1 Peter 1:18-19

The fear in which the saints were urged to pass the time of their sojourn is the farthest possible from that doubt as to their souls and distrust of God's grace, which go together if they be not the two sides of the same unbelief that leaves Christ out as revealed in the gospel. Such a dread is wholly excluded by the words which follow, as they ground the inculcated fear on the comforting and assured fact of having been redeemed, and redeemed by that which is of all things the most precious to God, and the most efficacious for sinners.
“Knowing that not by corruptibles, silver or gold, ye were redeemed, from your vain course ancestrally handed down, but by precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless” (vers. 18, 19).
Jewish believers ought to have been familiar with redemption. In its earthly and temporal shape it is the central truth of the book of Exodus; wherein their bitter bondage and oppression forms the beginning; and God dwelling in the tabernacle in their midst, founded on that redemption, is the close. But they also came under the law, which Israel then undertook to obey. They thus let slip the promises to the fathers, and slighted the grace just shown to themselves from the Red Sea all the way to Sinai. This was fatal; not because the law was not good, but because they were weak and ungodly, sinners and enemies, as another apostle describes man's natural state (Rom. 5). To such, no matter what long-suffering and goodness may be shown, the law must prove a ministration of death and condemnation, And so it was to the elect nation, which blindly and self-righteously offered to stand on legal conditions.
Now it is by grace that any have been or can be saved, and therefore through faith. This was attested to their fathers, as plainly as any shadows could convey it, in the combined type of Jehovah's Passover and Israel's passage of the Red Sea. The blood of the lamb sprinkled on the door-posts and upper lintel of each house expressed in that figure the sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor. 5). This alone could perfectly meet His moral judgment and not only screen a people justly exposed to it, but give them there and then to feast on the lamb's body. With bitter herbs they were to eat; for repentance toward God must accompany the faith that He would see the blood that night and pass over all within the sprinkled doors; also with loins girded, shoes on feet, and staff in hand, as pilgrims henceforth turning their back on Egypt for Canaan, but meanwhile crossing the desert. But there was a great supplement—the passage of the Red Sea; which in figure joins the resurrection to the death of the Lord Jesus for us. Here it was divine power righteously exercised on behalf of His people, impossible without the Victim's blood, but now annulling the enemy's power, and entitling them to sing as delivered, Jehovah too no longer as a judge shut out, but leading and fighting for them victoriously. Christ was not only a propitiatory through faith in His blood, but given up for our offenses and raised for our justification. It is God for us (Rom. 8) but by Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins to take us out from the present evil age. We are thereby brought to God not yet to heaven though made meet for it, as Col. 1:12 declares.
It is of this redemption Peter speaks when he tells the saints that they “were redeemed,” and that they knew it consciously (εἰδότες). It was no longer a simply objective fact: this they had at first to apprehend by faith; it was now part of their inward realization by the Holy Spirit. And the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:12) characterizes it, in contrast with the foregoing pattern, as “everlasting redemption.” An eternally divine Person was needed, as He deigned to become incarnate, in order by His atoning death to obtain it; and having obtained it, He entered once for all into the heavenly sanctuary where we know Him now on high. Redemption is therefore an accomplished standing of rich and immediate consequence to God Who is glorified by it, and to the believer; and of his acceptance, not Christ's resurrection only is the guarantee but His session at God's right hand above.
There is another and future application of divine power which is called redemption, as in Rom. 8 for “our body” when raised or changed at Christ's coming (1 Cor. 15:23); so too of the acquired possession, “our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14, cf. Rom. 8:19-22). But this power of His glory is also founded on His work as well as His person. The same principle applies to its very frequent use in the Psalms and Prophets to the future deliverance of Israel for His kingdom on earth. See Psa. 103:4; 106:10; 107:2; Isa. 35:9, &c., 41:14, &c., 43:1, 44:22, 23, 48:20, 52:9, 63:9. Another word also conveys it, as in Isa. 1:27; 29:22; 35:10; 51:11., Jer. 15:21; 31:11; Hos. 13:14; Mic. 6:4; Zech. 10:8. All however rests on His blood-shedding. The return from Babylon was an outward sample and pledge.
