1 Peter 2: 9 & 10
THE PEOPLE OF GOD [Renewing Hope Series]
[Exodus 19:5-6 / Isaiah 43:20-21]
A story is told of a hitchhiker who was trying to get a ride one night in Las Angles. A car pulled over to pick him up. When the hitchhiker got into the car he saw the face of the driver and recognized him. The driver was Kirk Douglas! The hitchhiker was shocked and all he could think to say was, “Do you know who you are?”
What a comfort and encouragement it is for us to be aware of who we are as born again believers in Jesus Christ. Knowing and reflecting upon our honors and blessings in Christ upholds us in suffering and motivates us in our daily walk and service. So Peter addresses the church and communicates the glad tidings that we, the people of God, possess tremendous privileges (CIM).
The description of the Church depicted here draws upon the parallels of the Old Testament description of Israel. This does not mean God is finished with Israel, for I believe He will fulfill the promises and covenants He made with them. But it does mean that God has established the Church to be what Israel should have been, the people who proclaim His excellencies. The Church is to shine with and proclaim the excellencies of God.
I. Who We Are, 9a.
II. What We Do, 9b.
III. We Are One People, 10a.
IV. We Have Received Mercy, 10b.
The world may reject Jesus but we who have received Jesus have been changed by Him. The first part of verse 9 describes who the people of God now are. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession.”
But marks the contrast between the disobedient unbelievers of verse eight and the people of God in verse 9. In ascending order Peter enumerates some of the glorious riches of believers in Christ. The you in Greek is plural and emphatic, stating that Peter is addressing all of those who have a personal relationship with Jesus. Let's look at how he describes believers who have founded their life on the eternal rock of Christ Jesus.
Those believers who are being united stone by stone as the temple of God are a chosen race, a chosen people. Because Jesus has been chosen by God (vv 4,6) we who are in Him are also designated God's chosen people. God did not choose us because we were worthy, but because He chose to bestow special love upon those “in Christ.” God’s choice has secured those who are in Christ before the foundation of the world. We are a people God will not let go of or lose.
We have been called out of the race of natural man into new race of people, the people of faith. By our new spiritual birth we are born again. We have become a new race of people. We are a spiritual race with the eternal God as our spiritual Father. We were sought out by God and have become the people of promise (Gal. 4:28), or those who will inherit the promises of God.
Second, we are a royal priesthood. These two words together express the dignity, excellency and function that God has given us all as ministers of His royal court. We are royal because we have been born again into the family of God. We are of royal lineage.
Every true Christian is a priest in the household of God. We have been given the ability to minister to God and to people. We are priests because we are members of God’s own family. We are brothers and sisters of the Priest-King Jesus! Thus every Christians is a priest or minister before God and we are called a "priesthood of believers."
The O.T. priest’s main responsibility dealt not so directly with the interpretation of Scripture but with reconciling people to God through the sacrificial system. In Old Testament times, people did not approach God directly. A priest acted as intermediary between God and sinful human beings. With Christ's victory on the cross, that pattern changed. Now we can come directly into God's presence without fear (Hebrews 4:16), and we are given the ministry of bringing others to Him also (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). When we are united with Christ as members of His body, we join in His priestly work of reconciling man and God. Hopefully we are fulfilling this royal function and giving forth the sacrifice of praise while we serve our King.
Peter says a third rich possession of believers is that we are a holy nation. A nation consists of citizens who reside in a given locale, obey rules and regulations, and strive for the well-being of their society. Citizens of this nation have common characteristics because they have been born again through Jesus Christ. Holy means we are dedicated to God and separated from the world. Peter portrays God's people as a holy nation, which means that the citizens have been set apart for service to God [Kistemaker].
We have been set apart to belong exclusively to God. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), so we obey heaven's precepts and seek to please heaven's Lord. Israel forgot that she was a holy nation and began by her sin to break down the walls of separation that made her special and distinct from the people of the world. God commanded them to make a "difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean" (Lev. 10:10); but they ignored the differences and disobeyed God [Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol 2. 1989. Victor Books. Wheaton IL. P. 402.] by treating the holy with irreverence, as if it were common. God therefore treated the people as if they were common and let them experience His displeasure till a remnant consecrated themselves and treated Him as holy and came forth once again from the land of captivity.
The fourth designation is that we are a people belonging to God. We are God's own people. God has claimed for Himself a people throughout the ages (Ex. 19:5, Duet. 7:6, 14:2; Mal. 3:17; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:14). These people called out from the nations of the world are His prized possession. They are God's possession and have a special relationship with Him. We belong to God for we have been bought with a price, the very blood of Jesus. Redemption by the life of Jesus is a purchase price beyond our ability to calculate. You have amazing worth to God. No higher price could have been paid, than the price paid at the Cross.
II. WHAT WE DO, 9b.
Scripture says unto whom much is given, much is required (Lk. 12:24). The blessings of God are not simply for our own enjoyment. All these blessed privileges carry with them a most noble responsibility which is revealed in the following purpose clause. The purpose of our blessings is: “that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (9b).
The worthy task of God's special people is to declare His excellencies. Who else could or should do so but those who have experienced His wondrous blessings. The verb translated proclaim means "to tell out, to advertise." Everywhere we go we should through word and deed proclaim God's praise worthy virtues, acts, power, glory, wisdom, grace, love, mercy and holiness. The conduct and attitude of each citizen of heaven is a living "advertisement" for the virtues of God and the blessings of the Christian life. If God has not blessed you with the blessing that are yours in Christ Jesus, then don’t proclaim His excellencies. But if you have experienced the excellencies of God, then proclaim them.
