Summary: A sermon on the church based on 1 Peter 2:9-10 (Outline and material adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, The Faith Once For All, Chapter 23, The Church: It's Nature)
In Wheat That Springeth Green, author J.F. Powers has one of his characters say, “This is a big old ship. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you.” This is a good description of the church.
1 Peter 2:9-10: Read Scripture again but emphasis on a holy nation, a people belonging to God,
Thesis: The church is a holy nation and the people of God.
I. The church is a holy nation
The churched and the unchurched, or the church and the not church.
The church isn’t perfect but it’s the way God has chosen to get his people from here (this world) to there (heaven).
Is this not a contradiction of terms: a churchless Christian? A free agent disciple?
The church is a group of people who are different from and distinct from everyone else on earth. The church is separated from the rest of fallen mankind and they make up the new creation as it exists in the midst of the old creation.
Many people equate “church” with “organized religion” and they reject both because of the negatives they see, perceive or have experienced in the past. However, the Biblical concept of the church is a far cry from “organized religion.” The word “church” in the Greek literally means “the called out ones.” It refers to a group of people, who, by the grace of God, have been called out of sin and the world into a relationship with the living Christ. This includes all Christians.
2. In the OT
This concept of a holy nation was literally applied to the nation of Israel when God called them out of Egypt and they entered into a special covenant relationship with God.
Exodus 19:6: you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation
The word holy here has to do with separation. This is what God was doing with Israel at Sinai by making them holy: he was separating them from every other nation on earth and putting them in a category by themselves.
Even before this God had separated people and made them holy from the rest of mankind. Noah and his family. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At Sinai God formalized this separation. Because of this unique relationship with God, Israel was distinguished from all other people upon the face of the earth. Leviticus 20:26: You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
3. In the NT
The church is a holy nation but not in the sense that Israel was, a nation occupying a specific geographical area. The church also does not have a roll of citizens by physical birth.
The church is a spiritual nation; its citizens coexisting in this world side by side with non-citizens and being different and set apart by their lifestyle rather than their location.
OT Israel sought purity through geographical separation, the church seeks separation through purity. Yes, there are times we must separate ourselves from unholy influences like friends or places where we are lead into temptation, but we cannot leave this world.
We are in the world but not of the world. Jesus said in his prayer in John 17:15-18: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
E. Christians do not differ from other people in where they live, or how they talk, or in their lifestyle. They do not live in private cities, or speak a special language, or follow a peculiar way of life. They live where they happen to live, in Greek or foreign cities, they follow local custom in clothing and food and daily life, yet their citizenship is of a remarkable kind. They live in their own homelands, but as resident foreigners. They share everything as citizens, and put up with everything as foreigners. (Letter to Diognetus, author unknown, second century)
E. Jim Book- My fear today is that many churches are dying because the average person in their pews have no idea what it means to be “set apart” from the defilements of this world. The church is many areas is so worldly minded, it is difficult to see any real separation from the world. We dress as provocatively as the world. Our entertainment is as debauched as the world, and we are as preoccupied with the same secular trinkets as is the world.