“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 Peter 1:18–19
Peter’s use of the word “ransom” in 1 Peter 1:18 would have caused his readers to think of slavery. A slave would only get freedom if their master released them or if someone “ransomed” them (paid the price for their freedom). With this language, Peter is using intense imagery to underline our helpless situation under sin. We aren’t off in the wrong direction, just in need of a little guidance. It’s not that everyone makes mistakes and we just need to follow our hearts. Our problem is that we are slaves to sin and we need freedom.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as slaves. We prefer illusions of autonomy and strength. But if we’re honest, we can see how our relationship to sin has been more like slavery than just making a few mistakes. This isn’t just a theological proposition. This is experienced in life: in addictions, patterns of dysfunctional relationships, emotional impulses that erupt from the heart—evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander, greed, malice, deceit, envy, and arrogance. Think of that place where you feel caught or stuck—not in control, but rather controlled by impulses. That’s the slavery. We don’t master our weaknesses; they master us. Sin and death are cruel taskmasters that cause pain, despair, and destruction. In addition, the ultimate price for our slavery is death.
Some of these blemishes or scars are from our own hands and some from the hands of others. But Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for all those blemishes, spots, and scars.
But God’s response to our slavery is for Jesus Christ to redeem us by his sacrifice. Peter was intense about our slavery, and he is equally intense about the cost of our redemption. Our salvation cost God the precious blood of Christ. This is why Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Paul also uses the language of ransom: “You were bought with a price” (1 Cor. 7:23).
Peter has the Passover lamb in mind when he says that Christ died like a lamb “without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). That language comes from Exodus 12 and Leviticus 22. Jesus is the Passover lamb that was sacrificed for us. Being ransomed by the blood of Christ is all about substitution: Jesus took on the consequences of the sins we have committed and died in our place for our sins. But the language of “without blemish or spot” highlights his purity and perfect life—the fact that he was not deserving of death. The spotless lamb without defect died for the blemished, spotted, and scarred.
Many of the marks we bear are from our cruel slave master who abused us. Some of these blemishes or scars are physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Some are from our own hands and some from the hands of others. But Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for all those blemishes, spots, and scars.