God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain our redemption and even the faith and hope we now have. How can we not live in reverent awe of such a God as ours!
Exiles are non-essential, or haven’t you heard? Even as God’s kingdom-colony of exiles, the church is expected to pipe down, if not shut down. In response, however, the Apostle Peter cites a higher standard. Throughout the time of our exile, he says, we’re to trust and obey God’s commands. Called as we are to His eternal glory in Christ, we’ll endure the trials that test our faith, confessing that the God of all grace will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us after we’ve suffered for a little while (1 Pet 5:10). In the meantime, Peter exhorts us: conduct yourselves with fear—that is, live in reverent awe of your God (1 Pet 1:17b). In 1 Pet 1:17-21, Peter provides us ample incentives to do just that.
Live in reverent awe of our God, says the Apostle, because He is our Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds (1:17). In saying that it is our Father who judges, Peter teaches that the judgment that God’s children (1:14) experience is different from the judgment that God’s enemies undergo. The standard of His judgment is the same for all (cf. 1:16): in that sense, our Father plays no favorites in His judging. The purpose of His judgment, however, will be different for us who through faith call on Him as Father. Let’s elaborate. At the last day, all people who have ever lived on earth will appear before Christ’s tribunal, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds and to receive according to what they’ve done in the body, whether good or evil (WCF chap. 33.1). Just as certainly, God the Father will judge His children not for entrance to His eternal kingdom, but for greater or lesser reward in it. Thus, Peter’s point is not that we believers should live our lives scared of being openly denied or condemned on the last day. After all, the Apostle has just exhorted us to live in confident expectation (1:13). Instead Peter’s point is that we should live our lives with an attitude that so highly esteems and deeply adores our Father God that we cannot bear the thought of displeasing Him. In colloquial terms, it’s like the fear that keeps conscientious student drivers from driving recklessly. Biblically, it’s the fear that comes from knowing that we’ll answer to our Father. It’s the fear that Paul describes in 2 Cor 5:8-10; 7:1 and 1 Cor 3:13-15; 4:3-5: the fear that God’s refining fire will burn up our works, and we’ll suffer loss. Thus, the fear to which the Apostle refers here is the fear not of final condemnation, but of lesser commendation when He evaluates our thoughts, words, and deeds. In that light, we’re to live in reverent awe to please our Father and to avoid grieving or dishonoring Him.