Summary: We Christians are a privileged people, given awesome responsibilities to fulfil until the Master returns.
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
For a period that proved far too brief, I was privileged to sit under the ministry of W. A. Criswell. During one memorable sermon, Dr. Criswell related an incident that occurred during a visit to the former Soviet Union. He had requested and received permission to visit the only Baptist Church in a major Russian city. In that “worker’s paradise,” the government permitted him to visit the church. However, they imposed strict conditions, including the provision that he could not inform the congregation that he was coming. Also, he had to be accompanied at all times by an Intourist guide. The guide, an apparatchik of the Communist Party chosen because of party loyalty, would always be near Criswell; she would spy on behalf of the government, remaining close enough to overhear every conversation and to observe every action.
Dr. Criswell and the guide travelled by automobile to a poorer section of the city. At the head of an unmarked, dead-end street, they got out of the car and began to walk toward the end of the street. There, at the end of the street, a large crowd of people was gathered in front of a nondescript building. Somehow, in a way that defies those who imagine they can control freedom, these saints had heard that a preacher from America was visiting; and they had gathered, awaiting his arrival before starting the service of worship—everyone wanted to see this man who had not forgotten them.
As Criswell and the Intourist guide walked toward the crowd, she began to speak. She derided the believers gathered at the end of the street. “Look at them—slugs and drones. They are parasites, draining the resources of our glorious workers.” She caustically defamed the Christians gathered to greet the preacher from America.
Criswell had at first been silent as she continually berated the Christians; however, he at last spoke. “Don’t say that. These are my people; these are the people of God. Though you speak ill of them and though they have nothing in this world, they are destined to inherit Heaven, and they shall reign with Christ. Do not speak ill of them.”
Doctor Criswell was right. Though Christians are despised by the world at this time, they are nevertheless the people of God. We Christians are an elect people, chosen by the True and Living God for His holy purpose. We are His treasured possession; and though the world does not recognise who we are, God has showered His love on us, showing us great mercy and exceptional kindness.
The grace and mercy that He has showered on us gives evidence of His love. Though we are in the world, we are not of the world; and we have a great responsibility that is entrusted to us because we are His people. Join me, then, in study of Peter’s revelation of who we are and what we are responsible to do.
A DISTINCTIVE IDENTITY — “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” We are a chosen race. Christians have a distinctive identity. Our identity is thoroughly integrated with the Risen Son of God. Our purpose is clearly stated in the text for the message this day. As Christians, we are in Christ; having said this, it is doubtful that any of us fully understand all that this means. Nevertheless, we know that in Christ we have been set apart to God’s holy service as priests even as we enjoy God’s call to reign with Him as co-regents.
Understand that it is Christians—Christians who were even then paying a dreadful cost for being known as followers of the Risen Son of God—to whom Peter was writing. The recipients of the letter are identified as “elect exiles of the dispersion” [1 PETER 1:1]. To ensure that these elect exiles understood that they were not merely scattered by some form of perverse serendipity, Peter continues by reminding them that their election was “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood” [1 PETER 1: 2].
Perhaps you and I have not been openly persecuted because of our Faith, and obviously, we have not been dispersed throughout the earth because we are Christians, but it is nonetheless true that we are not of this world. Though we are in the world, our citizenship is in Heaven, and we always live under the threat of imminent assault from the world. Consequently, the words that Peter wrote certainly apply potentially to us; and these words assuredly apply to fellow saints today who live in Iraq, in Iran, in Pakistan, and in Viet Nam, who even now are paying a demanding price for being Christians.