Summary: Exposition of 1 Peter 2:9-12
Marks of the People of God
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:9–12
What are distinguishing marks of the people of God which separate them from the world?
Peter has just been talking about how Christ is the capstone, the foundation of the house of God. The world did not receive him; they stumbled over him. He came like a servant when they were expecting a king. He came to suffer when they were expecting a conqueror. As the Jews rejected him at his coming, so has the rest of the unbelieving world rejected and stumbled over him ever since. Listen again to what Peter says:
And, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people (emphasis mine).
However, this is not true for believers. In verse 9, Peter begins with “but.” “But you are a chosen people.” Christians should be drastically different from the world. Christ taught the same thing in Matthew 5:13, he said you are the salt of the earth. You preserve the world from decay. You have tremendous value. He said you are the light of the world (v. 14). Among the people of the earth, there are a people who are radically different.
Because of this radical difference, Christians often will be mocked and persecuted as was happening to the believers in this context. Peter writes to encourage them but also to reinforce why they should continue to be different. In the midst of persecution and suffering for our faith, there can be a tendency to dull the light and the witness of our lives in order to avoid offense. There can be a tendency to begin to compromise.
This seemed to be happening here in this context. That is why Peter “urges” them in
1 Peter 2:11 to live as strangers and abstain from sinful desires. Continue to be different, continue to be salty, continue to be light, and do not compromise with sin in the face of persecution. Peter reminds them of who they are and what distinguishes them.
For some of us, this text will be a challenge, as it was to this church, to continue to remain different, to continue to not compromise at the work place or amongst friends. For others, it may be a call to repent from ways we have compromised and conformed to this world.
Can the world tell that we are different? In this passage, we will see five marks that should distinguish us as believers in this world. As we go through these marks, we should ask ourselves are we living out these realities in our lives.
Big Question: What marks distinguish believers from the world in 1 Peter 2:9–12?
Believers Are a Blessed People
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Observation Question: What are some of the blessings and privileges that distinguish Christians from the world according to 1 Peter 2:9–10? What ways are these privileges similar or different to Old Testament Israel?
Here Peter begins to talk about all the blessings and privileges these suffering saints have received from God and that separated them from others. He wants them to know how special they are. They have a call and they are in the center of God’s will even in the midst of persecution. He writes to encourage them as they, no doubt, were discouraged by how they were being viewed and persecuted by others.
He calls them a chosen people. Peter uses terminology commonly used in reference to Israel. Look at what Deuteronomy 7:6 said about Israel: “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (emphasis mine).