Peter now takes some time to develop the concept of the price paid to rescue us from our sin and to secure us as the Father’s particular people.
He begins with a surprising fact: the suffering and then the exaltation of the Christ is so profound, and so incomprehensible, that the prophets themselves didn’t understand what they were writing:
10 Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow (1P 1.10-11).
They wrote what the Spirit drove them to write, but they didn’t understand it—what Christ’s suffering and consequent glory were accomplishing, and when those things would be accomplished. We see an example of that in Daniel, where the prophet expresses his puzzlement, asks for an explanation, and is told to stop asking questions (Da 12.4, 8-9).
It is indeed an enormously incomprehensible thing, calling to mind the words of Charles Wesley:
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou my God shouldst die for me!
Peter may well be thinking of Daniel’s experience when he writes,
Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into (1P 1.12).
This is the kind of thing that can’t be comprehended ahead of time; we can make sense of it only in retrospect. The plan of God is like that.
And what is at the center of this great plan?
A sacrifice of infinite worth: the sin offering of the Son himself.
Not temporal, corruptible things like silver and gold (1P 1.18). Not the blood of an earthly lamb, however hale and healthy and perfect.
Not the blood of a fallen human, even an unusually good and kind one—for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Ro 3.23).
The blood of Christ, the Lamb of God (1P 1.19).
The blood of a perfect human, who is perfect only because he is also God himself. Divine blood.
We’re well beyond our depth here, speaking of things internal to the Godhead, the mysterious triunity of God. If you think you understand it, there’s something you haven’t included in your model. It’s utterly beyond us.
I don’t know how God could become man, and neither do you. Nor did the church fathers, some of the smartest people in history, who wrestled with this question for four centuries and finally chose to state what happened without explaining it, in what’s called the Creed of Chalcedon.
Peter notes one more fact. This plan, this commitment to rescue, was hatched “from the foundation of the world” (1P 1.20). God did not avoid creating us, though he knew what the cost of rescuing us from our eventual rebellion would be. He did not hesitate. He was all in, from the very beginning.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross!
This cost should give us some sense of the weight of our sin.
I see “deconstructionists” today criticizing the atonement as unnecessary, especially unnecessarily violent. In making that charge they demonstrate their complete lack of understanding of the sinfulness of sin, of the holiness of God, and most especially of the love of God, that he would pay such a price to redeem those who had declared themselves, starkly and viciously and repeatedly, to be his enemies. They blame the only person in the entire picture who is completely not to blame.
And, I add, it is for such people that Christ chose to die.
Peter has one more point to make.