption, to pay the ransom to God. It takes the death of a spotless Lamb without blemish who is precious. And who is it? I Peter1:19 says it's Christ. That's why John the Baptist looked at Jesus when He came down to the Jordan River and said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
And that answers the fourth question...who were we redeemed by?
The answer is Christ. We were redeemed with blood, the death of a sacrificial Lamb. Who was it? It was Christ. He's the perfect, spotless, unblemished sacrifice for sin. He's the one more precious than any who ever lives, more valuable than any other who ever walked on this earth. It was His precious life that was given for us. He died on the cross to pay our ransom price, to satisfy the justice of God, the person of Jesus Christ.
Peter not wanting to just leave it at that shows why Christ was so precious, or how He was so precious. Verse 20 says, He was "Foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world"
That word “foreknown” in the latin is the word “praecogniti” which translated into English can be the word “diagnosed” That is to say God Foreknew that Adam and Eve would give into Satan's temptation and would fall even from before the foundation of the world. He then “diagnosed” the problem which was sin entering into the world. He saw what it would do Man and Creation. So he prepared a remedy, even before the foundation of the world. That remedy was Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, the Redemption Price for us and his creation.
He came into the world as a Lamb, foreknown, incarnated (in flesh) as a Ransom as a Redeemer.
St. Peter emphasizes in 1:21 that He was raised from the dead. This was a divine affirmation that His sacrifice was complete and perfect. And then it says God not only raised Him from the dead, verse 21, but He also gave Him glory. That's His ascension. Who is the Lamb? It is Christ, the One who lived before time and was foreknown from eternity to be the sacrifice, the One who was incarnate, virgin born, came into the world, died on the cross. The One who then was raised from the dead and followed that up with an ascension into the glories of heaven...the foreknown, incarnated, risen, ascended Christ, the most precious person ever, died to purchase our redemption.
Final question...what were we redeemed for?
Well, first of all, verse 20 says, at the end of the verse, "manifested in the last times for you" for you. All of this is for us. What does it bring to us? It brings to us ,(verse 21,) the “faithful in God”, what we need to be able to have “faith and hope in God”.
This just shows that the faithful in God, those who have faith and hope in God, are in fact linked to God. He is the One we trust. He is the One in whom we hope. He is our life. We live in faith. We live in hope in our God. That's what redemption does, it brings you to God. And all your trust is in God and all your hope is in God both in time and eternity. This is redemption. This is our message.
If you're going to talk about the good news of the gospel:
- Talk about sin- We are all born into this world sinners.
- Then talk about substitution- And when you talk about substitution talk about the ransom price paid by Christ as the Lamb who died in our place to satisfy the justice of God.
- And then talk about submission- Making Christ Lord of our lives.
Sin, substitution and submission, talk about the fact that you must come to God submitting by repenting of your sins and being baptized and embracing Jesus as Lord in your life to receive the gift of salvation. That's the gospel.
As we come to the altar at Mass, what is happening there so vividly shows this whole matter of redemption. The bread becomes His body given for us. The cup of wine becomes His blood shed for us. This is the heart of our faith.
Let me ask you this question? Most of you are already baptized Catholic. But as a teen or an adult when you were able to make a personal decision for yourself, have you fallen away from the graces that baptism and confirmation gave you? Have you been living your life for yourself? Come back to Christ and His Church. Go to confession and repent of your sins. Accept the redemption gift that God has reserved just for you.