There is an important passage in which Christians are exhorted in these terms: ‘Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect’ (1 Pet. 1:17-19). The expression ‘reverent fear’ seems curious. Surely we might expect ‘live your lives in joy, for you were redeemed. . . .’ But no. The writer urges his readers to reverent fear on account of the way they were redeemed.
I think he may be drawing attention the fact that redemption is something miraculous. It is a blessing that we could never have expected. Our sin had brought us into a hopeless position and we had no right to think that we could ever be delivered from it. We might be helped in our understanding of the passage if we go back to the thoughts of a godly man who lived on the other side of the cross. In Psalm 49 we have the meditation of a saintly man of old as he reflected on the limited power that wealth gives to wealthy men. He is thinking mostly of the impotence of even the rich in the face of death and he writes, ‘No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough’ (Ps. 49:7-8). That is the position before Christ came. Of course, the Psalmist had in mind basically life here and now, but the principle is of wider application. If even the richest of us cannot ransom anyone from physical death, how much less from that death that is the wages of sin?
It seems that Peter has something like this in mind. ‘Your sin’, he seems to be saying, ‘is a very serious matter. It set you in opposition to God and handed you over to eternal condemnation. From that situation there was no escape. You were hopelessly, irrevocably lost. There is no ransom from such a situation. And then, incredibly, unbelievably, a ransom was found. It meant a heavy price, the price of the death of the wonderful Son of God. But that price was paid and you have been redeemed. Never take your redemption for granted. Never count it a common, ordinary thing. It is the most incredible thing that has ever happened. But it did happen. Accept it, then, with gratitude and with awe. Live your life in reverent fear.’ And that is the attitude that we too should have. There is nothing automatic or axiomatic about redemption. Sinners have no reason for expecting that they can ever be delivered from their sin and its eternal consequences. That Christ died for them is so wonderful that it is always to be received with awe and wonder. We, too, should pass our time in reverent fear, for our redemption is not a matter of silver or gold or the like, but of ‘the precious blood of Christ’.
– Leon Morris, The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance, Location 1670 on Kindle