"And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's deeds, conduct yourselves in fear..."
I've read, studied, and even preached these verses before and I'll admit, I've always been a bit confused as to why exactly Peter brings this up.
Now, I can understand the first part; why Peter talks about us calling God Father. That fits with the theme of the chapter. Peter's talking about the difference it makes now that we've been born again. He begins in verses 3-12 by blessing God that he's caused us to be born again, and in verses 13ff he continues to focus on this new relationship - 1.) therefore since you've been born again to a living hope, hope; 2.) as obedient children - back to the theme of being born again - be holy in all you do...which is why the opening phrase of verse 17, doesn't suprise us. Once again, Peter wants us to think about the difference being born again makes - "And if you address as Father..."
But Peter links the fact that we've been brought into this new relationship with God with another thought, one that seems a bit out of place, one that is jarring in this context, and that is God's judgment.
He says, the One we call Father is also the One who "impartially judges according to each man's deeds..."
If you don't see why it's so surprising to see those two phrase together, stop and think about each phrase one by one.
When you think about God as Father what's the first word that comes into your mind?
For me it was the word intimate. Being able to call God Father means I have an intimate relationship with Him.
But if the first word that comes into your mind when you stop and think about God as Father is intimate, what's the first word that comes into your mind when you stop and think about the fact taht God is the impartial Judge of the Universe?
I'll tell you the first word that comes into my mind...damned.
If I were judged solely on the basis of my own works then I know I would be damned. That's what I would deserve.
So reading this passage it's almost like we are watching two great biblical concepts collide. Peter wants to force us to sit up, pay attention and ask questions.
And the primary question we are forced to ask when stop and think about the fact that we call Father the Almighty Judge who is absolutely holy and who isn't partial and who is going to judge every man for their sins, when we stop and think about the fact that we have this intimate, secure relationship with him is:
How did that happen?
How did I come to have this kind of relationship with the Judge of the Universe?
Here's the key - God's grace.
As my daughter likes to say: wasn't me, couldn't be.
The only explanation for this new amazing relationship has to be something God did, which is the very point Peter pounds home in verses 18ff.
It's like the perfect set up. He's like listen the thing that should motivate you to dread sin and that should knock you flat on your face in awe of who is, is thinking about the fact that you have this incredible relationship with the Almighty Judge of the Universe, and when you start thinking about the fact that you have a relationship with the Judge of the Universe, this is where it really gets scary - knowing what it cost to bring you into this new intimate relationship with Him.