True redemption was no mere release by creature means, such as the children of Israel knew, when every man in the numbering of them had to give a ransom for himself as a living man to Jehovah, “that there might be no plague among them.” Here it was no question of sins or sacrifice but of a ransom for his life against plague. Accordingly the principle established was a sacred half-shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than the half shekel when they give the heave-offering of Jehovah to make atonement for your souls” (Ex. 30:15).1 This was a beautiful token that each of the people, all alike, belonged to Jehovah their Divine Guardian and Governor. But in presence of Christ and His redemption already possessed, even silver that shadowed grace or gold that represented divine righteousness, were but “corruptibles,” fading away before the glory that both surpasses and abides (2 Cor. 3:9-11).
It is worthy of remark, that the saints are here said to be redeemed, among its manifold and wondrous results, from their vain course, or mode of life, handed down from their fathers. Language so precise to describe, not Gentile idolaters, but the Jews since the Maccabees in their tenacity of tradition from father to son, it is hard to conceive. Of old before the Babylonish captivity, kings, priests, people, ran a race after the abominations of the heathen. But this hateful lusting after strange gods they learned to abjure; and even Antiochus IV. (Epiphanes) could only impose his profane Hellenizing of Jerusalem and the Jews for a measured space by treachery and violence, by pillage and massacre. Our Lord Himself formally charged even the more orthodox and learned among them with neutralizing the most solemn duties of the law on its human side, and thus the word of God, because of the tradition of the elders. It made them “hypocrites.” “In vain do they worship me” (citing Isa. 29:13); a prophecy which embraces their final trouble but deliverance when at the lowest, as well as their sinfully blind state, that brought them so low, about to pass away forever at the end of the age.
Can there be a more authoritative comment on the apostle's description of their state before they were redeemed? Their manner of life, even in its religious aspect, had neither purpose nor result. No doubt this might well be said of Paganism, which was wholly a lie with demons behind it; but how emphatic when applied truly to men confident of being a guide of the blind, a light of those in darkness! Only among Jews had the early fathers a claim from God. But this was for His promises, not for any such tradition of theirs, as the sons imagined. For the truth, “one is your Father, who is in heaven” said the Lord to the disciples. Fore-fathers, of whom scripture gave a reliable and sad account, were their trust, not the living God. They were guilty, because only they knew those sure and unambiguous oracles; but the heathen knew them not, and filled the void with the deceptive myths of poets. Gentile religion, like their wisdom, did not come down from above, but was earthly, natural, and demoniacal. What a contrast with ours which has its center in Christ and its basis in His redemption, its glorying in God, its charter in His word, and its power in the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven!
Accordingly the redemption is here said to be “by precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless.” The order of the Greek, which some prefer in English also, is “by precious blood as of a lamb..., Christ,” followed closely by “fore-known” &c. in ver. 22. The truth in substance remains the same. Christ's blood is of all things precious. “Without shedding of blood is no remission “; by His blood our conscience is purged from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:10). Not only are believers redeemed by it, as here; but it is everlasting redemption, as we have seen. In Christ we have redemption through it, not yet of the body, but the remission of offenses (Eph. 1:7). Nor was there forgiveness only but peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20), and justification in virtue of it (Rom. 5:9). For indeed as He loves us, so He washed us from our sins in His blood (Rev. 1:6). As we now drink the cup of the new covenant in His blood, so in heaven the new song is of the Lamb slain Who bought to God by His blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Is it not indeed precious blood?
The allusion is plain in “as of a lamb unblemished and spotless.” It may well be to the paschal lamb of which we have spoken. They had too the burnt-offering of the morning, and especially perhaps the evening lamb, offered between the evenings, day by day continually. It was at the door of the tent of meeting before Jehovah, “where I will meet with you, to speak there unto thee [the mediator]. And there I will meet with the children of Israel; and it [the tent] shall be sanctified by my glory.” So it stands in Ex. 29:38-46, the book of redemption. Thus only could Jehovah dwell in their midst. Hence we can measure the daring that takes away from the Prince of the host the “daily” or continual offering (Dan. 8); for it was the exclusion of the visible link of acceptance between God and His people on earth: a more impious affront than any political oppression of His people.
For the Christian the sanctuary is on high. “For Christ is not entered into holies made by hands, figures of the true, but into heaven itself now to appear before the face of God for us” (Heb. 9:24); and there He entered once for all by His own blood (12). “For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and become higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).