God’s excellencies must be proclaim because the world is in spiritual darkness therefore people do not know the excellencies of God. They are in dangerous ignorance of their own woeful condition and of the only solution (Eph 5:8). They do not know that there is a noble way; a way of light, life, and love.
The Bible therefore depicts our world as a place of darkness controlled by “the rulers of the darkness of this age”(Eph. 6:12). In the midst of this spiritual darkness Christians shine out in sharp contrast.
In a sense we are light keepers to the world. So many people are lost, foundering like ships in the darkness. Our job is to shine the light of Christ so that they can see the way into the save harbor of salvation in Jesus Christ.
If we live in the light of God’s Presence, our lives will radiate the marvelous light into which God has graciously called us to live and walk. It is marvelous light because you see what you are doing. You can see the stumbling blocks that are causing you to fall and hurt both yourself and others. In light you can look at things the way they are, see the wrong and make them right.
The power of that call into His marvelous light enables the listening sinner to come forth and step into the light of God's presence and have the sinful chains of darkness shattered. Yes, God still calls people out of the darkness of following sin, self and Satan into His marvelous light.
Once we too lived in darkness but through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, God redeemed us out of the powers of darkness. Oh bless the dear name of Jesus! Let us reflect on our sinful past and praise God for our enlightened present and the matchless inheritance that is ours in Christ Jesus.
III. NOW ONE PEOPLE, 10a.
Verse 10 begins by contrasting the believer’s present with their past. “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”
We are presently one people, the people of God. We are living in enemy territory, and our enemy is constantly watching us, looking for opportunities to move in and take over. As citizens of heaven, we must be united. We must present to the world a united demonstration of what the grace and mercy of God can do.
In the political arena today there is great dissensions and divisions. Our politicians and therefore our political system is becoming a public spectacle and mockery. It is a great tragedy in our nation. But it is a greater tragedy to the eternal cause of Christ when there is division and dissension in the church, especially and particularly a local church. What must unsaved people think who see the citizens of heaven fighting among themselves?
The preceding verses gave four pictures to emphasize the importance of unity, harmony and oneness of purpose. We belong to one family, the family of God. As His children we share the same divine nature. We are living stones in one building and priests serving in one temple. We are citizens of the same heavenly homeland. It is Jesus Christ who is the source and center of this unity. If we center our attention and affection on Jesus, we will walk and work together; if we focus on ourselves, on our agenda, we will only cause division.
Unity does not eliminate diversity. Not all children in a family are alike, nor are all the stones in a building identical. In fact, it is diversity that gives beauty and richness to a family or a building. The absence of diversity is not unity; it is uniformity, and uniformity is dull. It is fine when the choir sings in unison, but I prefer that they sing in harmony.
Christians can differ and still get along. All who cherish the "one faith" and who seek to honor the "one Lord" can love each other and walk together in "one baptism" (Eph. 4:1-6). God may call us into different ministries, or to use different methods, but we can still love each other and seek to present a united witness to the world.
After all, one day all of us will be together in heaven (John 17:24); so it is a good idea that we learned to love each other and get along down here!
St. Augustine said it perfectly: "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, charity." [Wiersbe, 402.]
But now that God has saved them through the redemptive work of His Son, this people is now a special people belonging to God. Our common heritage should show forth in our oneness as the family, the people of God. After all we have obtained mercy from God!
When He says not a people here he means not useful to God. Previously we were serving a cause and not Jesus Christ. Now it is no longer our agenda, but we follow the Spirit and Word of Jesus Christ, for we are the people of God.
IV. RECIPIENTS OF MERCY, 10b.
Verse 10 concludes by describing the our forgiveness and transformation in covenant terms. “You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The Greek verb tense [perf. pass.] indicates the recipients had lived without God for a long time, during which they tried but failed to obtain mercy for themselves. Were it not for God's mercy we would all be lost and on the way to eternal judgment. Mercy means not what you deserve.
Peter contrasts the past with the present. "Now you have received mercy" instead of deserved judgment. They have received forgiveness and remission [payment for] of sin and can rejoice and walk in the love and the grace of God.
God reminded Israel many times that He had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt that they might glorify and serve Him, but the nation soon forgot and the people drifted back into their sinful ways.
We too must walk out of land of bondage to the land of promise where we live a life that glorifies and serve God. We must acknowledge that by His grace we have what we don’t deserve . We are God's chosen people only because of His mercy, and it behooves us to be faithful to Him.
People often base their self-image or concept on their accomplishments. But our relationship with Christ is far more important than our jobs, successes, wealth, or knowledge. We have been chosen by God as His very own, and we have been called to represent Him to others. Remember that your value comes from being one of God's children, not from what you can achieve. You have worth because of who you are to God, your identity in Christ, not because of what you do.
Stop trying to make yourself significant and draw your significance from your relationship with Almighty God and from who you now are in Christ.
When Alexander the Great encamped before a city he would SET UP A LIGHT to give notice to those within that if they would come out and surrender to him while the light lasted they would find quarter. If the light was put out and he attacked no mercy was to be expected.
God sets up light after light, and waits year after year, and even pleads with men to come in repentance to Him so that He might give them life, but so few come. Have you thrown yourself upon His mercy?
Is God calling you out of darkness? If you hear His call, if you experience His gentle tug, you come right now and He will lead you into His marvelous light.